Brexit 90-day limit will hit British demand

When the Brexit transition period ends at the end of the year, UK residents won’t be able to come and go as they please, which is bound to affect demand for second homes in Spain. 

As of the first of January 2021 Britons can only spend 90 days out of every 180 days in the EU without a visa. As the Gov.uk website explains “From 1 January 2021, you will be able to travel to other Schengen area countries for up to 90 days in any 180-day period without a visa for purposes such as tourism. This is a rolling 180-day period.”

Many British residents with second homes in Spain like to spend just under half a year here, especially in the winter months. That will no longer be possible. Three months will be the longest you can stay.

I read in the press that Portugal is looking at allowing the British visa-free visits of up to 180 days, but there is no sign that Spain will follow suit.

So, as things stand, British residents will not be able to spend more than three months in Spain in any six month period.

That will reduce the incentive of buying a second home in Spain for many British buyers. It might turn out to be a big disincentive.

You just have to look at the map below from the Association of Spanish Notaries showing foreign non-resident demand per region in the first half of 2020 to see how much damage this could do to the housing market.

Non-resident foreign demand for property in Spain H1 2020 – market share by nationality. Source: Spanish Notaries’ Association

The British are the biggest group of foreign buyers of second homes in Andalusia, Murcia, Galicia, and the Valencian region, and second biggest in the Canaries, the Balearics, and three other regions. They are the biggest or second biggest group of buyers in more than half of Spain’s regions.

Many of those buyers are people near or in retirement who like or plan to use their second homes for more than three months at a time. Take that benefit away, and it follows that some of them will decide not to go to the hassle and expense of buying a second home in Spain. Better go to Portugal, where the government appears to be looking for a solution to this problem.

We won’t have any official data to see the impact until the second quarter of next year, but I fear this 90-day limit will hit British demand in a significant way next year.

Original article edited to make clear that Portugal is only looking at visa-free visits of up to 180 days, if allowed by EU rules.

SPI Member Comments (16)

Thoughts on “Brexit 90-day limit will hit British demand

  • aquitaineloyal says:

    Its very interesting news that apparently Portugal has “caved in” and is prepared to allow up to 180 days stay there, but I wonder if this is not a breech of EU law ? I think one contributing factor in a future decline of sales to Britons in Spain and elsewhere in the EU is the health cover question. It seems the EHIC health card which was improperly used by many British in EU as effective free health insurance cover will end on 31st December. Thereafter, it seems, on arrival Britons will be asked for proof of adequate private health insurance for visitor and if applicable all family members with him/her together with proof of adequate funds for the whole period worked out at a daily minimum rate of between £70/120 pp depending if owner or renter of property in the country , and , of course, a 99 eur visa pp and return tickets for all.
    I have heard prior to Brexit the mouth watering premiums British insurers are now asking just for monthly cover and this took into account the possible contribution towards fees of the EHIC card. Of course cover never included “pre-existing conditions” or being in poor health which before 31st December never needed to be disclosed with EHIC use. Again those elderly or others with poor medical history may be declined cover or even charged more excessively for these long periods. What percentage of Britons currently in southern Europe could afford all the above extra fees & charges ?
    I feel that alongside the pretty restrictive 90/180 general EU 3rd part country regulations, the points above, and the need to apply in person, pay 99eur pp and wait patiently (at least for France) at the the sparsely situated Consulates in UK will reduce the market substantially once the information sinks in. According to the comments in the recent Daily Mail articles on this particular subject very few British appear to believe there will be much of a change after 31st December, but I put this down to ignorance and lack of information on the changes.

