Review by teacher Kacey Andreotta for TEFL Heaven Mexico

Flat hunting in Madrid! By Faye Johnson

Hi everyone, it’s Faye here – one of your TEFL Heaven Ambassadors for Madrid. This blog post is about the process of searching for a flat in Madrid and I thought I would use my own experiences to give you some helpful insight!

Firstly let me give you a brief summary of my living situation since moving to Madrid in the summer of 2017! I initially booked a room in a shared flat through TEFL Heaven for 2 months which was ideal as I shared with two girls who were on my course. This made the whole process less daunting. After that I had a temporary shared duplex for a couple of weeks, before moving in with a Spanish family (on the outskirts of Madrid) where I rented the top floor of their house. I found this accommodation through one of the Madrid housing Facebook pages (habitaciones in Madrid is a good one). I ended up living with the family for about a year before my most recent move to central Madrid!

Apparently it's quite well-known that finding housing in Madrid can be difficult especially from September – November as many Erasmus/university students are looking for accommodation. This was something I wasn’t aware of before looking for accommodation with some friends after we had finished the course! We didn’t speak much Spanish and it was near on impossible to try and find a place for 3 people as a lot of places wanted a work contract or proof of income, because we would be renting their whole property. In the end we took the temporary duplex and then went our separate ways, but just a few months later one of the girls moved in with me and the Spanish family so we found our way back to each other in the end!

Although I really enjoyed living with the family, after returning to Madrid for another academic year, I decided that I wanted to experience living in the centre. The family live about a 30-minute metro commute away. I started searching in January using housing websites  and apps such as ‘idealista’ and ‘badi’. These apps are similar but on ‘badi’ you create a profile and search for roommates whereas with ‘idealista’ you are just searching by rooms/flats. I would recommend using these apps and some people post their properties on both. On ‘idealista’ you can turn on notifications so as soon as a place is added that matches your criteria you will get an email and a message which is super helpful as you have to act fast in Madrid!  Many places are rented within hours/days of being placed on the market! Through ‘Badi’ you have to message via the app however on ‘idealista’ many places include a contact number. The most successful method I found was saving the number as the address to my phone and sending a WhatsApp message in Spanish (everyone uses WhatsApp here). You can message through the ‘idealista’ app but a lot of users receive so many messages they don’t actually look at them unless you contact them by phone.

I’m not going to sugar-coat it here. The search was really difficult, and January was an extremely long month for me. I must have messaged over 100 people from the apps mentioned previously. I visited between 15-20 rooms. A large portion of the people I contacted didn’t respond and many of the places I looked at just weren’t suitable. For instance, I saw a place where you had to walk through someone else’s room to get to your room, some places where there weren’t any Spanish speakers, some places just weren’t very nice or had too many roommates for my personal liking. I think the hardest thing was constantly searching for rooms as new places were posted throughout the day. I felt like all of my free time was spent on the two apps I mentioned and when I wasn’t having much luck it was disheartening.

I did see quite a few places that I liked but there is so much competition for rooms, with lots of interest. On these occasions the room went to someone else who was staying for longer than 6 months or to somebody they felt might fit in better.

Another option available is ‘spotahome’ where you receive a 15% discount through TEFL Heaven (bonus). This is a company/website that helps you find and book a place without having to actually visit it. ‘Spotahome’ visit properties and take pictures/videos so you know that the place you are booking is legitimate. I decided not to use this option because I didn’t have the money at the time to pay the booking fee. I think it is a great choice if you are not already in the country and want to book things further in advance. I know people who have booked through ‘spotahome’ and they are extremely happy with their flats.

Another option in terms of looking for housing is using an agency. A large number of the places I mentioned to you on ‘idealista’ are actually placed by agencies and ‘spotahome’. I personally didn’t use an agency because they almost always have a non-refundable fee which equates to a month’s rent. This was too expensive for me as I only had enough to pay the first month’s rent and the deposit (usually one month’s rent).

It’s not all doom and gloom though as on the last day of January (before having to pay February’s rent with the Spanish family) I found the place I’m currently living in. It’s not perfect but I’m pretty happy with my choice. My old roommate found somewhere in the centre in 2 weeks, but she had slightly lower expectations than me, so finding somewhere also depends on how fussy you are! Some of my friends found the process as difficult as me but others found places within a few days. I think the main things to remember when searching for flats/rooms in Madrid are to give yourself enough time, stay motivated through rejection and don’t accept a place unless you’re comfortable!

Anyway, I hope this has been helpful and given you an idea of the process. Sorry if I have scared anyone, this was not my intention – it is 100% possible to find a good place but you need to put the effort in!

Bye for now  

Faye 

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