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PROPERTY

The Spanish properties ‘nobody’ wants to buy in 2021

The lockdown and travel restrictions caused by the pandemic are changing what potential buyers are looking for in their future homes in Spain, as well as what they’re trying to avoid in a property.

The Spanish properties 'nobody' wants to buy in 2021
Photos: PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU/LUIS GENÉ/AFP

Although it’s a generalisation, it’s fair to say that before the pandemic many Spaniards didn’t give too much importance to where they put their head down to sleep at night.

Spain has historically been a nation of flat-dwellers (two-thirds of the population live in apartments), preferring to spend most of their time outdoors and meeting friends and family in cafés and bars rather than at home. 

This doesn’t mean they neglect the cleanliness or state of their homes, they have simply been able to overlook certain comforts that often aren’t available with tightly-spaced city living. 

The pandemic however seems to be changing a trend that’s been around since the apartment boom of the 60s and 70s, when Spaniards left the countryside en masse to find work in the cities.

After months cooped up in small apartments with no outdoor space, preferences are changing and that’s being reflected in the property market. 

We’re not predicting that Spaniards are all going to live a suburban life now that remote working is more widely accepted, but there are certain common aspects of Spanish households that are more unpopular than ever now. 

The following are all factors to bear in mind if you’re either thinking of selling or buying a property in Spain in 2021.

Too small

Space was one of the things Spaniards under house lockdown yearned for most in 2020, and this is reflecting in current market trends.

Forty-eight percent of properties in Spain are 60 to 90 sqm in size, in Barcelona and Madrid they’re even smaller on average – 60 to 75 sqm. 

There has been an exodus out of Spain’s two biggest cities as a result of that lasting feeling of being caged in which home dwellers now want to avoid, and that’s been reflected in property price drops of more than 10 percent in central parts of big cities such as Madrid or Barcelona.

According to a study by real estate company Servihabitat, flats that are 90 sqm or larger made up 49 percent of completed sales in 2020 whereas those of under 60 sqm represented only 16 percent. 

No outdoor space

Spaniards will continue living in blocks of flats once the pandemic is behind us, but having some form of outdoor space such as a balcony, a terrace or a garden seems more important than ever now. 

According to Ferran Font, head of property search engine Pisos.com, the filter for balcony or terrace is being used more than ever. The company also carried out a survey in which it asked respondents what they wished their home had – 30 percent of them said they wanted more outdoor space. 

In Fotocasa’s case, demand for properties with a big balcony or terrace has shot up by 40 percent on their website.

Another study carried out by Idealista a few years ago found that having a terrace can drive up the price of a property in Spain by up to 36 percent compared to one without. 

READ ALSO 

Overpriced and old

“Expensive properties are currently harder to sell,” Gonzalo Bernardos, economics professor at Barcelona University (UB) and real estate analyst, told Idealista. 

“The foreign buyer has disappeared (a very important factor in large cities) and almost no investor is acquiring properties”.

That’s not to say that expensive properties are not worth their value but most prospective buyers will be expecting to get a better deal in line with the expected drop in prices in 2021, although this is yet to materialise on a grand scale. 

Experts do forecast however that second-hand properties will be the ones with the largest price reductions – 5 to 10 percent – higher still in tourism hotspots that have felt the pandemic’s pinch. 

According to Mikel Echavarren, CEO of Colliers consultancy firm, “the impact on prices will focus more on the used homes of families that are forced to sell part of their assets due to adverse circumstances in their economy”.

80 percent of Spanish homes were built before the 1990s, Spanish locksmith specialists UCES have reported.

So old properties on the market that haven’t reduced prices despite having some of the unpopular traits mentioned on this list, are likely to remain unsold. 

Dark and outdated

Traditional Spanish houses and flats can be pretty dark. 

Whether it’s due to a lack of windows, an abundance of corridors and walls that block out light or because it’s a ground floor flat, it’s extremely common to have lights on during the day even though the sun is blazing outside. 

This outdated layout and lack of natural light and functionality are big no-nos nowadays in Spain thanks to the pandemic, as well as being key factors in why new, more practical builds are likely to see smaller price drops. Properties without a lift in the building or without parking space are also less in demand. 

A panoramic view of Benidorm taken from the outskirts of the city. Photo: Jose Jordán/AFP

Location, location, location?

Properties in key city centres will continue to be sought after, even though their considerable price drop in 2020 would suggest otherwise. 

However, the price of villas on the outskirts of cities has increased more than that for flats since the pandemic began, with money website helpmycash.com stating “if it has good public transport connections or is in an attractive neighbourhood, it will be more expensive”.

Spanish cities are experiencing this trend where they’re losing population as people move to the provincial outskirts of the big urban areas in search of space, greenery and more freedom. 

If a property offers neither the good transport connections of being in the city, or the nature and peacefulness of the countryside, it’s unlikely to be bought up with the current circumstances.

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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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