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PROPERTY

Q&A: How is Brexit affecting people wanting to buy property in Spain?

While the pandemic has been the main hurdle for those hoping to move to Spain, Spanish property expert and author Sean Woolley says it's time to look at the impact of Brexit with the end of the transition period drawing near. Here he answers some key questions.

Q&A: How is Brexit affecting people wanting to buy property in Spain?
Photo: AFP

The COVID-19 pandemic has been all that we have been thinking about since March, but as we enter the final quarter of 2020, the end of the transition period for the UK to leave Europe is fast approaching and things are going to change. To support UK buyers planning to buy property in Spain who are concerned how the withdrawal will affect them, Sean has compiled and answered buyers’ questions about Brexit and buying property in Spain. 

What are the implications for those wanting to invest in Spanish property as the transition period deadline of December 31st draws closer? 

As we know, the transition period ends on December 31st 2020. Until then, British citizens have the same rights in the EU as previously. Nothing changes until January 1st 2021. The withdrawal agreement allows British citizens to continue to live, work or study in Spain with the same rights as an EU citizen, but only if they register as resident in Spain before December 31st. 

Does Brexit mean that the British can’t buy property in Spain? 

No, not at all. All foreigners are allowed to buy property in Spain regardless of their nationality. It doesn’t matter whether your home country is inside or outside of the EU.

READ MORE: How long will British second-home owners in Spain be able to stay after Brexit?

 

Photo by Elisabeth Agustín on Unsplash

Has Brexit impacted the Spanish property market?

Since the UK announced its decision to leave the EU, there has been a slight drop in the number of British buyers (especially due to sterling’s weakness against the euro since the Brexit referendum result), but purchases from other countries have remained steady, thereby balancing out the impact.

Has Brexit affected property prices in Spain? 

According to the Association of Property Registrars, Spanish property prices went up by 4 percent in Q1 2020 compared to Q4 2019, and by 6.96 percent year on year. Since prices bottomed out in Q4 2014 (prior to Brexit), they have gone up by 40.85 percent, suggesting that Brexit has had no effect on prices at all.

Of course, we are currently faced with another crisis with the COVID-19 pandemic, but this has predominantly caused a series of welcome pricing corrections rather than a full-scale collapse of the market. Buyer interest remains strong, new vendor instructions are not flooding the market, and mortgage funding is readily available.

Has Brexit made it more expensive to buy property in Spain? 

Sterling has been weaker since the Brexit referendum result, thereby making it more expensive for Brits to purchase in Spain. However, by using a currency company you can minimise the costs of transferring money and take advantage of the best rate possible for your purchase. 

OPINION:Travelling to Spain after Brexit will be more complicated and costly

AFP

Will I be able to get a mortgage in Spain after Brexit?

As a non-resident and provided you can provide proof of income and a sound credit record, you can take out a mortgage in Spain, usually up to a maximum of 70 percent loan to value or purchase price, whichever is lower. There is a possibility that from 2021, British buyers may only be eligible for a lower LTV of perhaps 60 percent-65 percent – on a par with other non-EU applicants, however Spanish banks regularly approve 70 percent LTV for Swiss (non-EU) nationals, and considering that British buyers continue to account for a large proportion of transactions, a tightening of lending seems unlikely.

What about property purchase taxes?

Everyone who buys a property in Spain is liable for the same purchase costs and taxes, and there are no plans to change it.

Will I be able to let my Spanish property after December 31st?

Foreigners are freely permitted to let their properties in Spain for holidays and longer-term rentals. This is not set to change.

What about rental income tax? 

Once the transition period ends on 31st December, British owners in Spain will probably be liable for a slightly higher tax on rental income. At the moment, EU citizens pay 19 percent while non-EU citizens pay 24 percent. Brit owners may therefore fall into the higher bracket by default at the end of the year. However, this law is currently being challenged in the European courts as unfair discrimination, so could well be overturned.

