Finding accommodation easily in Madrid is all about timing. Of course this is not always easy to control but if you do have more of a choice in the matter there are definitely better and worse times to be looking for accommodation in Spain’s capital. If you arrive in February for example, you should have quite a few valuable options to choose from, and If you arrive in summer you will have your choice of those same places but for half the price (not many people can hack a full madrileño summer). However, if you arrive in September or October, you will have a real-life struggle on your hands. This is the start of term for many students but it also coincides with the multitude of English teachers that arrive all at once. You can be lucky of course, but there are certainly horror stories about people living for a couple of months in hostels before being able to find anything suitable (which to be honest, I think they quite enjoyed actually). So, if you have at all the choice, arrive a little sooner or at least prepare yourself mentally a little hardship.
Madrid is a big city with around 3.2 million inhabitants. Obviously, not everyone lives in the centre. The transport links are definitely up to commuting standards (think much cleaner, faster and cheaper than the London tube system). Having said that, it is not too expensive to live in the centre and you will perhaps appreciate the city so much more if you are next to its beating heart. A large amount of newcomers to Madrid chose to live a 40 minute (maximum) walk away from Puerta del Sol. This, unlike other capital cities, is very feasible without even having to sell a kidney. That being said, there is no point living too close to Sol…the hordes of tourist will eventually begin to annoy even the most relaxed of humans. Try close districts like Malasaña, Huertas, Chueca and Chamberi on the more expensive scale, with Lavapies, Moncloa and La Latina being on the slightly cheaper end. There are many more to choose from but these are all very vibrant as well as reasonably priced neighbourhoods.
Prices for a shared flat or studio will obviously always depend on how central the flat is (and yes, it will always be a flat) and in what condition it is in. For a reasonable place, relatively central, you can expect to pay between 350-450 euros for shared accommodation (not including bills). If you are looking for a studio flat it will be 500 euros plus. Prices in Madrid are a lot more expensive than many other cities in Spain (not including Barcelona which is roughly similar in price) but still much cheaper than most major capital cities in Europe, in my experience anyway.
What you will need
When I lived in Paris, before you could sign a lease to a flat you would need every single piece of documentation under the sun to prove to your prospectus landlord that you were in fact a human being. With the experience of Paris in mind, I came to Madrid prepared with everything from my birth certificate to the paw print of my father’s first pet. I need not have worried, as in typical Spanish style, I was asked to bring everything along with me but nobody asked for or even checked a single document. That being said, it is always best to be prepared for these occasions por si acaso. So try to bring the following:
A copy of your passport.
References for your previous flat if you have them.
Proof of income or details of your guarantor- This could be a copy of a bank statement.
Your own bank details.
A Work contract if you are in employement.
A deposit (up to a month and half or two months of rent is normal).
Attic apartments are beautiful but beware, they get very hot in summer
Where to Search
I would ideally say that word of mouth would be the best option. Ask around anyone you know in Madrid, whether it be through acquaintances or Facebook. The only reason for this is you are statistically less likely to end up living with someone who seemed normal but is in fact mad as a box of frogs. To be honest though, this might happen anyway and it’s all part of the experience of flat sharing.
Other than that, here are some websites which are a huge help:
- Idealista - By far the most popular one, with lots of listings and reasonably reliable
- LingoBongo - This is a site where people post all sorts of things from job opportunites to rooms for rent. There are far fewer postings than on Idealista for flats specifically but sometimes you can find little gems on this site as it is less well known and so there is naturally less competition.
- Fotocasa - Often people who have posted on Fotocasa have also posted on Idealista but you never know.
You can also rent through an agency. There are plenty to choose from and very easy to check if they are legitimate or not (Google!). However, I would say this is only worthwhile if you are looking to hire an entire flat and not just a room. Agencies will charge you at least a month of the rent as commission for finding the place, so it’s always worth checking Idealista first.
Other than that, the same rules apply as when looking for a flat in any other city or place:
- Never wire money to unknown people especially if you have not seen the flat beforehand.
- Try and look over the contract to check it is all fine and dandy.
- Makes sure to ask about bills etc so you are not caught out with anything at the end of the month.
- Make sure you get a set of keys when you hand over the money and sign the contract.
- If you have to meet housemates beforehand, remember you are interviewing them as prospective roomies as well as them interviewing you. Ask everything you need to ask.
- And above all, never, ever trust anyone on Craigslist, they are all perverts and scammers... probably.