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FEATURE

The hidden costs of moving to Spain

The cost of setting up a new life in Spain does not just add up to your new home and the ferry or flight tickets. There are many hidden expenses involved in the move to Spain that are worth factoring into your budget.

The hidden costs of moving to Spain
A beautiful square in Seville, southern Spain. Photo: Johan Mouchet/Unsplash

Moving is considered to be among the most stressful things you can do in life and unsurprisingly that stress can multiply when you’re moving to a foreign country. 

Most who make the dream move to Spain don’t have much money to spare and have to stick to a tight budget.

But many are surprised by all the hidden costs that add up. Moving to Spain costs a lot more than the property you buy and the ferry and flight tickets.

Here’s a look at some of the extra costs you need to think about when you’re at the planning stage, thanks to those who have made the move.

The issues listed below are general and may not take into account the latest complications and costs caused by the Covid-19 pandemic or ongoing negotiations between Spain and the UK post-Brexit, for example. 

How

Getting your possessions from one country to another is certainly one of the more substantial costs you’ll face when moving to Spain whether you’re coming from the UK, the US or somewhere else. 

But it can be hard to get an idea of what you should be paying if you’ve never done it before and costs can vary dramatically depending on how much you’re looking to bring with you, how big those items are and exactly how long the journey is. 

So, when you think about your move you’ll need to factor in the size of the move, with the trip costing more depending on the weight and volume of what you are taking with you.

Then there’s distance, route and transportation method.

Website reallymoving – a UK price comparison site which offers international moving services – estimates a cost of €4,400 to €6,000 to move the entire contents of a three-bedroom house from Birmingham to Alicante in Spain by road, taking 3 to 5 days. 

If instead you’re only moving a few pieces of furniture, clothes and personal items from a smaller one-bedroom apartment – and moving between the same two cities -the estimate is €1,900 to €2,600. 

Meanwhile, if you’re moving from the US it’s a lot trickier to work out an average of what with the distances potentially being covered varying so greatly. However, several companies including MoveHub will provide you with several quotes from major international shipping companies. 

Exchange rate

This has proven to be a huge cost factor, especially in recent years.

People who plan and budget for a move often do so with the current euro exchange rate in mind. However, by the time it comes to the actual move the value of the euro against the pound or the US, Canadian, Australian dollar may have dipped meaning everything you had budgeted for is suddenly more expensive.

It could go the other way of course and become cheaper. But in recent years the falling value of the pound against the euro has scuppered many peoples’ dreams of moving to Spain.

Before the 2016 Brexit referendum the value of the pound to the euro was around €1.35. In March 2021, one pound was worth €1.17.

So for those who have moved from the UK since then, the costs have obviously gone up but there are market fluctuations that could change this.

When

This is something you might not give a lot of consideration to when planning your move but it can have a big impact on the amount your move costs. 

The cost of transport, including trains and ferries, can go up dramatically at certain times of the year. With current coronavirus restrictions, there are even greater limitations on the movement of people and goods.

So, if you have a say over when you move then doing so outside of popular holiday times (or when the pandemic is over) could save you some money especially if you’re moving to places people typically visit in spring and summer, such as the Costa Blanca in the east or the Costa del Sol in the south of Spain. 

And remember that if you’re planning to drive to your new home, you’ll potentially face the cost of road tolls which can affect the price of your journey.

According to the Michelin guide website, covering the 1,708 km that separate London from Madrid will have an estimated cost of €266.35 (toll €115 + fuel € 137 + vignette €12), keeping in mind that bigger and heavier vehicles will result in higher prices.

Without any stops it’s a 17-hour journey, so you might want to opt for the more expensive but faster toll roads or factor in a night at a hotel half way through the route in France.  

Assets and taxes

You may think it is none of the Spanish taxman’s business what assets you hold abroad, but if you have money in a foreign bank account, private pensions, property, shares or any other assets back home that are over €50,000 in value you have to declare it to Spanish tax authorities.

It applies equally to Spanish citizens and foreigners legally resident in Spain and is for information purposes only. In other words you won’t be expected to pay tax on assets held abroad but can be fined if you don’t declare it.

