You’ve been on idealista, easypiso, spothome and fotocasa all day, every day and as soon as you find something it’s gone, the landlord won’t return your calls, and the realtors want to see 6 months of pay stubs and a permanent work contract.
Does this sound like your life?
Several weeks ago we posted about 10 great neighborhoods to know, and while they were all places you could want to live it seems the problem is everyone else wants to live there too. This year’s piso hunt has extended well into late autumn for a number of auxiliars, so we’re here with our shortlist of tips to help you out of your Air BnB and into a room of your own.
1. Ask around.
Do you have friends who’ve found places to live? Have you started to get friendly with your coworkers over the age of 30? Great! Ask them if their landlords have any other properties.
While certainly not all, many private landlords own more than one property that they rent out. The disadvantage of this tactic is that you’re kind of stuck with whatever is on offer within your social circle, but you get the major advantages of: 1) getting to deal directly with landlord and not having to go through an agency and 2) by going through a friend or coworker you have a “social in”, which can really count for a lot over here.
It can take awhile before you get any leads, but hang in there and ask literally everyone you know, no matter how tenuous your social connection to them seems. If you have asked everyone you know and come up with nothing, have your friends to start asking their friends. When my roommate and I were apartment hunting this summer the first 10 people I asked told me their landlord didn’t have anything else available at the moment. In the end, I caught one of those people at the right moment. It turned out he and his girlfriend were leaving their sick two bedroom in Arganzuela right around the time when my roommate and I would need to move in. Be persistent!
2. Try an independent letting agents.
One of the problems a lot of people have had is that once they tried going through a realtor, they were immediately turned away since they didn’t have a permanent contract and several months of pay stubs. If you go to an independent leasing agency (NOT RedPiso or TechnoCasa, for example), explain your situation and show them your Carta de Nombremiento from the Ministry, then they may be a bit more understanding and more willing to work with you. It’s possible you’ll have to pay a higher deposit or that they’ll only allow you to sign a lease for the length of your contract, but once you start doing business with them some things may become negotiable.
3. Ask more questions than you answer.
Don’t be a jerk and don’t lie to any prospective landlords, but no one says you need to supply any extra information. When they ask you what you do, tell them you’re teaching English and studying. Both of these things are technically true and it can help you make a good impression right away. English as a foreign language is booming business still in Spain, and since the auxiliar program is technically “work studies” you look extra responsible by being able to say you’re doing both.
Unless they ask about the nature and structure of your classes, there’s no need to say anymore about yourself. Ask the landlord about the apartment, about the current and previous tenants, and about themselves. Even if your Spanish is pretty basic, attempts at small talk (weather, sports, hobbies, etc.) can go an awful long way to ingratiate yourself with someone.
When the time comes, have a copy of your Carta and your auxiliar contract handy, and let the landlord read through it themselves. If they were thinking of renting you the room there’s a good chance they’ll be satisfied enough to read that the Education Ministry is your sponsor. They may have follow up questions. Be friendly and warm, but be brief. Lengthy explanations can get confusing for you and for them, while a chipper tone helps you seem more confident and less cagey.
4. Find a room you can rent month to month and continue to wait it out.
It’s tough to make a solid prediction on what the market will be like in 2 months, so one option is to rent a place through a service like Aluni.NET, which specializes in student housing. This means of course there are some annoying, dormitory-like stipulations in the contract (I’m dying to know how they enforce their ban on the possession of pornographic materials) but you can avoid committing to an apartment you’re not wild about while you continue to look for the flatshare of your dreams.
You’d also have some basic protections provided through their written agreement, even if you’re on a rolling contract, and having a middle man sometimes makes it easier to get your deposit back from your landlord (less the administration fees, of course). When I visited their Madrid office in January 2014, Aluni had a bilingual staff, and offered copies of the contracts in English. It’s also an opportunity to get to know and get in with a landlord who might have other rooms or apartments for rent.
XO, Natalie & Maggie