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Buy-to-let: What you need to know about renting out a property in Spain

With the rise of Airbnb and other home sharing platforms, many people are buying apartments in popular vacation areas and renting them out to earn additional income.

Buy-to-let: What you need to know about renting out a property in Spain
The beautiful Catalan village of Calella. Photo: Zsanett Herczegh from Pixabay

The returns are high, according to Moving2Madrid, a buyer’s agent based in Madrid that helps people purchase properties to earn investment income, who claim their clients earn an average 6 percent net return when renting out their apartments short term

For those interested in earning additional income through buy-to-let, here are five tips to follow.

Have the endgame in mind when you purchase your apartment

Buying a property to earn rental income is completely different than buying a property that you want to live in yourself.

This is because the requirements of short term tenants are very different than long term residents.

For example, many property buyers are drawn to large, well equipped kitchens and fancy bathrooms. However, keep in mind that short term tenants rarely cook.

Moreover, if you rent your property short term there will likely be a number of tenants occupying the flat, all wanting to take showers at the same time.

So if you purchase an investment property, you need to think of details like boiler capacity rather than fancy bathtubs.

Refurbishment is key

When you are apartment shopping, look for the “fixer-upper.” This not only will enable you to get a larger apartment at a better price, but you can refurbish it to optimize its long term rental performance. 

People looking for apartments online focus on details that “pop.” If you know what renters look for, and how to make your property pop online, your refurbishment will differentiate your property so that in the long term your flat dictates pricing and reviews.

So decorate in neutral colours with accent peices, such as a stylish antique or artwork that will attract attention online.

Buildings on Madrid’s Gran Vía. Photo: GERARD JULIEN / AFP

Decide whether you want to rent your apartment short or long term

In the context of the pandemic and how it’s affected travel and short-term rentals, most landlords are choosing to rent out their properties to long-term tenants to curb their losses. (You can find out more about it here).

But let’s assume in this case that once Covid-19 doesn’t dominate global affairs, things will get back to how they were before.

Although Airbnb gets all the publicity, and renting short term does lead to higher returns if your property is managed properly, you can also rent your apartment long term. Some apartments, by their very nature, perform better when rented long term. Moreover, there is less wear and tear on long term property rentals. Think about it: short term rentals are highly trafficked by people that don’t care for your personal space, rolling suitcases through your apartment.

In general, it depends upon size. Small apartments with few amenities that cannot comfortably sleep more than two people don’t necessarily perform well on the Airbnb market. However, they are ideally suited for students or people recently divorced. In Madrid, people average a net return of 4.0-4.5 percent when renting small properties short term.

Medium sized apartments with two bedrooms and one or two bathrooms perform very well on Airbnb. In Madrid, people average a net return of 6.0 percent when renting medium sized properties short term.

Large apartments perform best rented long term. Luxury items are not appreciated on the Airbnb market. Thus, it is hard to get an adequate occupancy rate and return to compensate for your initial purchase price and refurbishment costs. In Madrid, people average a net return a little shy of 4 percent when renting large, luxury properties long term.

Prepare the necessary paperwork


An anti tourism banner during a protest staged by residents against “drunken tourism” on La Barceloneta beach in August, 2017. Photo: AFP

Paperwork varies, depending where in Spain you purchase your apartment. Rental laws, especially for tourist use differ from city to city and region to region and are subject to change.

Barcelona is the most restrictive, as it is no longer granting Airbnb licenses.

Valencia, Palma and Madrid have also introduced measures to curb tourist rentals.

In Madrid, you have to fill out and submit forms called Documento Propiedades Turísticas and Cédula de habitabilidad. You also have to apply for, and submit, a form certifying your apartment’s level of energy efficiency. All in, plan to spend around 500€ and ten months to get your paperwork in order.

It’s always best  to seek professional advice to guide you through the process.

Find the right property manager

High quality reviews and quick response times are key on home sharing platforms.

For short term rentals, you must have a high occupancy rate to maximize your rental yield. Keeping the apartment immaculate, providing fresh linens, responding to messages from tenants and ensuring your apartment is always rented at the optimal price (remember: vacation rentals are highly seasonal thus pricing varies) takes a lot of time and expertise.

That’s why it can be worthwhile to hire a professional to manage your property. Even if you pay an additional 20 percent for their services, they will save you time and money.

Mary Clare Bland is a relocation expert with Moving2Madrid, a buyer’s agent that focuses exclusively on the Madrid market.   “We help international buyers locate, negotiate and close the deal on apartments in Madrid. We work with renters, buyers and investors. We focus exclusively on an international clientele and speak multiple languages.”

