Flat hunting is a frustrating and unpleasant experience you will probably have to go through. From small window-less rooms and old smelly buildings to the real estate agencies that want to get a commission in any way possible, the experience is far from pleasant unless you have a high budget and don’t prefer living in the center of Barcelona.
The best way to find a flat in Barcelona is to know
- what to look for
- where to look
- how to tell if something sounds suspecious or too good to be true
Here we have put together a list of things you should keep in mind when looking for a flat in Barcelona:
Price: neighborhood and location
If you don’t know anything about the neighborhoods of Barcelona, we recommend reading this blog first: Neighborhoods of Barcelona
First, you should decide where you want to be: in the city center, near the beach, or in a more residential area. This changes the price dramatically. Below you can see some of the neighborhoods of Barcelona. You can find cheap and expensive flats in every neighborhood but the average price of some neighborhoods are higher than the rest.
The most expensive neighborhoods in Barcelona are Gervasi-Sarria, Eixample and Gracia. The average price of a two-bedroom furnished flat in these neighborhoods range between 1400 and 2000€ per month depending on their furniture, view and whether the flat has been renovated recently.
Flats in Poble Nou and Poble Sec tend to have mid-range prices. The buildings in Poble Nou and Poble Sec are newer compared to the buildings in the city center. An average two-bedroom flat would range between 1200 and 1600€ per month in these neighborhoods.
The most affordable neighborhoods are El Born, Barrio Gotico and Raval. Here you will find very old buildings and narrow streets. Some flats have been renovated recently and those tend to be more expensive than the other older flats. A two-bedroom flat in these areas would cost around 1000 to 1400€.
An average furnished two-bedroom flat would cost you per month:
It’s important to know if the neighborhood is well-connected or not. If you find a flat in a very isolated area then it will be very difficult to move around. Some areas are more well-connected than the others.
Some neighborhoods like Eixample and Sant Marti have many metro and bus lines going through them whereas other neighborhoods like Sarria and Horta have less access to public transportation.
Check out our detailed blog about the public transportation system in Barcelona: Complete Guide to Barcelona’s Bus and Metro System
Where to look
Without exaggeration, there are thousands of real estate agencies operating in Barcelona. If you just do a quick Google search, you will be amazed at how many different websites pop up, some looking credible and some looking pretty sketchy.
With high demand and low supply, competition is very strong and finding a reputable source of knowledge is very difficult. In general, there are four ways for finding a flat in Barcelona, each with its own pros and cons:
1. Physical real estate agencies
Barcelona is being oversaturated with real estate agencies. You can find one in every street. These agencies connect the property owners with the potential customers and make money through commissions and fees and they do their best to keep the fees as high as possible.
Advantages and disadvantages of the physical agencies
They usually have a variety of places available depending on your budget and preferences
You can always go and visit the flats and ask the agents about the flat, building and facilities
You can read their reviews on Google Maps to see how reputable they are (avoid the ones with lots of negative reviews)
They often have a big database online that you can check out
They often hide some charges until the day of signing the contract. Make sure there are no surprises
They sometimes force you to pay unnecessary fees like personal insurance
They are in this business to make money and they care about their pocket more than the customers
Some of the well-known and reputable physical real estate agencies are SuiteLife, ShBarcelona, ShMadrid, and Engel & Völkers. You can get a 50€ discount from SuiteLife and ShBarcelona/ShMadrid if you tell them that you are coming from Studentfy. We highly recommend avoiding the ones with negative reviews and reputation like AreaCasa.
2. Online-only real estate agencies
These agencies do not have a physical place and operate online only.
Advantages and disadvantages of the online-only agencies:
Very low fees compared to the other agencies
A big database with lots of different flats and rooms
They usually have affordable rooms and flats
You cannot visit the flat/room before booking it and have to trust the website blindly
There is a risk that what you get is not exactly what you saw in the photos/videos
Contacting the customer service can be frustrating as everything is online
Spot A Home and Uniplaces are two popular online platforms where you can go through hundreds of different listings. Use the coupon code STUDENTFY2020 on Spotahome to get a 20% discount on the booking fee or UPSTUDENTFY2019 to get a 30% discount on Uniplaces.
Keep in mind: You cannot visit the flats prior to paying the agency fee if you book a flat on Spot A Home.
3. Online property directories and apps
There are very popular online property directories and apps that allow the property owners and real estate agencies to list what properties they have available. Here you can find thousands of properties with different features and price points.
The top five most popular online platforms in Barcelona are:
Advantages and disadvantages of the online property directories:
A huge database with thousands of properties available
No fee for using the platform
The properties usually have very detailed descriptions
You can take a look at the flat before making any decisions
Good and affordable flats are very difficult to find – they usually come and go very fast
There is a risk that what you get is not exactly what you saw in the photos/videos
Filtering through hundreds of listings is time consuming and frustrating
There are many fake listings (read below how to detect and avoid the scammers)
4. Friends, classmates and personal recommendations
This by far is the cheapest and most trustworthy option. We recommend
- joining trusted online communities like the Studentfy Barcelona Roomie Facebook groups where we shared good and reasonbly-priced flats and rooms from trusted sources
- getting to know the former students from your school to see if they have a room/flat available for you
- checking with your school or company if they have a dedicated platform like a school-specific Facebook group
- asking in the expat groups on Facebook
How to detect and avoid the scammers
With thousands of international students and workers coming to Barcelona each year, the housing market is very profitable and attractive to the real estate agencies. International students are the ideal targets for the scammers and many real estate agencies because of the students’ lack of experience or knowledge.
Here are some of the giveaways you are dealing with a scammer:
- They post beautiful flats with very low prices (e.g. a flat that would normally go for 2000€ a month shows up for 650€)
- They say things like if you pay the deposit right away, they will give you a huge discount
- They say you need to transfer the deposit before seeing the flat
- They often say things like they cant show you the flat because they no longer live in Barcelona but you have to trust them anyway
- You need to pay before receiving the keys
- The website seems very suspicious with addresses like x8hb3393.co.pay.net.po
- They send you links to pages that look very similar to some other credible sources like Airbnb but they are fake
- If they send you an Airbnb link, make sure it’s really on Airbnb and not a fake website pretending to be Airbnb
- Always check Google Street View to see if the outside of the flat matches what’s on Google
If anything looks too good to be true, you are most probably dealing with a scammer or an agency is trying to make money illegally.
General information and recommendations
- If you book through an agency, most definitely you will end up paying an agency fee which is usually 10% of the annual rent (monthly rent *12*0.1*) or one month’s rent. Many agencies add a 21% IVA tax to the agency fee as well and in some uncommon cases, there are other fees.
- Some agencies suggest that if you pay cash, you won’t need to pay the extra 21% IVA tax. Although this is illegal (tax-evasion), it is common practice in Barcelona.
- Make sure you know every commission or fee before signing anything. Most agencies tend to protect their pocket more than their customers. There should be no surprises.
- Read every single word of the contract before signing it. If it’s in Spanish and you don’t understand Spanish, ask for a copy first and ask a native Spanish speaking friend to explain everything to you.
- Agree on who pays what. For example, if the fridge breaks down or it needs to be maintained, who will pay for it? All these must be clearly mentioned in the contract.
- Discuss the deposit and what happens if you leave before the contract ends.
- Always take pictures of every damage or scratch the same day you move in and keep those until you have moved out and received your full deposit back. Some agencies/landlords will blame you for things that you had nothing to do with and if you don’t have pictures or a written proof, you will end up losing all or some of your deposit.
Let us know in the comments below about your experience with finding a flat in Barcelona.