Desperately Seeking Accommodation
After living for a year and a half in a beautiful flat towards the end of the red line, it was time to give the cat a big kiss goodbye and relocate to somewhere more central. Cabs home are too expensive, winter’s too cold for waiting for nightbuses and it’s too difficult to make it home before the metro shuts here, I reasoned. Having given my one month’s notice, checked with friends that there were a few spare sofas in case I didn’t get it sorted in time, the ball was rolling. So, I started trawling through www.loquo.com, and www.barcelonaconnect.com, noting down possible flats, exclaiming at the more extortionate prices and wondering about the truly cheap ones, then started making arrangements to check them (and their people) out. Anywhere wanting more than a month’s deposit was automatically ruled out, as well as flats on big main roads.
In no other situation do first impressions count so much; attempting to come across as a laid-back-yet-responsible, tidy-but-not-obsessive, party-type-but-not-in-the-flat “perfect flatmate” sort in 3 minutes is quite challenging really. Not least because there are usually at least 4 other wannabe flatmates simultaneously competing for attention and playing exactly the same game…
Highlights included a friendly graphic designer covered in paint, who was doing up the flat and renting out one room – to someone who wouldn’t stress him about the washing up, since he was getting over a divorce. This was also a fifth floor without a lift. Next!
Then there was the huge flat in the Gothic, with 4 or maybe 5 flatmates, Jimi Hendrix posters and overflowing ashtrays. Despite the student vibe, this was a distinct possibility until the one in charge of renting the room out showed me their pride and joy - the growing cupboard. Quite a few healthy looking female plants, and a shelf of peyote cactus. Images of walking into intense sessions and their dodgy pals eyeing up my laptop flooded my mind… and this kid’s going to hang onto my deposit?! No chance! As for the small room in a friendly flat in Gracia for €250 including bills, the girls renting it out had a list of 35 names and numbers of people they’d already seen. A call was neither expected nor received from there.
Frustration was vented by posting a fake notice on Loquo with the title offering a cheap double room in the centre – and the “ad” itself along the lines of “You wish! Guess what, it’s just not going to happen”. Somehow I got 14 replies from people wanting to see this fictitious “huge double room.” Oops…
Then there was the flat with a big living room and outdoor terrace but tiny bedroom with an internal window into the living room and dodgy kitchen and shower. And the gorgeous designer flat with antique furniture, central heating, air-con and massive living room. But not only was this one unfurnished and beyond my budget, they’d got it through an agency and required an extra €400 agency fee on top of the rent. And then the next and the next…
The flat I’d really set my heart on had 4 rooms, the medium sized one off the living room was perfect, and the boys who’d just moved in seemed sweet enough, if slightly young. After the first encounter (with 5 other wannabe flatmates, as ever), I arranged to come back another time. Only one of the flatmates was there, and he told me straight that although he wanted me to move in, it was his friend who I had to convince. Said friend was from a small Catalan village, and this was his first time living away from home… maybe I’d overwhelmed him? The mobile number I had for them went dead for a few days, and eventually I got back in touch and arranged to come round on Monday night. Discussing infiltration tactics with some friends in a bar at the weekend, my mate with the best flat amongst us revealed her secret. “Go round with a bottle of beer, that’ll break the ice and win them over,” she advised. So I did. Unfortunately, this backfired quite spectacularly, as neither of them touched any of it and gave me funny looks.
By this point the end of the month was fast approaching, and a new person had already been found for my room. Confusion was setting in, I called the same flats twice, made arrangements to visit flats then didn’t turn up because I just couldn’t be bothered any more, and was actually rather looking forward to crashing on sofas and saving a month’s rent. I suppose I was also holding out for a room in lovely flat just 3 doors down from the teetotalers. The landlady said she’d let me know before the weekend… then she was waiting to hear back from someone she’d already promised it to and she’d let me know on Tuesday… Luckily enough, I got the room.
This saga of Desperately Seeking Accommodation is one we’ve all been through, usually quite a few times, and just when it seems like all hope is lost you get that set of keys. So for all you flat-hunters out there – keep at it and good luck! It’ll all come right in the end!