For how long will I be able to stay and live in Spain? 

Now we’re getting to the crux of the matter. No firm decision has been made by the UK and Spanish governments regarding visas for British nationals travelling to Spain. Bearing in mind that the Spanish government are especially eager to attract foreign tourism and investment, it is widely expected that tourism visas will not be required for British nationals entering Spain. Currently the rules are that non-EU visitors to Spain may stay for up to 90 days within a 6-month period without needing a visa and this seems likely to apply to British visitors as well.

The cloudy issue surrounds those who wish to stay for longer than 90 days at a time. This needs to be decided, and there is a possibility that a residence visa of some sort will need to be applied for.

So, how could I obtain a residence visa after December 31st? 

At the moment, non-EU buyers have the chance to apply for a Golden Visa which includes resident permits for the buyer and their dependents in exchange for making an investment of at least €500,000 in property. One of the advantages of this scheme is that you do not actually have to live in Spain or pay taxes here, although you will need to visit once a year if you want to renew it. 

It therefore seems that the only sure route to residency for British buyers post Brexit will be to apply for a Golden Visa, but with the current rules, this would restrict the visas to those spending €500k+ on property. Perhaps this figure will be lowered to accommodate more buyers and investment?

Can I obtain residency if I buy a property before 31st December 2020? 

Under the withdrawal agreement, all British citizens who register as resident in Spain before 31st December have the right to live in the country with the same rights as EU citizens. You will need to have either the title deeds to a property here OR a long-term rental contract in place to provide evidence that you were here before the deadline and are planning to be here long-term. The process is straightforward but it needs to be done before 31st December. That’s just over 3 months away!

These questions have been submitted by Cloud Nine Spain followers on Facebook and you can see Sean answering them on YouTube

Sean Woolley is the Founder and Director of leading real estate agency Cloud Nine Spain. During lockdown he wrote the book From the Ground Up – The Insider’s Guide to Buying Spanish Property, sharing his years of experience, real life stories, tips and tricks with buyers interested in investing in Spanish Real Estate, which is now available on Amazon. 

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PROPERTY

Why are Spanish homes so dark?

Despite being known for its year-long sunny weather, Spain is the EU country with the fewest homes with natural light, often intentionally. Why is it that when it comes to spending time at home, Spaniards seem to love being in the dark?

Why are Spanish homes so dark?

Spain – the land of sunshine. The country gets between 2,500 and 3,000 hours of sun per year on average, almost double the 1,600 hours the UK gets, for example.

You’d probably assume that finding a bright apartment in such a sunny country would be a piece of cake, but unless you’re renting or buying a modern home, it might be trickier than you realise.

More than one in ten Spaniards live in dwellings they feel are “too dark” – the highest percentage among all EU countries, according to figures from Eurostat.

As far as dark homes go, Spain is head and shoulders above the EU average of 5.9 percent, and higher than other nations with a high rate of gloomy homes such as France (9.5 percent), Malta (9.4 percent) and Hungary (7.7 percent).

At the other end of the brightly lit spectrum, it’s no surprise to see that countries with cloudier skies and darker winters such as Norway, Slovakia, Estonia, Czechia and the Netherlands have homes that let in plenty of natural light, and yet Spain’s sun-kissed Mediterranean neighbours Italy and Cyprus do make the most of the readily available light.

Dark homes are almost twice as common in Spain as the EU average. Graph: Eurostat.

So why are Spanish homes so dark?

Is it a case of hiding away from the sun, and keeping cool during the summer months? Or is it something else? 

Apartment blocks

The vast majority of Spaniards live in apartments as opposed to houses, often in tightly-packed cities with narrow streets.

In fact, in Spain 64.6 percent of the population lives in flats or apartments, second in the EU after Latvia (65.9 percent.)

By contrast the EU wide average is 46.1 percent.

By nature of apartment living, Spanish homes tend to get less sunlight.

