Across the world, people buying and selling homes are having to adapt to new ways of doings things as a result of the coronavirus crisis.
For overseas investors, buying in a market that they may not be familiar with, knowing exactly what the process currently involves is more important than ever.
Here, Spanish property expert and author Sean Woolley outlines what house-hunting in Spain in the ‘new normal’ means.
“Many things have changed in all aspects of the way we’re living now and property hunters need to be prepared for how these changes will affect their search. To help prepare you, here are my responses to some of the most frequently asked questions about viewing properties in the new normal,” he said.
If I’m unable to travel to Spain, do international real estate agents offer virtual home tours?
SW: Virtual viewings have become the ‘new normal’ for overseas real estate agents. We have been using them so that our buying clients can effectively shortlist properties from the comfort of their own home, with the aim of physically viewing their selected options when they are able to comfortably travel to Spain.
For clients who are already well-researched and familiar with the areas, there has sometimes been no need to physically visit. Armed with a high-quality camera, a gimbal and a wide-angled lens, we have been able to conduct live walk-through video chats and to produce beautifully edited videos which are almost as good as the real thing.
During the later stages of lockdown, we were able to broker deals on two luxury villas in Marbella - one of them priced at €1.5m - purely based on virtual viewings.
What is the mask etiquette when touring properties at the moment?
SW: In most parts of Spain, laws require the wearing of face masks in all public spaces, and this also applies to property tours. Here in Andalucía, when we take clients out on viewings, we are armed with extra masks and hand sanitiser.
We tend to restrict the length of our tours to four or five properties at a time as we have found that most clients (as well as our property consultants) find mask-wearing too restrictive after three or four hours of constant use.
Are there lots of bargains to be had now?
SW: This pandemic has caused some pricing corrections on previously over-priced properties and there will be some good deals to be found, but do not expect general discounting in the market.
We expect to see some developers offering price reductions during the second half of 2020, but don’t think these will be widespread because demand has held up pretty well, despite the pause in the market caused by lockdown.
How has the trend for homeworking affected international buyers?
SW: Due to the fact we were all forced to work from home due to Covid and everyone has seen how well it can work, I have already seen a change in buyers who want to use this new trend and increased job flexibility to their advantage, using their Spanish property as a full-time base and commuting back to work as and when they are needed in the office.
Of course, it depends on how flexible your bosses are, where you’re based and how well you work from home, but it’s definitely an option for buyers working in the UK, Ireland, Italy, France and Northern Europe.
I’ve had clients buy a holiday home and then realise that they prefer the lifestyle and that the lower cost of living means that taking regular flights and perhaps staying in an Airbnb every month makes financial and practical sense, so it is well worth considering as part of your purchasing decision.
Will Covid-19 affect the Spanish market?
SW: There have been understandable concerns about what Covid-19 would mean for the Spanish property market, especially when some commentators started drawing parallels with the global financial meltdown in 2008.
The market fundamentals we saw in 2008 which contributed to the crash simply are not in existence during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Although we have seen a pause in the market, we have not seen an over-supply of new listings or an under-supply of buyer demand and mortgages are still readily available.
This pause has provided the opportunity for a welcome pricing correction on previously over-priced properties, but we haven’t seen anywhere close to the levels of desperation that we witnessed from vendors during the global economic collapse of 2008, as the scenarios are very different.
We expect the market to recover quickly, with some pricing corrections in place, thanks to serious buyers being even more committed to their new life in the sun and others bringing forward their plans with a new sense of perspective and priorities.
I believe this will offer great opportunities for the Spanish property market and the Spanish economy as a whole, helping it to recover and thrive in these new normal conditions.
For more information, top tips and tricks to ensure your Spanish property purchase goes smoothly, you can read Woolley’s book: From the Ground Up – The Insider’s Guide to Buying Spanish Property, which is now available on Amazon.
In it, he shares his years of experience, real life stories, tips and tricks for buyers interested in purchasing a Spanish home