The 25 most sought-after Spanish villages by foreign property buyers

An increasing number of foreigners are looking for first or second homes in more peaceful locations in Spain that are still within reach of bigger cities and the coast, new data reveals. Here are the Spanish villages where property is most sought after by foreign buyers.

The 25 most sought-after Spanish villages by foreign property buyers
Polop in Alicante province is one of the most searched villages in Spain by foreign property hunters. Photo: Olga Fil/Pixabay

Spain’s two most famous coastal areas, the Costa Blanca and Costa del Sol, along with the Balearic Islands, have long been full of foreigners.

They all attract millions of tourists a year, but also many potential property buyers who want to make their holiday experience permanent. 

In fact, foreign nationals have played a big part in the recent overall increase in home sales in Spain, making up 17 percent of the more than 655,500 properties sold in 2021, according to data from Spain’s General Council of Notaries

Though these property sales have not yet matched pre-pandemic levels, the figures do show that never before have foreigners bought so many houses in Spain.

The 111,743 purchases made in 2021 are a significant increase on the figure of 103,600 in 2018, which was an all-time record until then. 

Of those foreigners buying property in Spain, those with residency are the ones who have bought the most houses, over 66,600, while non-residents bought 45,100.

Romanians and Moroccans buy the most property across many autonomous communities, but the traditional resort destinations are dominated by the typical tourists, and the coastal areas are particularly concentrated.

The British buy the most in the Valencian Community, particularly in Alicante province and despite Brexit complications; the Germans lead in the Balearic Islands and the Italians in the Canary Islands. 

Among non-resident foreigners buying up property, the British and French top the list in almost all regions, followed by Germans, Belgians and Americans.

While most may fancy a flat or villa in one of Spain’s big cities, or famous coastal resorts, many are now looking to small towns and villages where you can enjoy a quieter – and cheaper – life within driving distance of the coast.

The Local has dug into data proved by Idealista to see which small towns and villages (of 5,000 inhabitants or less) are most popular with potential foreign property buyers, including the province in which they’re located, the average house price and which nationalities are searching online for homes in these villages the most.

Ciudad Quesada, Alicante, €2,207/m2, Most popular with Dutch, Germans, and British.

Polop, Alicante, €1,915/m2. Most popular with Dutch, Germans, and French.

Ojén, Málaga, €2,138/m2. Most popular with Germans, British, Dutch.

The village of Ojén in southern Spain has just over 3,000 inhabitants. Photo: Ramón Albiol/Unsplash

Formentera del Segura, Alicante, €970/m2. Most popular with British, Germans, Dutch

Busot, Alicante, €1.484/m2. Most popular with Dutch, Belgians, French.

Palma de Gandía, Valencia, €703/m2. Most popular with the Dutch, French, British.

Viñuela, Málaga, €1,586/m2. Most popular with British, Dutch, Germans

Viñuela in Malaga province. Photo: Victoria Whiteley/Unsplash

Olivella, Barcelona, €1,446/m2. Most popular with French, British, Dutch

Bunyola, Mallorca, €2,854/m2. Most popular with Germans, Britons, Swedes

Almogía, Málaga, €900/m2. Most popular with Dutch, Germans, British

Ruins of the Muslim fortress that once looked over Almogía. Photo: Zangarreon/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Porreres, Mallorca, €1,639/m2. Most popular with Germans, Swiss, Americans

Los Montesinos, Alicante, €1,852/m2. Most popular with Belgians, Dutch, Germans

Algaida, Mallorca, €2,313/m2. Most popular with Germans, Brits, French

A picturesque street in Algaida on the island of Mallorca. Photo: Araceli Merino/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Sencelles, Mallorca, €2.992/m2. Most popular with Germans, British, Americans

Villalonga, Valencia, €675/m2, Most popular with Dutch, British, Germans

Sineu, Mallorca, ​​€1,599/m2, Most popular with Germans, British, Americans

Sunset in Sineu, Mallorca. Photo: Anonymous/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Alcaucín, Málaga, €1,740/m2, Most popular with Germans, Dutch, British

Montuiri, Mallorca, €1,740/m2, Most popular with Germans, Dutch, British

San Jorge, Castellón, €905/m2, Most popular with French, Germans, Dutch

San Jorge, or Sant Jordi, in Castellón province. Photo: Anonymous/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Esporles, Mallorca, €3,331/m2. Most popular with Germans, British, Swedes

