Apartment Hunting in Valencia, Spain

Finding a Rental Home in Valencia, Spain

In Living Abroad by Susan & Jamie5 Comments

You’re probably reading this post because you’ve been bitten by the wanderlust bug. You’re dreaming of living the life in beautiful, sunny Valencia where streets are lined with orange trees and there’s a festival or three every weekend.

But before you pack your bags, take a few moments to consider what it takes to find a rental home in Valencia. The Spanish rental market is organized quite differently than the way we remember renting an apartment in the United States.

It took us a few months, but we got our rented housing sorted out. We found a place we will be happy to call home for the next few years. Our story covers:

  • Working With an Agent
  • Avoiding Scams
  • Furnished or Unfurnished
  • Renting With Pets
  • A Few Words About Cost

We hope it helps you avoid a few mistakes we made and unnecessary costs we incurred.

Our First Effort and False Step

We first started looking for a rental flat in Valencia almost a year ago. Because we were moving to Valencia with pets  and we were in the United States, our friend Linda from Moving to Valencia did a fine job helping us sort through the process and previewed several flats for us.

The Constant Excitement of the City Center was Too Much for Us

We ended up choosing a flat that seemed like it would work, but the reality of living in the commercial heart of a city proved to be too much for our erstwhile Oregon souls. We needed less hubbub and more tranquility.  So we perched and waited for the six-month mark when we could end our lease.

After that false start, we renewed our search. This time we were armed with a lot more information and an intimate knowledge of the neighborhoods and streets gained through our ever-expanding exploration of Valencia while walking with our dog, Lizzie.

Working with an Agent

Searching for a flat was our principle activity for several weeks.  Aside from Spanish language phone calls, which are still impossibly hard for us, it was an interesting experience.

The first thing we had to accept was that we’d be working with an agent, with several agents in fact. At least in Valencia, it seems that most rental properties are marketed through an agent, especially those that show up on websites like idealista.com, Spotahome.com, Fotocasa.es, and LongTermLettings.com. And where there’s an agent, there’s also a fee.

An agent’s fee for matching you to a listed apartment is 1 month rent plus 21% VAT. Every agent we contacted takes the same fee. Paying the fee is the first order of business in making an offer on a rental property. Once you pay, the agent prepares the contact and presents it to the owner. If you back out, you lose the fee. If the owner doesn’t accept you as a tenant, you’ll get the fee back.

Chances are you too will be in contact with many different agents. Get ready.

Agencies are Not Licensed or Regulated

Real estate agencies are not licensed or regulated in Spain, so expect a broad spectrum of responses and services. Only one agent ever followed up after we visited a flat, and many never responded to our enquiries.

We ended up working with Engel & Völkers because they had a large inventory of properties and a polished, professional group of agents. Unfortunately, most but not all of their listings are too expensive for our budget! We reached out to them through Idealista.com and an English-speaking agent, Carola Martinez, contacted us suggesting we meet to discuss our needs.

In less than a week, we viewed more properties, found a bright, newly refurbished flat, signed the lease and began moving. For us, that turned out to be much better than shopping agent by agent, flat by flat.

Listings are Not Exclusive

While we searched through the ads on idealista.com, we noticed the same flat listed by multiple agencies. Carola explained that owners think their apartment will be rented faster if they list with several agencies. In reality, it means there’s a lot of extra work. The owner holds the keys and must be contacted each time there is a viewing scheduled. It slows the process for landlord and tenant alike.

That’s why Engel & Völkers prefer to work with property owner who entrust them with building and flat keys. This worked to our advantage when we could visit so many apartments in one day. In fact, we saw more properties in two days than we had in the previous three weeks.

Working with a reputable agent also eliminates the risk of being scammed.

Mind the Gap: Fraud is Common

We have friends who found a lovely apartment offered by the owner and they avoided the substantial agent fee. That gave us hope. And we tried, but all we got was exposure to a phishing scam.

Our experience with an owner-listed property began with a thrill – woohoo, a beautifully furnished property with everything on our list! It was too good to be true, one of us thought, but the other one (Susan) was already throwing her first dinner party and beefing up her travel budget with all the money saved on the too low to be true rent.

The “owner” connected with us via email and told us “she “lived in Bilbao, would be an absentee landlord and wanted to run the contract through Airbnb.