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EXPLAINED: What you need to know about locksmiths in Spain

If you get locked out, have a break-in or need to change or fix the door lock at your home in Spain, here are the rates and advice you need before calling a Spanish locksmith (cerrajero).

EXPLAINED: What you need to know about locksmiths in Spain

Like anywhere, locksmiths are generally expensive and the price can vary greatly depending on the service you need and where you are.

It also depends on when you need them, as it’ll cost much more to call them out on a Saturday night than a Monday morning, for example.

Nor would it cost the same to open your front door as it would a reinforced security door.

But locksmiths don’t just make copies of keys and bail you out when you’re stuck outside your flat.

They also offer a whole host of different services including, but not limited to, opening safes, creating master keys, installing security doors, anti-drill doors, cutting specialist locks that reject copied keys, and even unlocking the boot of your car.

How much does a locksmith cost in Spain?

Given all these variables, the price can range massively.

According to Cronoshare, the average price for a nationwide call out in Spain can start from €80 anywhere up to €400.

On average, for a basic service, you can expect to pay anywhere between €40-€70 an hour for the labour, with the price of changing or installing a basic lock anywhere between €80-€200. 

For basic door openings, it depends on the situation you find yourself in: for doors locked with a key, which is a more complex task, prices average around €200, and for doors that are jammed or slammed shut, slightly cheaper in the €80-€100 range.

For an armoured or security door, prices can start at around €300.

In short, a general rule is that the more complex the task is, the higher the prices.

And as always, prices can vary depending on where you are in Spain, the quality of the locksmith, the time of the day and week you need his or her services, and if its a public holiday or not. 

So, as always, compare prices to try and find the most economical solution without skimping on quality.

As such, the following rates are estimations taken from average prices from locksmith.

Weekend/holiday rates

Where prices can really start to add up, however, is when you have an emergency situation requiring a locksmith’s assistance at the weekend, on a public holiday, or outside of normal working hours.

And if you live in Spain, you probably know there’s quite a few of those days throughout the year.

If you really need a cerrajero on a public holiday or during non-working hours (usually defined as anything between 8pm-8am) prices can reach €300 or €500 due to the fact you’ll have to cover the cost of travel, which starts from around €40 plus the increased rate.

Then you must also include the price of labour to the flat rate, which is usually somewhere between €40 and €70 an hour regardless of when you call them out.

Key vocabulary 

We’ve put together some of the basic vocabulary you might need if you find yourself needing a locksmith while in Spain.

el cerrajero – locksmith

la llave – the key

la llave de repuesto – the spare key

la puerta – the door

la cerradura – the lock

la bisagra – the hinge

día festivo – public holiday

cambio de bombín – change of cylinder lock

puerta blindada – armoured door

coste de mano de obra – labour costs

quedarse afuera – get locked out 

puerta cerrada de un portazo – door slammed shut

puerta cerrada con llave – locked door

Tips relating to choosing a good locksmith in Spain 

If you’ve just started renting a new place or have bought a property, it’s advisable to change the lock as you don’t know who has keys to your front door. If you’re a tenant, try to negotiate this with your landlord as it’s in both of your interests that only you two have keys to the property.

If there has been a burglary in your property while you’re living in it and there’s no sign of forced entry, then there’s a very big chance that the burglars had a copy of your keys, and you should definitely change the locks. 

If you’ve lost your keys and you think it happened close to your home, again it’s advisable for you to change the locks.

One of the best ways to avoid being locked out and having to cough up a hefty sum is to give a spare set to someone that you trust that lives in your town or city in Spain. 

When it comes to choosing a locksmith in Spain, you should make sure he or she is a reputable one. Asking friends and family first can be your first port of call.

If not, make sure you read reviews online if available to get any insight beforehand.

In order to avoid any nasty surprises, ask them on the phone for a budget (presupuesto) for all the costs attached to their services before accepting.

Be wary of cerrajeros that automatically want to change the whole lock when a simpler and less costly option is possible. 

Usually they should offer you a contract for you to read carefully before signing. It should include a three-month guarantee for the potential new lock or at least a breakdown of the costs.

Make sure that they are not charging you an excessively high price if it’s an emergency, as this is not actually legal.

There’s also asking them to prove their accreditation with the Unión Cerrajeros de Seguridad (UCES).

Weekend and holiday rates can be higher nonetheless, so consider your options and if it’s worth staying with a friend or family member for a night to save some money. A trustworthy and honest cerrajero will let you know about the money you could save if you choose to wait as well.

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