A new study published by APATUR (the Association for Tourism Rental Apartments in Barcelona) found that a whopping 62 percent of the city’s short-term tourist rentals – over 5,900 apartments – have been converted to residential apartments since May.
Tourist rentals have long been a controversial topic in Barcelona, where rents have soared well above the Spanish average in recent years, and short-term rental platforms like AirBnB are blamed for driving up prices and angering locals.
A protest in Barcelona demanding a stop to mass tourism before coronavirus hit. Photo: AFP
But COVID-19 fears and travel restrictions have, for the first time in a decade, slowed the flow of tourists into the city: in August the popular tourist routes like Las Ramblas were all but empty, and international tourism basically disappeared.
A woman walks her dog through an otherwise empty Ramblas during lockdown. Photo: AFP
To top it off, at the end of August, the city government (ayuntamiento) introduced a 1-year ban on renting out individual rooms to tourists, going against the regional government’s (Generalitat) decree in August allowing private apartments to rent out rooms to up to four people for a maximum of 31 days, provided the owner was also living in and sharing the flat.
The city government said the law was “dictated by AirBnb” and demanded more restrictions and oversight of tourism rentals.
Are real estate prices coming down?
According to the real estate platform Idealista, the average price of rental apartments listed on their website has plummeted 9 percent since May (-3.9 percent when compared to prices in August 2019), and the average sales price has dropped 4 percent.
Evolution of rental prices in Barcelona over the last five years. Source: Idealista
Part of this could be due to the influx of short term rentals that have become residential apartments. As the pandemic prompts more people to telework, there’s also increased speculation that populations will shift away from cities.
Colliers International Spain said that second-hand home prices in popular Spanish tourist destinations–including Barcelona– could drop by as much as 10 percent by the end of the year, with prices in Barcelona falling even in central neighborhoods.
If you are looking to purchase property in Barcelona (or move to a different flat), now could well be a good time to start your search.
By Sam Harrison in Barcelona