We started our investigating and yes, Airbnb consider anything over 28 days to be a long-term rental and there is no maximum rental period. So it might just be plausible. Still leery, we wrote back to the owner and asked to arrange a viewing. That’s when the scam was revealed. First, she said a viewing could be arranged with an Airbnb agent for a €200 fee, payable in advance. We are familiar with Airbnb, and have friends who are hosts. There is no such thing anywhere in the world as an Airbnb agent who will show a property for a fee.

Beside that the address in Valencia the “owner” gave us does not exist. A search on Google maps plotted the address on a building with a different address, but we knew the street and it was easy for us to verify the false claim.

After another quick on-line search, we discovered there have been many people hit with this scam; some of them were taken in by it, some for much more than a mere €200 viewing fee but rather for “deposits” of a thousand or more euros.

If it sounds too good to be true… certainly, you’ve heard that before. So mind the gap. If we had been in the United States searching for our first apartment, unfamiliar with Valencia’s rental housing situation, we might have been taken in by a fully furnished and equipped flat for €750 too.

Furnished or Unfurnished

Apartment Hunting in Valencia, Spain

After Six Months We started Over with a Blank Slate

Speaking of furnished flats, we were impressed initially by how many furnished flats are available in Valencia. From the U.S. we pondered furnished versus unfurnished, ship our American furniture or sell it all… but that’s a different story, isn’t it?

We did visit one furnished flat that was beautifully decorated, furnished, and equipped with everything from pots to teaspoons, however, the majority of the furnished properties we saw were overstuffed with grandma’s tattered furniture. After one too many ugly furniture encounters, we decided to concentrate on finding an unfurnished flat. We have a dog and three cats and it was so much easier finding a bright, newly refurbished flat that way.

Renting with Pets

We lost out on that beautifully decorated furnished flat we mentioned because of our pets, but overall it’s easier to rent in Valencia with a pet than it is in the U.S. Here in Valencia, a typical deposit is two month’s rent for an unfurnished apartment, three month’s for a furnished apartment. But, we’ve not been asked for an extra deposit for the pets.

A Few Words About Costs

Are rents and purchase prices going up in Valencia? After reading article after article about how it is the latest addition to the top 10 or 20 “best cities to retire, or freelance, or… fill in the blank”, what would you expect? Of course, rents are going up.

There is little doubt that in 2018 Valencia is a seller’s market when it comes to quality real estate rentals. You’ll want to disregard any articles or online posts that suggest, “you can find a single bedroom apartment in the city center for €450 or a two bedroom for €700.” That might have been true back in the depths of the financial crisis, but in 2018, probably not.

So what will your monthly rent buy?

The short answer is, it depends…

The listings on Idealista.com give the apartment size in square meters. Some of the other sites (Spotahome.com, Fotocasa.es, LongTermLettings.com) don’t. And in the age of fake, we all know how wide angle lenses exaggerate the size of a room.

Rents Are Going Up in Valencia. Don’t Be overly Optimistic

Besides, price per square meter is only one element. We looked at a number of apartments in the same price range with substantial differences in quality. Some places rent without any kitchen appliances. Others have no closets and no heating or air conditioning of any kind. One bathroom might be a modern fully tiled beauty with a high-end walk in shower and another apartment may list a full bathroom that turns out to be nothing more than a tiny toilet enclosure with no door!

In addition to checking the apartment against your size criteria, you’ll want to check for street noise mornings and nights, run the hot water, check the views front and interior, inspect the appliances – get used to how small they are, check the street entrance for security, ride the elevator and walk the stairs. You’ll develop your own list of criteria too.

We eventually decided that the desirability of an apartment can only be determined by visiting it. Google street view and listing photos help in screening possibilities but aren’t enough.

In 2018, based on our decidedly American middle class retired person sensibilities, we think an attractive 2-3 bedroom flat of about 95-120 m2 on a quiet street, in a more or less central neighborhood will rent for at least €1000 to €1300 per month. A terrace or balcony will demand higher rent. Your expectations and experience may vary.

More About Applications and Deposits

The laws governing rentals seem to favor tenants over landlords. For example, it is difficult to remove a tenant who’s stopped paying his rent. And a standard one year lease only obligates a tenant to remain for six months (unless otherwise stipulated) but assures the tenant the right to continue occupying the property for up to three years with rent increase tied to the rate of inflation. This year our friends’ rent increased by €11. Property owners carry most of the market risk so Spanish propreitarios are a justifiably cautious lot.

Owners mitigate their risk by demanding what to us seemed like very large deposits. We made deposits equivalent to two-months’ rent on both places we’ve leased. Some of the units we viewed during our search asked for a three-month deposit and we’ve heard but have not verified, that some owners ask up to six months’ deposit.