Depending on whether they have an exterior or interior flat, they might not actually have a single window in the flat that faces the street.

If the apartment is on a lower floor, the chances of it receiving natural light are even lower. Internal patios can help to solve this to some extent, but only during the mid day and early afternoon hours. 

why are spanish homes so dark

A dark, narrow street in the centre of Palma de Mallorca. Photo: seth0s/Pixabay

Hot summers

During Spain’s scorching summer months, there’s no greater relief than stepping into a darkened apartment building lobby and feeling the temperature drop. 

In southern Spain, and in coastal regions, Spanish buildings were traditionally built to protect against the heat and hide away from the long sunny hours. White walled exteriors and dark interiors help to keep homes cool.

It’s often the case that bedrooms are put in the darkest, coolest part of the apartment, sometimes with just a box-window to allow for a breeze but no sunlight.

Spaniards’ obsession with blinds and shutters

Spain is pretty much the only country in Europe whose inhabitants still use blinds (persianas), even during the colder winter months.

In this case, rather than it just being down to keeping homes cool during the sweltering summer months, their usage is intrinsic to Spain’s Moorish past and the fact that they provide a degree of privacy from nosy neighbours. By contrast, northern Europeans with Calvinist roots such as the Dutch keep the curtains open to let in natural light and because historically speaking, keeping the inside of homes visible from the street represents not having anything to hide. But in Spain, the intimacy of one’s home is sacrosanct, especially when the neighbour in the apartment building opposite is less then ten metres away.

Keeping the blinds or shutters down also has the advantage of making it easier to have an afternoon nap (the siesta, of course) or to sleep in late after a long night out on the town. 

In any case, it seems hard to believe for some foreigners that many Spaniards are happy to live in the dark whilst spending time at home, regardless of whether they’re sleeping or not. 

A byproduct of this? Dark, gloomy homes.

why are spanish homes so dark

Spaniards aren’t fans of airing their dirty laundry, at least metaphorically speaking. Blinds have historically provided the privacy they’ve wanted from their homes. Photo: Quino Al/Unsplash

The long, dark corridors

Spanish apartments have plenty of quirks that seem odd to outsiders, from the light switches being outside of the room, the aforementioned shutters, the bottles of butane and last but not least, the never-ending corridors. 

Most Spanish homes built in the 19th and 20th century include these long pasillos running from the entrance to the end of the flat. They were meant to provide a separation between the main living spaces and the service rooms (kitchen, bathroom etc), easy access to all and better airing and light capabilities. But when the doors to the rooms are closed as often happens, these corridors become the opposite of what was intended: dark and airless.

Navigating these windowless corridors at night is akin to waking around blindfolded.

dark corridor spain

Light at the end of the tunnel? Dark corridors are a common feature of Spanish homes. (Photo by Josep LAGO / AFP)

Are Spaniards rethinking their dark homes?

Times are changing, and modern designs are experimenting with more spacious, light-filled, open-plan apartments, especially as the Covid-19 lockdown forced many Spaniards to reconsider their abodes. 

It’s also increasingly common to see property ads stressing that the property is diáfano, which means that natural light enters the home from all sides.

However, the vast majority of Spanish homes are still gloomy for the most part, often intentionally.

A combination of traditional building styles, the crowded nature of apartment block living, the use of shutters, the desire to keep homes private, and the long windowless corridors mean Spanish flats can seem dark if you’re new to the country, and with good reason.

Ultimately, it is worth remembering that Spanish society is one that largely lives its life outdoors. Living in smaller apartments, Spaniards generally spend less time at home and more time out and about in the street.

Native to a hot and sunny country as they are, Spaniards’ homes are a place of rest, relaxation and, crucially, sleep.

Spanish people have enough sunlight and heat in their lives; they like to live, therefore, in homes designed to keep cool and dark.

READ ALSO: Why are Spanish homes so cold?

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