    • Yes the 90 day limit is causing many to sign up to Residence to avoid returning to UK in mid winter. The Spanish like this for taxes on income capital gains and Inheritence Taxes on beneficiaries! Many who come in October or November wan to stay usually till end of March and they are still below 182 days that is the limit for non fiscal residence.. I for one need to exceed 90 days by about another 60. Might be better for Spain to just charge more non resident tax personally would not object to modest charge.. I am signing up for residence to cover myself over winter but will be looking to take advantage of being able to sell CGT free after 3 years as a pensioner if they do not come up with a fair arrangement. Portugal is in Schengen find it .I am already subscribed!difficult to understand how they can allow 180 days without EU permission. Cyprus is the only other winter destination that is not in Schengen. They were supposed to have joined this year but maybe they have had cold feet’ – many British retirees there over winter that would be at risk and might cross over to the Turkish north.

  • There were over 18 million UK tourists to Spain last year.

    We Brits used to travel, work and live in Spain, before there was ‘free movement’ in the EU, as we do currently in all other non EU countries around the world, it’s not a big deal. Unless Spain wants to make it so.

    Portugal it seems has smelled the coffee, does Spain really want to see the Brits experiment again with taking their annual holiday spend or holiday home money off to Turkey and elsewhere?

    They are an ornery bunch the Brits, they will decamp at the drop of a hat, knowing others will be only to happy to see them, and in some cases suffer them. If they find the ‘grass is greener’ or should we say the ‘sand is softer’ elsewhere, am not so sure they could be so easily wooed back. Like I say, they are decidedly ornery.

    And does Spain even know what it wants really? The political situation looks unstable to say the least. Do they want to try and apply strict visa and length of stay controls on the British? Looks like Podemos would be happy to have no tourism full stop but… what about everyone else?

    Me, I think as in the 1960’s – 90’s a blind eye will be turned to visa requirements and lengths of stay, much as it has been this past couple of decades, where many tens of thousands of Brits have lived in Spain far beyond the 180 day period, never declaring themselves as resident. It’s a fact. It’s never openly discussed. But we all know folk who have lived in Spain for years and years barely ever leaving and as simply viewed as non resident.

    It’s this simple, if Spain doesn’t want the British, its not a problem for the British, there’s other places to go. If Spain does want the British, it might be an idea to make that clear before too long, give the Brits the wrong impression, it won’t be so easily reversed once it becomes established.

    But lets see… some people still harp on that the original Brexit vote was so close in 2016, without recognising the massive repudiation of remaining in Europe in the EU Elections in 2019 when a three month old Brexit Party dominated and later that year Boris Johnson won the day.

    I voted Remain, but like a very real majority in the UK now, I am real happy to leave, especially with what I have seen in attitudes and approach to the British since 2016, essentially it was really simple, we didn’t and never will want to be part of a Federal United States of Europe.

    Spain can do as it pleases, in can impose and then try to apply strict visa and residency requirements, lets see if people just ignore them as they have previously, or stay the hell away or if here already then up sticks and leave.

    Me, I quite fancy Quinta do Lago on the Algarve, and really nice people those Portuguese. Always happy to see a party of Brits.

    But I think this will all settle down soon enough and common sense will prevail. I mean how wants to cheese off 18 million visitors being what…? A quarter of all Spanish tourism?

    • Few grammatical errors in my post above, I used to be able to edit my occasional posts here, was planning to do that as I put the post live, but I think my gist is there and the odd poor grammar can be overcome.

      • You are correct in everything (except grammar :). Spain needs the UK for tourism, property, to buy their fresh fruit and veg, to support their military with technology and more. Without the UK input Spain’s economy would crumble. Murcia region alone exported 580 million euro of fruit and veg to the UK in 2018.
        I also voted remain but once you start to unpick things you begin to realise that the EU regime does not actually benefit anyone other then the elite few, their favourites and their pet policies.

    • I can accept many of the points above relating to holidays in Spain, and fully agree the current Spanish government is misguided in approach to foreign retirees compared with Portugal. However Brexit is (for me) also misguided as UK could have been smarter in rejecting parts of EU it did not like (monetary & political union) and stayed in the free trade block, thereby disrupting the status quo, leading Europe.
      For Brits wanting to live in Spain in the future there are serious issues, not least health insurance, this alone will make it very expensive, and the number of people retiring (or working) to Spain and other EU countries will drop dramatically unless changes are made from what is now planned. This for me is a sad outcome for all, especially if you are British. But that’s the price we are going to pay for not really understanding what the EU is or does, and just believing the anti EU garbage we have been fed for the last 40 years.