Alaró, Mallorca, €2,566/m2. Most popular with Germans, Brits, Swedes

The old steps up to the castle of Alaró. Photo: David Vives/Unsplash

Sant Joan, Mallorca, €1,511/m2. Most popular with Germans, Brits, Dutch

Hondón de las Nieves, Alicante, €1,029/m2. Most popular with Dutch, Belgians, Germans

The main square in Hondón de las Nieves. Photo: Galopax/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Sierra Nevada, Granada, €2,010/m2. Most popular with British, Portuguese, Swedes

Turre, ​​Almería, €918/m2. Most popular with British, French, Belgians


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How to turn a bar, office or shop into a residential property in Spain

Commercial properties in Spain can be a lot cheaper than residential ones, but it’s not as straightforward as buying a former restaurant, office or shop and moving in. Here are the steps to follow and what you need to be aware of.

How to turn a bar, office or shop into a residential property in Spain

One of the tricks budget property hunters in Spain have been using in recent years is buying a local (commercial property), oficina (office) or nave (industrial unit) and transforming it into a vivienda (residential property) to live in or let out. 

It’s a trend that’s roughly doubled in big cities such as Madrid and Barcelona in the last five years. 

Buying a commercial property can work out to be 50 percent cheaper than a flat or house in Spain and there can be other advantages such as it being more open plan than Spain’s typical corridor-themed apartments as well having more money to invest in the renovation. 

Is it possible to turn a commercial property into a residential property in Spain?

Yes, in theory it is, but it’s not always possible. The rules relating to a change of property’s usage from commercial to residential or vice versa are determined by each municipality in Spain, so before you rush to buy un local, you have to do your homework first and be aware of some of the most common pitfalls.

It could be that the limit of residential properties per hectare has been surpassed already, or that without some major changes the property doesn’t meet the standards of size, rooms, space, height, layout, ventilation, air extraction or light of the town or city hall. 

It isn’t the most straightforward process and depending on the property and the individual municipal rules in place, it might just not be possible to live in the property or rent it out to others.

Living in a commercial property is illegal and may cause you problems such as not being able to activate water and electricity or register your padrón at the town hall.

Despite all the paperwork needed, flipping a bar or office and turning it into a home usually works out cheaper than buying a residential property in Spain. (Photo by ANDER GILLENEA / AFP)

Don’t be discouraged however, as in many cases it is possible to change the use of a property from commercial to residential and in regions such as Galicia authorities are currently facilitating the process to address the matter of empty abandoned stores and the lack of well-priced accommodation for young homeowners.

What are the steps to follow in Spain to change a property from commercial to residential?

Check the statutes of the community of owners: In order to make any changes within the community of neighbours, permission must be requested in advance. Beforehand, you can ask the comunidad president for a copy of the community statutes to see if the change of use from commercial to residential is mentioned.

READ ALSO: ‘La comunidad’ -What property owners in Spain need to know about homeowners’ associations

Request permission from the town hall: After getting the green light from la comunidad, you have to go to the ayuntamiento (town hall) of the town where the property is to find out if it’s possible to add another residential property to the finca (building). 

Even if this is confirmed, it doesn’t certify that the change of usage from commercial to residential is allowed, for which the town hall will ask you to provide an architect’s proyecto técnico or feasibility report based on municipal urban laws. You will only be allowed to swap from commercial to residential if the project meets the safety and habitability requirements of the Technical Building Code (Código Técnico de la Edificación).

Get the Building Licence: Known as licencia urbanística or permiso de construcción in Spanish, this is an official document required by the town hall for you to carry out a construction or renovation project. In other words, you’ll need this municipal authorisation to begin work on your future residential property, whether it’s major work or minor . 

Get the Certificate of Habitability: Once the renovation work is complete, you’ll need the cédula de habitabilidad to be able to move in or let the property out . The conditions for this are regulated by each regional government and again it’s an architect who must prepare a technical report in order for a town council technician to issue the certificate of habitability.

The certificate we need for the change of use is that of primera ocupación (first residential occupation), which has to include the usable surface area of ​​the home, rooms, address, location, maximum inhabitants etc.

How much does it cost to transform a commercial property into a residential one in Spain?

If for example it’s a 80m2 property with two rooms, the total would be about €50,000, according to property websites Idealista and Habitissimo, with the bulk covering renovation costs (€500/m2= €40,000) and the rest going to cover permits, architecture costs and taxes.