This article is written for people planning to move to the Spanish Basque Country, Bilbao in particular, and provides useful information about finding an affordable rental apartment.
Bilbao, right in the middle of the Basque country is one of the most entertaining cities in Spain, and it is still largely unknown to the big crowds. And this makes the city twice as interesting of course! Earlier this year we wrote an article about the 6 reasons why Bilbao is becoming a thriving expat community.
Nearly 20 years ago I was lucky enough to live for 9 months in Bilbao. I was a student at the time on an Erasmus scholarship and enrolled at Deusto University and I remember that finding an apartment was a nightmare. I was arrogant enough to think that I would find a rental in no time, even though I did not speak Spanish at all. That turned out to be a slap in the face. Luckily enough I found an apartment through the International Relationship Department of the University because finding an apartment on my own was mission impossible.
Now, that was 20 years ago, and things have changed a lot since then (first of all, my Spanish is a lot better now), but it is still very difficult to find a temporary apartment, for 3-9 months, fully furnished, with all expenses included, in Bilbao (as it is in the rest of Spain). It is probably even worse than 20 years ago since AIRBNB and other vacation rental websites have completely disrupted the rental market. The same thing happened in Bilbao as in Barcelona, Valencia, Seville, and Madrid: In recent years the owners of rental apartments are being misled and confused by the promises of insane high profits of holiday rentals, making it very difficult for expats to find a decent priced medium-long term furnished rental apartment, despite the efforts of the local government to regulate the market.
The rental market in Bilbao has changed a lot in recent years, primarily because of the success of the website like Airbnb. As in most cities in Spain, there are 3 types of rentals, not taking into consideration student accommodation and flat-sharing.
Traditional real estate agencies usually offer empty unfurnished apartments for rent with a minimum stay of 1 year. Prices are higher than in the south of Spain, but still 5-10% lower than in Madrid or Barcelona. Compared to Valencia rental prices in Bilbao are 20-25% higher. For much less than 750€ per month, you won’t find anything in a decent neighbourhood. And of course, you need to add expenses and the agency fee (1-month rent). Community expenses are usually included in the rental price, but you will stay have to go through the hassle of contracting wifi, water, electricity, etc. These apartments are not interesting for people who are looking for a temporary apartment for a few months in Bilbao, because of way too complicated. And if you don’t speak Spanish (or Basque), forget it!
As in the rest of Spain (Europe? world?), Airbnb and friends have drastically changed the concept of holiday rentals in Bilbao. There are hundreds of vacation rental apartments in Bilbao, or at least there were before locals have voiced anger at the impact of unregulated apartment tourism in their area. The local government stepped up with strict regulations and high fines scaring off many apartment owners. At the moment there are still over 300-holiday apartments listed on Airbnb but this number is continuously decreasing. Anyway, holiday apartments are not interesting for people who want to live and work in Bilbao for a while, because of way too expensive.
If you want to feel the vibes of Bilbao for a few months, and you are lucky enough to be in a situation where you can afford it (Isn’t it great to be a digital nomad?), you are looking for an expat rental. In other words, you are looking for a company like Globexs. Situated in between the traditional rentals and the holiday rentals are the Globexs rentals. We have a large database of furnished apartments, most of them previously published on Airbnb, available and suitable for medium-long expat stays: fully furnished and ready to move in. All expenses are included in the rental price, so you do not have to worry about wifi, water, electricity and other bills.
Yes indeed, Bilbao is attracting more and more expats and digital nomads in recent years. It’s great to see the city getting the recognition it deserves. Bilbao is becoming the new hottest city to see in Spain. Yes, there is definitely more to see than the Guggenheim museum.