Madrid's rental market is booming. That means prices are on the rise and the competition for affordable lodging in desirable zones of the capital is steep.
The Local spoke to relocation expert Mary Clare Bland from Moving2Madrid for the lowdown on how to avoid the common pitfalls when searching for an apartment.
1. Make sure you have the time and resources to finding an apartment.
The Madrid apartment market has often been challenging, and with the recent real estate recovery, the challenges have been amplified. Make sure you have at least three weeks (this has been researched) of searching full-time to find a place. Landlords don't like to have apartments vacant, so it’s not recommended to starting looking more than a month in advance.
2. You must speak at least basic Spanish to find a place.
If you don't, find a translator or use a professional buyer's agent like Moving2Madrid. The same is true if you don't have the time to dedicate to a proper search. We've heard of people searching for literally years if they don't speak Spanish and perform the search in a focused manner.
3. You're going to have to “kiss a lot of frogs”.
Although things are changing, much of the apartment stock in the city is quite old. Many places still have appliances and bathroom fixtures from the 1950s, water heaters without the capacity to take a hot bath and ancient kitchens.
4. Make sure the apartment has heat.
Like many homes in southern Europe many buildings in Madrid don't have central heating. However, the wind can blow down from the mountains in winter and it can get quite cold.
This is such a problem that the city has introduced new Airbnb regulation requiring owners to provide heat. Buying electric heaters can be a solution, but they are often quite energy inefficient in a country where power prices are relatively high.
5. Check the apartment's energy certificate.
Apartments are now required to have them, and the rankings go from A (the best) to G (the worst). Many of the older apartments are a G, which can result in very high electricity bills, especially if you have to fork out for electric heating or plug in air conditioners..
6. Check if it has central air conditioning.
You will want more than a fan to keep you cool in summer. Photo: AFP
Madrid can be extraordinarily hot in the summer (45 degrees or more) and very few apartments have central air. And even if the apartment does have it, the air often doesn't function well. Test it and make sure it works well, especially if you're from a cooler country or a place with very strong air conditioning like the US or Hong Kong.
7. Start your search online.
The best sites are Idealista and Fotocasa. Idealista is free, with the largest number of apartments. Fotocasa is very well designed and easy to use. Keep in mind there are pros and cons associated with these sites. The Pros: they will give you access to the largest database of apartments and rooms to share. They have powerful search functions and alerts and are easy to use. The cons: anyone can upload anything, so there’s a risk of scams and 90% of the ads are only in Spanish. We do not recommend Craigslist because it’s full of scams.
8. Keep in mind that Spanish landlords and real estate agents are not user-friendly.
They often don’t return phone calls, or fail to turn up for viewings. Sometimes they don’t bother to tell you the apartment has already been let until you phone up to ask why they are not on the doorstep. In fact, they can be downright untrustworthy and have been known to lie on occasions. Be persistent and do your due diligence.
9. Decide if you want it furnished or not.
Part of this is based on personal preference (you might have furniture that you love and want to ship). Otherwise, you should base your decision upon the amount of time you are planning to be here. If you are here for less than a year, you will find many furnished options. If you are planning on staying more than a year, your choices will be limited to 20 percent of the available apartment stock if you want something furnished. Those numbers are for the center. If you want something in the suburbs, like Pozuelo, there are very few furnished apartments which this will limit you to less than 10 percent of the market. It is harder to find larger apartments that are furnished.
10. Have all necessary documents available before you start your search.
The Madrid apartment market has become a seller's, and landlord's, market. They are performing stricter credit checks and if you don't have your supporting documents readily available you can easily lose your dream apartment to another bidder. We recommend you have as many of the possible in hand when you start your search:
- Copy of Passport
- Copy of NIE
- Copy of your work contract showing, contract length, position and salary
- Letter from your company conveying your employment status
- Tax slips
- Bank statements
- Portfolio with lists of assets
- Reference letters from former landlords
- Pension plan statements
- Letter from your bank confirming that you are economically capable to pay x amount per month
11. If you like somewhere don’t attempt to negotiate
It's a seller's market right now and if you find an apartment you like, you need to focus on quickly signing a contract to make sure you don’t lose it, so bear that in mind if you are tempted to negotiate. If it’s a good place then there is likely to be someone in the wings who is prepared to pay the asking price.
12. Be prepared to pay upfront and keep in mind that things can move quickly
Once you have found a place you like, then it’s standard on signing the contract to hand over one month rent in advance and the equivalent of a month’s rent for a security deposit. If you have gone through an agency then the usual fee is the equivalent of one month’s rent but it can be more.
These tips have been provided by Moving2Madrid, a buyer's agent that focuses exclusively on the Madrid market.
“We help international buyers locate, negotiate and close the deal on apartments in Madrid. We work with renters, buyers and investors. We focus exclusively on an international clientele and speak multiple languages,” explained Mary Clare Bland.
“Our team is all international so have all, personally, been through the process of finding an apartment in Madrid and know how challenging it can be. We are on your side. Moving2Madrid has been rated the #1 Real Estate Service in Madrid.”