We’ve already shared some other articles going over general tips and vocabulary you should know when apartment-hunting as well as recommended our top five websites for the process in Spain. However, I know those kinds of lists can sometimes feel simply theoretical and therefore less personal and tangible. So today I’d like to walk you through my own process of the first time I looked for an apartment to rent here in Granada. In the future, I’d love to share about my more recent searches as well but in order to not overwhelm you let’s focus on first things first.
First experience: looking to live with roommates* (2013-2014)
I didn’t think much of it when I first moved to Spain to teach in 2013, but apparently it was pretty impressive to the friends I met upon arrival that I had come with nothing set up. My program (CIEE’s Teach in Spain—The Basics) had provided two nights’ accommodation in Sevilla for an orientation and recommended we search for an apartment in our host cities upon arrival. Therefore, I followed their advice and didn’t bother to search beforehand.
All of the friends I made, however, had gone ahead and gotten their lodging in order (at least to some extent) in advance. Kelly had set up a host family-style situation renting a room in the apartment of someone her school’s director knew. Marc had found and agreed to an apartment with roommates before arriving in Granada. Joe had secured himself a few nights in a local AirBnB while he apartment-hunted (which he promptly set up through a real estate agency and thus found and moved into his own apartment before his intended number of nights at the AirBnB were even up).
Looking back on it, this gives me anxiety to realize everyone else was so much more prepared than I was, but I liked having my options open! And, if we’re being completely honest, I was able to use their preparedness to my advantage, doing my own apartment-hunting without stress. After just three nights staying in a hostel in Motril (the coastal city much closer to my pueblo school than Granada, where Kelly and Joe were living) I was invited to crash at Joe’s for a few days. After, when I decided I wanted to look in Granada capital instead, Marc invited me to stay with him for a few days while I apartment-hunted there.
I believe Marc was the one who told me about pisocompartido.es, which is the site he had used to find his roommates. I made myself a profile while I was still in the hostel in Motril and, before I even had time to do my own searches, I had messages coming in from people who had a room available and were interested in me! It was a huge relief and instantly calmed my nerves about not being able to find anything good “late in the game” since everyone who reached out seemed really friendly and welcoming.
That weekend, I scheduled to see three apartments I had found through Piso Compartido. Two were girls who had contacted me, living in the San Antón neighborhood; one was a couple I had contacted living in the Zaidín neighborhood. I did ask my friend to accompany me, which was nice for my first experience as I knew he had just gone through the same experience and may remember to ask about something I cared about but forgot in the moment. I communicated with everyone in Spanish which was a little intimidating at first but was not a problem as everyone was happy to explain things in further detail if I seemed to not understand.
As with most apartment-hunting experiences, there were pros and cons to each flat I checked out. The first one in San Antón had a great location and the girls seemed super nice, but it was the smallest room and would have required all three of us to share the same bathroom. The second one in San Antón had a much bigger bedroom and two bathrooms for four girls but one of the roommates was an Australian doing my same program and I was specifically looking to have only Spanish-speaking roommates, which Claudia explains the benefits of in this article. The one in Zaidín had a big room with a trundle bed and was the cheapest because it was further from the center, but I was uncertain if I would feel uncomfortable and as if the space weren’t equally mine as I would be moving into a place a couple was already settled into.
I contemplated my options during the rest of the weekend and by Sunday evening sent a message to one of the roommates from the second San Antón apartment to confirm my interest in living with them. To be honest with you, this was one of the most nerve-wracking hours of the whole apartment-hunting process! It felt like I was on a dating game show, waiting to see if the roommates I had chosen as my preference would also choose me back. Thankfully, after a message or two were exchanged between us I got the sought-after “great, you can move in as soon as tomorrow if you’d like” text. I was in!
Insights from present-day Dani
My first apartment-hunting experience truly went very smoothly and I can’t imagine a more hiccup-free process. With each of the three apartments I toured, I got the opportunity to meet the roommates I would be living with (interestingly enough, the only place where I didn’t meet each roommate was at the apartment I ended up going with, where I only met 2 of the 3 other girls). I didn’t have to deal with any real estate agencies (inmobiliarios, as they’re referred to in Spanish) or even landlords.
I was able to move in right away since I was looking at apartments at the beginning of October and the girls were more than happy to have to me there, paying that month’s rent. I thus didn’t need to wait on a contract to be drawn up, to have my credit evaluated, or even to put down a security deposit (fianza) as the girl who had originally found the apartment did so the month before. This was the ideal situation and things don’t always go so well but they also CAN. At the time, I had so many people telling me horror stories and that I wouldn’t be able to find anywhere decent that late in the year (most people looking for a place for the school year start looking to rent over the summer or starting in September) but I found a really nice apartment in my (still) favorite neighborhood in Granada with good roommates for the cheapest price I’ve ever paid for a room! Of course, I still recommend that you give yourself the best odds at finding a good place by starting the process sooner if you can, but I also want you to know that it will work out if you can’t!
Finally, I have to admit that my good luck was bolstered by being a female. I’ve listened to the When In Spain “Renting a Room or Apartment in Spain” episode and it sounds like not only is the process more stressful and long in big cities like Madrid and Barcelona but it can also be very discriminatory to men. I did notice i
t to be true that many landlords were only willing to rent to females and/or only to students (because their rent is usually paid by mom and dad, making them seem more reliable). This is not to say you can’t find a place (every male I’ve met living in Spain was indeed able to find housing!) but it may be a little less straight-forward than it was for me.
In the years since that first experience, I have had another successful find through Piso Compartido as well as experiences that started on Idealista and ended up going once through a real estate agent and once through an individual (in this case, when purchasing an apartment). Every situation had its perks and downfalls but, if you’re looking to live with roommates, I cannot recommend Piso Compartido more! This site truly felt more like a social network in which there was the security and formality of an organized platform but also the personal element of interacting directly with your potential roommates, something that is often absent when it’s the landlord or inmobiliario posting an ad on Idealista or Fotocasa.
As you can tell, I could go on and on with more details about my process, but I’ll wrap up there for now. Please feel free to ask whatever questions you may have to share experiences you’ve had below!
*Sorry to anyone who is more accurate with their use of ‘roommates’ vs. ‘flatmates’—even when speaking about ‘roommates’ I do in fact mean people I shared a flat with, not a room.