Hi everyone! I am here to tell you that the process of finding a place to live in Madrid is often not trouble-free or linear. However, I am hoping to provide some pro tips on how a potential future CIEE auxiliar can set their expectations ahead of the housing search. Before zooming into the details, I want to set the broad timeline of the housing search process for me. I have now been in Spain for nearly three weeks. After exactly 14 days of contacting homeowners and touring apartments with my roommates, we were able to reserve a place to live. Four days later, we moved into our three-bedroom apartment near the Prado museum. While the housing search process works out differently for every new Spanish resident, I hope these pro tips can be helpful to anyone seeking a home in Madrid!
Housing Pro Tip #1: You do not have to research apartments or sign a contract before arriving in Spain. In fact, there are advantages to waiting.
As you will soon learn, the process of finding a room or a home in Madrid begins with an app called Idealista. This app allows you to search for places to live in areas all over Spain that are based on the preferences you select. I, personally, did not download Idealista until my first night in Spain. Since then, I have used the app religiously and it has allowed me to come in contact with more than 20 homeowners and landlords. I’m not going to sugar coat it, the process toward ultimately locking down an apartment in Spain was very difficult. I reached out to at least fifteen landlords who never responded. Some homeowners would provide an apartment tour for me and my roommates, but would later give it away to someone else for any host of reasons. Nonetheless, you do not need to browse Idealista or sign a contract for a place before you arrive in Spain. Throughout orientation, many of the CIEE auxiliars that I talked to admitted that they regretted their choices to pick roommates via Facebook and sign contracts prior to arriving in Spain. There is value added when you can take the time to visit different neighborhoods in Madrid before making a decision on where to live.
Housing Pro Tip #2: Keep your preferences in mind throughout your search.
For some people, being locked into a housing situation for ten months to a year can feel like a “temporary housing situation.” For me, a year in a home that doesn’t feel like home would be dreadful. So, I kept my preferences in mind throughout the entire process and was not particularly keen on sacrificing some of the “make-or-break” preferences. My top priorities during my housing search were, (1) close proximity to my school/metro, (2) a kitchen to cook in, (3) non-smoking, and (4) lots of natural lighting. I had other preferences like room and bed size, but these were more flexible. Some of the preferences can be indicated on Idealista in order to narrow the search, but I mainly kept them in mind as I did apartment tours.
Housing Pro Tip #3: Do not stop looking through Idealista and taking home tours until you are absolutely certain that you have reserved a home.
Securing an apartment is not as simple as reaching out to a homeowner, viewing their apartment, and saying you want it. At the end of the house-hunting process, I visited 11 apartments and between my roommates and I, we contacted more than 35 homeowners and landlords. At four of the apartment viewings, my roommates and I essentially committed on the spot. We offered to pay the deposit and make a commitment right there in the apartment or via WhatsApp shortly after the visit. Only one of these places agreed to let us rent the apartment. It was crucial for us to keep every option open because even if we had attempted to commit to the very first apartment we liked on Idealista, there was no certainty that we could have lived there. There are various other factors that the homeowners are considering that may inhibit your ability to be the occupant they choose. That being said, before arriving in Madrid, you may want to book a hotel or AirBnB for a week or two after CIEE orientation ends.
Housing Pro Tip #4: Try to take breaks from scrolling through Idealista and take a deep breath :)
The housing search process can be immensely stressful. The uncertainty surrounding the apartment search was my biggest point of stress before arriving in Madrid. However, when I arrived in Spain, I came to find that Spaniards do not operate at as quick of a pace as Americans in general. They fully check out on the weekends and often won’t respond to texts and emails. They work on their own timetable in the service industry and especially in the home leasing business. So, my best advice is to not let the housing search overcome you and take away from the exciting first few weeks in Spain. At the same time, ask homeowners about their leasing timeline. Ask them when they need a response back from you and when they are planning to make a decision about who can live there. Even if the first 10 places don’t choose you, perhaps the 11th will!
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I hope this has been helpful! This is certainly not an exhaustive list of recommendations and does not cover topics like choosing roommates, or different types of housing. For prospective CIEE auxiliars, I hope this does not add to the stress of finding a home in Madrid, but rather gives you more tools on what to expect and how to be successful!