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PROPERTY

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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MORTGAGES

How Spain will help homeowners with rising variable mortgage rates

The Spanish government and the country's banks have agreed upon a set of measures to help protect more than one million low and mid-income families from rising variable mortgage rates.

How Spain will help homeowners with rising variable mortgage rates

The plan was announced on Monday November 21st by Spain’s Ministry of Economic Affairs, which said that the agreement “will preserve financial stability” in the face of the sharp rise in interest rates that have been applied by the European Central Bank since August.  

The agreement still has to be brought before the Spanish Cabinet on Tuesday November 22nd, before its final approval.  

The deal will help alleviate the effects that high interest rates are already having on variable mortgage bills.  

For example, a person with a €150,000 mortgage at a variable rate to be paid over 30 years spent €448 in October last year, but the same mortgage this October (2022) was €675, which is 50 percent more.

Three in every four mortgages taken out in Spain are variable rather than fixed. 

READ ALSO: Why mortgage payments in Spain could increase by up to €120 a month

What are the new measures and who will they help?

The agreement will help families who earn less than €25,200 per year. They will be able to benefit from an improvement to the Code of Good Practices, which the banks agreed with the former right-wing Rajoy government in 2012.  

The code is currently limited to those with a maximum income of €24,318, but the new agreement aims to increase this.  

Those who benefit from the improved code will:

  • Be allowed to pay only the interest on their loan for five years.
  • Will have the maximum interest on their loan limited.
  • And will have the period in which to pay back the loan extended to 40 years. 

If after these three measures are applied, families are still having to pay 50 percent of their household income to mortgage repayments, then they will be allowed to request a reduction from their bank. Keep in mind though, the bank can refuse this request.  

Finally, if this is not enough or the bank refuses, families will receive a loan in order to help pay their mortgage bills to the bank.  

Previously, families could only benefit from the Code of Good Practices if there had been a significant alteration in their financial situation in the past four years.

This meant that many people were not eligible because the problem had come from the increase in mortgage rates, rather than a change in their own financial situation.

The new measures will also reduce the maximum interest rate that households who benefit from the code will have to pay. Specifically, the maximum will be reduced from 0.25 percent plus the Euribor to -0.1 percent plus the Euribor.

Conditions for new homes will also be included but these will be less favourable. The time in which they have to repay the interest will be reduced to two years instead of five and they can extend the repayment period to a maximum of seven years.

READ ALSO: How to get a mortgage in Spain if you don’t have a job contract

What effect will this have on mortgage repayments?

Spain’s Ministry of Economic Affairs believes that a household with a mortgage of €120,000 and a monthly payment of €524, will now see their bill reduced during the five-year grace period by more than 50 percent down to €246.

What about mid-income earners who don’t qualify?  

The measures will also introduce a new Code of Good Practices that focuses on the middle class. The objective is that these families will have “a more gradual adaptation” to the new interest rates.

This will be extended to those who earn up to €29,400. In addition, families who allocate more than 30 percent of their income to mortgage repayments will be able to benefit from it, although they will have to demonstrate that their mortgage burden has risen by at least 20 percent.

For these middle-class earners, the banks must offer a freeze on payment increases for 12 months, so they will continue to pay the same bill for one year.

Once that year has elapsed in which the instalments will not be able to rise, they will be offered a lower interest rate on those twelve months that have been frozen, which they must pay at the end of the loan period.

They will also have the possibility of extending the term of their mortgage by seven years.

Is there any other financial help for those struggling to pay their mortgages?  

Yes, other new measures being introduced include expenses and commissions being reduced to facilitate the change from variable to fixed-rate mortgages.  

READ ALSO: How to change from a variable to a fixed mortgage in Spain

Fees for early repayment and changing your mortgage from variable to fixed rate will also be eliminated during 2023.  

The two Codes of Good Practices are expected to be available from January 1st 2023, and will be voluntarily adhered to by financial institutions. However, if the banks sign the agreements, they will be obliged to comply.

The first Code of Good Practices approved in 2012 was signed by almost all credit institutions in Spain. 

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