Beaches...mountains...fabulous cities...exciting festivals. And, of course, sunshine. It’s not surprising that southern Spain is the most popular area for Europeans seeking a second home.
How much for a house in Spain? Well, there’s a huge price variation across the 17 regions...and also from town to town within the regions. But while property prices have gone up in the past few years, it’s still possible to unearth village houses and small coastal apartments for less than $100,000...if you know where to look.
I go to Spain whenever I get the opportunity; this is my third vacation there in the past five years. This time I’ll head to the North of Spain…to the little-known but very affordable region of Galicia. Previously, I’ve visited artistic Barcelona, historic Seville, and sun-soaked Malaga…three cities with their own distinctive characteristics, appeals, and benefits—and I’m anxious to follow up this vacation with another soon, to picture-perfect Valencia, the bull-running city of Pamplona, and the traditionally preserved hillside towns of Cuenca and Ronda.
Pundits are divided on whether Spain’s property market will see further price falls. A huge overhang of unsold homes remains, but for the first time in seven years, sales in Málaga province showed an increase in 2013. Spain will always be a popular retirement destination for northern Europeans, and the number of U.S. citizens registered as living in Spain has increased, too.
Steeped in memories of Moorish Al-Andalus, the narrow streets, shady gardens, and stunning architecture of Granada make it one of Spain’s most iconic cities. In the Realejo, the old Jewish quarter, a refurbished 913-square-foot apartment close to Campo del Príncipe (which has some wonderful tapas bars) is reduced from $162,000 to $134,000.
Thanks to Europe’s financial and economic crisis, you’ll find some of the best real estate values in the best parts of Europe right now—and some of the best opportunities to profit. Specifically, the deals are to be found in Ireland, Portugal, and Spain. These places were hit hard by the crisis—and pricings finally reflect that.
What’s not to love about cultural riches and cobbled charms? Throughout most of Europe, the property market remains in the doldrums, which means you can find bargains. From the Atlantic to the Mediterranean…from Ireland to Greece, there’s a tempting array of move-into properties that will leave you change from €100,000 ($137,000).
It’s called the “Old World” for a reason, and despite two world wars and decades of development, history is evident in the architecture of Europe. You can stroll cobbled streets where lords and ladies once rushed to galas, climb castle steps in the footsteps of armored knights, and explore villages preserved for 500 years or more.
There’s no question…Barcelona is fabulous. A mild Mediterranean climate; attractive urban beaches; a vibrant cultural scene; lively street ambience; great shopping; and some of the best food in Spain…Barcelona has it all. But—while Barcelona is a great place to visit—not everyone wants to live in a major metropolis. If you like what Barcelona offers but prefer day-to-day life on a smaller, more intimate scale, you have options here.
In the popular imagination, it’s the great capitals of Europe that get the most attention. Tourists flock to Paris, Rome, Madrid, and London for the big-city flair, museums, and monuments. It’s the thing to do. And granted, you should seize any opportunity to stroll the Champs-Élysées on a beautiful spring evening or explore London’s international cuisine and regal parks.
The global economic crisis popped Spain’s real estate bubble. That’s why today you could buy a spacious condo in a high-end community on one of the nicest stretches of the Costa del Sol with monthly payments from $483. That’s a low sticker price. And, this is a stunning place to visit and spend time. You have dramatic views along the coast. Long winding sandy beaches you can walk for miles. Quirky Gibraltar.
For 15 years, real estate prices in Spain soared. Then in 2007 demand slowed. By the time the worldwide economic crisis rolled through Spain and Europe, the real estate bubble had well and truly popped.
Seductive and sensuous, an amalgam of cultures, Andalusia gets under your skin. Maybe that’s why so many of Spain’s signature sounds and images come from this vast, southern region of the country: castanets, gypsies, flamenco dancers, bull fighters, strumming guitars…This is romantic Spain…the one the tourists flock to.
