Nestled between sea, mountains and rivers, Barcelona is a city that is rich with history and beauty, but it is also a densely populated city, and due to its layout, high-rise apartments abound.
Houses in Barcelona are often more difficult to find, more expensive and more challenging to secure. Several months of rent are expected to be paid in advance as a security deposit, in addition to the first month's rent and an agent's fee – usually the equivalent of one month's rent.
Following the property crisis, prices for real estate in Barcelona dropped by almost a third. Price levels have since levelled and some areas have even seen a moderate rise in prices.
As a result, rent and property prices in Barcelona are significantly lower than major European capitals such as London and Paris, and slightly lower than Madrid. This is, however, matched by lower levels of employment and lower average salaries.
Factors to consider when house-hunting in Barcelona
Owing to the state of the market, expats should carefully consider their options when buying or renting property in Barcelona.
Given that there are many options for short-term accommodation in the city, many expats prefer to arrive in the city before committing to a long-term lease.
The range of this kind of accommodation includes flatshares, single rooms in larger houses or vacated student accommodation. As a result, this may not be a viable option for large expat families.
Expats should also keep in mind that it is helpful, and in many cases necessary, to speak Spanish when searching for accommodation, and when arranging leases with landlords.
For this reason, many expats hire an estate agent to assist in the process of finding and securing a place to live in Barcelona.
Finding accommodation in Barcelona
One of the first things an expat should do when looking for a place to stay in Barcelona is to identify areas of the city that appeal to them and serve their needs. This can either be done through research online, speaking to residents or exploring the city in person.
Barcelona is fairly unique in that its neighbourhoods tend to have a mixture of residential and commercial property, rather than solely consist of one or the other. It is also usually possible to access essential services such as healthcare within a short distance of where one stays.
For this reason, it may be an idea for expats who will be working in Barcelona to find a property in close proximity to their workplace.
Expat parents who send their children to a private school may want to live closer to the school. In cases such as these, it is a good idea to find accommodation close to public transport.
After searching for a suitable area, the search for an individual property begins. There is a multitude of online listings and property portals, and newspapers often have classifieds sections.
Unfortunately, however, the vast majority of these are in Spanish, although there are a few English websites and publications that are aimed at the expatriate community. Many expats also find a real estate agent who can speak English and knows the property market to assist them in their search.
Renting property in Barcelona
Most expats rent property in Barcelona first, even if it is not short-term accommodation. As a general rule, areas that are closer to the beach, with more space and are close to important amenities tend to be more expensive.
Expats who are going to be paid at Spanish salary levels should try to ensure that a housing stipend is included in their contract, as rent can take a significant amount out of a person’s wages. Students and young professionals in the city have increasingly taken to sharing apartments for this reason.
Thankfully, landlords often choose their tenants based on who contacts them first and can pay the stipulated amount. They will generally require proof of income and a security deposit of between one and six months’ rent.
After the terms have been settled with the landlord, the new tenant will sign a lease agreement or Contrato de Arrendamiento. Given that the contract is in Spanish, an expat may want to enlist the help of a Spanish speaking friend, or a real estate professional.
Buying property in Barcelona
Expats interested in buying property in Barcelona should note that the market for home loans in Spain is almost non-existent as banks are hesitant to provide funding in the current climate. As a result, the majority of house sales in Barcelona are cash transactions.
Investing in property in Barcelona is, however, starting to become an attractive proposition again. Relatively low prices at present are expected to rise in the coming years, although not to the heady levels seen before the market crash.
Expats who move to Barcelona to retire or live in the city and can afford it will find the relatively low cost of real estate in the city appealing. The fact that residency is granted to property purchases of more than EUR 500,000 is an added bonus.
It will be more challenging to buy property in the city for expats who plan on making a profit by renting out property or who plan to live and work in the city. The high levels of unemployment, a fragile economy and the unavailability of credit mean that low to middle income earning expats are likely to struggle.
That said, expats who do their research into the real estate market in Spain and have a steady income should have plenty of opportunity for finding a property that suits their needs.
►Read more about the different neighbourhoods in the city in Areas and Suburbs in Barcelona
Are you an expat living in Barcelona?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Barcelona. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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