House hunting in Spain: a restored two-bedroom apartment in central Barcelona

This two-bedroom apartment, in Barcelona’s Sant Antoni neighborhood, has an updated interior lit by multiple outdoor spaces, including a 40-square-meter terrace – a rarity in the city center – with dedicated dining areas , sunbathing and doing laundry.

Carlos Cossio, senior consultant at Engel & Völkers, which holds the listing, noted the house’s “stately, plastered and preserved ceilings”, as well as how its mix of textures and colors “reinforces the original elements of home and at the same time provides a new approach to design.

The apartment of approximately 1500 square feet, on the second floor of a 1900 building, is accessible by elevator. Past the hall, glass doors to the left open into a lounge with muted dusty green walls, ornate plasterwork and two sets of French doors opening onto a balcony that runs the length of the room. To the right is a large modern kitchen and dining room with doors leading out to a patio. The kitchen’s original tiles were retained and rearranged during a comprehensive refurbishment in 2018 and 2019 which also restored the iron radiators and double-glazed windows, and added central air conditioning.

A wide hallway leads to the family quarters of the house. The smaller of the two bedrooms, in a dove gray and bright yellow palette, accesses a bathroom in the hallway. The larger bedroom, on the right, has abstract geometric wallpaper, a built-in wardrobe along two walls and an en-suite bathroom with marble tile walls. The bedrooms share the private terrace, which has a shaded area and a barbecue area.

There is also access to the building’s storage room and the common roof terrace.

Sant Antoni in Barcelona’s Eixample district is home to the famous Mercat de Sant Antoni, a large indoor market housed in a building from 1882. Plaça Catalunya and Barcelona’s Gothic Cathedral are within walking distance, as are two metro stations. Metro on lines 1 and 2. Josep Tarradellas Barcelona-El Prat Airport is approximately 16 km away.

Barcelona, ​​the coastal capital and largest city in the autonomous community of Catalonia, has not seen house prices and rents rise at the rate they have in other major European cities over the past decade. said Tine Mathiassen, founder and director of Casamona Real Estate. , a Barcelona agency that caters to foreign buyers.

Faced with a housing shortage, the Catalan government enacted a rent control law in 2020 that effectively discouraged investors from buying and incentivized landlords to put their homes up for sale, especially in the city centre, a said Mrs. Mathiassen. Then the pandemic arrived to hamper tourism, which drastically reduced the pool of buyers and made it even more difficult for rental properties to be profitable.

The crash factors have made Barcelona a harder sell for investors than in the past. “I think sellers find it hard to accept that prices have come down,” Ms Mathiassen said. Meanwhile, potential buyers worry about rent caps: “They’re not willing to pay more for these apartments.”

Maria Larsson, CEO of Barcelona-based boutique agency Larsson Estate, said the city is still “very attractive” to overseas buyers who view property as a longer-term investment. Spain’s constitutional crisis of 2017 and 2018, which saw the governments of Spain and Catalonia squabble over the latter’s drive for independence, deterred foreign buyers more than any other development, she added.

Sales in the wider province of Barcelona have rebounded since the early dark days of the pandemic. The Spanish Association of Land Registrars reported an average of 14,450 home sales per quarter in the province in 2021, compared to 11,000 in 2020 and 13,794 in 2019.

Prices in the city, however, have struggled to keep pace. In mid-2018, asking prices for second-hand properties were around $460 per square foot, according to a Barcelona City Council report, and ended 2021 at $415 per square foot, down from ‘around 10 %.

According to data compiled by Idealista, one of Southern Europe’s leading online real estate platforms, the average house price in the province of Barcelona during the third quarter of 2021 was around $280 per square foot, that is 47% more than the Spanish national average.

Prices in the Ciutat Vella district (the “old town”), including the Barceloneta district, have fallen 20% since the start of the pandemic in areas once favored by tourists, Ms Larsson said.

Both Ms Larsson and Ms Mathiassen said prices had likely bottomed out. “I can’t see it going any lower,” Ms Mathiassen said.

The luxury market, however, has seen prices rebound on average by around 7-8% over the past 12-18 months across the city, said Mohammad Butt, director of the Barcelona office of Lucas Fox, an agency international luxury. “We had a very, very strong 2021, not far off our 2019 results, which was actually our record year in company history,” Butt said. “We were surprised by how quickly the market rebounded.”

Lucas Fox’s use of virtual property tours has helped support remote sales from overseas buyers, even during times of lockdowns and travel restrictions, he said. The company, which specializes in the overseas market, has also sold more homes to locals motivated by Spain’s low mortgage rates.

Fixed-term mortgage rates “are so attractive, it’s almost like free money,” Butt said. “So I think a lot of people are now ready to maybe get out of the rental market and can see themselves buying a property.”

Ms Mathiassen said the pandemic has prompted more buyers in Scandinavia to take advantage of the increased equity in their property to finance the purchase of holiday homes. They are cash buyers.

She also noted a “slow, slow, slow movement now of Americans,” many of whom want to take advantage of Spain’s Golden Visa program, which offers temporary residency to foreigners who invest 500,000 euros ($565,000) in real estate.

Ms Larsson said most of her buyers come from France, Italy and other European countries, with some from Russia and China. She estimated that foreigners make up less than 15% of buyers in Barcelona, ​​although “the ratio is much, much higher” in tourist areas.

These include Ciutat Vella, where you “literally feel like you’re living in a movie when you watch, it’s absolutely beautiful”, she said, and Eixample, known for its lifestyle metropolitan. The Poblenou district on the Mediterranean coast is also popular with its townhouses and converted industrial buildings.

Mr. Butt’s agency typically sells to buyers from northern Europe, the United States, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. It has also started to see the return of British buyers, who did not need visas to reside in Spain before the Brexit referendum. “It’s a whole new pool of buyers who didn’t need a golden visa four or five years ago, but now they do,” he said.

Foreigners are not limited to buying real estate in Spain. Buyers pay a 10% property transfer tax, plus an additional approximately 2% for notary and court fees. New build properties incur an additional stamp duty of 1.5%, Mr Butt said. He advises international buyers to hire an English-speaking lawyer who will do the due diligence and prepare the contracts.

Banks require a larger down payment for second homes whether the buyer is Spanish or international, Ms Larsson said.

“You are treated exactly like a Spanish citizen,” she said. “The only difference is that most of the time when foreigners buy here, it’s a second home.”

Spanish, Catalan; euro (1 euro = $1.13)

Quarterly condominium fees for this property are 217 euros ($245) and annual property tax is 575 euros ($650), Cossio said.

Carlos Cossio, Engel & Völkers, 011-34-670 261044;

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