Spain is a country with a rich history and culture, and one that has served as a meeting point for some of the most influential civilizations in the world due to its strategic location, close to the African continent and as Europe’s western-most peninsula. Spain became a strong economic force after the fall of fascism, but still experienced difficult times when the global financial crisis occurred.Just three years ago, unemployment rates peaked and almost a third of the population was left without work. Ever since then, the Spanish economy has been growing steadily. However, the employment environment still has a long way to go and salaries are lower than they are in other parts of the European region. Those who do not have an employment contract before they relocate will find it hard to obtain a work permit.
Expats will find that Spain offers a lifestyle in a modern country. The infrastructure is well developed and there is a more balanced pace of life compared to other countries in Europe. The country also witnesses a favourable climate that is great for enjoying the outdoors. The majority of the population is Spanish. They live alongside other ethnic minority communities such as Romanians, Moroccans, Colombians and Ecuadorians.
The country’s architecture is a blend of historical and modern. Apart from its stunning architecture, Spain is also known for its vibrant environment, fashion, food, music and arts, making it an appealing expat destination. Many expats choose to retire in Spain due to the slower pace of life, warm climate, high standard of living and affordable properties along the country’s beautiful beaches. Some expats even come to Spain to open cafés and bars that cater to the tourist population.
The language that is most commonly spoken in Spain is Castilian, although regional languages such as Basque and Catalan are also spoken. The Spanish people are known to have a relaxed attitude to life and are very social in their behavior.
The country’s public transport system is efficient in the major cities. Most people in Spain prefer to travel on buses, as the rail system has a radial architecture that increases the duration of travel even to nearby places. Spain has both a desert and a ski resort, making it an interesting destination to live in. Expats account for nearly 6% of the total population in Spain. It is the ideal destination for expats who prefer a laid back lifestyle. The local people are warm and welcoming, and most of the country is family-friendly. However, the coastal towns tend to be busy and filled with tourists.
The kind of lifestyle you choose to live and your location within the country determines the cost of living in Spain. Housing costs tend to be reasonable, but are higher in the cities and tourist hubs. Utility costs are much higher and can cost up to 20% more than in countries like the United States and the United Kingdom. But food is affordable and even eating out at any of Spain’s many restaurants is affordable, as long as they are away from the tourist areas.
Property market in Spain
For expats, especially British investors and buyers, Spain constitutes one of the largest overseas markets. Spain is known to make up nearly half of all enquiries for properties outside the UK, and the British are also the most common buyers in Spain. The British alone own about 170,000 homes and villas in Spain, which is more than any other expat community. Due to the economic downturn, Spain’s property market was adversely affected and prices significantly reduced. It has recovered ever since, but the prices of some property hotspots have not reached their pre-recession prices as yet. These are the hotspots that can serve as the best investments as prices are estimated to continue to increase. Here are 2017’s Spanish property hotspots.
Costa del Sol
This region in the south of Spain is one of the most popular areas, especially among British expats. It enjoys more than 320 days of sun annually, and the spectacular shoreline keeps attracting the wealthy and famous, especially the posh resort towns such as Marbella. Costa del Sol is a versatile place. It can serve as the ideal place for a holiday home. Many expats also buy property here as investment, or as a retirement property. This is an upmarket place where property prices are high, but also make for great investments since these properties were not majorly affected by the economic downturn. It is also a busy area since it attracts tourists to its stunning beaches, restaurants, bars and resorts such as Torremolinos and Benalmadena. The summers are warm here, with temperatures climbing to 40 degrees Celsius.
Winters tend to be chilly and rainstorms often occur between November and April. The coastal parts, however, do not experience low temperatures. The cost of living is low in the Costa del Sol and the place is abundant with local produce like fruits, vegetables, fish and olive oil. This makes eating out a value for money experience.
One of the most beautiful cities in Spain, Barcelona offers magnificent beaches, a vibrant nightlife and a relaxed way of life. It is also popular internationally and in spite of property market ups and downs, it managed to stay steady. Compared to other attractive cities in the European region, Barcelona’s property prices are still low, making it an ideal place to find excellent bargains. Known for its architectural beauty and rich culture, Barcelona interweaves tradition and innovation. This makes it a city in constant flux and also one of the best destinations in Europe. Expats will find here lavish medieval buildings juxtaposed with the unique modernism of Gaudi’s creations. In Barcelona, traditional bars serving up tapas can be found alongside swanky Michelin-starred restaurants. It should be noted that even though Barcelona has been recovering steadily from the property crash in Spain and the global recession, its economy is still fragile. For expats moving with families, the residential area of Les Corts is ideal. It is an upmarket place with a multitude of international schools, some of which offer the Spanish curriculum, while others offer the British or American curricula.
