Wednesday, October 20

Idealista’s ‘escape room’

Years ago, the owner of an apartment we wanted to move to called us at her job to meet us. It was an office in the Torres Colón, in Madrid. When we arrived we found a group of people waiting in the hall. We examine ourselves as, I suppose, the first hominids were examined when they discovered each other. “Are you here on the floor of Puerta del Ángel?” I dared to ask, desecrating the silence. “It seems so,” they replied. The tension was cut with a knife. That lady had called a face-to-face casting of candidates, a kind of macabre test in which we had to enter her office without having previously slit each other’s throats. “The floor is very good, but this is too much, right?”, I commented to my friend (between whispers, who did not want to show weakness either). He did not have time to respond because at that moment our names sounded with the same ceremoniousness with which they sound in a hospital waiting room. The woman was waiting for us sitting on a sofa, notebook in hand, with a lie detector hidden behind the shelf, I’m sure. He subjected us to a questionnaire that the CIA would have dismissed as too exhaustive: tastes, studies, unhealthy activities, dreams, aspirations, beliefs. If he had also asked us if we were organ donors, the thing would have made more sense. “Are you ready to get rid of a kidney? Part of the liver maybe? You know that the apartment has central heating, right?”

Looking for a rental apartment in a big city is, above all else, a humiliating task. There are floors in which they ask you for a current month, a month of agency, two months of bail and forty months of self-dignity. Everything to deposit before entry. Dignity can also be lost for bizum. Flats that you like and going down the elevator of the building itself have already been rented. Uninhabitable spaces, closets presented as rooms, rooms presented as floors, abusive clauses, photographs of advertisements that correspond to everything but reality, etc. All this is known by anyone who has looked at Idealista, Fotocasa or any real estate portal at some point in the last ten years. All this is known by anyone who cannot afford a rent of more than 600 euros a month if he intends to live alone in a big city, or by anyone who has to share a flat without remedy because he cannot allocate more than 300-400 euros a month to that expense. In short, this is known by anyone who lives in the real world and not in an alternative metaverse in which with a job and a payroll you can directly access a rent (let alone decent).

In this fantastic metaverse, living for rent offers us freedom and less risk. We tenants generate wealth, we can save, invest money in other assets and prevent these from being trapped if there is a real estate crash, for example. In real Spain, there is not much money left to invest in any other asset because the rental price eats up a huge proportion of wages. The average price of housing for rent in Spain is, according to data from the Housing and Land Observatory collected by epdata, at 674 euros per month, with large differences between provinces: in Madrid, 819 euros. The minimum interprofessional salary is 1,050.

Then there is owning a home that in Spain has already become a kind of private club with a genealogical letterhead. The probability that someone owns it increases if their parents were also. And the probability of buying an apartment increases, or directly depends, on your parents being able to pay you the entrance. Owning a home continues to be one of the most important ways to transmit wealth. So until this changes, the circle of inequality will continue to increase based on how our parents have lived and the conditions in which we can live.

Going out into the world is an essential requirement to understand it. That is why some of our political representatives should one day pass themselves off as Idealist. What’s more, I propose a game to you. A escape room one hour long. They win if in that time they manage to leave the real estate portal with an apartment worth renting in a big city with a limited budget. Otherwise, they lose – well, actually we all lose. I would love to know on what planet those politicians who talk about renting in Spain live as if there were no problem, as if there was nothing to do there, far from everything and everyone; but above all I would like to know how much it costs to rent a flat on that planet: hey, it still makes up for us.

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