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How the right orientation of your Spanish home can save you hundreds on energy bills

House hunters in Spain factor in everything from location to the state of the build and even the neighbours. But the orientation of the property is often overlooked by prospective tenants and buyers, even though it's a crucial factor to the value and cost of a home.

orientation of property
Image: Free-Photos/Pixabay

Why is the orientation of your home important and how can it save you money?

Unlike many things, the orientation of your home is something that you can’t change, so it’s important to make sure you think about this when looking at properties.

The direction it faces will affect the number of hours of light your home receives during the day, whether your house will get direct sunlight or not, and the time the light enters your home and wakes you up in the morning.

Most importantly, it will affect the temperature inside your home during different seasons of the year. This factor can greatly influence energy consumption, whether your house is too cold in winter because it’s not getting any sun and you often need to put the heating on, or whether it’s too hot in summer because it’s getting too much sun and you often need to put the air-conditioning on.

Whichever way your home is facing, it will have both advantages and disadvantages. We take a look at some of these below:

South-facing properties

South-facing properties are ideal for colder climates like northern Spain, including Catalonia in the northeast. 

South-facing houses are loved by many because of the large amount of natural light they receive throughout the year.

One of the main advantages of south-facing homes is that they are lit naturally, so you don’t need to spend so much on extra lighting. They also require less heating during the winter, saving you a lot on gas and electricity bills.

If your property has a garden it also means that you can enjoy the garden more in the winter, although you may find it too hot in the summer.

This of course brings us on to the disadvantages of south-facing properties, mainly that they can get too hot in summer, requiring you to spend a lot on air-conditioning. It will also be essential for you to invest in good blinds or windows with solar control to reduce your utility bill in summer. 

If your property gets lots of sun in the winter, it can save you money on heating bills. Image: manbob86 / Pixabay

North-facing properties

Many people may prefer south-facing properties, but in fact, north-facing properties are best for southern Spain, where the heat can be extreme.

North-facing properties receive natural light very early in the morning and in the evening, just before the sun sets during the summer. This means that rooms are kept cool and you may not need to have the air-con on all day.  

However, this means that they receive little light throughout the day, so you will be spending more money on lighting them. They can also be cold houses, especially in winter, so you’ll likely have a large heating bill. However, if you’re on the southern coast, temperatures generally tend to remain mild in winter.  

East-facing homes

East-facing properties are also a favourite among many as they offer natural light from sunrise to noon year-round. The fact that the sun does not shine directly during the hottest hours makes it a good choice for homes in southern or central Spain, where it can get very hot.

The advantages of an East-facing property are that heat builds up in the morning and is released throughout the afternoon, meaning that you won’t have to spend as much on heating during the winter months, at least during the first part of the day. It also helps to keep the house cooler at night in the summer. However, there is little natural light in the afternoons, so you may have to spent more on lighting the home.

West-facing homes

The characteristics of a west-facing home are the opposite of an east-facing home. This means that natural light is enjoyed from noon to sunset. Because the sun hits the house directly during the hottest hours of the day, west-facing homes may be better suited to the north of Spain, where it’s colder.

The main advantages of west-facing properties are that in winter the houses are kept at a comfortable temperature, without requiring a high cost of heating.

If you do get a west-facing property in the south of Spain, you may find that your house gets too hot in the afternoons and that it will stay hot well into the night. This means you may be spending a lot on air-conditioning in the summer, so that you can sleep. It’s best if your kitchens and bathrooms face west and the other rooms are further towards the back of the property.

How much can I really save on energy bills?

This all really depends on how much you put your heating or air-conditioning on, but according to Spanish architect company Arrevol, you could save up to 70 percent by choosing the correct orientation for the area you live in. 

You may find, for example, if you have a south-facing property, you’ll hardly need to heat your home in the winter, if you have enough sunshine hours. And if you have a north-facing property, you may find that it stays cool enough in the summer so that you don’t need air-con either. By not putting your heating or air-con on so much, it could save you hundreds on energy bills per year, and it will be better for the environment too.

Any extra advice?

According to Spanish building sustainability platform Construcción 21, when building or choosing a property we have to also consider the different rooms in the home and their orientation to the sun according to where we live and when we use these rooms.

For example, in a cool climate your home’s layout may look something like this:

An east-facing kitchen to warm up the kitchen in those morning hours.

At noon the sun is located in the south, which means we can orientate our living rooms, dining rooms, study rooms or children’s games rooms (where most of the afternoon is usually spent) to the south.

And finally, the bedrooms should be looking west (when the sun is setting but still letting some rays at the end of the day to enter the room and warm it to sleep).

In a hotter climate, west-facing bedrooms will not be as warm at night.

How do I check the orientation of the property?

This can be very useful if you are considering buying or selling the property.

There’s using a conventional compass, or the compass app that is pre-installed or available to download on most smartphones.

There are also compass tools available on Google Maps .

There’s the option of requesting the orientation from Spain’s Land Registry (catastro) too.

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For members


How to rent a property in Spain without a job contract

When looking to rent in Spain, property owners and estate agents often ask for a 'nómina' and work contract - something that can prove tricky if you're self-employed or not working. Here's how to prove your solvency and secure the rental.

How to rent a property in Spain without a job contract

If you’re looking for a house or apartment to rent in Spain, there can be a multitude of different factors to consider.

