UPDATE: We’ve added a section – Jeff’s Corner in the header. Jeff will be posting his own adventures in real estate here. And he’s going to be admin on the blog so he can answer you questions directly.
Usually I try to get clever on my titles but I think this one should be straight forward. The following is a guest blog. Thank you to lw4africa for asking about our house hunting process. I realize I’ve talked around it a bit. And now it’s time to tackle the topic head on. I’m going to add a heading on the top of the blog to keep track of it all. Should be fun!
I’m pretty busy today so I’ve tapped my partner in crime, Jeff, to do the rarest of rare – The Guest Blog. The following is all him. Take it away!
Kelli asked me to share what I have learned so far about shopping for real estate in Spain.
When we lived in the US, one of my favorite hobbies was to look through real estate listings and dream of what could be. I did this at home and also whenever we traveled around the US. I always made sure to get a copy of whatever real estate flyers were available at the local supermarket when we were on vacation because you just never know… We would share a pint of ice cream, sitting in the hotel at night as we leafed through the pages.
Real estate hunting in Spain is not nearly as convenient as it is in the US. There is no national MLS listing service here where you can go to and easily see everything that is for sale. At least I have not found one yet. Unlike in the US, realtors here only sell their own listings. That makes finding the perfect house a bit of a challenge. You might have to work with several realtors before you find something suitable. But there are a few websites that have proven useful for getting an idea of what an area is like and seeing a few houses/apartments.
Both sites are good, although I tend to prefer idealista.com. Unlike a lot of websites in Spain, both are available in English. Each of them allows you to search by drawing a boundary area on a map, which is quite handy when you don’t know the names of towns in the areas you want to search.
Neither website has a comprehensive list of everything that’s available. The listings are paid for by either the homeowner or a realtor – in the US, it is free. I have found that sometimes the same house has been listed by several realtors at the same time. Again, this would never happen back home as we would have to sign an exclusive contract. Sometimes the data in Spain can be obsolete, and the house might not be on the market anymore or listed with that realtor. Listings can be months out of date.
My strategy for house hunting is to first search areas using the two websites above. When I find a house or an area I’m interested in, I’ll switch over to Google Maps and locate the nearest towns. Within GM, I search for “Inmobiliaria,” which will show a list of all the local realtors in the area. Now the fun starts. I browse through each of those realtor’s websites looking to see what they have available. Many of the houses listed on their individual real estate office websites will not be on either idealista or fotocasa. Sometimes I strike gold, but it’s a needle in a haystack. When I find a property I like; usually, the map included in the listing isn’t exact and just shows the general area where the property is located. This is when I switch over to Google satellite view and street view. Like a detective, I scrutinize the shape of the building, any terraces, maybe something distinct in the background, and try to find it.
Google Street view is my goto application when I am learning about an area. I use it all the time to find the doors of business that are hidden, in advance of going there. You would be surprised at where their cameras go. It is super handy for getting the feel of an area before you commit to a visit. In 2015 I used it to preview a solo motorcycle ride from Washington to Alaska. It worked great, and I felt more confident knowing what to expect along the way, which was helpful for those long, isolated stretches where I did not see anyone else for 3-4 hours. But that is a story for another time.
Another thing I have learned is that Spaniards are very flexible when it comes to describing a property. Don’t narrow your search criteria too much, or you might miss something. There doesn’t appear to be criteria on any house-hunting website for ‘waterfront’ or ‘walkability’ or so many other things we’re used to. And the term house might be an apartment. It just depends on who input the listing and the keywords. So you have to be patient and get creative.
House prices now are flexible, too, especially with Brexit looming in the coming months. I have seen prices drop 10-25% all over Spain in just the past 2-3 months. I think this fall or winter will bring even lower prices.
I’ll keep everyone up-to-date on our approach and how it goes – the do’s and don’ts. So far, we haven’t met one person in the real estate game who hasn’t been incredibly helpful and very nice. So while it might feel intimidating with the language barrier, in our experience, it’s been awesome. If you’re considering the jump to Spain, I can’t recommend it more. And the country needs the support right now. When we finally close on a house, we’ll feel good knowing the fees we’ll be paying will be helping in putting the economy back on its feet. Stay tuned.