Coast or Country?
"Perhaps one of the biggest differences is climate. While there are no extremes on the coasts, whether facing the Atlantic or Mediterranean, it’s a bit different inland."
There has always been a niche in Spain’s overseas property market for inland properties for a certain type of international buyer who wants to stay clear of the coasts. I would put it at less than 5% of the overall number of buyers from overseas. But there was quite a change in the boom decade before the market crashed in 2008 when prices on the coasts rose so steeply that many buyers found themselves priced out of the property market in many coastal areas. Rather than abandon their dream of buying a property in Spain many looked inland and discovered that while €250K wasn’t going to be enough on the coast it was plenty in country areas.
In many places €250,000 would cover the purchase of a house and renovation costs and still leave change. In the five years after The Property Finders was established in 2003 until the crash hit in 2008 around 75% of my clients in Andalucía bought in the countryside and higher demand was also experienced in the other regions we cover. Budgets ranged from €150,000, which was barely enough for a one bedroom apartment on the coasts but covered a four bed townhouse in a village, to €900,000, enough for a five bedroom house with 3000m2 garden, walking distance to a lovely town. In a prime coastal location they would have needed €1.5m for the same thing.
However, the reality was that many of these buyers weren’t choosing the country in preference to the coast, rather they were driven off the coasts by budget. It was inland or nothing. And when property prices collapsed following the 2008 meltdown, with falls across Spain of between 40% and 70%, many overseas buyers found they were back in with a shout in a coastal location. Almost overnight, they turned their backs on rural properties and this sector returned to its pre-2008 niche market status for the small number of foreign buyers who only want a country property and nothing else.
However, with prices rising so fast in the post-pandemic period and demand in the prime coastal locations way ahead of supply I’ve been thinking that we may be entering a phase of the market when buyers will consider moving off the coasts if they can’t find what they want in budget. But thinking back to when I was doing so many inland searches I realised that many of those buyers knew very little, perhaps nothing, about inland locations and the main differences between coastal living and country living. Perhaps one of the biggest differences is climate. While on all the the coasts, whether Atlantic or Mediterranean facing, there are no extremes and it's relatively benevolent throughout the year, it’s a bit different inland.
Although some Mediterranean coastal regions in the north and those facing the Atlantic have lower winter temperatures than further south they are all relatively mild due to the maritime influence. But the average altitude of Spanish territory is 600m above sea-level and in general, at least 1ºC is lost for every 100m of altitude. In addition, mountains occupy roughly 50% of Spain’s total land area and higher ground often starts within a few kilometres of the coasts. As a result, you can be up at 600m and higher within 20 minutes. And being up in the hills can also reduce the number of hours of exposure to winter sun; hills to the east block it in the morning, hills to the west can take it in early afternoon and it may not get over high ground to the south at all. If an inland property doesn’t get full sun throughout the warmest part of the day it will be cold. And check the snow line. Even in Andalucía snow at 800m is the norm and it does snow at lower altitudes most winters so it’s important to check out the locality where you want to be. As a result, I always recommend inland viewings should be in the winter, ideally between November and April, for a realistic appraisal of winter temperatures in the preferred location.
Having said that, it is possible to find inland locations in which daytime winter temperatures are only slightly lower than on the coasts. Always check the altitude; look for locations that are flatter and surrounded by mountains at a distance as these can be very good sun traps. Check what the local agriculture is; if citrus and avocados are grown commercially it’s quite a good sign that the climate is relatively mild and notice if the trees shed their leaves.
When it comes to summer temperatures inland temperatures tend to be several degrees higher than on the coasts and 40ºC+ is common in high summer. However, whereas coastal humidity can be 80% and higher it is generally much lower inland away from the maritime influence. I like the hotter and drier conditions inland but it is very much a personal choice and so while I recommend property viewings in winter I also suggest spending some time in your preferred area at the hottest time of year. Every summer health advisories are issued in many inland regions, particularly in respect of the elderly and the very young, warning against spending too much time outside. Nevertheless, if the climate suits there are great opportunities in inland areas but buying a country property does raise other issues and in future blogs I’ll go over some of the other notable contrasts between coastal and country living, such as lifestyle and amenities, ease of access, investment potential and rules and regulations.
For more property market information please take a look at our Market Reports. These cover the overall market and our regions. Go to our Locations page for more detailed information. Here's an example of a wonderful coastal property and a great country estate in our Case Studies section.
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