How to rent an affordable flat in Madrid

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You’ve been living with roommates for too long. You need your own space. The adventure of finding a flat in Madrid can be a huge challenge. So we want to help you with a little guide.

You are going to need time, effort and luck. You also need to be quick and prepared. Let's get started!

Photo by Alex Azabache from Pexels

What should I prepare?

Being the first to contact the owner and having everything ready to sign the agreement are the keys to getting the flat of your dreams. 

Once you know how much money you can spend, which areas of town are your favourites (it is important that they are well connected with the places where you work or study), what requirements are essential for you (for example, pets must be allowed or have a terrace), we recommend you to have certain things ready that you will surely be asked for.

  1. Identity card or passport. Have a scanned copy of your up-to-date ID card or passport at hand.
  2. Work contract or tax declaration. Landlords usually ask for these documents to make sure that you are financially solvent and will be able to pay the rent every month. If you are an employee, prepare your contract - and your last two or three payslips, just in case - and, if you are self-employed, your tax return for the last year. If you are unemployed or a student, you must present a guarantor, usually a family member or someone very close to you who will be jointly and severally liable for the rent and, in turn, will have to prove that they can pay if you don't. Another option is to provide a valuable asset that you have as a guarantor, such as another home or a car, but this option is more complicated and usually requires additional legal costs.
  3. Money. How much? To start, you will need to pay the first month's rent plus 2 or 3 months' deposit and probably an extra month's rent to the estate agent for management fees. You can save this last extra fee if you rent directly from a private individual, but this happens rarely.

Some landlords may ask for additional documentation such as bank statements or a letter of motivation to get to know you a little better and find out what your profile is, but this is rare.

Property owners tend to prefer people with permanent contracts, but there are also those who are looking for students who only want to do one-year contracts. Whatever your situation, use your strengths to sell yourself. In the end, it's not so different from a job interview.

Where to search?

Photo by levi sun on Unsplash

The time has come to search. This may seem obvious, but cheap is expensive. In the centre of Madrid - the most fashionable and trendy neighbourhoods - you can find flats that are apparently "a bit old", but at a reasonable price. However, when you start looking around you can find unpleasant surprises. They are not well insulated or have no heating at all and your electricity consumption goes through the roof, or they have very old installations or faults whose repairs are not taken care of by the owners and become hidden costs. It goes without saying that we advise against large investments in improving a rented flat. 

We recommend that you give them a chance in less central neighbourhoods such as Tetuan, Carabanchel, Ciudad Lineal, Usera or Vallecas.

Here’s where you can start searching: 

  1. Online platforms. Register on websites such as Idealista or Fotocasa and activate alerts. Write a short message explaining who you are, what you are looking for and adding your contact details so you can send it quickly. The sooner you reply the better, better minutes than hours. If it is several days old, it is likely that they have already received hundreds of messages and won't answer you.
  2. Community of Madrid. The regional government, through Plan Alquila, offers an intermediation service for rentals. Its website has a platform with a housing search engine. Besides, they can help you with free legal and tax advice, as well as public aid and social housing.
  3. Construction companies and banks. There are companies that directly rent the homes they build and sometimes it is simpler and cheaper than renting to private owners. Some banks have a portfolio of flats for rent directly managed by them (although most work through real estate agencies).
  4. "For rent" signs. If you already know where you want to live, you can also try walking around the neighbourhood and look for signs advertising flats for rent. Yes, it's a bit like going back to the pre-internet era, but some people still do it and there tends to be less competition. In some supermarkets and cultural centres there are also spaces to place advertisements and there are still people who put up posters in the street. You can also ask the doorman if you can find it in a building or housing estate or even neighbours. Sometimes the best opportunities are in the most unexpected places.
  5. Social networks. The classic Facebook or Telegram groups with names like "Flats for rent in Madrid" often hide little gems. Uploading a story or post on your social networks announcing your search and asking your friends to share it never hurts. You never know where you might find someone who is about to leave their home.

If the ad includes a contact number, always call instead of sending a message or email, which they may not read. If they don't answer, insist later. 

When you do manage to talk, make an appointment to visit the flat as soon as possible. In most cases, the first person who arrives first gets it - if they meet the requirements, of course.

Good luck!