01 | Ask Your School Contact
Most likely, someone from your school with contact you via email. I asked my school contact a bunch of questions (how to get from the airport to town, how to look for apartments there, if she knew of anyone with an extra room, etc). The more you ask questions, the more “seeds” you plant… What I mean is, I made it VERY known that I did not have any arrangements ahead of time and that any/all suggestions would be very welcomed. The first month of emailing back and forth, I got the same response “sorry, I don’t know of anyone renting an apartment or who has an extra room…” But sure enough, I got an email one day about a teacher (in my school), who had an extra room and would like me to stay with her and her family (for free) – food included! All I had to do in exchange was to walk a few blocks from the house to pick up the two kids from school each day… and to only speak English in the house. Pretty sweet deal!
02 | Arrive Early
I would arrived on September 23rd, thinking that school would be in full swing as of October 1st… So I would suggest about a week (maybe two weeks) to get settled in. There’s going to be a lot you’ll need to do – finding an apartment is the most important and you don’t want to be living in a hotel on your first day of school…
03 | SIM Card
As soon as you arrive in Spain, I think the first thing you should look into is getting a SIM card for your cell phone. This is going to be crucial to finding a great apartment. Any flyers you see or anyone you ask will give you a phone number to call (or to text). Get this figured out, and then you can communicate via text to any potential landlord (everyone in Spain uses the app called “Whatsapp” on their phone to communicate – get this squared away, and you’re golden).
04 | Websites & Online Searches
Knowing where to look is half the battle. Here are a few websites to get you started!
05 | Flyers & Ask Around
I would suggest just walking around the area of where you want to live and reading the signs that are posted. Look for these:
“Se Aquila” = To Rent
“Se Vende” = To Buy
Even though you’re not in the market to buy an apartment, I would still call and check to see if it has an option to rent (Why not? It can’t possibly hurt).
Also, depending on your level of Spanish, I would strongly suggest just walking into random places and asking people that work in the stores if they know of anything. Again, like I mentioned previously, these are seeds you need to plant. Even though you have the thought “this will be a dead end, I’m not going to waste my time asking,” it’ll only take 2 minutes and word might spread to something amazing – YOU NEVER KNOW!
If your Spanish isn’t amazing, then write a small paragraph of what you’d like to communicate, and either translate it online or have a friend translate it. Then just walk around with that piece of paper and show it to people. I’m being 100% serious. I did this in South America for weird requests like “can I leave my backpack here for a few hours while I walk around before I get the bus at 8pm.” They would read it and it worked out great.
06 | Shop Around!
If you see an amazing apartment, great, but I would suggest looking at quite a few before you make any major decision. Simply tell the landlord that you need to think about it and check your money situation at the bank and that you’ll let them know ASAP. Then, take that time to look at other apartments! This isn’t lying or mean to do – you are 100% serious that you like the place, but why jump on the first thing you like before exhausting all your possibilities?
07 | Get Creative
Think about all the possible living scenarios and think about all the different ways to get in touch with people…. What I mean is:
Are you a CouchSurfer? Of course you can’t couchsurf for 8 months, but why not ask some people on CouchSurfing if they know of anything?
Perhaps you see a nice place on AirBnB, but it’s a bit too expensive “per month”… Well, why not contact the owner and see if he/she will give you a special deal for renting it for 8 months (during the winter time, when it’s the slow season)?
Check flyers and signs around town. Ask people in the shops. When you’re sitting at a bar, mention it to the bartender (why the heck not?).
Perhaps you can even put up your own flyer! “Responsible teacher needs apartment. English lessons included!”
Connect with others and check the facebook page.
Have you checked the websites above (section 04)?
(Other suggestions? Please comment below!)
08 | See the Place in Person
Pretty self-explanatory, no? Looking at places online is one thing – if I were trying to get someone to rent my place, I wouldn’t post the awful pictures, duh! Seeing an apartment in person might be a whole other story – you’ll see things you would have never seen in the pictures.
Moreover, you’ll get to see the neighborhood, if you like the view, if there’s a grocery store nearby, etc.
09 | Ask Questions
Oh my, when I need to make a big decision, I ask a MILLION questions!
- Which utilities are included?
- The heating in the winter – how does that work?
- Where do I do laundry?
- If something is broken, will it be fixed (or is that my responsibility)?
- Can I have guests stay over? For how many days? (These are not stupid questions)
- Is there a bus stop nearby?
- When is rent due? The first of every month or 30 days after I move in?
10 | After Deciding (Important Info’)
Once a decision is made of which apartment you want…
You’ll need to get a bunch of money from an ATM for first month’s rent and a deposit (most likely)
Sometimes, there is a finder’s fee to the agent who showed you the apartment… I’ve heard from some people that this can be as much as one month’s rent (crazy).
Be sure to get everything discussed in writing. The lease will be in Spanish, so if your Spanish isn’t great, I would suggest you take the lease into school (or to a friend), and have someone you translate it for you… just to make sure everything in there sounds correct and nothing weird such as a fee at the end of the year of 800 Euros to replace the rug (which most likely would have never come up in your questions).
I’ve been living in apartments since I was 19 years old… so I know the deal when it comes to this: Take pictures of everything – especially anything that is not 100% perfect (small holes in the walls, stains on the carpets, shutters that don’t close all the way, etc). This will take 5 minutes and you can store the measly 15 pictures in a folder somewhere in your computer and forget about it…. but in 8 months, you might REALLY be thankful for these pictures if your landlord tries to blame you for a minor imperfection that was there from the start…