To experience the Spanish culture and nightlife, CiutatVella or the Old Town is the place to live, as it is filled with museums, bars and restaurants. There are some purely residential streets, while in other parts, apartments can be found above shops on commercial streets. If you prefer an active lifestyle, consider moving to Sants-Montjuïc, a diverse single district where Sants is a popular residential neighborhood and a great place to exercise due to the extensive park and former Olympic facilities.
The Spanish mainland took more of a hit than the islands during the property crash. During the recession there was a property value fall of nearly 40%, but the Canary Islands witnessed a drop of 24%, indicative of the property market here. Among all the Spanish islands, Canary Islands is considered to have the best investment opportunities, and the demand for holiday homes is only growing. Factors such as the excellent year-round climate and high quality of available facilities, have contributed to the popularity of these islands. The Canary Islands, also called Canaries, are an archipelago located just off the Moroccan southern coast. It witnesses a pleasant subtropical climate throughout the year. The cost of living is relatively low. The atmosphere of these islands is relaxed, and this is apparent in the dress of the people who live here, which is casual, irrespective of the occasion. Shops and offices are usually shut in the afternoons for siesta. The enjoyment of life takes priority over work. Canarians also love a good party and fiestas regularly take place all year-round. The third biggest carnival in the world, held in the capital city of Santa Cruz, takes place in February.
Menorca is an island with big property potential. It is a popular tourist destination during the busy season, but grows quiet and relaxed for the most part of the year. The island is not very large and it is easy to travel from one side to the other in less than an hour. Menorca is also not very mountainous, and therefore ideal for expat retirees who don’t want to spend time in tedious and long car journeys. Those who love the beach will have a great time in Menorca, as its coastline is dotted with sandy beaches. Many resorts have come up alongside these beaches, but they are not as busy and crowded as other parts of Spain.
Compared to northern European countries, Menorca has a relatively affordable cost of living. However, the property prices may be slightly higher than on the Spanish mainland. Rental prices can also be a little more expensive. Menorca’s climate is not as hot and dry as neighbouring Mallorca and most of the Mediterranean region. This makes it ideal for those thinking of retiring here. The summer months can get quite warm, but rarely reach temperatures that could affect the health of the elderly. There is a large expat community in Menorca, making it easy to socialize. EU citizens have the right to travel to and live in other member states, so visiting Menorca is easy. But those who wish to stay on the island for more than six months are required to register with the relevant authorities.
Costa Blanca was among the regions that were most affected by the property market crisis in Spain. Still, it remains a desirable destination with properties that are well below their peak prices. As Spain recovers steadily, the prices in Costa Blanca are expected to rise shortly, making it an ideal investment location. The north and south regions of Costa Blanca vary greatly. The south has a hot climate and the coastal terrain is flat. The area also has some pristine beaches. As you go towards the north, the terrain begins to change due to the mountains and hills. Once you pass Benidorm, there is green everywhere. Many prefer the northern parts of Costa Blanca because it resembles the northern European regions. The beaches here are not on par with those in the south, but they are still of good quality. There are mostly rocky beaches here, along with cliffs and coves. In the south, there are coastal towns which centre around the beach, where high-rise residential buildings are located just off the beach area. In the north, the towns are located further inland and have numerous villas along the green hillsides. There are also vineyards and orange groves with little villages and towns.
Madrid has always been an attractive destination for investors. The capital city is known for its historic and cultural heritage. It enjoys excellent weather and is well connected to the rest of Europe. This makes it a great location for living and working. Retirees looking for tranquil destinations may not be enthused about the prospect of moving to Madrid. It is, however, popular among those who want to relocate to expand their career. Madrid is the commercial and political capital of Spain. It is an atmosphere that is international, but the pace of life is much slower than other similar western European cities like London and Rome. In the aftermath of Spain’s economic troubles, Madrid has recovered for the most part, and today it is one of the best cities to find a job in Spain. There are a number of multinational companies here, and the city also receives a fair amount of foreign direct investment. The costs of food, dining out and drinking is relatively cheaper than other European cities. However, the average incomes tend to be lower than those in other major European capitals.
Valencia has always been overshadowed by Barcelona on the eastern coast of the country and hence hasn’t been a popular place for expats to buy property. But this is beginning to change as investments into the city continue. Today, it stands as one of the best places to live in the country. With its growing reputation as a popular tourist destination and the recent recession, property sales have risen due to the prices being lower than they should be.
Do you live in Spain? Share your experiences in the comments!