Where to live
If you've chosen Barcelona as the place to study, work or create your own business and life project but haven’t yet decided which neighbourhood to live in, we can give you advice on that.
Our city is divided up into ten districts. You will find information on each district’s features on the following website.
Barcelona has many charming neighbourhoods and each has its own features making it unique and special. Barcelona’s residents are strongly attached to the neighbourhood they live in and many play an active part in their neighbourhood’s social and community life.
In general, you will find blocks of buildings in Barcelona with multi-family dwellings, and the flats are not very spacious. People usually socialise outside their homes. The good climate helps, of course.
If it’s a single-family house you are after, whether detached or semi-detached, with a garden, for example, you will find one mainly in several of the Barcelona metropolitan area’s residential zones.
These include, owing to their popularity for establishing residences among foreign-national families, Sant Just Desvern and Esplugues, inland; Castelldefels, Gavà and Sitges, on the southern coast and, in the north, several municipalities from the El Maresme county.
Thanks to the metropolitan public transport system, you can travel from the centre of Barcelona to other nearby cities within a relatively short time.
You will need provisional accommodation while you look for the house you most like and which best suits you. You have many alternatives, but Barcelona is very popular as a destination city for international getaways and meetings, from medical conferences to video-game fairs. So it’s best to plan in advance, before you come here.
There are hotels, boarding houses and aparthotels, in every price range, where you can stay while you focus on looking for a flat. Likewise, if you’re thinking about holiday travel, you will find good prices by booking two or three months in advance. There are many categories of hotels and prices to suit every budget. Large and small chains, domestic and international, have buildings throughout the city.
There are budget hotels, such as a pension or a boarding house; the latter, called “hostal”, should not be confused with the English concept of hostel. Pensions and boarding houses are modest hotels, usually an informal family business. They have their own three-star classification system. They are quality accommodation at a reduced price, as they offer fewer services. Aparthotels are furnished apartments for both short-term and long-term stays: they have a kitchen and other commodities. A good solution for families and groups.
Barcelona is a university city with numerous business schools and research centres. A specific offer of accommodation is available for the student and researcher community:
- University residences in Barcelona
Researcher Residence offers accommodation lecturers and researchers.
Resa Residencias: in collaboration with several universities, to offer accommodation for newcomers.
Àgora: an international residence in collaboration with several universities.
The Student Hotel: student residence with two locations in Barcelona.
Vila Universitària UAB: located in the UAB campus, it offers accommodation for over 2,000 people.
- Halls of residence in Barcelona
Habitatge Jove.cat: information on halls of residence, residences and other types of accommodation for students.
- Rental flats for students in Barcelona:
Resa Housing: university accommodation in furnished flats or rooms in Barcelona and Girona.
Apart Easy: rental apartments in Barcelona.
Habitatge Jove: flats and rooms for students.
Advice for students who wish to rent a flat
- Make sure the flat you choose is in a location with good public-transport connections to your university .
- Read the lease and make sure you understand it.
- In the event of renting a flat with other students, you should all be prepared to pay the full guarantee bond, rent and utility bills; it will be a joint responsibility.
- Keep a copy of the lease, rules and regulations, inventory and other documents you consider important.
- Breakages and faults: you must inform the owner as soon as possible of any type of breakage or fault that may appear in any of the flat's features, to resolve the problem quickly.
And, should you need help, you can visit there Barcelona University Centre (BCU), an official welcome and support service for university students, lecturers and researchers who come to Barcelona.
Renting a flat
The following are aspects you will have to take into account for renting a dwelling.
If you've decided on a dwelling and have reached an agreement with the owner or estate agency, the next step is to make a down payment. It’s a first payment, equivalent to one month’s rent and will be part of the deposit when you sign the lease.
Even so, note that owners reserve the right to choose their tenant according to the latter's references or situation. So it's most likely you will be asked to produce a copy of your employment contract, pay slips or proof of income, as well as a copy of your passport or residence card.
The minimum period for a lease is six months and is binding. Leases are usually signed for a three-year term. This is optional for tenants but mandatory for owners. Leases can be renewed for a further year. Owners are entitled to recover their flat as their permanent residence after the first year of the lease. If you decide to leave the property and terminate your lease, you will have to notify the owner or estate agency in writing with at least two months’ advance notice. You will also have to state the lease's termination date.
All leases require the following payments:
- Current month’s rent.
- Deposit or guarantee bond. This is an escrow. It is equivalent to a month's rent for an unfurnished flat and to two months’ rent for a furnished flat. This deposit will be returned once the lease has terminated.
