*edited* When I wrote my first post two weeks ago, I was still looking for a room to be my temporary safe-haven from the hustle and bustle that comes with a metropole like Madrid. Right now, only 19 days stand in between me and my new home for the coming months.
I don’t know about you, but 19 days to arrange the perfect siesta escape doesn’t sound like a lot of time. (Especially when the oh-so-relaxing but at times oh-so-frustrating Spanish mentality of taking it easy means waiting forever on an answer or response.) Now before there are any misconceptions: I’m not a last-minute person at all. Never have been, never will be. No, there is a reason I got into this mess, and it starts with the name Valentina¹…
I was advised by my university to book a room through housinganywhere.com, a housing platform with verified advertisers to guarantee the room is all right and the booking safe. I still stand by this concept, it’s ideal for exchange students that can’t make a trip to look for a room. It was still very early when I did my first search (mid June to be exact… What can I say, I was exited!) but I did find some great rooms, all advertised by a woman named Valentina. We got in contact but I had to wait to book because it was still early, and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.
Time skip to the beginning of August. Valentina still wouldn’t let me book a room for the beginning of September, claiming out of nowhere that the understanding we had was only valid until the 31th of July. Coincidentally this also meant I suddenly had to pay a whole extra month on top of additional fees (keep in mind, housing in the centre of Madrid is NOT cheap). The smell of trouble kept growing stronger so I branched out and as it turns out, dear Valentina owns about 90% of all rooms on all sites with a (relatively small) fee to ensure the room is safe. The last drop was seeing the same rooms being cheaper on other site. I renounced the Valentina-monopoly and put my money on idealista.es² and facebookgroups.
Luckily, about a week ago, I stumbled upon a room whose description sounded perfect to me: they were looking for calm and responsible girls (the only rule is no throwing loud parties) that were interested in improving their Spanish and making a home away from home. Did I already mention it’s located right in the centre of the city? The balcony of the apartment looks out directly onto Plaza Mayor! I had a skype interview first (with the amazing Richi Paramo, who coincidentally also took the beautiful image above from the apartment!!) and right now, I get to choose which room I like best (there are several still available). As I’m sure you can imagine, I couldn’t be happier! Of course, nothing is perfect, but this room does come pretty close. There are only 2 disadvantages I can see: there’s only 1 bathroom (which I can live with) and…. DUN DUN DUUUUUUN it’s on the fourth floor. Without a lift! So forgetting something upstairs means another workout, and breaking/bruising my feet or ankles is strictly forbidden. Otherwise, I should be fine.
UPDATE: although the apartment was great and the girls there are so incredibly nice, I won’t be living there… Long story short, staying there turned out to be more expensive than expected. 🙂 I ended up finding another room with a lower rent, a more modern building (hello lift, hello heels) and a more peaceful location (Plaza Mayor is not exactly quiet) while still being within a 5-minute walking distance from Sol³. This time, the great Alexander, a good friend of Javier who lives in Madrid, helped me out a lot by going to see the flat and taking care of some other stuff so I could be certain the room actually is the same as the advert. I can now officially say I have a place to stay in Madrid!
Every story has its lesson, and this is one I’ll never forget: NEVER trust strangers on the Internet. (Until you’ve actually video chatted or a friend can check it out in person.)
¹ Disclaimer: this article is not meant to disrepute Valentina or housinganywhere.com, I merely want to tell what happened in this individual case. It would never have become a problem if there was clear communication from Valentina’s side about the exact conditions of booking a room. It’s all very unfortunate that this was only communicated weeks before my arrival, especially in a period where almost all good rooms are already reserved or occupied. Personally I also believe that if I had wanted to book from August on, she would have happily agreed.
² The bigger and Spanish version of kotweb.be: it’s the biggest site for students (and others) to find rooms/studios/apartments in Spain. The site allows you to choose different specifications in a set region, and it can even send you an e-mail alert when a new room comes online that fits into your parameters.