Sunday, November 11, 2012
The Russians Are Coming
The cliché of all bona fide estate agents, 'the green shoots of recovery', is beginning to resound again along the costas as properties are being snapped up by foreigners. Paying usually in cash, the buyers have been doing their homework on the Internet and they are buying cheap discounted apartments by the hundreds. An estate agent in Benhavís (near Marbella) says that sales have increased in the past year by a satisfying 220%, precisely because 'prices have fallen by up to 70% from 2006 levels'.
This time, it's the Russians who are buying. To not put too fine a point on it, the Spanish Hacienda is hardly bothered by where the cash comes from, as long as it's coming. One or two bed-roomed apartments in the resort towns and estates of the Spanish coast are in demand, usually those going for under 100,000€ .
Other nationalities too. The British are still shy, having seen too many 'Paradise Lost' TV shows and read too many articles about Len and Helen Prior, now cresting their fifth anniversary in Vera among the ruins of their home. But the Belgians, the Germans and the Scandinavians are all waking up to the perennial offer of good weather and cheap real estate that Spain is once again able to offer.
These homes being sold by the agents are doing the major banks little good however. The typical toxic promotions now held by the new 'Spanish Bad Bank', the Sareb, were built as apartment blocks in and around the country's major cities. The Spanish, thanks to the extreme crisis, can not afford to buy them, while the foreigners simply don't want them. Barrios on the edge of a bus line in Madrid or Seville will never be the haunts of Europeans or Russians, who would be as out of their depth in an all-Spanish environment as if they moved to Glasgow.
Other foreigners are putting up their hands for apartments as well; but this time, they like the City. In Alicante, for example, Algerians are snapping up second homes. It's just a twelve hour ferry to Oran. A notary in Alicante is on record as saying that some 25% of all house registrations under his pen have come from Algerians, while a local agency called Tecnocasa claims that well over half of its sales since July have gone to Algerians.
However, it's the Russians who are buying the most. According to Masa International, Spain is seen in Moscow as the fashionable place to have a holiday home: in fact, there are now 250 agencies in that city who specialise in Spanish sales. While the Spanish have never quite understood why foreigners like 'to stick together', crafting Spanish towns and resorts as far as possible into mono-cultural conurbations, like the Germans with Mallorca or the British with their Fuengirola or Mojácar, it's clear that the Russians prefer the Costa Dorada. The agency Europa Dom in Tarragona claims that 75% of all their sales are to Russian buyers.
All of this said, with green shoots in the newspapers and Russian language menus in the restaurants, the vast majority of homes bought in Spain this year are far removed from the Coast and have been acquired by Spaniards.