But it’s also worth noting that tax residents in Spain will be taxed on their worldwide income from employment, pension schemes, renting out a property etc

There are also taxes such as inheritance tax to keep in mind, which are generally higher in Spain than in other countries and also vary greatly between regions, and the wealth tax (impuesto sobre el patrimonio) for those lucky enough to have considerable assets (upwards of €700,000). 

Whatever your situation it’s worth talking to an English-speaking financial adviser before making the move to Spain to get the full picture.

READ MORE:

Visas and residency

If you’re someone who needs a visa to live in Spain, then don’t forget to factor this into your budget. 

For US citizens, the application fee for a long-term visa fee of $190. For other non-EU nationalities it’s usually $67 (€57).

British citizens now also have to get a visa to gain residency in Spain or stay for long periods, as well as show sufficient financial income.

READ MORE:

During the planning stage, it’s worth looking at which documents you’ll need and working out how much it will cost you to get hold of them so there are no (or at least fewer) surprises down the road. 

And bear in mind that you may need to go to Madrid or the Spanish consulate in your country if any issue arises with your application that has to be handled in person, which could add extra travel costs unless you’re in the Spanish capital.  

Regarding residency in Spain, if you don’t have work, you will have to show proof of sufficient financial resources to take care of yourself and your family members, a sum which is considerably higher for non-EU nationals. 

Although not technically a cost, it does involve having to have a considerable amount of money saved up, although Spanish foreign office staff will assess each case individually.

READ MORE:

Health insurance

You will also have to take out a private health policy before you arrive in Spain, unless you have access to Spain’s public healthcare through social security contributions.

The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) gives citizens and residents of other EU countries access to emergency treatment in Spain but after three months they will have to register as residents and have some form of medical cover in Spain, whether public or private. 

Private policies have to be just as comprehensive as what is offered by Spain’s public healthcare system, which can increase the price a lot for older people and those with pre-existing conditions.  

READ ALSO: 

Photo: AFP

Bank accounts 

In 2019 we asked our readers to tell us which bank accounts they thought were the best for foreigners in Spain and what new arrivals should watch out for when opening an account. 

Most respondents stressed that hidden costs are rife in the Spanish banking system and recommended that future account holders go through their contracts with a fine-tooth comb before signing on the dotted line.

IN DETAIL:

Property

Yes, it’s true that you can pick up an entire abandoned village in northern Spain or a Valencia property for less than the price of a two-bedroom flat in London.

But even without undertaking major renovation work, you must bear in mind that the sale price of a house obviously isn’t the total cost of buying a home.

And if you’re a foreigner buying property here you may be understandably wary of hidden costs and charges cropping up, from taxes to agency commissions to legal fees.

READ MORE:

Photo: Walkerssk/Pixabay

There are also plenty of factors and extra costs to keep in mind if you’re going to rent in Spain (from agents fees to several months of deposit or bank guarantees). 

Spain still remains a cheaper country than most of its close European neighbours when it comes to renting, but maybe not as much as you may have thought.

Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, rents in Spain had shot up by 50 percent in six years, especially in locations which are popular with foreign residents such as Mallorca, Barcelona, Valencia and the Canary Islands. 

The consequences of the coronavirus crisis on Spain’s economy and its short-term rental market have not had a noticeable impact yet on the country’s rental market.

In August 2020 the average rental price per square metre stood at €11.40/sqm.

READ MORE:

Pets

There are many of you who will be including your canine and feline companions in your move to Spain. 

And while you might not be able to bear the thought of leaving them behind, there are potentially some considerable costs that go hand in hand with bringing a pet with you.

There are too many factors to consider – from the size of your pet to where you’re travelling from – to be able to offer an accurate cost estimate for every case scenario. 

But you have to factor in the price a pet passport, microchipping, vaccinations, a pet-friendly transporter and flight or other transport costs (which can vary greatly) as well potential health certificates depending on where you’re moving from. 

If you’re traveling from the US or Canada for example, you will need a USDA (or CFIA) accredited veterinarian to complete the bilingual Annex II for Spain for endorsement. 

