Lucas Fox Directors look back at 2019 and ahead to 2020

From Marbella to Madrid, Lucas Fox’s Directors give their overview of the property landscape during 2019 and share with us their thoughts for the market in 2020.

The spanish property landscape in 2020

It’s been an interesting year for the Spanish real estate sector with economic and political factors affecting the way the market has been performing often from month to month. Overall, however, it has been another positive twelve months, with sales of Spanish homes increasing and prices also rising.

We will be taking a closer look at how each region has been performing in our in-depth market analysis for 2019 but, in the meantime, here are the thoughts of the Directors of our key regions, reflecting on the property landscape in 2019 and looking ahead to 2020.

Overview

“2019 was another exceptional year for Lucas Fox. In the first three quarters of the year we saw sales across the group rise by 55%, mainly in part due to the completion of new constructions in Barcelona. The number of prime sales transactions (above €900,000) also went up, by almost 40%, with an average sales price of €2.1 million – up by 27% year-on-year.

Looking ahead, we expect these trends to continue but we also see the Spanish housing market as a whole entering a more mature phase and expect that the factors that have supported its expansion – such as employment, favourable financial conditions and foreign demand – to continue to evolve positively but at a steadier pace.

Although the number of foreign buyers in Spain is slowing slightly, overall the proportion of foreign buyers, currently at around 12.5%, is significantly higher than it was in 2009 when they represented just over 4.2% of all buyers. Due to political issues in Mexico and Venezuela, we also expect more Latin American buyers to take advantage of Spain’s cultural and education amenities, as well as the Golden Visa, especially in Madrid.

Prices are no longer at the competitive levels they were in 2013/14 and in Barcelona and Madrid they have already surpassed prices of a decade ago but are still significantly lower than Paris or Berlin, as well as pre-Brexit London. Hopefully Spain will soon form a stable government, which will also have a positive impact. We are in no doubt that the country will continue to be an attractive investment proposition and fantastic lifestyle destination for many years to come.”

Alexander Vaughan, Co-founder Lucas Fox

Alexander Vaughan

Barcelona

“We have had a very successful year in Barcelona during 2019 mainly thanks to the return of local and international investor confidence in the Catalan property market. Even though uncertainty about possible effects from the political crisis persists, it has not impacted buyer decision making. The events of 2018 allowed a price correction in the market of around 10% that has influenced investor behaviour positively this year. Barcelona continues to attract people from all over the world for its exceptional quality of life, and for being a city with a rich cultural and gastronomic offering, where lifestyle investors can find attractive properties on offer at reasonable prices that provide excellent returns.

Throughout the year we finalised a significant number of New Development transactions that had been in the process of completion during the last two years. Although these have positively contributed to our successful results this year, it is not the only reason. More than 75% of our offers created this year have come from resale transactions with an average price of just over €900,000, setting the trend for the following year or so.

This year we have also closed more prime transactions priced above €1.5 million than ever before, mainly located in the Zona Alta district of the city. The availability of world-class luxury projects such as the Mandarin Oriental branded residences on Paseo de Gracia is pushing the ceiling of the Barcelona property market to new heights.

Our buyers in Barcelona are around 60% international mainly from Northern Europe, and are generally successful businessmen and women, financiers and entrepreneurs, aged between 35 and 55. We have witnessed an increase of buyers from North and South America thanks to new direct flight links to Barcelona from major cities.

We are optimistic about the Barcelona property market for 2020 and expect our business to achieve further consistent growth. We believe that the confidence in the market is here to stay and that Barcelona’s desirability as a place to live, work and invest will continue to draw international buyers from all around the world. The planned opening of new offices will allow us to further increase market share, particularly in the Zona alta area.”

Rod Jamieson, Managing Director Lucas Fox

Madrid

“In 2019 we experienced continued growing demand from international property investors. The domestic market was slightly slower than expected in the middle of the year because of the repetition of elections and no definitive government but this ‘buyers on hold situation’ has more or less recovered in the last quarter of 2019. The political situation certainly had its challenges for the sector as did the lack of attractive available product in Madrid’s prime areas. Demand is mainly for primary and secondary homes, especially from Mexico, Colombia, Chile and Peru, where there was increased interest.  There was also continued demand from Northern European buyers.

It is a very safe city, also from a legal point of view, which is good for investors. Property taxes are fairly low in comparison to other countries and, although prices have increased significantly over the last few years, they remain reasonable in comparison with London and Paris and there  are several off prime central areas where capital gains are still possible. The opening of important hotel brands, like Four Seasons and Mandarin Oriental, make the city even more attractive. After Brexit, Madrid might also become more attractive to London-based companies.

Other key developments in Madrid include the soon to be completed fifth tower, known as the Torre Caleido, on the Paseo de la Castellana. The area hosts thousands of international students and internationally recognised business schools, such as IE (Instituto de Empresas). Amazon will also soon open office premises in Madrid in order to coordinate its ‘cloud business’.

Investment funds are still looking for opportunities in Madrid and many of them are looking into different products, such as student housing or third age living residences to offer attractive returns to investors. Therefore, business-wise prospects are positive.

Given Madrid’s quality of life, its architecture, culture, theatres, world-class museums, outstanding gastronomy, high-speed train access to the rest of the country and direct flights to all continents, doing business in Madrid is becoming increasingly attractive.”

Esther Gladen, Director Lucas Fox Madrid

Esther Gladen

Valencia

“Demand from international buyers for resale homes in the Valencia property market continues to grow, currently representing around a fifth of all homebuyers. Meanwhile, the number of sales by national buyers has gone down by around 15% compared to 2018.

Given Lucas Fox’s focus on international buyers, we’ve seen a positive trend with regards to our own transaction numbers both for sales and rentals.

