Holiday homes in Spain: Useful tips for choosing the best holiday property
A holiday home can be a life-changing investment, opening up the possibility of regular holidays, growing familiarity with the region and the locals, repeatable knowledge of the best way to get there, and no more time-consuming planning and discussion about ‘where to go this year’.
But should you choose a house or an apartment when investing in a holiday home in Spain? Like holidays themselves, the choice clearly depends a lot on personal preferences, but here are a few useful tips to consider when thinking about which property best meets your needs.
First, you need to think honestly about what you’re looking for.
When conjuring up a vision of the perfect Spanish holiday home, you might see a restored farmhouse with a pool and gardens, rolling countryside leading to beautiful mountains and total privacy and seclusion.
Or perhaps you’re a skier, in which case an apartment in the Pyrenees with easy access to the slopes and a balcony on which to relax and take in the view after a long day’s boarding might be just the ticket.
Beach lovers may prefer a first line property with sea views, but there are modern penthouses and old fishermen’s cottages to choose from. Or perhaps a pied-à-terre in the heart of Madrid makes the perfect holiday home?
Also, if you have young children then you might be looking to meet other families and coordinate regular visits to build that relationship over many years. Or if you’re retiring then peace and quiet might be the key requirement, with a bit of space for the occasional visit from grown-up kids and their families.
House or Apartment – some things are the same for both
In both cases, buying a second home is an investment, and this will require research into tax and property laws and probably the engagement of professionals to help your purchase sail through without problems.
In 2013, Spain introduced the ‘Golden Visa’ programme, formally known as the Law to Support Entrepreneurs and their Internationalisation. In simple terms, this means that if you invest more than €500,000 in real estate in Spain your residency will be fast-tracked (if that’s what you’re looking for, of course).
Any renovations will require working with local tradesmen and suppliers, so if you’re planning to buy in an area you visit regularly it pays to spend time building relationships with locals who can recommend good builders or even help you out themselves.
In both cases, by buying a property you will also be subject to the vagaries of the market. If prices rise then you could reap the rewards and end up a net winner, having enjoyed years of holidays for free, and even made money.
Rental values will also follow the market, and rules and regulations may also affect any plans you have to bring in rental income when you’re not using your second home. It’s a good idea to take advice on local policies regarding short and long-term rentals and holiday lets not only in terms of permits and tax implications, but also the appeal of different properties in terms of rental values.
Finally, your holiday home will most likely be where you go on holiday – every year. It’s important to choose a second home you will be happy to visit again and again and enjoy the many benefits for many years to come.
House or Apartment – some things can be very different
Of course, you can spend a small amount on a house or a huge amount on an apartment, but if we take the average property as a standard example, it’s fair to assume that the cost for a house will probably be bigger than an apartment.
Let’s also group together apartments in a block and small houses on a complex as these share a lot of characteristics in terms of being in a group of properties that forms a close community that is often centrally operated.
Also, let’s assume that we’re comparing properties of similar condition. A tumbledown ruin will of course need more up-front investment than a pristine new apartment.
When deciding on whether to buy a house or apartment as a holiday home, the key considerations can be broken down into a few simple areas:
In general, if you’re looking for a holiday home by the sea, in the city centre or in a ski resort then you’re most likely to have a wider choice of apartments. Houses need space and are more likely to be in suburbs or out in the countryside.
The running costs can be significantly different. To begin with, as a house is likely to be bigger, this could involve higher property taxes and higher costs for heating, cooling and lighting.
An apartment will probably be smaller, and benefit from being sandwiched between other properties, which can alleviate the expenditure on heating or air conditioning.
Houses require more maintenance. They have exterior walls, their own roofs and gardens, gates, driveways, garages, trees, windows, boilers and plumbing systems, all of which need to be looked after.
This could be carried out by yourself or a local friend or business, but either way, you will end up paying in money or time.
Apartments and houses on a complex tend to be centrally maintained, with a ‘tame’ caretaker or maintenance department that is kept busy by the requirements of the multiple residents.
Gardens, pools, communal areas, terraces, playgrounds, lawns, bins, laundry rooms, the roof and exteriors and parking garages are all generally looked after on your behalf and the cost will be split between all residents.
This applies to routine ongoing maintenance and one-off surprises that require larger investment. Either way it’s good to be able to share the burden and this means the cost is likely to be lower per apartment even for larger jobs.
Safety and security
One of the biggest attractions of an apartment as a holiday home is the ease with which you can ‘shut the door and walk away’ and enjoy the peace of mind that it will be the same whenever you return, even after several weeks or even months.
Having a common front door and often a concierge to monitor comings and goings adds an extra level of security. Houses in gated communities or on complexes may have their own front doors, but they will also have the protection of gatehouses and roving guards.
The familiarity of residents in the community also means that people will watch out for each other and any strangers are more likely to stand out. You and your neighbours can also keep an eye on each other’s apartments in between visits.
This is a question of personal choice. Apartments offer a community feel, where you will share your holiday experience with familiar faces and share those communal facilities for which you all pay your share.
Your neighbours will not only keep an eye on your apartment when you’re away, they will be on hand to lend you a cup of sugar or a paella dish and water your plants, share baby-sitting duties and chat about what’s happening.
However, apartment living is by definition a communal affair and you will have no choice in the people who also live in your block. Even if everyone is friendly when you buy, this can change.
Living in harmony in an apartment requires a skill for diplomacy and building relationships, being considerate and understanding, and having a specialist definition of ‘getting away from it all’.
A house gives you more privacy and seclusion. It might be on the edge of a village in several hectares of grounds. The pool will always be private and ready for your personal use and you will have full control of any guests who share the house with you.
At the same time, if you have kids then access to other families around a communal could open up all sorts of social opportunities – for the grown-ups too.
Also, remember that an apartment block might have a pool, gym, spa, playground, large gardens, games room, barbecue area, tennis courts and other amenities that you will rarely find in a house without a significant investment.
Apartments are generally in locations with easy access to local shops, restaurants and transport links, and probably the beach or ski slopes too, while a house in the country will require more planning when it comes to stocking up on essentials and appointing a designated driver for a big night out.
Having said that, parking can be an issue in apartment blocks that may have spaces for residents but struggle to provide enough guest parking. A house with a driveway is highly convenient – which is just as well because you will need to use your car a lot more.
A house will generally be bigger, which is great for parties, al fresco dining and providing accommodation for friends and family who also want to benefit from your holiday home in the sun. It’s all your personal, private space too, which means you’re in charge.
An apartment balcony cannot offer the same levels of hospitality, and you will have to spend more to secure a sizeable balcony, terrace or roof garden win which to entertain.
Many blocks will offer communal party rooms and may have a relaxed attitude to guests sharing the pool area, but remember that if all of your friends can join in then so can everyone else’s, so it’s worth checking the guest policy.
If you have pets, space can be an issue and walking dogs can be a little more complicated. In a house with a garden and doors to the outside your best friend can easily access the outdoors, which is easier for her and for you too.
Holiday homes for sale in Spain