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MOVING TO SPAIN

How to find temporary accommodation in Spain when you first arrive

One of the most common questions people moving to Spain ask is where they can rent temporary accommodation while looking for somewhere more permanent. This can be particularly tricky, but we've found some of the best places to look.

How to find temporary accommodation in Spain when you first arrive

So you’ve sorted out your visas, you’ve done all your packing and have either sold or moved out of your home, but when you arrive in Spain you’re not exactly sure where you’re going to stay.  

Of course, it’s not the best idea to sign a contract ahead of time for a more permanent place before you’ve actually seen it in person. Photos don’t always accurately represent what the house or apartment looks like in reality and you won’t really be able to get a feel for the neighbourhood without being there. 

On top of this, rental scams are rife in some places in Spain, particularly in the bigger more popular cities like Barcelona. Often people will place an ad (which usually looks too good to be true) and get you to wire over a deposit to secure it in advance, but here’s the catch – the place doesn’t usually exist.

This is why it’s important to never hand over money to secure a place to live in Spain before you’ve actually seen it in person and you can get the keys as soon as you sign the contract.

But, finding a place to live in a new country can be difficult and it can take time, so while you look for somewhere, you’re going to need temporary accommodation for a couple of months. This can be tricky too because often temporary accommodation is geared towards tourists and you’ll be paying tourist prices too.

While Idealista and Fotocasa are two of the most popular sites to look for accommodation in Spain, when you only want somewhere for a couple of months, there’s no point looking there, as most places will have yearly contracts.

Keep in mind with short-term rentals for a couple of months, you’re going to be paying higher than the average monthly rent, however, for this, the apartments are usually fully furnished, including kitchen utensils, wi-fi already connected and offer you the flexibility of shorter contracts.

Short-term rental agencies

Specialised short-term rental agencies are the best way to go, which will allow you to sign contacts for less than the typical one year. These types of agencies are usually found in Spain’s big cities that are popular with foreigners, such as Madrid and Barcelona.

Trying searching in Spanish too by typing alquiler de temporada or alquiler temporal plus the name of the city or town you’re looking in. This way you may be able to find places that offer better value. 

Barcelona

In Barcelona, check out aTemporal an agency that started up precisely to fix the problem of trying to find accommodation in-between tourist accommodation and long-term rentals. They rent out apartments for anywhere from 32 days to 11 months.

ShBarcelona is another agency that specialises in these types of rentals and have properties all over the city.

READ ALSO – Moving to Barcelona: A guide to the best neighbourhoods to live in

Madrid

In Madrid, try DFLAT, which was created by two professionals from the Instituto de Empresa University after discovering the difficulties professionals and foreigners found when looking for an apartment in Madrid. Sh also has a good branch in Madrid.  

Valencia

In Valencia, Dasha Living Space has both short and long-term fully furnished flats available and  Valenvi Flats also offers rentals for between three and six months.

READ ALSO – Moving to Valencia: A guide to the best neighbourhoods to live in

Airbnb

While the nightly rate of Airbnb apartments is typically too expensive to rent for a couple of months, you may be able to find some deals. Often when you input dates for a month into Airbnb, you’ll find that several places have a monthly discount offered. Also, some owners will do a deal for a couple of months. If it’s winter for example and they know they’re not going to get many tourists anyway, they may be willing to negotiate.

Vrbo

Like Airbnb, the properties on Vrbo are rented out directly by the owners. While the site is also mainly focused on tourists, some owners may negotiate outside of the tourist season.

Housesitting

If you’re willing to try something a little bit different, then housesitting could be the way to go. This is where you live in somebody’s house for free, in exchange for looking after their pets and their property.

Often people only need someone for a few days, but sometimes you’ll see house sits available for a month or longer. This is perhaps a better option for those who are flexible on where they might want to live and are trying out a few different places. It’s also better for those wanting to live in smaller towns or villages rather than the bigger cities, as there are fewer postings for these popular locations. Trusted Housesitters and Mind My House are good options. 

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