The price, the size, the location, the neighbourhood, which floor the flat is, on and whether there’s a lift, whether it’s interior or exterior, how many apartments there are per floor, whether to go private or through an estate agents and, of course, the search itself.

When you’re going on visits, you’ll have to contend not only with owner or agent trying to ‘sell you’ the place, but also explaining the terms and conditions (often referred to as las condiciones or requisitos para entrar).

In Spain, the process can be a little complicated. Often landlords ask for two months deposit upfront, and those that go through an intermediary estate agent tend to ask for two months, plus an extra month (plus VAT, or IVA as it is in Spain) that goes to the agent! It certainly adds up. 

Not only that, but very often in Spain you are expected to prove you will be able to pay your rent every month. And it’s not as simple as you might think. 

Most estate agents or landlords think hat the best way to ascertain this is by you providing proof of an employment contract (contrato laboral) and recent payslips (la nómina) that demonstrate you are paid the same amount every month, and that it’s enough to cover the rent and other expenses.

Here’s where things can start to get tricky for self-employed people (known as autónomos in Spain), who number more than 3 million in Spain.

Regardless of whether your monthly autónomo earnings are high pretty much every month, regardless of how consistent they may be, or even if you have regular clients, the irregular and insecure nature of Spain’s work market have ensured that landlords and realtors take a rigid attitude towards the rules.

This is especially true following the turbulent economic times of recent years as we’ve moved from global pandemic to war in Europe to spiralling inflationary pressures on the global economy.

Landlords want to be sure you can pay the rent. Therefore, they may favour a waiter with a nómina of €1,000 a month over an autónomo who can prove monthly earnings double that for the previous six months. Doesn’t seem fair, right? 

READ MORE: Why you should be raising your rates if you’re self-employed in Spain

Well, that’s often how it can be in Spain. Fortunately, if you find yourself in this situation, there are various ways you can convince potential landlords that you are financially solvent enough to rent their property, with or without a fixed contract

The law

Now, it is not unheard of – in Spain nor anywhere else in the world – for an estate agent or landlord to try and squeeze more money out of you, or to add on some extra charges. In most people’s experience, Spanish estate agents and landlords are no better or worse than anyone else, but it’s worth keeping in mind.

It has been known, however, for some in Spain to try and get an extra month’s deposit by telling potential tenants that they need a nómina by law in order to rent a property in Spain, and that they’re doing you a favour by allowing it.

Simply put, this is not true. According to Spanish law, more specifically, La Ley de Arrendamientos Urbanos (Urban Renting Law), although many landlords require some form of financial insurance, there is absolutely nothing to say a nómina is necessary to rent a property in Spain. A deposit is legally required, but a nómina?

Helpful? Certainly. Legally necessary? Definitely not.

That said, if you explain to the property owner that you’re self-employed, some landlords maybe be willing to make other arrangements to ensure the rent.

Here are some options, and other bits of paperwork that could help:

Aval bancario: Like a bank guarantee, some landlords request tenants without nóminas or work contracts to set up an aval bancario.

You must pay in an agreed amount (often worth the value of two or three months of rent, sometimes more) into a bank account that you’re a customer with.

It’s money that you cannot touch for an agreed period of time and which you pay some interest on, and in the event that you do not pay your rent, the landlord will be able to access said funds.

This is not the cheapest way to rent a property, but it may be one of the more effective ways of convincing a landlord to accept you as a tenant.

If you pay your rent diligently every month and prove that you are reliable, after a year you should speak to your landlord to ask them them to cancel the aval in order to not continue paying interest on it and recover your stored money.

Anuncios de particulares: If you’re using the usual rental search engines like Idealista or Fotocasa, the vast majority of rental adverts are from estate agents (inmobiliarias) who ask for all the proper documentation, including contracts and pay slips, and often the extra month’s rent as a fee.

When you’re making your search, keen an eye out for anuncios particulares , which are private ads direct from landlords.

Sometimes if you deal directly with the owner themselves, they are less strict about rules with regards to nóminas and contracts. Maybe you’ll get really lucky and find a landlord that takes a liking to you and who only asks for one month’s deposit.

Seguro de impago de alquiler: A landlord may be more likely to rent to you even if you don’t have a nómina when they have seguro de impago de alquiler, non-payment rental insurance. It protects the landlord for the duration of the contract and covers the rent and any repairs or legal fees.

IRPF: IRPF is Spain’s personal income tax, and providing your most recent income tax return could help put your potential landlord at ease by proving that what you’ve earned over the last year could cover the cost of the rent.

Seguridad Social: Similarly, providing proof of your social security payment can help prove your financial solvency.

Bank statement: a simple bank statement to show account activity – and that you have enough to pay the rent and deposit, of course – might ease the mind of your landlord as it allows them to see your incomings and any debts you might have.

IVA: Showing your VAT (IVA in Spain) returns could be another tool that, when used in conjunction with other ways of proving your solvency, could convince a landlord to rent to an autónomo.

Pensioner documentation: If you’re retired and you’re looking to rent, any official documents which show how much pension money you receive every month, along with bank statement reflecting savings, should suffice to convince a landlord or estate agent that you’re solvent.

READ ALSO: Renting in Spain: Can my landlord put up my rent due to rising inflation?