Rental Apartments in Spain

Posted by: teachertraveler8

Rental Apartments in Spain - 08/16/14 06:45 PM

This past summer, my teenage son, husband and I were in Spain for nearly 3 weeks together. As we were planning our accommodations last winter, we decided that renting apartments would be more cost-effective than staying in hostals or hotels. Most hostal rooms run $35-$50/night and when you multiply that by 2, itís about the same to rent an apartment that also has a kitchen and living room.
We used three different websites for our rentals. The first was Airbnb in Lekeitio, Spain. Lekeitio is a lovely seaside fishing village in the Basque Country. Airbnb at the time we booked only had one apartment for rent, so we chose that one. The advantage of Airbnb is that you pay when you book, so there is no transfer of funds to the host. The disadvantage is that you pay when you book, so you pay for a rental months in advance. (This isnít always such a bad thing, either, because it spreads the cost of the vacation over several months) The apartment was as pictured in the listing. The host was great about responding to our questions. It helped that I am proficient in Spanish because he didnít speak English. With Airbnb, the website holds the payment for 24 hours after arrival in case there is a problem with the rental. We didnít have any issues, so we didnít have to test them to see if this was true. The apartment was a bit rustic and old-fashioned. As an American, I try to lower my standards a bit when traveling abroad in terms of space and amenities. This was a perfectly adequate apartment and I would rent it again. The average price for all the apartments we rented was around 100 euros/night or $140.
The second rental was in San Sebastian, Spain. My husband found a website called ďRentaliaĒ that services Spain, Portugal, Italy, Croatia, and Andorra. It was similar to Airbnb, except for the payment options. The hosts could set their system of deposits and payments. The apartment we chose wanted a 10% deposit via a money transfer. This made me slightly nervous, except that it was only 30 euros. If it had been much more, I might have reconsidered. Upon arrival, the host wanted the remaining amount, plus 150 euros for a security deposit in cash. That is always a bit tricky because of the limits imposed by banks for withdrawal, but if you plan ahead, itís fine. The security deposit was returned to us on the last day of our stay. The apartment in San Sebastian was perfect. It was located 5 minutes from the beach and the Old Town and right on a main street. We were up high enough so that ambient noise was not an issue. I noticed that some rental places wanted a 50% deposit up front. I would probably be reluctant to wire transfer hundreds of euros, although now that I have used the site, I see that it works.
The final rental was through a website called We found it through VRBO, which operates prolifically in the US. Contacting the host was easy and the website had many apartments to choose from. Since this was a business for the family, they had two buildings in Barcelona with apartments. They were located in the Eixample district of Barcelona, not far from the Gaudi buildings and the Sagrada Familia. I liked it because it was a more tranquil, residential neighborhood. My husband said that he would prefer staying in the Gothic Quarter next time with all the action. This website wanted a 25% deposit and used Paypal as the means for transferring the money. I felt comfortable with this. Upon arrival, we could pay the remainder using Paypal or cash. We opted to pay with cash since we didnít have to deal with the extra foreign transaction fees imposed by Paypal.
Since the Barcelona apartment was a family business, there was a lot of attention to detail. There were employees on call 24 hours to answer the phone or email questions. They provided a list of places to eat, have tapas, or coffee. In the apartment, there were Barcelona tour guide books in multiple languages. When we needed to print tickets, all we had to do was email them to the office manager. Although there were towels, they also lent us special beach towels for our excursion to the beach.
Overall, we were extremely pleased with the apartment rental option in Spain. I have to admit that before we left, I was wary and hoped that all would go well, but in the end, there was nothing to worry about. I suppose that with anything, it is best to be cautious and use good judgment. I would not hesitate to rent again, even if it was just me or a couple. The comfort of having your own living room and kitchen is quite nice after a busy day of touring.
Posted by: Crisco

