In Spain there are hotels, hostels, AirBnb, holiday rentals, and traditional leases. Man, what a hunt it’s been the past 2 days but I have finally succeeded.
The back story is that I needed to desperately get out of the little place I was staying at. I signed up for a private room on AirBnb for $30/night in a decent part of town. I agreed on a week but last night’s fiasco with the drunk landlord and her friends – that was rough.
I’ll pay her for the full week ($254) even though it was a subpar experience. I agreed to that and even though I could cancel it, it wouldn’t feel right. The smoking, the slamming doors, and the yelling should urge me otherwise, I’d rather not piss anyone off and I should have known better.
Before listing some of my apartment hunting resources, I should say that some listings are for weekly rent which is how rent is often listed in Spain and the rest of Europe, while others are for the whole month. It’s not easy to tell which is which.
You still pay the rent every month but it’s listed as weekly – makes sense. For example, in the listing below, I have no idea if it’s for a month or a week.
Finding An Apartment In Barcelona
It’s a really hot market and AirBnb is illegal in Barcelona from everything I’ve read. I don’t quite get it because everyone still lists their places on AirBnb. The problem is that it’s pushing the locals out and of course they are angry with the tourists. I am fairly far removed from any tourist areas so I don’t think I’ll have any issues.
The easiest way to find a place to live is to search on AirBnb but the listings are in Spanish or Catalan and they aren’t descriptive enough. Sending requests sometimes get no replies or everyone decides to reply at the same time and now you got to choose.
The easiest is also the most expensive.
It’s hard to generalize, but you can get a place on the very cheap side for €600/month which won’t include utilities. The more realistic number, but still hard to come by due to demand, is around €900/month. Right around €1,000/month gets you a really desirable location which means you’d be close to the touristy areas.
AirBnb For Long Term Housing
There is a big surcharge for going with AirBnb. The advantage is that you get to deal through a 3rd party which means that there is some standardization with the interaction.
There are a lot of listings on AirBnb for Barcelona. You can do a search for a shared room or for the entire home. You can select the exact dates you want and search based on that.
Some places will give you a discount for renting a place longer than a few days. I believe they can give you a discount for a week or longer and for a month or longer. Most places had impressive discounts for those willing to rent for 1+ months.
Some places may ask that you sign a separate contract with the landlord. I tried contacting AirBnb about this and they didn’t get back to me. AirBnb advertises that for each rental they provide 24/7 service – hence, the fee they collect. In this case, no such help even though I already had booked. It could be just an isolated experience on my part.
My landlord wanted a copy of my passport and wanted me to sign a contract written completely in Spanish. I glanced at it and understood maybe 10%. I sat down later and translated it to English, which took forever, and it was all legit.
Idealista For LONG TERM Housing
Barcelona, like any big city, only does 6 month or 12 month leases. I used a local listing, idealista, to search for actual apartments, hoping that one of the landlords would be okay with me renting it for only 3 months.
It’s not the most intuitive platform to use if you aren’t too familiar with the area but you can get the hang of it fairly easily. Even better, it lets you choose the language you would like the information displayed in.
I must have contacted a dozen places through idealista and not a single one got back to me. I said I was a physician from the USA who needed a place for 3 months and wondering if they were willing to sign this shorter lease.
In hindsight, I’m glad I didn’t go with idealista because I would have then had to go through the whole process of furnishing the place, getting WiFi, utilities, and getting a lease translated.
Facebook For Long term Housing
I don’t have FB but quite a few people recommended using Facebook to join certain groups concentrating on jobs in Barcelona, or housing, or socials, etc.
I had a friend show me the group and there were a few listings here & there but I was fairly specific with my needs and most of the listings were for shared housing which I was trying to run away from.
Other Website For Long Term Housing
There are a ton of other websites. None of which were impressive to the point of recommending them here. Even Craigslist is representing in BCN but quite anemic.
My landlord recommended the following sites which might be helpful if your Spanish is good, they are mostly used by locals:
Physical Realtor Offices
There are a few of these around town. I’m sure they will charge you a premium but the advantage is that they can do the legwork for you. This will save you a lot of time. I would say as healthcare professionals, we have more money than time – so I’d farm out this kind of work, if possible.
They have listings on their window displays like most realtor offices back in the US. And you can walk into the office and speak to them, most speak multiple languages. They can usually arrange to find you a place the same day. Interestingly, I didn’t find the to be very pushy, quite mellow for salespeople.
International House Hunting
In a place like Barcelona, apartments are the easiest to come by. There are very few single family homes for rent. You can buy a condo here for anywhere from €60,000-€500,000. Right around the €130,000 you can find the fairly modern and recently renovated units.
I’m not terribly paranoid about the risk of getting ripped off. Every other person isn’t out to rip me off. At the same time, it’s my responsibility to guard my information and make wise decisions.
It’s whenever I’ve tried to cut costs or lock in the highest savings possible, that’s when I have had negative experiences. Maybe I’d call them getting ripped off, maybe it’s just the way business is done at those bottommost rates.
Hunting for an apartment overseas is the kind of situation where I think it would be wiser to choose a more reputable website and pay the gringo tax if you have to. Paying more won’t ensure that you won’t get ripped off but the person will know that they are dealing with a more savvy individual.
Be active on forums where you have access to a few extra minds who can tell you whether something passes the sniff test. I’ve been saved by this many times.
Criteria For My Home
A few of you have contacted me and told me that you are planning on switching over to telemedicine at some point and doing long term travel. For this group I think it’s important to have some criteria for your apartment that’s conducive to the lifestyle you’ll have.
I needed an apartment with an internet connection + paid utilities. I didn’t want the hassle of signing up for various services. I wanted to have electricity and water paid for by the landlord. This is why I chose AirBnb and why doing a short term rental through idealista may have just created more headaches for me.
To sign up for various services it’s sometimes necessary for you to have a national ID number – this isn’t a fun application process so until you become more familiar with Spain, it might be best to circumvent this.
I needed a place with some air circulation so that I don’t feel locked inside my place. This is helpful for the few hours when I’ll be doing my telemedicine work. My apartment is ideal for this. There is a covered outside area and I have plenty of other suitable locations in the house to work from.
The downside to my place, as is common with Barcelona, is that the walls are thin and so sound travels really easily. Doing a telemedicine video visit at 2am would not be ideal for my neighbors. Seeing as I’m still jet lagged and factoring in the 9 hour time advance that I have here, it’s an ideal time to do a phone shift.
The Place I Found In Barcelona, Spain
I got this place off of AirBnb for around $1,750/month for the next 3 months. I agreed to a 1 month lease first. After my first night here I increased it by another 2 months.
This unit in Barcelona is tiny, maybe 500 sqft with a loft but not an actual walled off bedroom. There is another 400 sqft of patio space which is really wonderful. I’ve been enjoying the cool summer rain sitting under the massive umbrella.
This unit would probably sell for around €170,000 based on a similar unit I saw listed for sale. What’s great about purchasing condominiums in Spain is that you pay a 1x sales tax and no more annual property taxes and no ongoing HOA dues. Instead, you pay your unit’s share for any actual repairs that need to be done to the shared part of the condo complex.
My unit has the following features:
- water included
- electricity included
- WiFi included
- Wall A/C in the bedroom
- Fully furnished with bed sheets and towels