Finding a rental in Barcelona

Finding a new place to live pretty much sucks the world over and Barcelona (no, not fucking Barthelona) adds its own, lightly-salted tinge of turd to the process. The last time I had to go through this was nearly a decade ago in San Francisco which, thanks to Recession XVI (or maybe XVII), had dropped the rents a great deal and allowed for a pretty decent offer which made everything take about a week. Barcelona (and Spain in general) has an economy in the toilet as well currently, but, while some rents are lower, it’s still not an enjoyable process for a number of reasons.

First, there’s the international factor. No matter what happens on a local level, there has been a decades-long influx of foreigners either visiting or living in Barcelona and they will always be able to pay more than the locals. While long term dwellers are less of an issue, the short term apartment rentals and AirBnB-ificiation of apartments (wherein renting to tourists can net several times more than standard rent) has really put a dent in to the supply.

Then there are the rental agencies and these are really at the core of the problem. They all work on a commission-based system wherein they get one month’s rent from the new tenant as their fee for renting it out for the owner who doesn’t have to pay them anything. So naturally, where an owner might be perfectly happy with 500€ a month on a place that might be able to squeeze 800€, the agency will always push for that higher amount as they’ll make more. So, while there aren’t the large companies that own everything like in San Francisco, there are the large companies that are making what they think to be the “natural” apartment rates. Oh and if you think you can avoid them, good luck. They actively seek out owners who rent independently to try and talk them in to their setup. And the worst part is that a lot of these agencies pose as individual owners at first to try and lure you in. They’re essentially a sock full of assholes who have the added bonus of canceling morning appointments 15 minutes before they happen due to being “sick” which is code for hungover.

Of course, once you find a place, you need to be ready to pay four times the rent to move in. There will be the first month, plus two months’ rent as a deposit, plus one more month to the agency that rents it which means they will get several hundred euros for basically taking 10 minutes to show you the place and then hand you a boilerplate contract.

Oh yeah, that deposit of two months’ rent? Kiss is goodbye once you pay it. Ask anyone and they’ll tell you that when they moved out they either got back none of it or nearly none of it. Owners always make up some kind of excuse of something that needs to be “cleaned” or “fixed” upon your move out. While totally illegal, the Spanish legal system moves so slowly that no one bothers to try and sue.

Added in to this injury is the fact that the owners actually don’t clean or fix a damned thing in the apartments when they rent them. You’ll only luck out if you find a place that has been completely renovated prior to your moving in. So yes, that’s right, you will be moving in to a dirty apartment that you have to clean and will get no reward for doing so–only a penalty. Such is the rental market in Barcelona wherein it’s a minimum effort/maximum profit philosophy on the part of the owners.

So, what are your actual move in costs to rent a fine place in the fine city of Barcelona whenever you actually find one that doesn’t feel like it’s about to fall to the ground? For most decent places, you’ll be looking at a minimum of 3,000€ and probably more like 4,000. Ah and then there’s the issue of not having a job or having your own business or some other of income that they don’t understand. You’ll have to put 6-12 months of rent as a deposit in to either a certified bank account (the bank will then charge you monthly for their pleasure) or in to a third party account that’s a government agency.

Now you can see why so many people end up squatting or illegally subletting, or doing something else to sidestep all of this…