- Purchase the complete Expat Arrivals Spain Guide (PDF)
Expats moving to Spain will discover that finding good quality, reasonably priced accommodation is relatively easy. Of course, prices vary enormously depending on where one wants to live, with the best parts of major cities still being expensive. Covid-19 had quite a dramatic effect on the housing market and prices plummeted considerably, which is good news for house-hunting expats.
Types of accommodation in Spain
Expats will find that there is a wide range of accommodation available in Spain. Those wishing to rent in larger cities such as Barcelona, Madrid or Seville will find that their options are limited to furnished or unfurnished apartments in the downtown areas, but there are plenty of free-standing houses and villas on the city outskirts and in the more rural areas.
While it is easy to find both furnished and unfurnished apartments, expats should keep in mind that most free-standing houses and villas come unfurnished.
Finding accommodation in Spain
One of the first things an expat should do when looking for accommodation is to go online or travel to the desired Spanish city and identify the area that appeals to them most. After this, house-hunters can start scouring online listings, local newspapers and ask around on local forums.
Although there are a few English websites and publications that are aimed at the expat community, most are in Spanish so expats should either learn the language or employ a translator or agent.
Renting property in Spain
Most expats will opt for renting property in Spain, at least at first.
The rule of thumb is that the closer to the city centre one lives, the higher the rent becomes. It’s therefore strongly advised that expats look to secure some kind of accommodation stipend in their employment contracts. It is not uncommon for housing costs to account for a significant percentage of someone's monthly expenses if their salary is based on Spanish levels of pay.
Making an application
Having found a suitable place in a suitable neighbourhood, expats will need to inform the landlord of their interest as soon as possible seeing as there are likely to be many interested parties.
It’s also prudent to have proof of bank accounts, and references and testimonials from current and former employers and former landlords, as these will improve the expat’s chances of securing the lease.
Deposits and leases
Landlords will generally require a security deposit of between one and six months’ rent.
After the terms have been settled with the landlord, the new tenant will sign a lease agreement or Contrato de Arrendamiento. The contracts are often in Spanish, which is why an estate agent or at least a local translator is useful. If expats decide to make use of an agent they should note that, on top of the first month's rent and the security deposit, they will also have to pay the agent's fee. This is generally the equivalent of one month's rent. Community fees, paid for the upkeep of communal areas and services, are generally included in the monthly rental amount.
Utilities are usually not included in Spanish leases, and the tenant will be accountable for electricity, water, gas, internet cable and so forth. Fortunately, utilities in Spain are quite cheap.
Factors to consider when house hunting in Spain
The standard of accommodation in Spain is generally good, although apartments can sometimes be on the compact side. This is more often true of newer apartments than older ones. Older apartments can be surprisingly large, with some even having an outside terrace.
While shipping to Spain is a viable option, expats won't have much difficulty buying furniture to suit their new home after arriving in the country. Most Spanish cities boast a large range of second-hand and antique stores, while modern superstores such as IKEA can also be found.
Home security will not be a critical issue for expats relocating to Spain. Although petty theft and minor break-ins do occur in some neighbourhoods, these crimes are nearly always opportunistic and rarely violent.
►For more on getting around the country, see Transport and Driving in Spain.
►Learn about how to avoid common mistakes when Buying Property in Spain.
"We bought a house in 2014, right before housing prices were forecasted to go up. Most of Seville’s offerings are apartments, though some neighbourhoods have small houses that share at least one wall with neighbours.
The utilities are what really get you, as well as VAT on those bills. As a homeowner, we pay for electricity, water, access to our own parking garage, internet, etc. Because we have a house, we don’t have what’s known as comunidad, or general building upkeep. Taxes are calculated on both the property’s value and size in square meters, along with the square meterage of the lot on which it’s built. We pay 100 percent of that since we own a home, but flat owners would divide this tax, called IBI (impuesto sobre bienes immuebles), among the other dwellers in the building." Learn more about American expat Cat and her life in Seville in her interview with Expat Arrivals.
Are you an expat living in Spain?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Spain. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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