- Bank guarantee. This is a possible requirement for renting. It means having to pay a deposit for an amount corresponding to three or six months’ rent in a third-party bank account during the lifetime of the lease. This amount will remain intact. This is a guarantee formula for owners who will have cash available for dealing with defaulted payments or any legal costs that arise from evicting a tenant who has failed to meet their obligations. The total amount, along with its accrued interest, will be returned to you once your lease has terminated. Bank guarantees in such situations are independent of guarantee deposits or bonds.
- Agency commissions. If you rent through an estate agent, you will have to pay a commission, which is usually equivalent to 10% of the annual rent, plus 21% value added tax (IVA).
You can make all these payments by bank transfer from your own bank account or in cash or by cheque, but not by credit card.
Rent is usually paid within the first five days of each month. As with electricity, phone, gas and other utility bills, rent is normally paid by direct debit.
It is usual under the lease for an annual increase to be agreed to in the rental price equal to the rise in the consumer price index (IPC, which stands for Índex de preus al consum).
All dwellings, whether for rent or purchase, must have a certificate of habitability, which guarantees that the dwelling is fit to be lived in. In addition, this document is essential for signing up for or applying for utility services such as electricity, water and gas.
All dwellings must likewise have an energy certificate. This specific document states each dwelling’s level of energy efficiency on a scale ranging from A (highest) to G (lowest). You can take this classification into account when you decide on the dwelling.
When you enter the dwelling, make an initial inspection and go over the inventory (if it’s furnished). You have a 48-hour deadline to inform the owner if you have detected any damage and to request any necessary repairs. Take photos and videos as appropriate. Owners are under an obligation to adopt the necessary measures for such repairs to be carried out.
From then on, it is the tenants who are responsible for wear and tear and for repairs, except in the case of damage caused by structural flaws, pipe problems or flooding caused by external factors. Where a flat is furnished, the tenants must look after the furniture and electrical appliances and, when their lease ends, leave the flat in its original layout and in good condition.
In any case, we recommend you maintain good relations with the owner or manager from your estate agency to ensure good communication and a speedy and effective resolution of any problems that may arise.
Finally, bear in mind that there are not many owners who accept pets in their rental flats, especially where these are furnished. And, if they do accept them, they may well ask you for an additional guarantee bond.
Buying a dwelling
Before you embark on buying a dwelling, make sure you have your identity number for foreign nationals (NIE, which stands for Número d'identificació d’estrangers) as this is a legal requirement for buying a property in Spain. Consult the section on formalities.
In addition, you will have to have a bank account to make the necessary payments.
If you have any language difficulties, whether in Catalan or Spanish, we recommend you receive advice from a lawyer or expert in properties. They can provide you, for example, with translations of documents and give you all the explanations you need.
Purchasing is not a complex process, although it does require formalities and checks that take time.
If you need funding to purchase your dwelling, you can ask your bank for a mortgage. The maximum amount for such types of loan is for 80% of the purchase price.
Whether you are purchasing or renting, be aware that the dwelling must have a certificate of habitability and a certificate of energy efficiency.
Make sure too that the dwelling is free of any encumbrances, such as administrative urban-planning changes to property's use and status, or debts yet to be paid. Note that mortgages in Spain can be transferred to new owners.
Once all this is in order, you will have to sign an earnest money contract. This document must include all the dwelling’s specifications and establish the terms and conditions of the final sale: price, method of payment and maximum term for making it (normally two months). Signing this document usually requires payment of a sum equivalent to 10% of the sale price (as a guarantee bond). If, during the established term, the owner decides not to sell or breaches the terms of the earnest money contract, they will have to forfeit twice the amount of the guarantee bond to the other party. If it is the purchaser who backs out of the agreement, they will lose the amount handed over.
The purchase contract is signed by the purchaser, seller and notary a couple of months after the earnest money contract has been signed. This is when you will have to pay the taxes involved —value added tax (IVA) for new dwellings and property-transfer tax (ITP, which stands for Impost de transmissions patrimonials) for second-hand dwellings — as well as the notary’s fees and registration with the Land Registry.
Where a mortgage is necessary, you will have other derived expenses, for example, for taking out an insurance policy covering Act of God risks and third-party damage and/or loss.
Municipal housing policies
Barcelona City Council's basic goal is to ensure every city resident has a decent standard of living and it is launching initiatives to provide the most vulnerable with access to a dwelling.
Municipal policies are currently promoting social and affordable housing; the transfer of vacant flats to a rental housing pool; the renovation of properties, from an ecological point of view, in terms of energy efficiency, and the promotion of new forms of access to housing and its management, providing financial solutions to those unable to make their home’s mortgage payments and offering mediation and information as the main tools for ensuring all the players involved abide by the rules of the game.
If you would like to find out about access to public housing and receive advice on renting and purchasing, or lease models, such as for co-housing, you will find information on this link.