      A

    • Nonsense. The vast majority of British visitors to Spain were much shorter than 90 day stays, and hence will be unaffected by the new 90/180 limit.

      And those with over 26,000 euros in the bank or in pension/investment income can move to Spain.

      It’s really only two main groups that are hit by the restriction:
      snowbirds who don’t want to do an annual visa, but who normally stay longer than 90 days
      those who don’t have enough money to qualify for a permanent move
      that are affected by the rule.

      Far too much is made of it. Far too many Brits, though, seem to just blithely accept this notion that “it’ll all be worked out in the end and we’ll be able to come and go as we please”.

      No, no you won’t. That’s the entire point of freedom of movement; that’s what you wanted to stop when it comes to EU citizens moving in/out of the UK, and the flip side is that it’ll hit you as well.

  • It will have very little effect. If the house is a holiday home people will continue to use it at holiday times and most holidays don’t last for more than a month. If people are living in Spain they will get their visa or residency sorted. The power of the sun, sea and sand will overcome any hurdles – just look out of your window in the UK now to understand why!

  • ❝I read in the press that Portugal has decided to allow the British visa-free visits of up to 180 days❞

    It’s hard enough to trust the news these days. Please include references & links to claims.

    • Mark Stücklin says:

      Fair enough Jacob. I can’t remember where I originally read it but it got me searching, which led me to this Telegraph article https://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/news/shorter-passport-queues-longer-stays-portugal-will-attract-britons/.
      I hit the Telegraph paywall so didn’t actually read the full article. I was in a rush and didn’t have time to get to the bottom of it, hence my wording “I read in the press”. I realise this was rushed and sloppy, and I now think misleading. I’ll have to edit the article to reflect that. I appreciate you taking me to task on this.

      • I read the article (snuck through the paywall) and it says that Portugal is considering the 180 visa-free visit, but it’s not approved at this time.

        I think this issue is overrated. There are multiple classes of British visitors to Spain:

        1-People who move full-time and who can meet the new, non-EU requirements for a non-lucrative (retirement) visa (the two main requirements are being able to buy private health insurance, and meeting an annual income of 25,600 euros/year for the first family member, and an additional 6454 euros/year for each additional family member or having equivalent/sufficient savings/investments to live from)
        2-People who move full-time and cannot meet the new requirements
        3-People who stay >90 days, often annually, over winters
        4-People who stay <90 days, typically for a weekend or maybe a couple of weeks at the most on holiday

        So out of these four groups, only group 2 and group 3 are ruled out under current rules. Group 2 is out because they simply don't have the financial resources, and group 3 is out because it's too much hassle to get a non-lucrative visa on an annual basis. (I think it's a big pain in the neck and I only had to do it once, four years ago prior to moving here!)

        The real question is this: how many people are there in those two groups? Some of those in Group 2 can probably meet the new requirements if they sell their home in the UK and cash out completely, and then buy something less expensive than they'd originally planned in Spain.

        But my contention is that the vast majority of British visitors to Spain are actually Group 4, and they're unaffected. In annual spend, those people also bring the most money. Those that live full time and have a decent income (ie, spend) are also unaffected.

        So it's really just the snowbirds and the poorer full-timers that are hit… and to be frank, Spain can afford to lose them.

        I know it's popular among our British cousins (I'm American, myself) to overrate their own importance to the Spanish economy, but the reality is that in tourist euros, the *gain* in overall tourism in Spain between 2015 and 2019 was greater than all of the spending by ALL Brits.

