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Finding high quality and well-priced accommodation in Madrid can be relatively difficult. In recent years, property prices in Madrid have sky-rocketed. In fact, the city now has the second most expensive rental and purchase prices in the country. There is a lack of refurbished, spacious and well-located accommodation in the city, which means the consequent high demand and low supply leads to constantly increasing rates.
Types of accommodation in Madrid
Living in the city centre
Most expats in Madrid live in apartments with a small balcony. Usually, the more modern an apartment, the smaller the living space. Demand and therefore price tags for these newer entities, however, remain high.
In general, apartments that are 10 years or older will be of lower quality than those of a similar age found in other capital cities in Western Europe.
The typical city centre apartment sits within a charming old building, sometimes lacks light, has small bedrooms and, if it is a rental, is sparsely and cheaply furnished. On the upside, city centre apartments are close to nearly everything, which eliminates the need for expats to buy a car.
Living outside the city centre
Just outside the city centre, apartments are cheaper, larger, modern, well-equipped, and usually include a garage. In the suburbs, houses are more common, and newly constructed blocks can even include a swimming pool and tennis courts. Both furnished and unfurnished housing options are available. There are plenty of furniture retailers where items can be purchased at reasonable prices, which will save expats from shipping furniture to Spain.
As in most large metropolitan areas, there are some parts of the city that are more desirable than others. Naturally, these are the most expensive and tend to be centrally located, close to excellent schools and transport connections.
Areas and suburbs in Madrid
With 21 districts and more than 100 neighbourhoods, Madrid's expat community will be spoilt for choice when it comes to areas and suburbs. Most young working professionals and students live in the centre of Madrid as they typically prefer being close to public transport, nightlife and job opportunities. Central areas such as Sol, Malasaña, Chueca, Lavapiés and La Latina are among the most popular.
Expat families, fitness enthusiasts and working professionals who prefer to be further away from the action will love neighbourhoods such as Retiro, Chamerí, Arturo Soria, Conde Orgaz and Mirasierra. These areas and suburbs are located nearby green spaces, public and international schools and family-friendly attractions, but purchase and rental prices lean on the higher side.
See Areas and Suburbs in Madrid for more information on the best neighbourhoods in the city.
Finding accommodation in Madrid
Expats who already know the area in which they’d like to live, and who have already defined the criteria for their accommodation, can search for apartments online. It is also possible to check data, organise viewings, negotiate rental prices with the landlord, review the contract and manage other administrative and legal requirements via this medium.
Social media is another valuable resource, as some landlords prefer posting their listings for free on social media neighbourhood platforms. Expats can also leverage word of mouth by asking their colleagues if they know of any rentals on the market in their respective neighbourhoods.
If an expat neither has the time nor the knowledge or the language skills to search for accommodation in Madrid, a real-estate professional will be their best resource. A Spanish estate agent’s level of English may not be the best, but they will look for apartments within their portfolio that comply with an expat’s criteria. It's important to bear in mind that agent's fees in Madrid can mount up and can reach the equivalent of one month's rent.
Renting accommodation in Madrid
The rental market in Madrid is underdeveloped compared to other Western European capital cities, which means that it can be challenging for expats to find quality apartments. The average furnished apartment in Madrid is often of poorer quality than many expats may be used to, and most landlords expect their tenants to maintain the property themselves.
Sharing apartments, on the other hand, is slowly becoming the default option for students and young professionals who want to live in the city centre, but can't afford to pay rent on their own.
Making an application
The good news is that the tenant selection process is not excessively demanding. Landlords choose their tenants on a first come-first-serve basis; with the only requirement being that the tenant shows proof of income, and can pay a security deposit.
Leases and deposits
Expat tenants are often asked to give proof of income (job contract and last three pay slips) and, in rare cases, references from their previous landlord. Providing this information to landlords can help expats show they are serious about renting a property and differentiate them from other potential tenants. Expats wishing to rent accommodation in Madrid will typically need to have the equivalent of three months' rent upfront for the security deposit, real-estate agent fees and the first month's rent. Security deposits are generally one month's rent (two months if furnished). This will be returned at the end of the leasing period, provided the apartment has not sustained any damages at fault to the tenant.
In general, the mandatory initial lease period is one year and payments are due at the start of each month.
See Accommodation in Spain for more detail on leases and the rental process in the country.
Utilities, such as water and electricity, are generally not included in the rental price for an apartment in Madrid, but tenants may be able to negotiate with the landlord for the inclusion of these costs. Those living in apartment complexes may also have to pay community fees for the maintenance of communal spaces.
Water and electricity are usually connected when tenants move in, they will simply need to transfer the account into their name. Most of the drinking water in Madrid comes from the Canal de Isabel II, and the city boasts some of the safest tap water in Spain.
The city of Madrid is on a drive to meet EU recycling targets, and in recent years has introduced new waste management strategies. Waste collection is separated, with organic waste deposited into brown lid bins and collected daily in most districts throughout the city. There are also different coloured bins for paper, glass, metal, general and hazardous waste located in each street of every neighbourhood.
►Thinking of buying property in Madrid? Take a look at our informative article on Buying Property in Spain: Risk and Rewards
"The quality of housing is quite abysmal in Spain. While rent isn’t too expensive, competition is stiff and apartments are snatched up as soon as they’re advertised. There are several expat housing websites like Uniplaces that can help, but they charge an arm and a leg while only offering short-term leases. Most of the time, you’ll need to pay a realtor agency a month’s worth of rent in fees in order to secure an apartment (which is an illegal practice in Montreal), and even then your apartment may be small and cramped with terrible lighting. I would say the apartments are made much better in North America, and houses here tend to lack mod-cons." Learn more about renting in Madrid in our interview with Canadian expat Mimi.
"Accommodation is much cheaper than in London – for a room in a flat in the centre of Madrid I was paying less than half what I paid in London. Eating out is also much more affordable as well as transport." To find out what else Kate, a British expat, has to say about living in Madrid, read her interview.
Are you an expat living in Madrid?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Madrid. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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