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British buyers

British buyers are the #1 nationality of foreign buyers in Spain. In fact, the UK Buyers top the ranking of international home buyers every year, with no exception. So, how is this market evolving? Are the British buying more, or less than before?

The start of the tourism boom

The British have long had a love affair with Spain. It started with the rise of the package holiday in the 1960s, a time when there were more hotels being constructed along the Spanish coastlines and air travel was easier and cheaper. There was also a part lifting of the restrictions over bringing different currencies abroad. Spain’s leader at the time, General Franco, encouraged tourism, seeing it as a way of showcasing the country to the rest of the world and bringing in significant revenue. More recently there has been a rapid expansion in weekend breaks to Spanish cities, thanks to the proliferation of low cost airlines and short-term rental companies such as Airbnb. Rural tourism and activity holidays in inland Spain have also been on the rise as holidaymakers look for an ‘experience’ over the traditional ‘sand, sea and sun’ break.

Holiday homes on the islands and costas, then the cities

As British holidaymaker numbers increased so did the desire to have a more permanent foothold in Spain. The British began to buy coastal properties in Mallorca, the Costa del Sol, the Canary Islands and the Costa Blanca. In more recent years Brits have been buying in cities such as Barcelona, Madrid and Valencia as well as on the Balearic islands of Menorca and Ibiza and some of the pretty inland rural villages in Catalonia and Andalucía.

British buyers dominate foreign sales in Spain

15% to 30% of foreign buyers from the UK

By 2007 when the property boom was at its peak, British buyers represented 30% (approx 17,000) of all foreign sales and 2.5% of all sales in Spain.

In 2014 when prices more or less had bottomed out in Spain, the proportion of British buyers went down to 17% of all foreign sales (approx 6,900 sales). The numbers rose again in the next couple of years but following the UK referendum to leave the EU in June 2016, the number of British sales in Spain went down by more than 10% year-on-year – from approximately 10,200 sales in 2016 to around 9,100 sales in 2017, representing 15% of all property transactions by non-nationals in 2017. The regions most affected by the referendum were Andalucía and the Balearic islands where the number of British buyers in 2017 showed an annual decrease of by 17% and 11% respectively.

By 2018 the proportion of British buyers increased once again – up by more than 11% on 2017 (approx 10,100 sales), showing that the British seem undeterred by the prospect of Brexit.

In the first half of 2019 British buyers represented 13% of all sales by foreigners in Spain, still the most dominant buyer nationality.

Costa del Sol and Costa Blanca attract highest proportion of British buyers

Looking more specifically at different regions popular with the British, in Andalucía and the Valencian Community Brits topped the list of foreign buyers in 2018 representing 22% and 17% of foreign buyers respectively. In the Balearics and the Canaries, they came second in the list of foreign buyers after the Germans and Italians respectively and representing 15% and 16% of foreign buyers. In the Community of Madrid they were sixth in the list of foreign buyers and eight in Catalonia. In both these key regions the British represent just 3% of sales by non-nationals.

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