Friday, September 13, 2013

Piso hunting 101: Finding your apartment/flat in Spain

Finding a place to live is stressful in your own country. But, throw in a foreign language and customs and the whole experience becomes incredibly stressful. Hopefully this guide will make it a little easier for you once you arrive to Spain.

Before I came for my first year I did some research online. In college we learned that the work for apartment is apartamento. Searching for that online led to nothing! I was really frustrated until I went back to the ever-helpful Facebook groups and found that people in Spain use the word piso. So, start your search with that word and save yourself a headache!

Location

This is a super important part to finding your apartment. Finding a good, safe location can be difficult if you don’t know anyone in the city you are moving to. Ask your bilingual coordinator when they get in touch with you where he/she and the other teachers live or where the young people live in the city. This can give you a good starting point. Also, if you can track down language assistants who have lived in the city before ask them for their recommendations. Often times, they will know someone who has a room available!

When deciding on a location make sure you visit the area during the day and at night. See how close it is to transportation (city busses/metro and train/bus station) because that will make your commute to work/travel from your city easier. Chances are you wont have a car, so make sure there is a supermarket within close walking distance. Cafes, bars, pharmacies, gyms and other stores are nice to have close by too. But, the most important thing is to make sure you feel safe in your neighborhood!

Roommates

This can be tricky in Spain as you will most likely be renting a room in a shared apartment. The thing I will say right away about roommates is don’t live with the landlord. I have heard many horror stories from people who have lived with them. They can be controlling and even limit your time in the shared areas (can you imagine not being able to go to the kitchen when you want??)

Your best bet is to find an apartment with students. They are usually around the same age and then you have immediate people to hang out with! If they live there before you move in, spend some time talking to them to see if you have things in common. (Do they smoke? Party all night? Have pets? What are they studying?) If you don’t see a connection happening then maybe think about other places. 8 months is a long time to spend with people you don’t like. If you move in before others, make sure you are there when they come to see the apartment so you can talk to them and get to know them.

Kind of like the location, it depends on what you are looking for with roommates. The one nugget of advice I can give is LIVE WITH SPANIARDS! You will inevitably speak a lot of English when you are here so this might be one of your only times to practice your language!

Apartment

I don’t have too much to say here. But there are some things you should make sure of when looking at your apartment (I wish I knew these before my 2nd year!) How much natural light is there? My second year I “lovingly” nicknamed my apartment la cueva (cave) because it had one window to the street and basically no natural night came in. TERRIBLE. It is more important than you think to have natural light in your apartment, especially in Sunny Spain!

The other thing is to try to see how much noise you can hear from the other apartments in the building. Generally in the older parts of the city the walls are thinner and you can hear more. My first year (and currently) I can hear nothing and it is wonderful! However, last year it was like everyone lived in the same apartment. To the point, that when the person in the apartment next to mine plugged in something into the wall it sounded like it was in my room! I felt like if they hit hard enough their hand would come through the wall!

Where to look

There are many websites for finding apartments in Spain. They are good to help give you an idea, but don’t agree to anything until you see it in person!

Piso Compartido is a site to find a room in a shared flat, or if you end up having to find roommates you can list the room there. This is what I have used before and it is a nice easy site with lots of traffic.

Loquo is like craigslist. Lots of options, but you need to specify which city you are in.

Idealista is another site that many people have had success with.

Easy Piso with this one you can change your search language to English.

Another good option is looking on your city’s university website. Many times they have a list of rooms available for students. Not all have this option, but its good to check!

That being said, the best way to find your apartment is to hit the road. There are many many papers on the street advertising rooms or whole apartments. Also, look up. If you find an area of the town you like there will be signs outside the windows of available apartments. This is the best way in my opinion.

Hopefully this guide will make your experience a little less stressful! Good luck and happy hunting!