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Why foreigners are buying more property than ever in ’empty Spain’

Despite the pandemic, some of Spain’s most sparsely populated regions are seeing foreigners buy up more properties than ever before. Here are the places where they’re buying and why overseas buyers are taking an interest in areas that have long been overlooked. 

empty spain property
The medieval city of Ávila has seen an increase in property purchases by foreign buyers. Photo: Jacqueline Macou/Pixabay

Our lives may have been dominated by the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, but that didn’t stop foreigners from buying 46,303 properties in Spain over the course of last year. 

This is a high figure even though it represented a 26 percent drop when compared to 2019’s stats from Spain’s Registrars College of Real Estate Agents

One of the most interesting findings of the 2020 report is that the inland regions of Extremadura and Castilla León were the only communities in Spain which actually saw an increase in the number of property purchases by foreign buyers last year. 

The province of Ávila – which shares its name with its capital, the majestic walled city of Ávila – recorded a bigger share of foreign buyers (10 percent) than Barcelona (8.7 percent) and Madrid (4.7 percent). 

Castilla Y León’s other provinces – Valladolid, Burgos, Soria, León, Segovia, Palencia, Salamanca and Zamora – all saw more foreigners buy properties in 2020 than in 2019. 

The regional percentage of foreign buyers in Castilla Y León (3 percent) and Extremadura (1 percent) still pales in comparison with what provinces like Alicante (36 percent) or Málaga (29 percent) get, but the increase in purchases from overseas in Spain’s interior still reflects the growing interest there is in areas which have been overlooked for decades by foreigners. 

Both regions fall into what’s come to be known as la España vacía (empty Spain), an area which encompasses large swathes of the country’s interior which have suffered severe depopulation over the past decades, as Spaniards left their villages for the big cities to find work.  


The following map by one of the associations fighting against depopulation in Spain shows in red the places that have lost the most population in recent years, with area 2 to the east covering large areas of Extremadura and Castilla Y León. 

Why are foreigners taking an interest in properties in empty Spain?

Firstly, properties in this part of Spain are considerably cheaper than in coastal locations. 

According to 2020 figures by Spain’s National Statistics Institute, the average cost per square metre for a property in Castilla Y León is €828/sqm and in Extremadura it’s the lowest in Spain: €559/sqm, whereas in Catalonia the average price is as high as €1,877/sqm. 

Another major reason is the consolidation of remote working in Spain and across the world as a result of the pandemic. 

“The coronavirus has uncovered a lot of truths that seemed carved in stone, and one of them is remote working;” Fernando Encinar, head of research at Spanish property website Idealista told Voz Populi.

“There have been millions of people who have discovered that they can do remote work. This will have a very relevant impact on companies, where we live, for Spaniards and Europeans”.

Back in March, The Local reported how 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.

“Ávila is one of the cities which has the most hours of sunshine in southern Europe,” Encinar explained. 

“There is a huge opportunity to repopulate part of empty Spain with European people looking for something more than sun and beach.

“These are places that have plenty of hours of light, sunny weather, very good infrastructures and an extraordinarily good health system”.

The allure of starting a new life in a part of Spain which is steeped in history and true Castillian culture may also be an added bonus for foreigners who are looking for a more authentic experience of life in Spain. 


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What to do about insects and other pests in your home in Spain?

Bugs and insects can sometimes be a problem in Spanish homes, particularly during the summer months. Here's what to do if you get an infestation and how to prevent them from happening.

What to do about insects and other pests in your home in Spain?

Fruit flies buzzing around the bins, cockroaches in the kitchen and ants invading your food cupboards can be a common sight in your Spanish home, more often than not in summer.

But what can you do when insects invade your home? 

What types of pests are common in Spain?

Bugs and insects that commonly invade homes in Spain include fruit flies, ants, stink bugs, cockroaches, pantry moths, plaster bagworms and mosquitoes.

Those who have pets may also have a problem with your animals bringing fleas and ticks into the home too.

READ ALSO: Ticks are proliferating in Spain: How to avoid them and protect yourself

These can cause a nuisance, not only flying around your home and biting you (in the case of mosquitoes, fleas and ticks), but they can get into your food and lay eggs in your cupboards.

How can I get rid of bugs in my home?

One of the most important ways you can keep insects and other bugs out of your home is to eliminate food sources.

This means always doing the washing up as soon as you’ve finished eating so there are no scraps laying around, sweeping kitchens and dining rooms regularly and putting opened food items in the fridge instead of the cupboards.

You also need to make sure you regularly empty your rubbish bin and that there are no gaps between the lid and the bin that flies can get in through.

Dusting, hoovering and general regular cleaning will also keep other insects at bay such as plaster bagworms and moths that lay larvae on your walls and ceiling.

Those with pets should make sure that animals are treated with flea and tick protection and combed through with special flea combs to make sure bugs are not stuck in their fur.

Summer can of course be very hot in Spain, with temperatures regularly in the high 30°Cs or even low 40°Cs in some parts of Andalusia and other regions, meaning that windows and doors are often left open to ensure a breeze. Unfortunately, this means that your home is more accessible to insects too.

If you can, get a fly screen for your doors and windows, so you can leave them open, but no bugs can get in. These fine mesh screens can be bought from hardware or home stores such as Leroy Merlin and can simply be lifted into place when you need them.

If you can’t get screens installed, then consider planting certain plants on windowsills or balconies. Lavender, basil, lemongrass and mint are all natural insect repellents.

Electric fly swats, ant traps and sticky paper can also all help eliminate pests in your home. 

READ ALSO: What venomous species are there in Spain?


When the situation becomes worse, simple everyday cleaning won’t suffice and you may need to use insecticides to kill the infestation. There are many different brands in Spain. Both Protect Home and Compo have several different products you can use.

If you don’t want to use chemical insecticides, natural ones made from white vinegar, citrus plants, or peppermint oil can also work.

Pest control

If the situation becomes completely out of control and you find that insects are not only entering your home but that they are breeding there too, it’s time to call in the professionals. Pest control services are available across Spain.

The first step is to check your home insurance to see if they will cover this service. If they won’t, they may be able to suggest a company that can help.

Otherwise, a quick Google search for ‘Control de plagas’ (pest control) and then your area should provide you with plenty of options.

According to the home website Habitissimo, pest control services in Spain can range from €80 up to €2,000 depending on the type of infestation you have, how serious the problem is and how big your property is. On average it will cost you around €267.