British buyers much reduced but still the biggest players

The number of Britons buying homes in Spain has fallen 63pc in 3 years, but they are still the biggest group by a long stretch, according the 2010 report on the housing market from Spain’s property registrars.

4,649 Britons registered their Spanish house purchase deeds with the property register in 2010, down from 12,419 in 2008, when the economic crisis began.

Look back to 2006 and sales to the British have collapsed 80pc. Back then they were completing on more than 23,000 Spanish properties a year and represented around 70pc of the expat holiday-home market.

But even after 5 years or more of abandoning Spain in droves, British home-buyers in 2010 were still the biggest group by a long stretch, comprising 23pc of all foreign buyers in Spain.

The next biggest nationality were the French, buying 1,627 homes, a 23pc increase in a year but still just 35pc compared to British buyers.

Some good news, at last

There is not getting away from the fact that, thanks the the British pull-out, foreign demand for homes in Spain is still 40pc lower than it was as recently as 2008.

But the good news is that demand is now much more diversified than it was, and showing signs of starting to recover. Compared to 2009, house sales to foreigners rose 4.4pc last year.

According to José Luis Suárez, a professor at IESE Business School and Spain’s leading real estate expert (see his blog), the holiday-home market driven by foreign demand could well recover before the domestic market for primary housing.

Last year saw a rise in demand from most target markets in Northern Europe, led by the Swedes (+102pc) and Norwegians (+58pc).

Declines in demand came from the UK (-18pc), Ireland (-28pc) and Denmark (6.2pc), the last of which I can’t explain.

The big question is, where are the Germans? Hardly rushing in replace the British as the big buyers on the Spanish coast.

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About Mark Stücklin

Mark Stücklin is a Barcelona-based property market analyst and consultant, and author of the 'Spanish Property Doctor' column in the Sunday Times (2005 - 2008). He can be reached by email on ms@spanishpropertyinsight.com.