In August I visited a new luxury beachfront apartment building on the Costa del Sol’s new Golden Mile. Within eight days earlier this year, 122 apartments in the building sold. The fire-sale pricing was that good: $347,209 for an apartment. Seven months later, these apartments were listing for $528,396 each.
In medieval Europe, keeping an eye out for and guarding against invasion—a frequent occurrence in those days—was no easy feat. But one of a nobleman’s greatest defensive weapons was a castle perched on a rocky hilltop near an important mountain pass. The location itself—surrounded by steep cliff—offered protection.
For anyone who’s been there recently, it’s no surprise that Spain is one of the top five destinations in International Living’s Global Retirement Index—our pick of the top retirement destinations in the world. Spain is arguably the best bargain in Europe, offering First-World living at a cost that can compete with some Latin-American countries. Thanks to the ongoing recession, real estate prices in many parts of Spain have plummeted. Buying here is more affordable now than it’s been in decades.
The white-washed town of Istán clings to the slopes of the Sierra de las Nieves (Mountains of the Snows). It’s a truly hidden place—yet stunningly and conveniently positioned. I’ve visited plenty of charming hill towns and villages in Spain, France, and Italy where real estate is cheap. But the downside has always been remoteness. Istán is different.
Real estate bubbles send all prices too high. When they pop, they bring everything down with them. Sometimes too far. The same irrational views that drove the prices up help push them down, and for a short time quality properties become very cheap. That’s when you should buy: before the fear subsides and prices go up once again.
The accepted story goes that as humankind progressed over the millennia, we abandoned our cave shelters in favor of constructed homes. But plenty of folks still live in dwellings carved out of volcanic rock, into mountains, rocky hillsides, cliffs, or quarries. And they aren’t living a primitive life in caveman-style homes, either (though they are referred to as “troglodyte” homes).
You’ve made plans, set tentative dates…you’re almost ready to take off on your three- or six-month European tour…the next step is a roof over your head. But the short-term rentals offered online can be sickeningly expensive. Fully furnished and ready to go they may be, but with prices often multiples of those you’ll find on the ground, there are better ways to look.
For thousands of years skiing was just a way to travel in winter, carry mail and goods to snowbound towns, or—believe it or not—charge into battle. Then in the mid-19th century the first races took place and before long enthusiastic amateurs had taken up the sport.
Spain is in a terrible mess. The banks and the country are broke, by any reasonable measure. Spain’s regions (like U.S. states) have also borrowed too much. Unemployment tops 27%.
There’s a way you can buy real estate in some of world’s most stunning locales and pay a fraction of what your neighbor paid. I’m not talking about buying in a depressed backwater.
High above me are slate-gray mountains capped with snow. Despite the altitude it’s 68 F and in the narrow valley the meadows are in full flush and horses take shade in the orchards
If you’re in love with classic Europe and its history, romance and culture, take heart: Spain, Italy and France aren’t only for the vacationer who saves for months just to visit. Each one of these three countries has numerous small towns and villages that lie under the radar—places with enticingly affordable properties to rent or buy
We’ve been keeping an eye on what’s been happening in the property market of crisis-hit Spain—and there’s no shortage of bargains. Check out the articles below for more on the type of real estate opportunities Europe’s economic downturn has thrown up in this varied, culture-rich nation.
In Spain banks have foreclosed on, or control, hundreds of thousands of completed unsold condos and homes. This is the type of scenario that could throw off some very interesting opportunities. As you know Europe is in crisis. But let me back up and take a look at Spain. Home ownership in Spain (now over 80%) is encouraged through policy and a range of tax breaks. Municipalities were encouraged via windfall payments to designate land for development.
Right now, doom and gloom in Europe runs deep. But there is a story not being told…one of opportunity borne of this crisis. A story of places where you could own your own piece of the Old World…for less than half the price of a budget family sedan. In Greece and beyond—prices are falling like a rock. And for anybody who ever mused about a European retreat, that’s the silver lining.
