Weighing up the pros and cons of different sorts of property in Spain

what property to buy in spain
Villa in Mallorca

Take a look at any Spanish property website and you’ll see a wide range of homes for sale. Most are apartments and flats – the Spaniards’ preferred option – but there’ll also be a good dose of townhouses, villas and country homes, plus maybe a few plots thrown into the mix. You might already have a clear idea of what you want, but if you don’t, here’s a round-up of the different properties for sale in Spain and why to buy them (or not).

New builds

You’ll have noticed that cranes are back dotting the skylines across the country and as a result, the market for new-build properties is pretty brisk at the moment. Except for the islands, most cities and resort areas have a selection of off-plan and new properties for sale in Spain

Buying new tends to be more expensive – on the Costa del Sol, the square metre price for a new build was over 20% higher than resale at the end of last year. And prices go up more quickly. 

The plus points for buying off-plan or new build 

  • The quality of construction and fixtures and fittings tends to be high.
  • Properties come with energy-efficiency features such as insulation, solar panels and recharging points for electric cards. 
  • And the property is (or will be) move-in or rental-ready. 

The minus points for off-plan

  • You’ll have to wait for completion (often as long as 24 months).
  • There could be problems with delays in completion or the finished property not being what you thought you were buying.
  • And potential legal issues with the purchase – take professional advice to avoid these or ensure your money is protected. 

Apartments and flats 

Spaniards love their apartamento or piso and in most towns and cities and in many resorts, apartments make up almost all of the market. Fuengirola and Torremolinos on the Costa del Sol and Benidorm and Calpe on the Costa Blanca are cases in point. Even when it comes to property for sale in Barcelona, Spain’s second-biggest city, the market is almost entirely comprised of flats.

The quality of construction and finishes varies hugely. At one end, you’ll find blocks built in the 1960s with cramped accommodation and antiquated plumbing and electrical systems and at the other, recently finished complexes with smart homes built with sustainable materials. In general, the cheaper the apartment, the more you’ll need to do to refurbish it. 

All apartments share communal facilities and services, whose upkeep owners pay for via community fees.  

The advantages of buying an apartment 

  • They’re generally the cheapest properties on the market.
  • They’re easy to maintain.
  • They’re convenient for holiday homes because you can lock up and go.
  • They’re secure, especially if they have 24-hour security.
  • And many have communal facilities such as a pool and gardens that you can enjoy without looking after them. 

The disadvantages of apartments

  • Apartments can be expensive to maintain because of high community fees.
  • The community may be poorly maintained or conflictive.
  • Communal facilities may be too small for the number of residents, especially during the summer.
  • And sound insulation is usually poor, meaning you’ll probably hear your neighbours next door, upstairs and downstairs.
guide to buying property in spain

Townhouses 

Two-bedroom, two-bathroom townhouse at Playa Marques Beach – Was €353,000 – Now €155,000

Rows of terraced houses (casa adosada), often with three or four floors, are commonplace in many parts of Spain, particularly in resort areas and in the suburbs of large cities. They tend to be spacious and often include a basement for use as a garage and storage. Townhouses sometimes come with a small private garden and many have rooftop terraces. 

Quality varies, but as this type of property is relatively recent (few were built before the 90s), it’s unlikely to need major refurbishment.  

Most townhouses form part of a larger complex and share communal facilities such as a pool and garden. Some developments are gated with security services. 

The benefits of buying a townhouse

  • Townhouses give you plenty of space for both you and your belongings.
  • They’re more private than an apartment.
  • You can use communal facilities without having to look after them yourself.
  • And this type of property is generally low maintenance.

The drawbacks of a townhouse

  • Your neighbours (on both sides) could be noisy or difficult.
  • Communities aren’t always well-maintained.
  • And multi-floor living isn’t ideal if you have mobility problems (or don’t like stairs!). 

Villas 

Villas (chalet or villa) are part and parcel of resorts in Spain and mostly built to meet demand from Spanish and foreign holidaymakers. That means you won’t find many outside coastal and resort areas. On the other hand, villas dominate some parts of the coast such as Moraira on the Costa Blanca or Ibiza. 

The age, size and quality of villas vary hugely. For example, you can buy a small home built in the late 60s needing total refurbishment or a move-in-ready modern mansion. Some properties form part of complexes sharing communal facilities such as gardens and a pool, while others sit on independent plots. 

Reasons to buy a villa in Spain

  • You get maximum privacy.
  • You can often tailor the home to your specific needs.
  • And if the plot is big enough, you can extend your living space. 

Reasons to think twice about a villa

  • Maintenance is high and can be expensive.
  • Security can be an issue unless the villa is inside a gated community. 
  • And running costs are much higher than an apartment or townhouse. 

Country homes 

rural inland country property azahar castellon valencian community
Rural property in Castellón province, Valencian Community

If you’re looking for a home away from the coasts and resorts, a country home (finca) could be for you. They range from a shepherd’s cottage to a large farmhouse with just about anything in between. Some are built in local traditional styles such as the cortijos in Andalusia, masías in Catalonia and the Balearic Islands or pazos in Galicia. 

Most country homes are older properties (at least 50 years old – some date back several centuries) and will almost always need considerable refurbishment. The majority come with land that may be agricultural (e.g., olive or citrus groves) or pasture. 

Rural properties often have legal issues and are potentially the most problematic type of Spanish property so take independent legal advice before committing to a purchase. 

And get your lawyer and an architect to double-check your plans for any refurbishment to ensure they’re possible – in many parts of rural Spain, you can’t automatically renovate or extend. 

In favour of country properties in Spain 

  • You get a lot of property and land for your money.
  • You can enjoy peace and quiet with no noisy neighbours.
  • And you can live in some of Spain’s most beautiful scenery. 

Against buying country homes

  • Refurbishment may not be possible and if it is, it will be expensive.
  • Utilities may not be available onsite and be costly to connect.
  • Maintenance costs are high.
  • And amenities may be some distance away, making a car is essential. 

Plots 

You may want to start from scratch and build your own home to your specifications and requirements. The good news is that plots of land are available in most resort areas where you’ll also find a reputable network of architects and builders. But as we all know from Grand Designs, building a property can be stressful and costly and may not go to plan. 

Plots vary in size, which determines how big you can build a house. They also vary hugely in price, with premium land in resort areas costing over €1,000 per square metre. Some come landscaped and build-ready, while others don’t even have utility connections.  

Note that planning permission isn’t automatic for a plot and depending on the land’s classification, you might not be able to build at all. Again, use independent legal services to check for you. 

Plot pros 

  • You have a blank space to build on.
  • Land is generally a good investment and appreciates over time.
  • And you can build a home more cheaply than buying the same finished equivalent. 
  • Plot cons
  • Planning regulations may limit how much you can build.
  • Prime land is expensive.
  • And you need to be patient while the design, construction and paperwork processes go ahead. 

Like to know more?

The information included in this article comes from Your Guide to Buying Property in Spain, 12 info-packed chapters with everything you need to know. From the first steps (such as those above) to that moment when you finally become the proud owner. Via everything in between. The guide (available as a full-colour pdf download) costs €7.95, but SPI subscribers get 15% discount (just add SPI at the checkout).

Buy your copy now.

guide to buying property in spain