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PART 1 – WIDER TRENDS, EVIDENCE AND FINDINGS

The observant amongst you will have seen that we are now in our 19th year, having started Survey Spain on 1st September 2003. When I bought my apartment around that time, an operations director in one of the biggest agencies on the coast then, advised that we should make sure we bought a place we liked to live in and not just an investment, “as prices are just too high”. I was lucky to find such a place, at a possible price, and we are still here. But how wrong he was on prices, as they just kept increasing, driven up by apparently insatiable demand, and even more so by the weight of money available for developer and personal mortgage loans. Each phase of a development had to be higher priced than the one before, so the agents could show what a good investment it was. That way inevitably leads to disaster, and so it happened. Having reached impossible heights, it then crashed spectacularly in 2007/2008, and in many areas has only recently reached the same levels 14 years later. We appear to be on a stronger financial footing this time round, so any ‘correction’ should not have the devastating consequences of the past. Countries have higher borrowings now than before, principally due to the costs of Covid, so there can be no similar bank ‘rescues’ as there were in 2008 and onwards.

Despite all the 2 steps forward and 1 step back of markets and activity over the last few years, with Brexit and Covid being the principal ‘surprises’, 2022 has really surpassed all these and we are only ¾ of the way through. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has brought the ‘just live with Covid’ euphoria to a halt. It’s added a distinct nervousness to the market, with many ‘making hay while the sun shines’, as we don’t know what financial clouds are coming. It has led to a significant increase in buyers from the former soviet republics looking for safety, either permanently or as an escape, in case the Ukraine situation spreads. They’ve far outweighed the loss of Russian buyers. The outlook as I write, with Russia formally annexing more of Ukraine, is another step in the wrong direction.

Rising cost of living. inflation financial crisis background

The spectacular rises in costs of energy and inflation, will affect everyone, although its effects are likely to be disproportionately large for the lower priced end of the market. Once again, the Brits, who still are at least 16% of the foreign buyers, and formerly much more, appear to have lost their financial senses, causing a spectacular drop in the value of the pound. This, with the increased energy, food and inflation costs, is likely to reduce their share of the market even further. It will also encourage current British owners thinking of selling to do so, as they will get more pounds for their € euro and be able to afford better back in UK. Having said that, house price inflation there is still near 10% p.a., so they may find all is not as rosy as they hoped. Those dependant on sterling income will also be concerned, which will affect buyers from Gibraltar, who may have been hoping for greater border flexibility resulting from the current talks between UK/Gibraltar and Spain

This is our 31st Market Report, with the previous ones being our April ‘Special’ and January Report. Many of the items in the previous Reports still apply but are not repeated here. Looking back through to those of the 2000’s, before the financial crash, is thought provoking. Along with hundreds of other articles and information pieces, they can be seen online at Survey Spain | Network of RICS Chartered Surveyors

Headlines

  • Strong demand is still being experienced, with traditional UK buyers reducing in numbers, being replaced by more buyers from Eastern Europe, but there is an increasing nervousness that the market cannot escape the turmoil elsewhere
  • As before, demand is principally from Spain, Morocco, and all Northern European countries, with America, Middle and Far East also providing buyers, plus expats of many nationalities worldwide. The tourist authorities are marketing the Costa as the place to over-winter and avoid the inclement weather of a northern European winter. The Nordic countries have already been notable in their increased interest.
  • There is a shortage of supply of all property types and especially the higher priced, in most areas.
  • As before, new construction is continuing, absorbing much buyer demand, despite higher than average prices and much increased building costs.
  • Prices have started to creep up and will probably do so more if the supply shortage and excess demand continues. Some discounts are still possible, especially for resale properties, and with the increasing costs of living and finance, it’s likely that there will be more distressed sellers in the months to come.
  • ‘Golden Visas’ have continued their popularity for non-EU buyers, contributing to the demand for higher value properties as they permit residence of more than 90 days in any 180. The central Government is promoting a number of styles, aimed at the wealthy retired and ‘digital nomads`, who can work and live anywhere, communicating principally by internet with only the occasional ‘presence’ back in head office.
  • Climate change still has little or no mention, although the alteration in lifestyle that the increasing number of changes demands, will be having a hidden effect. Gradually, people are beginning to take the Energy rating (CEE) of the house into account, with solar water heating and photo-voltaic ‘free’ electricity being asked for, but it still lies far behind a good internet connection.
  • Marbella at last announced that it has agreed its much revised town plan and submitted it to the Regional planning authorities. All wait with interest as to when agreement or need for further revision will be announced. The 1986 plan to which the Municipality has been obliged to work is getting distinctly creased and dog-eared.
  • The Reference Values, upon which property taxes are based, are a sorry joke, as they are so inaccurate, with most being way below the current market level.
  • In Andalucía there was a brief ray of sunshine through the tax clouds, as the Junta announced the effective cessation of Wealth Tax. Individuals and their businesses were considering moving to Spain to what would become a low tax society. However, that euphoria was quashed within days by Central Government announcing plans to create new taxes that would have the same effect and couldn’t be ‘avoided’ by the Regional authorities. A great chance missed by the application of political dogma, preventing the encouragement of wealth creators, and their funds, to benefit Spain.

