Dreams of Eldorado turn sour

The British dream of owning a property in Spain is rapidly turning sour in the face of rising ownership costs, a falling pound, a dead beat property market, and multiple property abuses, says a recent article in the Spanish daily El Heraldo de Aragon.

There are hundreds of thousands of Britons with property interests in Spain. According to a study by Ignacio Vasallo and Carmen Hernández for the Spanish tourist office in 2005, the British then owned half a million properties in Spain, and were buying more at a rate of around 50,000 a year. The British Foreign office estimates that more than a million Britons live all or part of the year in Spain, and when the Germany economy ran out of steam at the beginning of the decade, forcing German buyers to retreat from Spain, the British stepped in to push Spain’s coastal property market to new highs. Spanish developers started opening sales offices in London, and Llanera, a Valencia-based developer, even went so far as to sponsor the Premier league club Charlton Athletic. Llanera is now bankrupt.

Now, says the article, British dreams of Eldorado in Spain are turning sour. The pound has fallen 16% against the Euro in the last year, increasing the financial woes of pensioners on fixed incomes already struggling with the rising cost of living in Spain. Flights home to the UK get more expensive by the day, and hundreds, perhaps more, are trapped in Spain by property abuses, such as land grabs or illegal builds, which prevent them from selling. Even those who can sell find the market has now gone dead, making it difficult to sell for a price that will pay for housing back in the UK.