Re: Rental Apartments in Spain - 08/17/14 12:02 PM

I would be careful w/Airbnb-lots of problems in Barcelona:
I have used rentalia many times with no problems in Spain.I agree 30 euros is just enough to hold a reservation.I would NEVER send more than that amount.I see some owners want you to send the entire amount-never do that! Even w/30 euros deposit, have a hotel in mind just in case the place is not to your liking.
As to using Paypal,no problems- American banks charge an outrageous fee to do a bank transfer.
The reason the owners want you to pay in cash is to avoid having a paper trail when it comes to paying taxes!
Posted by: teachertraveler8

Re: Rental Apartments in Spain - 08/17/14 03:17 PM

Crisco, I read similar articles before our trip, which led to a lot of concern on my part. I even contacted a Spanish friend who is a Law student and she said that her professor uses Airbnb! I think there are other sites in Spain that are popular with Spaniards that are similar to the ones I mentioned. With Rentalia, the one that requested had a hand-written contract that we signed. I had the feeling she was not being evasive on the taxes, but I know what you mean about the cash and paper trail. Anyway, I'm glad someone else liked Rentalia. I thought it was great and I'm already marking places for next time!
Posted by: Crisco

Re: Rental Apartments in Spain - 08/17/14 03:56 PM

FYI,the contract means absolutely nothing!
Posted by: pedmar

Re: Rental Apartments in Spain - 08/20/14 07:54 AM

glad you had a good experience with apartments with families and over a week is a must ;I am not familiar with the last one negre but the other two had rentals in the past all wonderful.

i am just back from Aragon region visiting but was base in the French basque country and had my car to do the runs; great.
Posted by: teachertraveler8

Re: Rental Apartments in Spain - 08/20/14 11:09 AM

The negre people have apartments in Barcelona, Kiev, and Istanbul.
Posted by: MadridMan

Re: Rental Apartments in Spain - 09/25/14 03:35 PM

Check out this article from El Pais in English, at

August tourist figures: the best on record
Industry complains that growing numbers of visitors are staying in unlicensed apartments, not hotels

"The sun-and-sand formula continues to drive Spainís economic recovery despite the facts that the hotel and restaurant industry creates mostly temporary jobs and that visitors are increasingly turning to rental apartments over traditional hotels.

Vacation home rentals grew 29.7 percent in August, compared with a four-percent rise in visitors who stayed in their own holiday homes or with friends and relatives."

Saludos, MadridMan
Posted by: Puna

Re: Rental Apartments in Spain - 09/25/14 03:40 PM

I saw that and my bet is that with the continuing economic problems many people are letting out rooms to help make ends meet. Can't fault them - nor should the govt. sanction them - for that.

I know I'll get flak from some members but if the folks renting out rooms in their homes to feed family and pay mortgages, etc. are running a clean and safe operation - leave them the heck alone. Just my opinion ....
Posted by: MadridMan

Re: Rental Apartments in Spain - 09/25/14 04:04 PM

Renting out your personal/extra flat is both a negative and a positive for individuals, the economy, and society.

I don't think they're speaking about renting out rooms in their own flat, but rather renting entire flats to tourists. Most of these flats, however, are the property owner's 2nd, 3rd, or 4th flat and they can make more money renting them by the night to tourists than with a long-term contract and a monthly rate. These people are most likely cashing-in rather than trying to feed their families - but may well be renting them to pay off the mortgages.

Hostal owners, usually a single Spanish family operating it, have told me countless times that they're having fewer and fewer guests, mainly due to the great number of "illegal" rental properties. I understand it can be more economical - and definitely more "home-like" - staying in a rental flat than getting a couple of hostal rooms without kitchen facilities, though.

This "Black Money" does not help the economic machine apart from allowing the property owners to consume more. It doesn't employ people or pay taxes. These properties are not regulated or insured in any way. I know that in many cases potential renters can read reviews of previous renters' experienes and that's the best way to feel comfortable you're not going to get "taken" or fooled.

I've often thought that there's a market out there where foreign tourists might like to rent just a room in a family's house, be fed at the family table, wash dishes, help with the shopping, and experience what it's like to live with/like a "typical" (if that exists) Spanish family.

