An exciting adventure, isn’t it?
Your suitcase is already packed and you’re waiting for your friend to take you to the airport – with your one-way-ticket to Gran Canaria in your pocket.
Because today’s the day.
Your experience is about to start: a new country, getting to know new friends and learning the Spanish-language.
Thousands of people dream of this moment and you´re this close.
It’s quite a normal thing for foreigners who plan to live in Gran Canaria to already have contact with a real estate agent who speaks their language. And your agreement is in your bag.
You searched for an adequate property to rent on the agent‘s page, or asked the agent to search one with specific wishes. You reserved a flat that seemed perfect for you and paid the reservation fee via wire transfer.
But chances are, you were too excited, and overlooked some really important facts.
Making an error can cost you time, money, and nerve.
Some people blindly trust the agent and sign the rental agreement without even speaking Spanish.
The problem here is, that the rental agreements are all in Spanish. (Not surprising, right?) And if you don´t know the Spanish language yet, you may end up signing a tenancy agreement with suspicious clauses.
Another problem may be that you fall in love with a really nice, cozy apartment because the photos sent from your agent look gorgeous. But it might not be what it seems.
(Guess what? We also use Photoshop in the Canaries.)
And when you finally reach your apartment, you realize that it isn’t so beautiful and nice in real life as it looked in the pictures.
What are you doing if your chosen flat, or house, is in an area far away from civilization or public transport? Or you realize after the first week, that you got the worst neighbors on planet Earth?
I think you get the idea, so let´s get into some details.
Here are the first important things to think about to help you avoid having a bad sleep:
Renting a flat in Gran Canaria needs some very good investigation and preparation.
1. You need to know which areas suit your personal needs.
It´s true that Gran Canaria is just a tiny island. But if you only know the island from holidays, you can get into deep trouble by just choosing a flat or a bungalow in the touristic south because of the beautiful environment.
That´s a nice dream to accomplish when you’re already retired. But when you plan to work here, or to study, it may not be the best of your choices.
To be fair here, that´s what I did. But I´ve been a lucky guy. Because as an internet marketer, no matter where I was, I only needed a fast internet connection. Here´s a photo of my former home office (2006):
One argument against it can be a missing fast internet connection. You will need to triple-check with the phone company to make sure your chosen residence can be connected. Of course you can rent a flat, or Bungalow in the warmer south part like Maspalomas, or Arguineguin and drive every day to work to the capital in the north. Trust me, you won’t enjoy the daily drives for a long time.
So, think about what you really need and want, make a list, and then circle the perfect areas on a map.
2. In what climate do you want to live?
You will read everywhere that Gran Canaria is a miniature continent. Sun, Beaches, dunes, stones and steppes in the south. A lot of green, forests and some more clouds, and rain in the north part of the island. Sometimes even snow on the island´s peaks in winter.
While the temperature in Maspalomas is around 25 degrees, the folks in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria take their sunbath at 20 degrees. Even less in winter time. That doesn´t sound so bad. But Canarian constructions don´t have any isolation, or heating systems. Some people use electric radiators and dehumidifiers. Most others just adapt their clothing to the actual climate to keep the electricity bill low.
3. Are you willing to pay the sun tax?
If you compare a flat in the north with one in the south, both having the same amount of rooms, the same structure and the same interior, the same everything, you’re paying up to 50% more for the same thing in the south.
This is called the sun tax. You´re paying to live in a tropical climate. Probably not the most clever idea to throw thirty to fifty percent of your budget out of the window just to get 300 days of sun. You can save fifty percent by taking a flat in the north with about 200 sunny days. And when it‘s too cloudy, you´re always only about twenty minutes from the sunnier area.
Sounds like a deal?
4. It’s highly recommendable to know who your neighbors will be.
Yes, I know that’s a thing you cannot control that much, but you definitely should ask your agent to investigate this question. Seriously!
The problem is (mostly) not the people living next door. The problem is the constructions. As I said above, there’s no isolation in those thin walls in Canarian cardboxes.
The negative side effect is that it feels like you are living together with all your neighbors around because you can hear everything.
That can be a sexy dream for some, but most people want their silence and peace in their own four walls, right?
Worst case scenario: You will get a flat where your neighbors are noisy energy sucking vampires. And in case the family below your flat are hysterical parents with misbehaving kids, you will quickly regret not asking your agent before signing the tenancy agreement.
