Renting in Barcelona
From Gaudi-influenced neighbourhoods to sunny beachside retreats, it's easy to find a new home in Barcelona in a neighbourhood that suits your Spanish life.
A warm, temperate climate, beautiful beaches and a vibrant local culture make Barcelona a popular place to visit or live. Like the rest of Spain, the Catalan capital suffered from the economic downturn. For new arrivals, property market fluctuations mean that more homes are being rented out, and at lower prices, making it possible to live in the heart of the city for an affordable price.
Since 2008, property prices have fallen across Spain. As some properties have lost up to 50 percent of their value, rental prices have dropped somewhat, too, making Barcelona one of the most affordable cities in Europe. Rents in the city start at around EUR 300 per month. These are typically for small (40 square metres or less) apartments, often in older buildings, but even large suburban houses with pools are surprisingly affordable. Many expats take advantage of the lower prices to either rent a larger or nicer property, or to live more centrally.
Rent a flat in Barcelona
Spanish property law favours the tenant. The numerous protections in place make it hard for a landlord to evict a sitting tenant, even if the property is being sold or the bank has foreclosed. However, this safety net takes the form of red tape, and is couched in a somewhat complex system of rules and laws.
Rolling contracts (where a tenant can give one or two months of notice at any point) were introduced in 2013, and remain rare. Expect to rent for a fixed period and to renew the contract for another term. The minimum legal term for a lease dropped from 12 to 6 months in 2013. The landlord cannot ask for more than one month's rent in advance, so they will want to establish your financial stability and employment situation or ask for a bank guarantee.
Rents in Barcelona
Negotiating the rent is not unheard of, and if you truly want a property it may be worth a try. Be aware of the whole package before you begin to negotiate though, as otherwise the landlord or their agent may simply add the discount they've given you in one area to another.
Rarely are they included in the rent. Utilities in Barcelona can be typically around EUR 100 per month for a two-bedroom apartment, but this varies widely depending on the type of heating in the building and will likely be more in the winter. All long term lets must come with an energy efficiency certificate, which you may wish to consult before you sign the contract. There may also be fees for maintenance of communal areas, local taxes and garbage collection – these vary across the city.
Fees and the deposit
Unless you've hired a search agent, the landlord will normally pay the estate agent's fees. A deposit is usually required, and will typically be equal to one or two month's rent.
Types of rental properties and contracts in Barcelona
Short or long term?
In Spain, a landlord letting a property as a holiday rental (three months or less) or short term lease (12 months or less) must have a licence, but no licence is required for long term lets (12 months or more). As Barcelona is a very popular holiday destination, short term lets tend to be geared to the holiday market and may be expensive for longer use. The landlord may also be unwilling to renew or extend a contract (eg. from three to six months) so be prepared to move out at the end of the term agreed.
Many landlords choose to only let long-term. A standard long-term lease is for one year, and the tenant automatically has the right to renew each year for up to five more years and can only be evicted or given notice to leave in rare and specific circumstances. The downside to this system is that if you want to leave partway through a year, you'll usually have to pay until the end of the 12-month period.
Most furnished properties are short-term lets aimed at holidaymakers. Long-term lets are rarely furnished. There are no official standards for what constitutes a furnished or unfurnished property, so it's essential to confirm the details in writing with your estate agent or landlord. If you're looking for a family home you can move into directly, expect to pay a premium rate. In many cases, for lets of a year or more, renting an unfurnished property is often cheaper and more comfortable.
In Barcelona 'unfurnished' may mean that the property has no moveable furniture (but retains its kitchen appliances, light fittings, carpet and so on) or it may be stripped to the concrete. It can also mean that the landlord has left a few bits in the house, but not enough to fully furnish the place. Descriptions in property advertisements are typically unhelpful, so confirm the details when you view the property.
Barcelona is home to a dozen or more universities and innumerable language schools. With many more young travellers visiting the city every week, it's a bustling student town. Students are typically expected to find their own accommodation in the private sector, although shorter programmes (one to three months) and some language schools will offer or recommend hostel-type accommodation.
The area around the University of Barcelona (directly north east of Plaça de Catalunya and Las Ramblas) is home to many students as well as families and long-term residents. An affordable and very central area, it's surprisingly quiet away from the main streets. Horta-Guinardó in the north is another popular student area, providing easy access to the newer universities in the north of the city, as well as many language schools.
Apartment or house?
The centre of Barcelona is primarily apartment blocks. The city is a real mix of ancient and modern, and facilities vary not only by neighbourhood but by building. Typically, homes in the centre of town will be in 19th-century converted townhouses or purpose-built apartments. These are often charming, although many retain quirks such as 50-year-old plumbing or wiring. New builds are available around the city, often at a premium.
Slightly further out, the apartments give way to single family homes. Barcelona has a comprehensive bus and metro network, and many people commute from towns an hour or more away. Expect to pay more for a house near the beach or in Les Cortes, where the international schools are clustered. Apartments in the popular and central beachside district of Barcelonetta are still surprisingly affordable, particularly compared to other European cities like London or Paris.
How to find a new home in Barcelona
While many properties are now listed online, the 'whisper network' is still important. If you're looking for a bargain or want to live in a particular neighbourhood, then tell everyone you know in the city that you're looking. Expats and English-speaking holidaymakers have already trodden a path for you, and most short-term let and holiday let sites will be in multiple languages. Local sites are typically only in Spanish, but may have better prices and a wider selection.
The financial crisis has upset many people's plans, and there are bargains to be had, as long as you look each gift horse carefully in the mouth. Be extremely cautious if you are arranging a lease before your arrival, or communicating directly with a landlord. This applies particularly to free online ads, such as those on Craigslist.
Using an estate agent
For new arrivals, estate agents (inmobiliarias) can take the pressure out of finding a place. Most local agents will be working for the landlord, and will expect to simply show the flat and process applications. Agents who are accustomed to working with expats will typically speak English and/or another language, as well as Spanish and/or Catalan, and will usually have had their website translated. They are also more used to acting as search agents. Search agents work for you, and can help you find a property quickly and easily. Their fees are typically between EUR 250 and one month's rent.
Online property portals:
- www.tucasa.com (Spanish only)
- www.ventadepisos.com (Spanish only)
Shared housing, short term and furnished lets:
- www.airbnb.com (20+ languages)
- www.shbarcelona.com (also long-term and sales)
Where to live in Barcelona
A major advantage of Barcelona's relatively low rental prices is that you can choose a better location than you could afford at home. Les Corts is popular with expat families. It's a pleasant, peaceful suburb, and home to several international schools.
For those looking for a bit more nightlife, it's possible and even affordable to live within walking distance of the famous Las Ramblas area. Typically, these are older buildings, and may be dark as the narrow streets block out the daylight. A sea view in Barcelonetta is great for swimmers and surfers, and there are plenty of attractive new builds near the beach in Sant Martí. Find out more in our district-by-district guide on where to live in Barcelona.
Suburbs and seaside homes outside Barcelona
A good train network and motorway connections make getting into Barcelona straightforward. Expats typically leave the city looking for a bit more space, and it's easy to find. The small towns and villages in the Collserola mountain nature area provide a rustic, relaxed retreat, and are ideal for anyone who has dreamed of living in a restored farmhouse or having an orange tree in the garden.
As it's warm enough to swim in the sea for most of the year, beach towns north and south of the city are particularly popular with expats from colder climates. Sitges and Tarragona to the south are both vibrant, busy towns in their own right, while Castelldefels is popular with expat families as it is home to the British School of Barcelona. See our guide on where to live near Barcelona.
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