The Piso Search

8 Sep

The first thing I did after finding out that I would be moving to Spain for a year (after calling my parents, of course) was to begin researching what the experience was like. I used the blogs of previous grantees as a valuable source of information. One of the first things that I learned from this research was that we were responsible for finding our own housing. So, sitting in the dining hall still in shock that I would be moving to Spain, all that I could think was “What did I get myself into?” I had never searched for an apartment in the United States, so the idea of searching for one in Spain (and in Spanish no less) was particularly daunting.

This anxiety was compounded by the fact that the most common question that people asked me once I told them about my plans for after graduation was, “Oh, where are you living?” And for the last five months, I have had the distinct pleasure of telling people that I had nowhere to live. I had to start the apartment search process after reaching Spain, as housing moves very quickly and we were advised not to pursue any housing leads so that we could see the places before securing them. So on Thursday began the hunt that will keep me from living under a bridge for a year. (At this point a home under a bridge is looking particularly appealing).

The way the process works is that you have to find the apartments online, contact the landlord, and set up a time to see it. On Sunday morning alone, I set about 20 messages and got 1 positive response. For those of you statisticians out there, that is a 5% positive response rate. The other 19 messages either went unanswered or the landlords told me that the room had already been rented out. The only way to describe the experience is soul-crushing. Digging through countless ads for a place that is good enough and putting yourself out there via Whatsapp only to be ignored or told that the place is no longer available is immensely frustrating. (At the time of publication, I had contacted about 30 different landlords and I’ll certainly be doing more tomorrow.)

I don’t think my standards for a place are too high; all that I am asking for is wifi, a window, a bed, roommates who speak Spanish and won’t steal my stuff, and a street where I feel safe. One apartment that I found was perfect, but the woman told me that the landlord only wanted to rent to Spanish girls. All that I know is that in the US that would probably be considered discrimination… But you just have to keep searching.

Many landlords make it easy to contact them via email or Whatsapp. But, on Sunday I came across an ad where the landlord wanted to be called. So, I had to make a phone call in Spanish (another first). I almost had a heart attack from the anxiety. I dialed and heard a beeping noise, so I thought that the number was busy and hung up. But, as it turns out, instead of ringing in Spain, the phones just beep, so the number actually wasn’t busy. I had to muster up my courage and call again. I had a conversation with this woman about where I am from, what I am doing in Madrid, and why I was calling. She ended the conversation by saying she would call me tomorrow. I didn’t think too much of it because I was simply proud of myself for actually calling her. But then, she called me the next day and we had the SAME EXACT CONVERSATION. It was as if she had no recollection of what we talked about the day before. Needless to say, I will not be pursuing having her as my landlord.

Now let’s talk about visiting the apartments after the rare landlord responds back.  With my imagination, I find going to visit the apartments a wee bit unnerving. After all, I am going to meet random people at an unknown place in an unfamiliar setting. It would make for a great Criminal Minds episode, just saying. But no worries, I am not letting my inventive mind stop me from finding a place to live.

I have seen four pisos so far, but none of them were winners. The first apartment was a little too reminiscent of a sketchy college apartment and the second would have involved me living with two older men who were brothers (you can imagine my hesitations). At the third apartment, the woman had FIVE of us potential renters show up at the same time. Talk about awkward. As the housing market in Madrid is quite competitive and moves quickly, we all knew that we were essentially competing against each other for the win. Evil eyes all around. And, as a competitive person who would like a place to call home in Spain, I was in it to win. (In case you are curious how the story ended, the landlord did pick me to rent the apartment but I had to turn her down because of some weird requirements that she had for the payments).

It is also a very nerve-wracking experience deciding which apartment to choose. It is pretty much like the Bachelor/Bachelorette. You could say it is the most dramatic season yet (I can only hope you read that in Chris Harrison’s voice). I walk out of each apartment thinking “What do I do? Do I trust my gut? Am I making the right decision? Is this apartment right for me? Do I have a strong enough connection with the roommates?” Think JoJo in fetal position at the airport right after she stated that she was going to eliminate Luke and then he told her that he loved her. Really confusing. As each place has its pros and cons and I am starting to feel more pressure in picking one, I have to make sure that I am not settling for a place that is barely okay when I could have one that better fits my needs. (Think JoJo picking Robby over Jordan). Piso hunting is quite the journey, but I am definitely in it for the right reasons (to find a bed that is).

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Me when deciding what to do about an apartment

While I have not been successful in finding an apartment yet, I have faith that something will come up in the next week. While you all are in class or working, I will spend my days scouring the rental website, messaging random people on Whatsapp, visiting apartments, and hopefully finding one that is the perfect fit. I am definitely getting tired of living out of a suitcase and am ready to have a place that is my home base in Madrid (that way you all can come visit!!). Stay tuned for the most dramatic and exciting season finale yet; which apartment will get my final rose?

(Huge apologies if any of you aren’t Bachelor/Bachelorette fans. I just felt that this was a solid metaphor for the struggles of piso hunting. Side note: You probably should become a fan of the show because it makes for the most entertaining Monday nights).

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