Welcome to Barcelona, the city of dogs and their devoted owners.
I’m qualified to welcome you to this vibrant European city now that I’ve been here for a month. This month has seen me busting out my rusty Spanish and inflicting grievous harm on innocent spanish speakers as I attempted to secure our new permanent digs in the city. My morning routine looked a bit like this: wake up at 8.30 am, pick up the laptop sleeping next to my bed and scroll through my go-to piso search sites (Idealista, Habitaclia, Fotocasa), send off initial contact requests for anything I quite fancied and, if it was a particularly dry day of fishing, things I just vaguely liked. By 10am my phone would have started ringing; calls from agents I contacted the day before to arrange a visit. A normal conversation would go like this (rough translation into English but imagine the speed at x5 in Spanish): “Good morning you have contacted us regarding a property with 2 bedrooms is about 60m2 and it’s unfurnished…”, my only response to the initial onslaught would be “Donde?”. I would send so many email requests that by the time people got back to me I couldn’t tell one property from another, all I could say was “Sure I’ll come see it”. On the occasions that I had to initiate contact (and this happened daily) I would have to do my prep: giving myself the “you can do it talk. They don’t know you, it’s completely fine. You can make yourself understood just pick up the phone.” Going over my opening sentence in my head whilst listening to the ringing tone. I tried a more hands-on approach which saw me walking around different areas with my head tilted up at a 45 degree angle trying to spot alquiler or en lloguer signs on buildings. Whilst I did end up with a stiff neck I would recommend this method as it’s a great way to explore the city and stumble upon hidden gems.
Now 4 weeks later, 3 apartments that got away and only 2 days left in our designated Airbnb room,we have finally found a place. Albeit, we won’t have it for another few weeks but it will definitely be worth the wait. I’m so relieved to not have to wake up every morning after a night of tossing and turning about where we will live. The ones that got away were due to the usual horror story of seeing an apartment, taking the night to sleep on it during which time my imagination created an intricate and colourful picture of our lives built from the foundations of one 10 minute viewing and 5 online photos, only to wake up to a call saying that someone else had snuck in that morning and reserved the bugger.
Apartment hunting is a fickle business, as are the estate agencies. The standard agency charges renters a a one-time fee of 10% of the annual rent amount and an additional few costs for paperwork such as the contract, not including VAT. For this reason alone if you are finding an apartment through an agency it is well worth going into an agency to let them earn their commission. If not it feels like you’re the one doing all the hard work and, when you finally close a deal on an apartment handing over a lump-sum as commission can be a bitter pill to swallow. And if you end up moving more than once a year, this bill will inevitably add up. One of the deal breakers for us choosing our apartment, aside from us loving it, is that it is direct from an owner instead of via an agency so we automatically saved 1300€. Of course, the other side of this is that our arrangement is based a lot more on trust and we were very keen to get sight of a contract as soon as possible to give us some peace of mind. If you do go via the private-owner route, be sure to properly inspect everything; do not give out sensitive information or make any transfer of money prior to visiting the apartment and having a contract in place. There are many scams out there and the apartments that they advertise always look nothing short of perfect.
I’m sure not all apartment finding experiences looked as painful as mine, but if you do feel like you’re hitting a brick wall, like every day, don’t beat yourself up about it and don’t let anyone panic you into taking something that you’re not sure about. One thing I am confident about from this whole experience is that anything that wasn’t right for us found a way to escape our grasp, so that we would be able to take the right one when it finally decided to show up.