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.
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
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.
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.