If you’re interested in buying Spanish property, you will have already been looking online for options on real estate portals, or contacting agents to enquire about specific properties. But you were probably planning a viewing trip to meet a number of agents, visit a large number of properties or areas and use the visit to bring that down to just a few.
Travel restrictions have all but put an end to that early viewing visit, or trip to scope out the areas you want to explore. This means that finding an agent who you trust, has experience and is located on the ground becomes more important than ever.
You want a guide and partner in your search who can work with you to narrow down options, advise on areas and help move the search forward, even if you can’t visit.
Once you’ve found that agent, ask them for virtual viewings, or video tours of the properties you like to rule out properties and improve your search criteria. 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.
We’re finding this is a really useful tool for refining the search and narrowing it down to just a few properties.
If the buyer knows the area really well and is a long way into their search, these virtual viewings can be enough to put in an offer and proceed with the sale.
However, if you’re buying for a family home rather than an investment and it’s a heart-led purchase, you will still benefit from visiting your top properties and checking the ‘feeling’ by walking the streets to ensure you’re happy with the neighbourhood, nearest bars and restaurants, as well as simply the property itself.
Set your pricing expectations correctly
We’re having a lot of buyers come to us expecting serious bargains due to the pandemic. Many people think that this will be like the 2008 crash when prices dropped almost overnight, but in fact we’re not experiencing many pricing corrections here on the ground.
There are a few developers discounting, particularly new developments, but on the whole prices are staying steady. You may find an owner is willing to take a slightly lower offer, as there aren’t as many buyers around at the moment and there’s uncertainty in the market, but most are happy to wait it out, as they see this as a pause, rather than a crash.
So, make sure you don’t go into this expecting a bargain and then be disappointed. If you do want a ‘deal’, ask your agent to advise you on the properties that represent the best value, rather than those that have simply been discounted as they were previously overpriced.
Decide if you can manage the quarantine
If you do want to visit properties in Spain from the UK, you’ll obviously be required to quarantine when you return from your trip. Many of our buyers are retired or company owners who can easily work from home, so this doesn’t deter them, but obviously it can be more difficult for other buyers.
If you’re able to manage the quarantine, we would still recommend visiting before you put in the offer, as nothing beats being here, experiencing the lifestyle, talking with your agent and being able to get the feeling of the property.
According to a study by Harvard scientists, it is safe to travel by plane during the Covid pandemic due to the ventilation systems and strict safety measures onboard, plus the flights are excellent value right now. So, don’t let fear put you off from being able to make a confident decision on your dream property.
Wear masks with pride
It is a legal requirement to wear a face mask in all public places in Spain and when socialising with anyone outside your household, so you need to be prepared for wearing a mask during your property tour.
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. We’d recommend giving yourself a bit more time than usual if you want to see a lot of properties during your visit to allow for shorter days.
Ask yourself if you can take advantage of more flexible working
Lockdown caused many people and companies to realise that they could easily work from home and that it was more productive and beneficial to offer flexible working to their staff. If you are able to work from home most of the time, this may reframe your property search.
I have already seen a change in buyers who want to use this new trend for homeworking 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.
We’re living in very strange times and for some people that has made them more determined than ever to live that dream life in Spain. If that’s you, and you feel life is too short to wait, grab the opportunity with both hands and buy yourself a property and start the life you’ve been dreaming of. Bear in mind this advice and enter into your property search informed and ready to take the plunge.
*Sean Woolley is the founder and director of real estate agency Cloud Nine Spain. He has recently written the book From the Ground Up – The Insider’s Guide to Buying Spanish Property, sharing his years of experience, real life stories, tips and tricks with buyers interested in investing in Spanish real estate.