Property in Spain: Has the pandemic changed what foreign buyers look for?

New data by Spain’s leading property website reveals that rather than change property preferences among budding foreign homeowners, coronavirus lockdowns and travel bans have further cemented what extranjeros (foreigners) look for in a Spanish home.

Property in Spain: Has the pandemic changed what foreign buyers look for?
Americans are more interested than ever in buying a property in Spain's interior, such as the medieval city of Toledo. Photo: Greta Schölderle Møller/Unsplash

All that time spent locked up at home during 2020 led to a lot of soul searching among foreigners with an eye on Spain, and for many it instigated a desire to act soon on their dreams of owning a Spanish home.

According to Google Trends, the search “buy flat in Spain” was already huge in 2019, but interest didn’t fade out as a result of the financial and personal insecurity brought on by the pandemic – at some points demand grew.

Spain’s leading property search engine has now compiled and analysed data from the whole of 2020, shedding some light on what foreign buyers – who made up 9.5 percent of searches on Idealista – are looking for in their dream Spanish property in Covid times.

The usual suspects

British, German and French property hunters continued to top the podium in terms of property searches by foreign nationals on Idealista in 2020.

These three nationalities were the ones to buy the most homes in Spain in 2019, followed by Swedish, Italian and Dutch buyers.

Idealista’s data did reveal that from June to September of last year the highest foreign demand for Spanish properties on the coast came from the United States, but not throughout the year.

The same hotspots

In 2020, the provinces which foreign buyers were most interested in buying a property in Spain were Alicante (28.4 percent), Santa Cruz de Tenerife (26.2 percent), the Balearic Islands (25.6 percent), Malaga (22.2 percent) and Las Palmas (19.8 percent).

On the flipside, there was little demand from abroad for properties in Álava in the Basque Country (2.2 percent), Zaragoza in Aragón (2.6 percent), Valladolid in Castilla y León (2.6 percent) and Guadalajara in Castilla y La Mancha (2.9 percent).

So foreigners continue to prefer coastal holiday homes far more than those in Spain’s interior.

Mainly houses outside big cities, but not always

In the majority of cases, foreign property hunters searched for properties outside the big cities and urban areas, preferring a more rural setting but with good transport links and services.

There were nine provinces where budding buyers from abroad were looking for properties in the provincial capitals rather than in quieter towns and villages in the countryside.

These were Cádiz, Valencia, Barcelona, San Sebastian and Bilbao – all cities on the coast – as well the provincial capitals in the interior of Segovia, Madrid, Seville and Toledo.

The southern Spanish city Cádiz is very popular with British property hunters. Photo: Vidar Nordli-Mathisen/Unsplash


Americans are more interested in Spain’s interior

US nationals topped property searches in Madrid, Salamanca, Ávila, Cuenca and Segovia, and came in second in others such as Guadalajara and Seville.

This bucks the trend of what most foreigners look for in a property in Spain – for it to be close to the coast – as all these provinces are situated in Spain’s interior, where summers can be sizzling hot and winters can be bitter cold.

Not all British, French and German buyers want to live on the costas

Although German buyers did top property searches in Spain’s two archipelagos – the Canaries and the Balearics – they also were the foreign property hunters with most interest in interior provinces such as Toledo and Teruel.

British buyers in most cases continue to favour their favourite coastal spots of Alicante, Malaga and Murcia, but there are some exceptions.

They topped searches for Andalusian provinces in the interior such as Jaén and Córdoba, as well as for most provinces in the windswept and rainy (but very green and beautiful) Galicia in Spain’s northwest.

French property searches in Spain for 2020 also produced some interesting results – they searched the most for properties in Barcelona, Valencia, Seville and Castellón provinces, some of Spain’s most popular tourist spots.

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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.