But since you signed it already, there is no chance you can run away overnight.
5. Don´t sign any rental agreement sent back and forth by email.
Sounds like a comfortable idea. If you don´t have the time and money to fly to Gran Canaria to search for a flat to rent, you may think about signing the tenancy agreement virtually.
Your chosen real estate agent even sends you a rental agreement in your mother language.
Well, you can use it as a ground-cover for the birdcage, because it has no legal relevance.
The only paper you should accept to sign by email is a letting reservation. This is typically a one page document with all the important details. The landlord also has to sign it. You make a deposit of 150€ (varies) to the agent‘s bank account. That´s like a good faith deposit and it´s not an extra cost. This amount gets subtracted from the agent‘s commission once you sign the official tenancy agreement.
(We will talk about this process in detail in part two.)
6. Discover the zone via Google Maps and ask the locals
„Close to the beach, supermarkets and doctors near by.“
(This is an island, almost every place is close to the beach…)
Thanks to Google, you can (and should) find the proof.
Before you sign anything, look up the street and area in Google Maps. Use Street View to wander around to see the details and distances in your new living zone.
Another good idea is to ask some people already living here. You can do this by joining some local Facebook groups. Type in Facebook’s search form „Gran Canaria“ and select „Groups“ from the left menu. You´ll get plenty of choices.
7. Do not accept verbal agreements.
There´s a myth going around that verbal agreements with a handshake are appealable in front of the court.
Don’t believe it.
Whatever the landlord, or your agent is telling you about the flat and its rental details, it has to be in written words on that paper you will sign later.
Stick to this commitment.
8. Don´t sign a legal agreement, if you don´t understand the Spanish language.
Your tenancy agreement will be in Spanish. Don´t feel too secure if you do speak the local language.
Legal contracts are complicated to read and it´s always better to ask the agent to send you the final contract to read it upfront and to check all the paragraphs without pressure.
In addition, you should give it to someone you trust (and who understands the officialese) to read it over.
The best idea is to let a local lawyer control the tenancy agreement’s paragraphs.
That may cost you some bucks, but it will prevent you from getting pranked as well as give you peace of mind.
Here are two examples: Some landlords include strange paragraphs in the contracts. For example, that the tenant has to pay for a damaged fridge.
Another common clause is that the tenant has to pay the owner´s community charges.
Do not sign such things.
9. Never pay money upfront.
There´s no need to pay the rent, the security deposit, or the agent‘s commission in advance.
You pay the monthly rates starting the first day living in your new flat. You pay the agent´s commission (usually one month‘s rent) and the deposit when signing the tenancy agreement.
Of course, you have to pay a small deposit for the letting reservation I mentioned under #5.
10. Don´t get fooled because you´re a Guiri.
Foreigner + Moving to Gran Canaria = €€€
As a guiri, you always pay more bucks if you aren´t aware (and don´t speak Spanish.) Some people wouldn´t agree here, but let them go on sipping their sangria.
The reality is that you will hear „Amigo“ (friend) frequently from local strangers. They butter you up, telling you they´re going to do anything for you to help with whatever you need.
I once asked one of those „Amigos“ who was very obtrusive, if we already pissed together on a wall. „¿Que?“ was his answer. And I said: „Well, you know me for five minutes and you´re treating me like your own brother.“
To make it absolutely clear: Be nice and gentle, but don´t give a f*** if people are extremely friendly to you when there’s money the game.
11. Come personally to visit flats together with your agent.
Seeing a place you hope to rent in person is probably the best option for renting a flat in Gran Canaria.
Make a selection of properties you want to visit while on holidays in Gran Canaria. Call the landlords, or the agents and ask them to schedule visits to see the flats, or houses, in person.
That way, you can ask specific questions, and you´re able to see the zone. You can also visit the zone after a meeting again by yourself to see if there´s something that your agent, or the landlord, didn´t mention.
Invest some time before renting a flat in Gran Canaria and you will avoid bad surprises. Don´t jump the gun on getting your home sweet home and have your emotions under control.
By following the 11 steps above I guarantee you´ll find the perfect place to start an exciting adventure in the Canary Islands.
Any questions? Feel free to leave a comment.
Part 2 is coming soon…