How not to fall flat on your face when flat–hunting in Barcelona.
So it all started, as these things often do, with an advert on Loquo. I was flat-hunting again, and needed a new place to lay my head. Not being a millionaire, living alone was out of the question, so it was to back to sharing. It sounded perfect; a cosy room, in a spacious flat with views of the Sagrada Familia, to share with three friendly flat-mates and a docile and affectionate puppy. As a dog-lover, what could be better?
Not having anticipated quite such a walk from the metro station, or the four flights of stairs, I arrived slightly late and out of breath. I was ushered in with a warning to mind out for the bikes, the bong and the bin bags in the hallway.
At first I couldn’t quite understand why they were showing me the broom cupboard, or why there was a bed in it, until I realised that this was the room -all 400 euros a month of it. I had to admire their photographic skills. How in God’s name had they taken the photo? From inside the wardrobe?! More British than a Marmite and chip sandwich, I murmured something about how lovely it was and we moved onto the lounge.
A low growl alerted me to the presence of a malevolent looking Greyhound on the sofa. So that was the weird smell. ‘Ooh he likes you!’ they said, as the pooch from hell immediately started humping my leg and trying to eat my sleeve. I escaped to the balcony. ‘There’s the Sagrada Familia’ they pointed proudly. ‘Sorry, where?’. Straining my eyes, I made out the tip of a crane in the distance. ‘Smashing view’ I stammered.
The notepad came out in the kitchen. As I surveyed the flies circling the mountain of dirty dishes in the sink, they filled me in on the small print. Water, electricity and phone bills took the price up to 450, and then there was the cleaning lady. Cleaning lady? What does she do with her time? Re-organise the rubbish? Distracted for a moment by the sight of a pretty Eramus student getting changed in the flat across the street, my would be flat-mate reluctantly pulled his eyes away from the window and came back to the matter in hand. ‘So that’s 480 euros a month. Are you interested?’ ‘Oh yes, definitely’, I said ‘I’ve just got a few more flats to see. Can I get back to you?’
Five minutes later, huddled over a cortado in the bar down the street, I tried to figure out where I’d gone so wrong. It had sounded great.
Many flat visits later, I realised it was all about breaking the small ad code and learning to read between the lines. So, for the uninitiated, here’s a beginner guide.
1. Piso bien comunicado (good for public transport). The flat is in the same city as the metro but you’ll probably need your hiking boots to get to the nearest station. Likewise, Centrico (central) is the Catalan word for somewhere nearly in France.
2. Solo chica (only girls) means that there’s a boy out there that misses his mum.
3. Buen rollo (friendly atmosphere) you might think that this means everyone gets along famously, but you’d be wrong. Have no doubt that beneath these two words flows a seething undercurrent of hostility that stems from the time that a newly arrived flat-mate innocently cleaned out the fridge and threw away somebody’s apparently mouldy Dijon mustard.
4. Ventana means window. If your lucks in, this could imply that the room is exterior, but it’s more likely that you’ll have a view of some rusty pipes, your flat-mate’s washing, or your neighbour cleaning his teeth in his underpants.
5. Exterior. Now you’re talking. You will have light and a view of the street and your room will cost 5 million euros plus bills.
6. Buscamos a una persona de menta abierta (open-minded flatmate wanted). They have a sex swing in the living room and are not afraid to use it.
7. The best flat in the city!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! OOOOOOHHHHH! Please rent our room! We can’t afford the rent/mortgage! Help us before we’re thrown out onto the street! For the love of God!!!!!!
8. NO TE DEFRAUDARE (I won’t rip you off) is another way of saying ‘I am going to rob you blind’.
And a few final tips
- Think twice about renting from anyone who has dried flowers in the bathroom.
- Never rent from anyone who has a telescope in the living room (and if it’s in the bedroom, run for the hills).
- Never think, ‘ooh that looks spacious’. It won’t be.
Published in Barcelona Connect – Summer 2008