STATISTICS

As usual, we have kept a record of the average difference between Asking Price and Actual Selling price, where we have been supplied with that information from reliable sources. These are often from clients for whom we have carried out a building survey/home inspection, and they inform us what price they are actually paying for the property after receiving our report.

House made of Euro notes

Average Difference Between Asking Price and Actual Selling Price.

Last Quarter of 2021
October to December – 9.39%. Ranging from 0%, where the asking price was paid, to -18.6% for a property that had building problems and needed a DAFO.

First Quarter of 2022
January to March – 5.72% – It was a busy quarter, reflecting the post-Covid optimism, before the start of Putin’s war. Ranging from -1.74% for an apartment in a prime address in Marbella, to -10.14% for a townhouse in Marbella, where our building survey/home inspection had identified possible structural problems.

2nd Quarter of 2022
April to June – 4.63% – This difference is the lowest, but the average is artificial as the discount ranged from -16.06% for a property with paperwork problems, to two properties in Mijas and Benalmadena, where the original properties were substantially improved between the original asking price and the eventual sale price, thus causing increases in value. However, it did reflect the strength of the market at that time.

3rd Quarter of 2022
July to September. 7.09% – is the most recent quarter, where the market is perhaps beginning to reflect the seriousness of the European and World economic situation and sellers are more nervous and so willing to accept offers at less then the asking price.

Changes in Multi-Listing Site – Resales Online

Unfortunately, we cannot compare to previous Reports as the search parameters have changed so that comparison of figures are now restricted to one region. We have chosen Costa del Sol, as being the most active on the website.
We found on 1st October 2022 that there were 14,841 properties for sale at 100,000€ euro or more, 131 (0.9%) of which were identified as representing new developments. There were 3,579 (24.12%) priced at 1,000,000€ euro or more, 56 (43.75% of the total) representing new developments.
1,591 (10.72%) of the 100,000+ properties are found to have a discount of 10% or more since first listing, which is a significant drop from the previous record of 15.84% in January 2022. Those increasing their price was 1,281 (8.63%), which is higher than the previous 6.52%.
1,595 were found to be available for long-term rental, with 1,271 (79.69%) being at more than 1,000€ euro/month, being the minimum wage in Spain, and only 17 (1.07%) being available at less than half that. On the other hand, 679 (42.57%) were available at 2,000+€ euro/month, twice the wage, and 227 (14.23%) at 5,000+€ euro/month

Analysis

The change in price, + or- 10% could indicate that sellers are feeling more confident, as the reductions are less and the increases more.
The absence of lower rentals could just be a reflection of the agencies involved in the listing, but it does indicate the difficulty lower wage families may have in finding a home, with these tending to be the service business workers. Talking to bar, restaurant and many other business owners, all are finding difficulty in sourcing staff. The recent changes, actual and proposed, giving tenants more rights, are likely to make property owners less keen to take the risks of letting, thus reducing the number of places available even more.

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