Flat Hunting

Tempting as it was to wallow in my disorientated and still slightly miserable emotional state, on my first afternoon in Madrid I threw myself in at the proverbial deep end and went flat hunting with Ines and her friend from Alicante, Paloma. Having now experienced the ordeal that is flat hunting abroad, my advice would always be – unless, of course, you are fluent in the language – to find yourself some locals to look with. It makes it all a whole lot easier, especially when your technique is spontaneous to say the least (ours consisted of spotting ‘Alquiler’ signs on buildings, calling the numbers and hoping that the person on the other end of the line wasn’t a raging psychopath). It also makes it easier to spot when you are being ripped off. Not that that should put you off house hunting alone; I have since spoken to a few people who were a lot braver than I was and found their accommodation completely by themselves. I should also emphasise that by this point I was chugging back cans of coca cola in order to stay awake, and so having another person present during viewings was pretty much essential, especially as by the time I woke up the next morning my memory of the previous day was pretty hazy and all the flats I’d seen had blurred into one. We saw about 8 flats in total, including one which had advertised as a 3 bedroom apartment but which we found to contain one small single room and a room no bigger than a cupboard into which a tiny bunk bed had been stuffed, one which had a kitchen which allowed room for one person, standing with arms by their sides, and moving from side to side in a straight line without turning their body, and one which looked promising until we realised that the old lady showing us around was not just the landlady but was actually looking for a girl to share her small single room with her. Needless to say, we didn’t stick around to find out exactly what that would entail. The final flat of the day was a breath of fresh air; in the Malaseña area and near the Calle de la Princesa (the exciting, student district of Madrid), it was small but modern, with a big kitchen and living area, and two large single bedrooms. Compared to everything else we had seen – stuffy, dark, narrow and old – it was a dream. However, the man showing us around told us that he intended to rent the flat for a year, October to October, rather than the usual student rent period of October to June. Resigned to the fact that there was no way I could afford to pay three months extra rent, I went home, ready to spend many more days trudging around the city.
The next morning, I told Elena all about the flat and the rent predicament, and she offered to haggle with the landlords on my behalf. I leapt at the chance – my currently questionable Spanish was definitely not yet up to bartering. She made the call there and then and after listening to a lot of ‘claro’s, she finally put down the phone and revealed that although she hadn’t been able to get him down to 10 months (our proposed deal), he had agreed to charge for 11, but they had other people interested so we had to agree fast. I messaged my potential flatmate, a friend from uni who wasn’t yet in Madrid, to see if she was happy with the deal. After an anxious 45 minutes or so, she told me to go ahead and sign. So, on Friday morning, I did! The flat is by no means perfect (Elena spent a good half an hour shouting in Spanish at the landlord so that he would change the lock on the front door to a safer one), but it’s a relief to have finally found home.

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