by Niels Klok
Madrid being the capital of one of Europe’s most popular Mediterranean countries, it will not come as a surprise that housing its four million or so inhabitants is (to put it mildly) an issue of concern. The city rivals its sisters in Northern Europe in price; and with wages often being twice as low as “up North”, problems are bound to arise. As such, Madrid has taken the phenomenon of sharing an apartment to a whole different level: no longer simply a student affair, you may find yourself living with madrileños of all ages and occupations, couples included. Check your cupboards, you might find another flatmate in there.
Most newly arrived will not have the means to rent (let alone buy!) a place by themselves, and are consequently thrown into the madness of a market that is ruled by “castings” in pisos (apartments) of varying merit. How to become one of the lucky ones? The Internet, as is so often the case, is where it all happens:
- www.segundamano.es is a popular place to look, even though the number of rooms advertised is significantly low these days. Select Madrid, then Pisos from the drop-down menu, and mark se alquila before clicking Busca to check what’s on offer. Rumor has it that the print version of Segunda Mano (available at newsstands) has more rooms, which are not advertised on the web.
- www.pisocompartido.com has less visibility but can act as an additional resource. Select Busco habitación en alquiler and MADRID from the drop-down menus.
- www.idealista.com has more search options than the others (smoking vs. non-smoking etc.) and you can select your area by navigating a map of Madrid. Do check the date of posting, however: ads are rarely removed. Start by selecting alquilar, habitación and Madrid from the menus on the main page.
When you have spotted a habitación in a zona that you wouldn’t mind living in, call immediately (sending e-mails will most likely get you nowhere). A basic level of Spanish obviously comes in handy here; fortunately, the conversations tend to follow a very clear pattern: you will typically ask if the room is still available (“he visto vuestro anuncio en loquo.com – la habitación todavía está libre?”), and they will either disappoint you (“ya está alquilada”) or make you happy with a sí. Next thing: cuándo puedo venir? (when can I come to see it?). Make a note of day and time, and head out there. Things to double-check beforehand could be: está amueblada? (does it have all its furniture in place? unless, of course, you have your own somewhere in a truck), and: los gastos están incluidos? (are water, electricity etc. included in the amount?).
If you like what you have been invited to see, it is up to you to use your (foreign, mysterious) charm to pass the audition (there are typically between 5 and 20 contestants, depending on zona and season). Note that most habitaciones call for a fianza (deposit), usually one month’s worth of rent.
¡Suerte! (Good luck)