If you're like me and you head to Spain right after graduating from college, your housing search in Madrid might be your first experience with looking for an apartment in a city. And, you'll be doing it in another lanugage. Scary, right? But fear not! I am writing this post from my sunny three-bedroom in Malasaña that I share with two lovely roommates. I'm settled in, comfortable, and finally starting to feel at home in Madrid...and you will, too!
Whether it's your first time finding your own place or you're an experienced apartment hunter, there are a few things you will want to keep in mind while looking for your abode abroad.
1) Use your internet resources. Most Madrileños use a site called Idealista, which is also available as an app. On Idealista you can filter your search to find an apartment or room for rent, and adjust specifications like price, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, and furnished or unfurnished. You can also search in particular neighborhoods, and even draw your region to search for an apartment in a few different zones.
Other people in my orientation group have also had success using SpotaHome and Facebook Marketplace, but Idealista seems to be the gold standard.
2) Call landlords and be persistent. Though Idealista does have a message feature, the best way to reach a landlord is to call directly, introduce yourself, and ask if you can come take a tour of the apartment. I was very nervous about calling at first, but I quickly became comfortable reaching out, and the search turned out to be great conversational Spanish practice. If you're not a proficient Spanish speaker, you may want to introduce yourself and then ask the landlord if they speak English...or, find a Spanish speaking friend to help you out.
3) On the topic of speaking with landlords: Know your vocab. These are a few helpful words and phrases that I used on pretty much every call:
Take a tour: Hacer una visita
Sign a contract: Firmar un contracto
If in doubt, Word Reference can also be your friend!
4) Take a tour. My roommates and I looked at about 5 places before we found the apartment that was right for us. Make sure to go into the tours prepared with your specifications: is it important to you to have a washer in the apartment? How much street noise are you willing to tolerate? Will you need to furnish any of the rooms or bedrooms? How far is the nearest Metro station? These are all considerations you will want to weigh based on your preferences, school placement and budget.
5) Have your documents ready to go. In our experience, landlords will ask for proof of your most recent three months of income, your Carta de Nombramiento that shows your school placement and your upcoming income, and your NIE (Número de Identidad de Extranjero), which appears on the Visa page of your Passport. The market moves extremely quickly, so having these documents in order to send to a landlord right away will increase your chances of securing an apartment before someone else snags it.
6) Sign the contract & move in! My roommates and I asked the CIEE office to review our contract for us, to make sure everything seemed normal and we weren't missing any hidden fees. They were able to send it back to us within the hour, and assured us that everything was in order, which was a big relief! As soon as we met with the landlord and signed the contract, they handed us the keys and we were able to move in right away.
Searching for an apartment as soon as you arrive in Madrid may seem frightening and stressful, but having a place of your own is absolutely worth the time and energy you will need to put in. Think of this as your first cultural experience in Spain, and a pathway to becoming a bonafide Madrileño. Use your resources, take a deep breath, and dive right in!