Everything is modern, new, and shiny. This area is convenient like Florida is to a New Yorker. The visitors I’m watching are desperate for some spring sunshine. Some (mostly Scandinavian or Russian) are even here to pick up real estate on the cheap. There are deals to be done.
Everywhere historic buildings bring alive the romance of old Spain. Granada is the country’s most beautiful city, the jewel in the crown of Andalucía, and today, thanks to the country’s crisis, you can ﬁnd distressed real estate here for up to 50% less than what you would have paid for it four years ago.
Steeped in history, Granada, Spain attracts visitors from around the world. Its international airport has flights from most major European cities, and it’s within a two-hour flight of northern Europe’s major population centers. This could just be the perfect location. There’s culture. Three World Heritage sites, including the exquisite Moorish palace of the Alhambra, are just the headline draws.
The spring sunlight glints off the snow-covered Sierra Nevada mountains. When I left Marbella on Spain’s Costa del Sol, 90 minutes from here on a modern highway, it was a balmy 75 degrees Fahrenheit. I haven’t seen a cloud since. At 2,200 feet above sea level, in Granada’s historic center, it’s 63 degrees, and sunglasses and short sleeves are the order of the day.
A blue sky, blue-water scene is unremarkable in the tropics. But this is Europe. I’m in southern Spain, on Murcia’s Costa Cálida—the “warm coast.” Whoever thought up the name wasn’t exaggerating. Summer temperatures soar above 90 F, and there’s an annual dose of at least 320 days of sunshine. On the coast, spacious furnished rentals are $508 to $635 monthly.
Not needed: coat, scarf or sweater. But some sun-block would be welcome. Early December and the afternoon temperature is nudging 70 F. Sunbathers are on Isla Plana’s beach, and children are building sand-castles. I can even see swimmers.
Times are tough in Spain. Half her young are unemployed—if they haven’t emigrated. Her economy, banks and real estate industry is in tatters. Like in Ireland, they built too many homes. Homes that nobody would ever want. Speculators snapped them up, betting that prices would go even higher. Then the party ended in 2007. By 2008, all activity stopped completely.
The economies of the PIIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece, Spain) are in disarray. Europe is in the throws of sovereign, political and financial crises. Greece is bankrupt and burning. Yields on Portuguese bonds hit 17% earlier this year.
If a small Italian farmhouse with a vineyard sounds sweet, then look to the Abruzzo (pictured), a region of southern central Italy bordering the Adriatic Sea.
Tucked between the southern regions of Andalucia and Valencia, Murcia delivers the best of Spanish essentials: mild winters, wine villages, tapas bars, fantastic beaches and (for Europe) relatively low living costs. You may ask “why Murcia”—a region that’s almost unknown to North Americans. Especially when Spanish property values have slumped.
I never imagined breakfasting outdoors in December. Not in Europe. Then again, I’ve never visited the Murcia region before.
Even travel writers need escapes. One of my favorite getaways is Alicante, a city on Spain’s Costa Blanca. Yes, I know I’ve disparaged “the Costas” in the past. Spain-without-the-Spanish…paunchy northern Europeans overdosing on sun, sex, and cheap booze…hideous plastic donkeys…concrete jungles…acres of lookalike vacation homes. So why Alicante? Well, there’s a big difference between seaside cities and purpose-built resorts. Alicante is lively, sunny, and inexpensive, for sure. But it’s also charming, fairly sophisticated, and its ambiance is as Spanish as that of Madrid.
The economies of the PIIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece, Spain) are in disarray. Europe is in the throws of a banking crisis brought on by (among other things) exposure to Greek sovereign debt. Many of you have been asking if now is the time to jump in.
I’m in Cuenca, Spain, a provincial capital less than an hour by train from Madrid. For budding expats who dream of living in Spain, provincial cities like Cuenca are a great option.