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PROPERTY

REVEALED: Where in Europe have house prices and rent costs increased the most?

Is it time to buy a property in Italy, Cyprus or Greece? House prices have shot up across Europe in recent years but there are major differences between certain countries.

REVEALED: Where in Europe have house prices and rent costs increased the most?
Italy is one of the few countries where property prices have decreased compared to 2010. (Photo by Nils Schirmer on Unsplash)

House prices have risen by an eye-watering 45 percent, and rents by 17 percent, across the EU since 2010, the latest figures released by the EU statistical office Eurostat reveal.

However, there are major differences among countries. In Austria, house prices have more than doubled and rents have increased by 45 percent compared to over a decade ago. In other countries, they have stalled or declined over the same period.

Greece is a notable example, with prices plummeting by 23 percent and rents by 25 percent between 2010 and 2021.

In Italy, house prices have fallen over overall since 2010 although like much of the EU they have been rising again in recent years.  Rent prices in Italy have registered only a modest increase, while Spain has recorded very small rises in both rents and house prices.

Here is the situation in the countries covered by The Local, according to Eurostat.

Finding a new home abroad?

Between 2010 and the first quarter of 2022, house prices have more than doubled in Austria (+114 percent) and have grown even more in Estonia, Hungary, Luxembourg, the Czech Republic, Latvia and Lithuania.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: What you need to know about buying property in Germany

In Germany, house prices shot up by a hefty 94 percent, in Sweden by 92 percent and in Norway by 91 percent.

Denmark (59 percent) and France (29 percent) also recorded double-digit growth.

Spain was the country with the smallest rise, 3 percent, among those countries covered by The Local.

Over the same period, prices have declined in Italy (-10 percent), Cyprus (-8 percent) and Greece (-23 percent).

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: The hidden costs of buying a home in Italy

According to Italian real estate agency Tecnocasa, house prices in the country are now 29 percent lower than in 2010, even though a slow upward trend started in 2017. Only Milan bucks the trend, with an 8.5 percent increase between 2010 and 2021.

The reasons behind these data, according to Fabiana Migliola, director of Tecnocasa’s research unit, are dwindling salaries and low capital availability, with most buyers being able to afford properties of up to €250,000.

“Of course, a modest growth of real estate and lower prices compared to many other countries inside and outside of Europe make our country attractive to investors,” Migliola said. “This is a phenomenon we have recorded above all in the holiday home market, as 2021 signalled an increase in the number of holiday homes purchased by foreign buyers, especially from the US, France and Eastern Europe.”

2022 could be a year of adjustment, she continued, but rising interest rates could have an impact on buyers who finance their home purchases with a mortgage.

Looking at prices, the agency forecasts a recovery with a rise between 2 and 4 percent, with high demand currently from Italians.

Scaffolding on a high-rise apartment block

Austria has seen the highest average rent increase over the last 12 years. (Photo: Tobias SCHWARZ / AFP)

Where is it cheaper to rent?

Rents have not risen quite as much as house prices, but they have risen steadily since 2010.

Between 2010 and 2022, rent increased by 17 percent on average across the EU. The highest growth among the countries covered by The Local was in Austria, with a whopping 45 percent rise. Denmark (21 percent), Sweden (21 percent), Germany (17 percent) and Switzerland (10 percent) also experienced a double-digit rise.

READ ALSO: Property: How to find a rental flat when you arrive in Austria

Increases were more modest in Italy (7 percent), Spain (5 percent) and France (8 percent).

The highest growth was in Estonia (177 percent), Lithuania (127 percent) and Ireland (77 percent).

On the other hand, in Greece, rents decreased by a quarter over the period, and Cyprus recorded a -1 percent.

The problem of affordability

While average increase rates only give a partial picture of the real estate market, an additional indicator cited by Eurostat is the housing cost overburden rate, the percentage of people spending 40 percent or more of their disposable income on housing.

READ ALSO: 5 of the most affordable places to buy property in France

Despite its plummeting house prices and rents, Greece had the highest rate in 2020, with one in three people (33.3 percent) spending 40 percent or more of their income on housing.

Other European countries with a high-cost overburden rate are Denmark (14 percent) and Switzerland (14 percent).

Just below the 10 percent line stand Norway and Germany (9 percent), Spain (8 percent), Sweden (8 percent) and Italy (7 percent).

Despite the significant rise, Austria has a relatively low-cost overburden rate, at 6 percent.

How has Brexit impacted British buyers?

For British citizens, Brexit may have added difficulties to the purchase of properties in EU locations. Countries such as Austria have specific restrictions for non-EU citizens and where there are no restrictions, higher taxes and new immigration rules may result in fewer British buyers entering the market.

In Spain, it was reported this week that purchases by British residents, which used to make up almost a quarter of all transactions (24 percent), now only account for 12 percent.

However, a recent survey among 900 British buyers found that only 4 percent had given up plans to purchase a property abroad due to the difficulties caused by Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic. Some 11 percent went ahead as planned last year and 85 percent are still planning to buy.

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This article is published in cooperation with Europe Street News, a news outlet about citizens’ rights in the EU and the UK.

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PROPERTY

Why are Spanish homes so dark?

Despite being known for its year-long sunny weather, Spain is the EU country with the fewest homes with natural light, often intentionally. Why is it that when it comes to spending time at home, Spaniards seem to love being in the dark?

Why are Spanish homes so dark?