        That sounds astounding but it's true; Spanish tourism grew tremendously up until Covid hit, and so even if *every* Brit quit coming all at once but everyone else stayed the same, Spain's tourism sector would only be set back a few years' worth of growth.

        And yet the majority of British tourism will be able to move unimpeded.

        Honestly, the only market that's hit by the new visa requirements are the lower end of holiday flats and homes. I know that's a lot of SPI's bread and butter, but let's not add to the Leave crowd's arrogance and belief in their own importance.

        • I really do believe that the 90 day issue will be the biggest barrier to any resumption of normality in the Spanish Second home market. I speak with experience, I have owned holiday property on the Costa Del Sol and now retired my wife and I are searching for a suitable winter home there. I enjoy reading the articles and statistics on this site but have come to my own conclusion that second home property on the Costa Del Sol is not selling, I know because I am witnessing that now “in real time’, where many properties I am interested in have just been sitting there for sale, mostly with no price reductions, some for two years so we can’t just blame the pandemic.

          Anyway, Brexit done and vaccines rolling out I do see light at the end of the tunnel, BUT “hang on a minute” I did say winter on the Costa Del Sol and despite what the calendar says, winter in Blighty is longer than 90 days. Quite simply the Schengen Area 90 day rule is a showstopper for me and the missus, no way are we investing in Spanish property only to be limited on when we can stay. I should add that I totally disagree with the comments above and that the vast majority of friends and acquaintances we have on the Costa Del Sol are non resident snowbirds, and most definitely not lower end of the property scale as suggested. To expect the Spanish property market to simply lose this portion of the market with no detrimental effect is nonsense. Whilst it may be difficult to quantify surely there has to be tens of thousands of Brits thinking the same way as me and the missus right now.

          So what now? Well for us I guess we need some kind of second home owner 180 day Visa before we commit to buying, owning & wintering on the Costa Del Sol. Spanish issued or EU wide doesn’t matter, something quick and maybe lasting 5 years? I wonder, is such a thing on anybody’s agenda?

        • In reply to Paul’s articles 11 Dec & 14 Dec 20.

          It would appear you have a very low opinion of the BRITISH ( but of course you would you’re AMERICA N ). Let me explain to you there are many of us who have invested many Hundreds of Thousands if not Millions of Pounds in Spanish Property.

          We ourselves have owned a property in Spain for 17 years, we don’t want residency in Spain because of the worldwide tax implications that would bring but are happy to except 183 days stay per year. If the EU ruling of 90 days in 180 days stands it will definitely effect U.K. Property purchase in Spain.

          Remember it’s people like us that spend the real money in 5 star Spanish Restaurants and the like of Utilities etc, etc, not everyone Stays/ Holidays in a Caravan Park and live on a Shoestring.

          I suggest you may want to re-evaluate your opinion of the BRITISH.

  • Sorry to come to this article late but I have just received a petition on this very subject.

    I am an EU national and I think the solution to this ‘problem’ is very simple. UK nationals should lobby their MPs to change the law in the UK to match that of Schengen and adopt the same 90/180 day rule. Sorted! You then have the fairness and the level playing field that you desire and it’s much easier for the UK to simply change their rules than for the entire Schengen area to change theirs which, incidentally, apply to all third country nationals not just the UK.

    You voted for a very major change and this is just one of many changes that you will have to face. You can’t just pick off parts of EU membership that you like because you think you are exceptional and your money is more important, it doesn’t work like that and it sounds arrogant.

  • Amalia Hoptrough says:

    For years we thought we would move to Spain one day. My British husband and myself are the sort of people that Spain could do with, Net spenders. We would have arrived with money to purchase a house, private medical insurance and a generous spending power. But is clear we are no longer wanted there, so we are now looking elsewhere. The world is bigger than the EU. This is particularly painful for me, as I am Spanish, but after having lived in the UK for over 30 years I feel very much British at heart. I know the UK voted for Brexit, but all this small-minded pettiness coming from the EU is only reinforcing why they voted OUT.

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