Overseas buyers in Spain at record level in 1st half 2022
"I don't see any sign of a lack of foreign buyers going into 2023."
At the end of 2021 I predicted continued growth in the overseas sector, conditional on travel remaining open and no further breakouts of new Covid strains. But, as always, there is a time lag of several months before we get the numbers for what the market is doing. In the case of the overseas property sector the notaries’ statistics are released half-yearly; the 1st half are published in October of the same year and the 2nd half in April of the following year. So while you can sense what is going on when buyers are outbid or a short list to show clients only has a couple of properties for them to view it’s a long wait to get the figures that back up what you think is actually happening.
I thought the numbers for the 1st half of 2022 would be good but I wasn’t expecting them to be so good. Then the notaries released the statistics in October 2022 and gave us the proof of market strength, with 72,987 transactions counted for buyers from overseas in the first 6 months of the year. The overseas sector represented 20.03% market share equalling the previous 1st half high in 2015. We already knew that the 111,743 foreign buyers in 2021 was an all-time record so given that 2nd half figures have averaged around 50,000 in the 3 best years before the pandemic it’s clear that something catastrophic will have to happen to prevent 2022 easily beating 2021 and by quite a margin. Problem is we won’t know for sure until April 2023.
In the meantime we can see that the main overseas buyer hotspots all recorded the highest figures on record for a 1st half-year. Andalucía counted 14,945 overseas buyers, the Balearics 4,244, Cataluña 10,741, the Canary Islands 6,456 and the Comunidad Valencia (the Costa Banca) 20,652.
In addition, in terms of overseas buyer spending power all these regions saw substantial increases in the average amount paid by foreigners per square metre. In the case of Andalucía it was up 9.7% to €2,125 pm2, the first time it has broken through the €2,000 barrier. All the other regions enjoyed double digit increases. The Balearics was up 27.5% to €3,894 pm2, Cataluña up 10,4% to €2,249, the Canaries up 13.1% to €2,195 and the Comunidad Valenciana up 13.5% at €1,564. These figures, when compared with the national average pm2 of approximately €1,500, illustrate that not only are overseas buyers important for the Spanish Property Market in terms of numbers but also for their spending power.
By nationality, the biggest spenders were the Danish on an average €2,870 pm2, followed closely by buyers from the USA on €2,837. Joint 3rd were Norwegians and Swedes on €2,701. In terms of transaction numbers the British just held on to 1st place with 7,793 purchases but the Germans nearly matched that with 7,457. I will be surprised if the British hold on to 1st place for the full year, a position they’ve always held. However, it’s not so much that British numbers are declining, rather that there are many more German buyers. In reality, the British total of 7,793 is the 3rd highest for a 1st half in the 15 years the notaries have been publishing the nationality breakdown. For some perspective on the change, in the 1st half of 2007, just before the meltdown, there were 10,723 British buyers but only 444 Germans.
I’ve already commented on the overseas sector market share, 20.3%, a level not seen since the 1st half of 2015. It’s worth remembering that at the pre-crash market high in 2007/8, foreign market share peaked at 8.9%.
The Regional Hotspots
However, digging a bit deeper into the statistics shows nearly 80% of overseas buyers are concentrated in just a few areas. So, if we take the 5 autonomous regions I’ve been focusing on in this report i.e., Andalucía, Cataluña, the Comunidad Valenciana and the Balearic and Canary Islands, we see they account for 57,041 of the 72,987 foreign buyers in the 1st half of the year, that’s 78.2%. And if we add the Madrid region to the mix that rises to 85.2%. As a result, looking at just 6 autonomous regions tells you all you need to know about Spain’s overseas property market as there is relatively little foreign activity elsewhere.
Provincial & Municipal
And it’s no different at the provincial and municipal levels either. The autonomous region of Andalucía is a good example because not only is it the largest of Spain’s 17 devolved regions it is also biggest property market by market share, accounting for 20% of the total number of transactions. In the 1st half of 2022 it was 20.1%. Andalucía has 8 provinces but the statistics show that the overseas sector is concentrated above all in Málaga province, home to the Costa del Sol and the prime municipalities of Marbella, Estepona and Benahavís. Although there are 208 municipalities in Málaga province, just these 3 account for 25.8% of all transactions so far in 2022. And of the 23,303 property transactions in the 1st half of 2022 that occurred in Málaga province, 9,317 were by foreign buyers, that’s a 40% market share, double the market share at national level. I’ve already commented on the importance of foreign buyers for the Spanish Property Market overall but these figures for Málaga province show they are much more important in some areas than others.
The Spanish Property Market needs international buyers and these latest statistics indicate that the post-pandemic surge is not a passing phase, something fundamental has changed. I don’t see any sign of a lack of foreign buyers going into 2023. In my view, if there are fewer transactions next year it will be more to do with lack of quality property in prime locations than falling demand. People can’t buy if the supply isn’t there and it is the supply side that will determine the strength of the overseas property sector going forward.
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About the author
Barbara founded The Property Finders in 2003. More than two decades of experience and her in-depth knowledge of the Spanish property market help buyers get the knowledge they need to find the right property for them.