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Nationality League Table

"While it’s true British numbers are lower in both transactions and market share terms than previously, the 2022 figure of 15,355 is still the 2nd highest since the 2007 peak."

The Spanish property market statistics which give the breakdowns by nationality and prices per square metre are compiled by the notaries twice a year. We get the figures for the 1st half of each year in October of the same year but have to wait until April of the following year for the 2nd half, after which we can look at the previous year as a whole.  Prior to 2007, we had no idea who was doing the buying, we just knew there were lots and lots of Brits compared with other nationalities. In fact, starting in the 1960s, the British made up at least 80% of all foreign buyers in Spain until around the mid-1990s when other nationalities started to enter the market in greater numbers.  However, we didn’t have an official count  by nationality until 2007. 

When I saw the nationality breakdown for the 1st half of 2022 I predicted the British were unlikely to hold on to the 1st place they have occupied in the nationality league table since the notaries started analysing the statistics in this format in 2007. I was wrong.  In the 1st half of 2022 the British were leading the Germans but only just, a bare 336 ahead. But following a strong 2nd half the British were well in the lead, registering 15,355 purchases during 2022, stretching their lead over the Germans who were on 14,089. The French were in 3rd place on 10,819. These 3 nationalities made up 28% of all foreign buyers and the British figure gave them a 10.7% market share of the overseas sector.

What I find remarkable about these statistics is not that the British are still the most numerous overseas buyers, even after Brexit plus the effect of a weaker currency for several years. While it’s true that British numbers are lower in both transactions and market share terms than previously, the 2022 figure of 15,355 is still the 2nd highest since the 2007 peak. Only 2015, the last year before the Brexit referendum, registered a higher count, and then only just, at 15,959. No, what surprises me is just how much the German and French markets have expanded in the 16 years since the nationality count began in 2007. In that year there were just 1,003 German and 1,801 French buyers in Spain while there were 19,881 British, that was 34.5% of all foreign buyers. So dominant were the British they even outnumbered the total of all E.U. buyers who, including the Germans and French, amounted to 14,006. 

Several other nationalities have also increased their presence in the overseas sector from very small numbers in 2007. For example, only 543 Belgians bought a property in Spain in 2007 but that grew to 7,067 in 2022 while the biggest increase in percentage terms was achieved by purchasers from the U.S, up from just 150 in 2007 to 2,514 in 2022, an increase of 1576%. In contrast the number of Irish buyers decreased by 33% over the same period; down from 3,941 in 2007 to 2631 in 2022.

And it’s not just transaction numbers that make foreign buyers so important to the Spanish property market. In all but a few cases they spend more too. Typically, foreign buyers pay more per square metre than the average for domestic buyers and, in the case of some nationalities, it’s a lot more. For example, the average spend by a foreign buyer in 2022 was €2,073 per m2, 33.5% higher than the domestic average of €1,553. This was the first year the average broke the €2,000 barrier. The most striking regional difference is in the Balearics where, on average, overseas buyers spent €3,916 pm2. No wonder that there is growing resentment from locals who feel priced out of the market and there are calls for restrictions, and even outright bans, on foreign buyers in some locations. It’s a real conundrum and there are no easy answers.

By nationality, the biggest spenders were the Danish on an average €2,875 pm2, followed closely by buyers from the USA on €2,826 and Swedes on €2,799. Of the 3 most numerous nationalities the British are in 3rd place in respect of spending power, paying €2,049 pm2, just a few cents above the average. The French are in 2nd place on €2,179 with the Germans the clear leaders on €2,373.

In contrast, at the other end of the scale, 2 nationalities stand out with spending power much lower than than the average €1,553 pm2 paid by domestic buyers.  The average amount pm2 paid by Romanian buyers is €1,107, roughly 30% below the average paid by Spanish buyers. Even lower than that is the €705 per square metre average, less than half of the domestic average, paid by Moroccans. 

The next series of nationality statistics will be published in October 2023, covering the first half of the year and it will be interesting to see what changes there are, if any, now that the post-pandemic surge seems to be over.

For more analysis of the notaries’ statistics and other issues check out our blogs and podcasts.

About the author

Barbara Wood

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.

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