Spain – the land of sunshine. The country gets between 2,500 and 3,000 hours of sun per year on average, almost double the 1,600 hours the UK gets, for example.

You’d probably assume that finding a bright apartment in such a sunny country would be a piece of cake, but unless you’re renting or buying a modern home, it might be trickier than you realise.

More than one in ten Spaniards live in dwellings they feel are “too dark” – the highest percentage among all EU countries, according to figures from Eurostat.

As far as dark homes go, Spain is head and shoulders above the EU average of 5.9 percent, and higher than other nations with a high rate of gloomy homes such as France (9.5 percent), Malta (9.4 percent) and Hungary (7.7 percent).

At the other end of the brightly lit spectrum, it’s no surprise to see that countries with cloudier skies and darker winters such as Norway, Slovakia, Estonia, Czechia and the Netherlands have homes that let in plenty of natural light, and yet Spain’s sun-kissed Mediterranean neighbours Italy and Cyprus do make the most of the readily available light.

Dark homes are almost twice as common in Spain as the EU average. Graph: Eurostat.

So why are Spanish homes so dark?

Is it a case of hiding away from the sun, and keeping cool during the summer months? Or is it something else? 

Apartment blocks

The vast majority of Spaniards live in apartments as opposed to houses, often in tightly-packed cities with narrow streets.

In fact, in Spain 64.6 percent of the population lives in flats or apartments, second in the EU after Latvia (65.9 percent.)

By contrast the EU wide average is 46.1 percent.

By nature of apartment living, Spanish homes tend to get less sunlight.

Depending on whether they have an exterior or interior flat, they might not actually have a single window in the flat that faces the street.

If the apartment is on a lower floor, the chances of it receiving natural light are even lower. Internal patios can help to solve this to some extent, but only during the mid day and early afternoon hours. 

why are spanish homes so dark

A dark, narrow street in the centre of Palma de Mallorca. Photo: seth0s/Pixabay

Hot summers

During Spain’s scorching summer months, there’s no greater relief than stepping into a darkened apartment building lobby and feeling the temperature drop. 

In southern Spain, and in coastal regions, Spanish buildings were traditionally built to protect against the heat and hide away from the long sunny hours. White walled exteriors and dark interiors help to keep homes cool.

It’s often the case that bedrooms are put in the darkest, coolest part of the apartment, sometimes with just a box-window to allow for a breeze but no sunlight.

Spaniards’ obsession with blinds and shutters

Spain is pretty much the only country in Europe whose inhabitants still use blinds (persianas), even during the colder winter months.

In this case, rather than it just being down to keeping homes cool during the sweltering summer months, their usage is intrinsic to Spain’s Moorish past and the fact that they provide a degree of privacy from nosy neighbours. By contrast, northern Europeans with Calvinist roots such as the Dutch keep the curtains open to let in natural light and because historically speaking, keeping the inside of homes visible from the street represents not having anything to hide. But in Spain, the intimacy of one’s home is sacrosanct, especially when the neighbour in the apartment building opposite is less then ten metres away.

Keeping the blinds or shutters down also has the advantage of making it easier to have an afternoon nap (the siesta, of course) or to sleep in late after a long night out on the town. 

In any case, it seems hard to believe for some foreigners that many Spaniards are happy to live in the dark whilst spending time at home, regardless of whether they’re sleeping or not. 

A byproduct of this? Dark, gloomy homes.

why are spanish homes so dark

Spaniards aren’t fans of airing their dirty laundry, at least metaphorically speaking. Blinds have historically provided the privacy they’ve wanted from their homes. Photo: Quino Al/Unsplash

The long, dark corridors

Spanish apartments have plenty of quirks that seem odd to outsiders, from the light switches being outside of the room, the aforementioned shutters, the bottles of butane and last but not least, the never-ending corridors. 

Most Spanish homes built in the 19th and 20th century include these long pasillos running from the entrance to the end of the flat. They were meant to provide a separation between the main living spaces and the service rooms (kitchen, bathroom etc), easy access to all and better airing and light capabilities. But when the doors to the rooms are closed as often happens, these corridors become the opposite of what was intended: dark and airless.

Navigating these windowless corridors at night is akin to waking around blindfolded.

dark corridor spain

Light at the end of the tunnel? Dark corridors are a common feature of Spanish homes. (Photo by Josep LAGO / AFP)

Are Spaniards rethinking their dark homes?

Times are changing, and modern designs are experimenting with more spacious, light-filled, open-plan apartments, especially as the Covid-19 lockdown forced many Spaniards to reconsider their abodes. 

It’s also increasingly common to see property ads stressing that the property is diáfano, which means that natural light enters the home from all sides.

However, the vast majority of Spanish homes are still gloomy for the most part, often intentionally.

A combination of traditional building styles, the crowded nature of apartment block living, the use of shutters, the desire to keep homes private, and the long windowless corridors mean Spanish flats can seem dark if you’re new to the country, and with good reason.

Ultimately, it is worth remembering that Spanish society is one that largely lives its life outdoors. Living in smaller apartments, Spaniards generally spend less time at home and more time out and about in the street.

Native to a hot and sunny country as they are, Spaniards’ homes are a place of rest, relaxation and, crucially, sleep.

Spanish people have enough sunlight and heat in their lives; they like to live, therefore, in homes designed to keep cool and dark.

READ ALSO: Why are Spanish homes so cold?

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