There isn’t an equivalent to the U.S. credit score service so owners cannot check on your credit worthiness. Expect to prove you have a reliable source of income or sufficient financial resources to pay the rent. We used the same financial information we used for our visa application and adapted the statement as a supporting document when we proposed renting our flats.

You’ll need your passport or NIE card and most likely a Spanish bank account. You’ll get used to showing your NIE for all sorts of things and the owner will want you to establish an automatic debit transfer from a Spanish bank account to pay utilities like electricity, natural gas, and water.

Oh, and one more tip: buy or bring a couple of battery operated smoke/CO detectors to install the day you move in. They will probably be the only ones in your building.

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Comments

  1. Hi Jamie,

    Thank you so much for your helpful response! Your experience will save us a lot of time and legwork in our search for a place to live.

    We stayed at the apt of Loreto on Carrer del Palleter. It looked out onto a school playground which is the perfect kind of noise for us. Not so keen on bars and club noise. Although Ruzafa was not high on our list originally, we will keep an open mind with it because we loved the market there. We had the suspicion that Patraix and Jesus might be a bit rough and farther from amenities but I haven’t been able to find much online about them.

    We also felt very safe everywhere we went in Valencia, and we felt that people were much friendlier and more aware of other people around them than where we are now. We will keep looking for the right balance of tranquility and activity. At any rate, looking at apts online is a nice way to get through the wet PNW winter.

    Thank you for all of your recommendations!

  2. Hi Susan and Jamie,

    My husband and I just found your blog, and it has been invaluable for us. You have some of the best posts we’ve read anywhere for moving to VLC.

    We are planning to move to Vlc next year with our toddler and 3 cats. We are currently living in the PNW (and I lived in Corvallis when hubby and I met).

    I’m wondering if you can give us some insight into the neighborhoods there. We visited last month and stayed in an airbnb close to Angel Guimera station. We loved the neighborhood – the walkability, the tree-lined streets, all the little bakeries and stores plus the easy access to the metro as well as the Gran Via parks and Turia Park.

    When we look online at apts, it seems like Extramurs can be a bit on the pricier end with all of its charm and character. We’ve noticed that apts in Patraix and Jesus drop significantly in price and seem nice. Can you give us any info about those two neighborhoods? We really want a place that is safe and easy to walk around. For comparison, we walked through La Saidia and found it a bit empty on the streets. Can you recommend other neighborhoods that we should consider?

    Sorry for the long comment! We really appreciate your help. Thank you!!
    Laura

    1. Hi Laura,
      Thanks for your kind words. It is always nice to know when we have been helpful. Susan and I met in Corvallis too (small world). And if your Airbnb was our friend Clive’s near Plaza del Pilar it is a smaller world yet.

      Susan and I looked at Patraix and Jesús but considered then a bit too rough and inaccessible for us. We ended up selecting a flat in Mestalla (el Pla de Real) and so far we are quite happy with our choice. I’d also consider Benimaclet where the proximity of the universities means there is a concentration of services and cultural opportunities. Although those neighborhoods seem more Spanish and less international than in el centro or Russafa.

      The truth is, you will want to make your choice of a flat on a much finer scale that the neighborhood. Even in Carmin and Russafa, the hip zones, there are quiet neighborly streets and others that are boisterous until 2 or 3 (or 4) in the morning. Summertime sewer smells, traffic noise, even restaurant staff dumping a day’s worth of wine bottles at 3 am might bother me, but there are plenty of folks who don’t seem to mind. Almost all of our flat search criteria, besides proximity the the Túria park (which was the best decision we made), were fine-scale building and street level qualities. But to find just the perfect (well almost anyway) situation, we had to decide what was most important for us, make a careful list, visit and revisit potential streets at different times of the day and above all we needed to be patient enough to wait until something nice came available.

      Oh by the way, in our experience almost all of Valencia meets our safe and walkable standards. We have never felt ill at ease out walking – early morning, late night (which can and often do meet up around 4am), on the streets and even in the parks (we have a dog), Valencia feels safe.

      I can recommend our friend Linda Svilane who owns and operates Moving to Valencia for help in selecting and previewing flats. We’ve meet many of her clients and they all seem very satisfied with her help.

      Keep in touch and let us know if you have other questions. We’ll do our bet to find an answer.

  3. Very interesting. Not planning on moving there but always interested onthe differences and similarities between our culture and others.

    1. That’s why everyone watches International Househunters. It’s a fascinating process to watch or experience.

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