There are already anywhere between 700,000 and one million Brits estimated to be living in Spain, but now that Britain has voted to leave the EU, others may find it harder to pursue their dreams of a life on the Costas.
Just two weeks ago The Local reported that Spain’s housing market was well and truly making a comeback, fuelled by foreign buyers of whom Brits form the biggest group.
But the fall in sterling together with the threat of a recession in the UK as a result of Brexit, plus uncertainty over British rights to live abroad once the UK is outside the EU, could have a drastic impact on Spain’s property market.
The result of Thursday's vote sent the value of the pound crashing, recording its biggest drop in over 30 years, with financial forecasters predicting that it will continue to tumble.
This means for anyone thinking about a new life in Spain, they will now have to readjust their calculations dramatically to see if they can afford it.
“I can't help thinking this is bad news for the Spanish property market, and bad news for British expats in Spain, in the short term at least,” Mark Stucklin, of Spanish Property Insight, told The Local.
“The pound is down heavily against the euro reducing British purchasing power in Spain, and this Brexit result could trigger a recession in the UK, which would further hit demand, as would a fall in UK house prices that some experts are predicting.
“Will Brits now retire to Spain in the same numbers as before? Not if they lose the healthcare, pension, and fiscal rights they enjoyed as members of the EU,” Stucklin predicted.
“Things might work out okay in the end, but there is going to be a period of uncertainty that could drag on for years, during which Brits will have less confidence about buying property in Europe. British demand for property in Spain has been growing since 2013, but I think we will see a big reversal in the trend in the coming quarters.
“That's bodes ill for housing markets in Alicante and Malaga, where the British have been far and away the biggest buyers in recent years. It's not good for British vendors either, as buyers might now be harder to find.
“If there is a bright side to this I hope it leads to serious reform in Europe to prevent a domino effect, and the Union ends up stronger as a result, but I wouldn't bet on it.”
While no one yet knows whether Brexit will make it legally more complicated for Britons to buy a property in Spain – the Spanish almost certainly won't want to scare away British buyers from the market – it certainly won’t help those who have already fallen foul of property regulations, an issue that could put off potential buyers.
“I do not believe that there is a direct impact on property rights but obviously for those struggling with illegal houses there may be an indirect effect if Britons lose their right to vote in municipal elections. Currently this right derives from membership of the EU. So, indirectly we lose our bargaining power,” said Maura Hillen, who campaigns for the rights of expat property owners in the Almanzora valley and is now a town councillor.
“In terms of rights lost… its early days and there is much uncertainty but points to consider are rights to health care, residency, possible tax implications etc… Much food for thought,” she said.
But for those wanting to sell up and return to the UK, the weak pound could prove advantageous, as long as they can find a buyer.
“Given the thrashing of the exchange rates it is a good time to sell your house and buy sterling but not necessarily a good time to buy,” said Hillen.