The cheap end of the market will suffer most from Brexit

The days of moving to Spain without much money ended with real Brexit at the start of 2021. You now need significant savings to get a visa to live in Spain, which is bound to hit the cheap end of the market in places like Alicante.

For the British, Spain used to be a place you could go to reduce your living costs, make your pension go further, and enjoy your retirement in the sun. House prices were, and still are, cheaper than the UK, so you could even buy a bargain in places like Torrevieja, if you could get together a bit of financing. This cheap and cheerful end of the market in the Costa Blanca and the Costa del Sol helps explain why the British have been the biggest group of foreign buyers in Spain for the last 20 years. With its excellent public health care, good climate, and easy access from the UK, Spain is an attractive retirement destination that was affordable to most.

Foreign demand by nationality of residents – top two market per region H1 2020. The British were number one or two in Malaga, Murcia and Alicante. Source: Notaries

That all changed at the start of this year with real Brexit, when free travel and residency rights in Europe ended. The main avenue to residency in Spain is now the non-lucrative residence visa that does not allow you to work in Spain, and to get it you must demonstrate almost €30,000 in savings or a minimum monthly income from funds of pension of more than €2,000, with more on top for dependents. The Spanish residency door is now close to many by this financial hurdle. 

As a reader Steven wrote to me recently asking “Is the dream of moving to Spain for British pensioners now only for the rich with the necessity for the non lucrative visa?” He went on to explain. “I think a retired couple now need funds of 33,000€ per year for the first 12 months of the NLV, and 66,000€ when renewing for the following 2 years until they reach 5 years, and can get full residency. This will rule out a huge number of pensioners that can only dream of such an income, and will really hurt the cheap and cheerful end of the property market.”

I suspect he will be proved right when the Q1 sales figures are released in a couple of months. As you can see from the chart below, British demand held up surprisingly well after the referendum and until the end of last year, but that was when the residency door was still open to everyone. Now it is closed to many of the people who used to buy in the South Costa Blanca, and the cheaper end of the Costa del Sol, I think we will see the real impact of Brexit from now on. The 90/180 rule and Covid won’t help either.

SPI Member Comments

Thoughts on “The cheap end of the market will suffer most from Brexit

  • Scott Barber says:

    It does make you wonder whether the Spanish government will be forced to change some of these Brexit enforced rules if there is a serious impact on their economy because of it. There must be a lot of businesses in these regions that depend heavily on the Brit expat community to survive.

    • colinpclarke says:

      The D7 visa in Portugal is a good template which Spain may like to look at. Income requirement based upon local minimum wage and thus much more affordable.

    • You are correct.
      Portugal is looking to change many EU standard rules ( as each country basically can set their own laws to some extent ) and revert back to 183 consecutive days per year for non residents.
      Be sure that when this happens, Spain will shortly follow as the commercial and financial damage to both countries coastal economys is colosal.

    • The problem for British pensioners is that the house price explosion is the model for their retirement income. They need to cash in and move somewhere cheap to even have decent income to live on. Arguably, nowhere in the EU is cheap enough for most British pensioners to live without state supported healthcare for five years. Maybe Thailand plus private cover could be a good alternative.

    • Eddie Kelly says:

      Guaranteed the Spanish government will change the rules, if you see what hoops you have to jump through to obtain the mentioned Non lucrative visa, it’s absolutely absurd.
      Let’s face it, they have tourism, and that’s it, if it weren’t for the big bright thing in the sky, it would be dead, why else would you go ?????? The lakes in Cumbria and the English riviera knock spots off anything they have to offer, not to mention Scotland.
      So, when the brits go to Spain, what are they doing ? Spending cash, buying property, renting property, eating and drinking in all their restaurants, it’s called enhancing there economy via tourism, someone needs to be telling them about that old chestnut , never bite the hand that feeds you .

  • Hi Mark,

    What nationality does the vertically striped blue yellow red flag correspond to? It looks like the Chadian flag….

    Also the one with the star?!?

    In fact this map really needs a legend, if I may say so!

    Kind regards,


  • I think the Spanish Regional Governments will indeed suffer even if new buyers can afford the move, we can afford to qualify but the hoops we are having to jump through are preventative having to carefully gather official documents such as: Criminal Record Checks, Medical Certificates, Health Policies, Marriage Certificates, Passports, Proof of financial means.
    All of these not only are required to be Officially Translated but once this is done some of the documents require the Hague Apostle.
    Not only do all of these services incur costs some are time sensitive and only last for 3 months, once you have managed to gather All documents together (which if you have as much hassle as we are trying to get Medical Certificates from your local Doctors) then this can gobble up a month or more into your three month window)
    You then have to complete two further Spanish documents, make an appointment at the Spanish Consulate in the UK – All of this along with the many charges along the way make a move to Spain a very real reason not to purchase! We have just purchased but are having second thoughts of whether we’ve made the right decision!
    The Spanish Government need to relax some of these measures before they scare all third country National away.

  • Julie Johnston says:

    Merely to clarify, a Northern Ireland citizen with both British and Irish Passports will not be affected and have maintained their EU Citizenship status and accompanying rights? Is this correct?

  • It is not the Spanish government’s fault that we decided to leave EU. The Spanish economy does not depend solely on the British tourists or crash because we decide no to take up residence in Spain, there are an increasing number of EU nationals that are continuing to buy and reside in Spain!
    These are normal rules and regulations that have been in place for years and apply to all non-EU national, it is not there to specifically target us or prevent us from taking up residence in Spain. Yes, they look harsh and unreasonable, but only because we did not have to deal with them while we were part of EU.
    This is the consequence of Brexit and something that we have to learn to get used to, regardless of which EU country we decide to reside in, if any!

    • The Spanish Government does not solely depend on the British tourist or cash !!!!!!

      How many houses have been bought by brits this year, how many long term rentals have been agreed by brits this year, and if you have a look at the statistics that are coming out of Benidorm , 90% of there businesses are shutting. And that’s not because the germans or dutch haven’t been, don’t believe me, have a look at the stats.

      The brits are the biggest contributors to the Spanish economy, that’s a fact you cannot disagree with.
      And you are obviously not aware of the criteria you have to meet to obtain a Non Lucrative Visa, and i am not talking about how much money you have in the bank, that’s the easy bit. How stupid would you need to be to go to spain to live with no money .

      I understand the Brexit thing, and i am not into the politics. Life’s too short, but the Spanish government is biting the hand that feeds them.

      • Obviously Covid had the biggest impact on the businesses that are closed, but 20 million Brits went to spain last year, 1 million brits own property in spain now. Wait and see how many buy this year .

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