Buying a property in Spain is a significant investment so choosing the right location is really important. What you want from the area will be different to what someone else is looking for and knowing a little about what the different regions and provinces offer will help you make a decision that’s right for you. From average property prices and what the most popular property types are to which areas are most ripe for investment and where the popular expat communities are, doing a little digging will help you choose your perfect forever home in Spain.
The boundaries explained
Spanish geography can be perplexing to even the most seasoned buyer so here’s a quick rundown of the geographical terminology that you’ll come across again and again.
Each area of Spain has its own culture, history and may also have its own language. Because of the size of the country and these established differences, Spain is split into 17 autonomous communities each with its own government with devolved powers (much like Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in the United Kingdom).
Each autonomous community has territorial divisions called provinces. These are like counties in the UK, in that they provide an official address, a capital city and are used as electoral districts for national elections.
Each province splits into localised areas, with a localised government (Ayuntamiento). These are called municipalities, and each has a Mayor and assembly of councillors working out of a Town Hall. You will most likely deal first hand with your local Ayuntamiento when it comes to any official administration.
Where to buy in Spain
When it comes to deciding where to buy in Spain the most important consideration is the lifestyle that you aspire to. Whether you’re looking for an urban lifestyle in a cosmopolitan city, escaping to the Andalucian countryside or becoming part of a vibrant expat community will understandably have a big impact on the type of property that you buy and where.
One of the reasons people are attracted to Spain is value for money. Year-round sunshine makes for an outdoorsy, yet low-cost life. But these days, the cost of living on the islands or in the biggest cities isn’t that different from the rest of northern Europe. Perhaps that’s why areas like Barcelona, the Balearics and the Canary Islands are not attracting as much new investment from international buyers.
There are plenty of undiscovered gems where property is more affordable, for example, Teruel in Aragon is one of the cheapest cities in Spain and has grown in popularity with international buyers by 19% year on year. Castellon, its beachfront neighbour, has also seen significant growth (41%). Peñíscola, which is the third largest tourist destination in the Valencian community, after Benidorm and Valencia city, is getting increasingly popular.
If you’re after the sun, sea and sand, the Murcia province is the place to head to for a great expat community and all of the joys of living on the Costa Blanca without a hefty price tag. With a 26% growth rate, it’s a solid option for long term investment. Playa Flamenca and Ciudad Quesada are particularly sought after, but Cabo Roig and Guardamar del Segura are also desirable purpose-built-resorts. The jewel in Murcia’s crown has to be the Mar Menor on the Costa Calida, where a large, warm, shallow natural lagoon has formed.
Popular areas for expats to purchase Spanish property
In terms of sheer volume of international buyers, Alicante and Malaga are far and away the most popular spots to buy a Spanish property. So if you’re looking for English speaking friends and services, and a culture fitted around your convenience and leisure, then these are the places to look.
Alicante hosts year-round flights from even the quietest regional airports and has a wide range of properties for any house-hunter. The more northern towns, such as Javéa and Denia, are set into the pine-covered mountains and attract more permanent residents and retirees. To the south stands the behemoth of Benidorm, popular for well over 60 years for its buzzing atmosphere. Then further south, towns like Torrevieja are great for golfers as the land flattens out.
Malaga has one of Spain’s busiest international airports; a classy, arty capital city and perhaps more importantly, the gateway to the Costa del Sol. Starting at Nerja, this coastline travels westwards to Gibraltar. It includes the ritzy, luxurious resorts of Marbella, Puerto Banús and Estepona where you’ll find modern villas and penthouse or beachfront apartments. Then there’s the more family oriented Fuengirola, Torremolinos and Benalmadena, all popular with expats and tourists, and therefore great for rental apartments with a sea view.