Where have I been the past two weeks? Internetless, contactless, homeless? Almost, but not quite. On top of a ton of work which has kept me very quiet, I have also finally moved into my new apartment, the 7th move in the last 5 years, and hopefully the last. I rent in Barcelona, and it can be quite a daunting task, renting in a foreign counrtry. Each place has its own set of rules, with pros and cons for different buildings, and the more you move, or the longer you stay in each place, the better you are at being equipped to know what to look for when moving and how to do it!
I thought I would write down some of my hard earned tips, so that if you find yourself renting in Barcelona, you will perhaps have a smoother journey into settling into your new place.
Besides the fact that my requirements of an abode in Barcelona have changed over the years spent here, there are a few things which I cannot live without (well at least not for very long). Namely a bath and a little pocket of green. As soon as you start adding items to your list, the hunt for the perfect apartment becomes that little bit harder, especially if you have a budget for rent each month. However if you are patient you can find something great!
Places to search for rental properties:
If you enjoy a long hot bath, make sure that your apartment has a city gas supply, often apartments with hot water tanks are not sufficient for a bath, especially if you are sharing. Gas may also be your preference for cooking, although some older apartments rely on butane gas which you would need to buy from local street vendors.
Conditions for renting have improved for the renter dramatically in the last two years as prices have dropped. Originally without work permits or a work contract ( a nomina) it was virtually impossible to rent an apartment without sharing or going through an agent or tourist apartment agency. This meant that either I would have to live with other renters or pay exorbitant rates each month. Without the nomina you could be required to pay anywhere up to five months rent as as a deposit. This system has eased up somewhat, but I can still recommend renting directly from the owner, as an agent will take a 10% fee for a years rental, and this will not be returned to you, unlike a deposit.
Usually flats are rented with a five year contract which you can cancel after one year. It is illegal, as far as I know, to sublet your apartment, although it is quite common to find people who do. Rent may be a bit steeper, and apartments are usually furnished. You can find sublets on airbnb.com.
I have found it worthwhile to visit apartments which seem to check all the boxes, even if the photos don’t make the place look good. Often this is just due to someone not having a great camera or photographic skill. The pro for this is that you may not find yourself lining up outside to see the place with a horde of competitive potential renters. Sometimes an unlikely non photogenic flat can turn out to be perfect. The same goes for apartments that have no pictures on their listing. Both of my favorite apartments, including the one where I am today were found as a result of this.
A walk around your favorite neighborhood could yield telephone numbers for available apartments. Many agents and owners looking to rent, place a sign on their window or balcony advertising, and do not have ads online.
Always make sure that when you sign for your apartment that you agree with the owner or agent that you have some time to notify them of problems in the apartment that they need to fix or that will not be deducted from your deposit. It’s not always apparent if the heating or hot water works properly before you move in!
Types of apartments:
There are a host of different kinds of apartments in Barcelona, from the planta baja(ground floor) to studio spaces in the turrets of modernista buildings. If you are looking for a garden or terrace you will have the most luck if you search for a planta baja or atico, super atico or a sobre atico. All of these are penthouses, or top floor apartments. Planta bajas may actually have gardens, but are sometimes very shady and have all the neighboring flats looking down into them. Aticos by comparison, can have outdoor areas which can be nice and sunny with great views, so even though all your plants have to live in pots, these apartments are perfect for weekend barbeques.
I have moved to a duplex atico, I’m spoiled in that I have two terraces, plenty of room to get a cat, and even though I have chosen to live quite far from the center of town, it’s nice and quiet with views of the mountains.
Now to get settled in!
The friendly cat from next door keeps me company.