"A swimming pool, a garden or terrace and, most importantly, somewhere with good connectivity and the possibility of having fibre optic broadband". This may sound more like a letter to Father Christmas, but the vast majority of real estate agents have received a calls with similar wishlists during the two months that the population has been living in the state of alarm and confinement in Spain. Many Spanish residents have been confined in their flats in the centre of cities and many have not hesitated when it comes to plans to leave the city behind and look for housing developments on the outskirts or even in he countryside, with bigger houses, common areas and better features. idealista/news has been talking to the main real estate agencies in the country to understand why this phenomenon has come about, what the most requested features are and if it is something temporary or will this become a long-term trend.
Ricardo Sousa, the CEO of Century21 in Spain, says that in April "there was a rise in online traffic. People are actively looking at the market and when we ask and contact them, we realise that what they are looking for is something aspirational, a house with the necessary comforts and features, a place in which they could potentially spend a new quarantine if there is a new outbreak".
However, Sousa assures that "the cycles in real estate are long, it is a not very elastic market and it does not work with short term impacts, so this trend of preference at the time of buying can be only seasonal", he says. "More months must go by before it becomes a reality," he adds.
Emiliano Bermúdez, deputy general manager of Donpiso, states that "we are facing a trend that is not new, people have always wanted to live in houses with greater comfort at a lower price", says the manager, although he adds that something has changed now: "before, people mainly searched in cheaper areas, whereas now they they are more focused on a property having better features".
"The phenomenon is now based on factors that have more to do with welfare than price. People want to be able to enjoy better spaces, terraces, gardens, a more pleasant and humane environment. In the next few years, this type of asset will likely be one of the most in demand", adds the manager.
Bermúdez also welcomes the fact that the average Spaniard is interested in this type of housing. "Thanks to the interest in this sector, there has been a bit more happiness in the sector since the beginning of the coronavirus de-escalation period. The buyer, moreover, is of higher quality. We are seeing buyers who are seriously searching for a property and contact us really wanting to buy. The change between phases is also being noted in the increase of activity", he concludes.
According to Jorge Adda, an expert in the residential market from Engel&Völkers, the COVID-19 pandemic emerged in Spain at a time when interest in moving from the city to the outskirts was already "increasing". He states that "while it is true that this is a time when applications were already being received, the coronavirus has become a trigger".
According to Adda, the reason why interest increases between the second and third quarter is "because of the kids". He addes that parents "realise they have less space at home and make the decision at the time of school enrollment. The same thing happens with the international public that want to move to Spain", says the expert, who adds that another reason is "the hours of sunshine in the day that buyers have to make visits".
"What we have noticed in all the requests as a key feature has been that if high-speed fibre obtic broadband is available in the area, while before the big question was always if there was a pool," says the manager. "Before, people didn't move because of their jobs, but now a new window of opportunity is opening with teleworking. This could be a sales trigger in the periphery in the near future," he says.
Gilmar has also noticed this phenomenon but not "in excess". "From the data we have in the real estate industry, everything is still pretty much at a standstill in this regard. Although we have received some requests for information on homes outside the big cities, they tend to be associated with renting, not buying," the company says.
"It is true that in the last two months we have all 'rediscovered' our housing needs, and in many cases we have detected what is missing or what we don't actually need, but it is still early to say that this is a widespread trend, since the market is still fairly paralysed," the company adds.
New constructions, luxury features and rural areas
Carlos Smerdou is the managing director of the real estate company Foro Consultores, which specialises in new constructions. "It is true that we are noticing that people are asking for houses with gardens, terraces, penthouses. The single-family home is the one that is getting more requests. Looking at areas, we are seeing that people psychologically are thinking about moving from the centre to the outskirts and we have noticed a surge in information about second homes throughout Spain," explains the director. The company has reserved some homes in the middle of the confinement in developments in Cadiz and Malaga, which would mainly be used as second homes.
Jordi Bonal, owner of the real estate agency Peralada, specialising in rural areas, says he has received 'leads' on people "who want to leave the city and move to an area which is much quieter and away from the chaos. Many will be thinking about having to repeat the confinement again and that fear factor will drive the need for change," he says. In addition, Bonal assures that it is not something exclusive to the buyer, but also to the investor: "The interest of funds has also moved to the outskirts, and we are already in conversations with them," he says.
For her part, Yolanda Bejarano, co-owner of the real estate company Y&G Habitat, explains that "from the beginning of the confinement, the contacts we have had, although they have been few, have been from people who wanted to leave the city and move to houses with larger spaces and gardens".
However, Bejarano warns that "the consumer must be educated about prices. There are many people who are asking for assets that they are not going to be able to access with their budget, and although it is true that the secondary area of Barcelona is more economical, we do not stop talking about houses with a garden and a swimming pool... and those are not cheap products".
Bejarano, moreover, has been surprised by the movement that has been seen during the state of alarm. "Surprisingly, people feel like buying. Before the period of confinement, people were afraid to sell, we suppose, because of the price, and now they want to buy and sell. Many thought that there was going to be a contraction, but we have noticed a movement that we did not expect".