Saludos, MadridMan
Posted by: Puna

Re: Rental Apartments in Spain - 09/25/14 04:31 PM

All very true. The hostals owners - usually a family run and operated business - are the first ones to feel the financial loss. The people that prefer a 'proper' hotel will continue to book into the same.

I think the sheer economics of traveling - especially if kids of any age are in tow - may be the deciding factor. Rather than having to book an extra bed at minimum and often a second room, families are seeking flat rentals. And the under-the-table ones are cheaper for the reasons you stated. No taxes, etc.

MM - my money is your gut instinct is 110% correct. You might want to speak to a few friends and get their feedback on the thought of organizing a few home owners to consider the concept you suggest in the last paragraph. It might not be a big market but I'm guessing it is a sustainable one.

A new sideline venture for MM, Inc.? smile
Posted by: pedmar

Re: Rental Apartments in Spain - 09/26/14 05:30 AM

that has been going on for decades, renting entire apartments 2nd and 3rd and summer residences outside Madrid where the family goes and rent theirs back in Madrid.

its the same with the law in NYC about rentals for less than 30 Days but they are all over ::)

Its economics and as long as there is the chance people will do it. Like MM said is both sides. The problem and I face it too when you go with a large family of adults, hotels/hostals ask you a max of 4 but we are 5 so what to do rent two rooms or go to the flat....flat wins

I used to stay in hostal like la plata but that was a long time ago, then when renting two rooms and sometimes 3 if parents came in. For the last few years when go with the family rent apartments/Flats entire pisos. Cheaper and better.

Adjustment times.
Posted by: pedmar

Re: Rental Apartments in Spain - 09/26/14 05:42 AM

recently Magma which is a tourist consulting firm in Spain did a study of this market which I translate for all and benefit of those less fluent;even if a bit old.

There are about 120.000 apartments doing this (2011) with 436.000 persons employ and an economic impact of near 2 billion euros. The most number of apartments are in Canarias (52.979), Comunidad Valenciana (16.169), Baleares (15.013), AndalucŪa (13.004) and CataluŮa (10.735).

The median stay is of 7,2 nights against the 3,36 iin hotels, having an occupancy ratio of 57% nationwide. The highest avg stays are in Canarias,68,4%, (67,2%). The median expenditure of the guests per person is at 1.339 euros at these apartments.

Food for thoughts
Posted by: Puna

Re: Rental Apartments in Spain - 09/26/14 10:07 AM

Based on those figures(2011)the "under the table" flat rental business brings in a heap of money that is dispersed throughout the area. Everything from rent to food with more cash left for sightseeing, shopping, eating out, etc.

So what steps should the hostals take to stop loosing money? Installing kitchens seems a bit extreme although having mini- refrigerators in rooms seems to be increasing.

Again, if I were traveling with family, I'd rent a flat. Simple economics demand saving money and one flat is a lot cheaper than 2 or 3 rooms per night.
Posted by: pedmar

Re: Rental Apartments in Spain - 09/26/14 12:48 PM

exactly Puna, that is the idea. The flat or apartment is it.

And since Madrid is still a city on the move, they will always have some hostals not all, some will go away.

what to do put some family rooms, make two rooms into one,and go for the family traveler.
Posted by: Puna

Re: Rental Apartments in Spain - 09/26/14 04:07 PM

Just out of curiosity what would be a rough estimated cost to make such a conversion - 2 rooms into a sort of suite w/ 2 bedrooms for families? With the continuing high unemployment, it seems now would be a good time to hire less expensive labor - IF cash flow allowed.

Posted by: pedmar

Re: Rental Apartments in Spain - 09/27/14 12:51 PM

wellnot in construction to know the cost, but many of these hostals are joing together, many were before bigger properties reduce to make more rooms, so putting them back is not a big entreprise.

Many could not do it as money is still tight but that will determine the survivals. And yes , hiring to do this will provide more jobs but....first comes having the money to do it.