As with any other year, there are always challenges in the real estate market. This year the demand from international clients looking to rent has surged dramatically and we’ve had to suddenly meet that demand. Another challenge has been the uncertainty of the new construction market in the face of the significant rise in construction costs.

Given the current global economic uncertainty, we expect to see a slowdown in the sector. The upside of this is that prices will steady as demand diminishes. We hope that Lucas Fox will benefit from this situation, as clients become more demanding with regards to looking for homes that are value for money and working with an agency that offers high levels of professionalism, knowledge and experience. This at least is something we can guarantee for 2020.

Valencia continues to offer interesting opportunities for international clients, especially those who appreciate a good quality of life and all the amenities that this city offers. Whilst demand from local clients slows, this means prices will also steady and the market will move forward at a less frenetic pace, resulting in more realistic asking prices from sellers.”

Juan Luis Herrero, Partner Lucas Fox Valencia

Juan Luis Herrero

Maresme

“It has been a challenging year for the Lucas Fox Maresme office with results showing a slight decrease on 2018 sales. The market is seeing significant movement yet demand at the top end has decreased substantially over the past two years and sales are being driven by national buyers focused on low to mid range product – a level of the market where competition is rife. The drop in prime market sales (above €900,000) has proved one of the biggest challenges for Lucas Fox this past year. The limited supply of quality new build product in prime areas has also presented challenges given that much of the housing stock in Maresme is older product requiring renovation.

Over 60% of sales have been to international and include a broad range of nationalities with Chinese buyers being the most active. We have also closed sales to buyers from the Middle East, Algeria, the USA and Russia, demonstrating that the Maresme region has broad appeal. UK buyers have been noticeably absent in 2019 as ongoing negotiations over Brexit have continued to cause uncertainty and impacted negatively on the value of the Pound. National buyers accounted for around 40% of Lucas Fox’s sales in 2019.

A stable political situation in Spain and Catalonia could be a key influencing factor on the Maresme real estate market in 2020. We don’t anticipate significant market growth but political and economic stability should see consolidation of prices and demand in the area. The Maresme still represents excellent value for buyers, particularly those looking for affordable homes close to the beach and within easy proximity of Barcelona City. The number of international buyers continues to rise in the region and the highly rated Hamelin Laie International School in Montgat continues to be a major draw for foreign buyers to the area.”

Tom Maidment, Partner Lucas Fox Maresme

Tom Maidment

Costa Brava

“This has been another exceptional, record-breaking year of sales for the Costa Brava office. Lucas Fox has closed the two largest residential transactions in the region this year, totalling €15.7 million, and we have increased our overall market share of the prime residential market in the key areas of Begur and Palafrugell.

French buyers have been the most active in 2020, above all in the prime areas around Begur and Palafrugell. The national market has also been active and we have seen more Russian buyers return to the market. The number of British buyers has dropped, largely due to the uncertainty over Brexit and a weak and unstable Pound.

The Costa Brava was hit this year by a moratorium, suspending the issue of new building licences on plots located within 500 metres of the sea all the way up the coastline. This put the brakes on New Development product coming onto the market and created a degree of uncertainty over potential future construction in the area, particularly for larger scale, multi-unit developments.

We anticipate another strong year of sales in the Costa Brava, however, but remain wary of the potential impact of Brexit on the Spanish and European economy, particularly if no trade agreement is agreed and the threats of a no deal Brexit increase once again.”

Tom Maidment, Partner, Lucas Fox Costa Brava

Tom Maidment

Girona

“This has proved to be another excellent year of sales for our Girona office, including sales of country properties and product within Girona City. We have consolidated our position as the leading agent in the mid to high-end rustic market and have secured some of the region’s largest sales of high-end country homes. The Lucas Fox Girona office, which opened at the beginning of 2019, has also started to make an impact on the Girona City market and has recorded a number of standout sales in the most sought-after areas of the city. Over 60% of our Girona office sales have been to international buyers and the demographic is extremely varied. British buyers account for around 30% of sales but we have also seen buyers from as far afield as South Africa, Mexico, the USA and Hong Kong. 40% of sales have been to national buyers.

The supply of product in prime areas of Girona City is an ongoing challenge as is the supply of luxury rustic property in the most sought-after areas of the Baix Empordà. We anticipate continued growth of both the rustic market and the Girona City market in 2020. Prices have risen substantially in Girona City during 2019 and the city is proving an interesting alternative to buyers and investors priced out of the Barcelona market. Its status as one of the most important hubs in the amateur and professional cycling world continues to be one of the key drivers of sales to international buyers. Demand for the Girona rustic market increased in 2019 and we expect that to continue in 2020, representing a key area of growth for the Lucas Fox business in Catalonia.”

Tom Maidment, Partner Lucas Fox Costa Brava & Girona

Tom Maidment

Sitges

“It has been a phenomenal year for us in terms of the amount of transactions closed. Most of those deals have been in the mid budget bracket, averaging around €700,000. We have surpassed our target without closing any really high value operations. Our buyers have been mainly Northern European as well as national clients. Their ages tend to range from 35 to 60 years. We’re welcoming numerous families looking to relocate and second homers looking for a Sitges base that they can rent out when they are not using it – either a villa with a sea view or a town centre apartment (especially penthouses with sea views).

As always, finding good quality properties to offer our clients has been our greatest challenge as well as convincing owners to market their property at a reasonable price and to present their property in the best possible way – clean, tidy and free of clutter. There’s currently also a lack of tourist rental homes around to meet the demand as well as a shortage of penthouse apartments with sea views.

Hopefully the same rhythm of sales will continue in the next twelve months and we also have a couple of high-end transactions currently in the pipeline.”

Rachel Haslam, Director Lucas Fox Sitges

Rachel Haslam

Marbella

“There has been a slowdown in the numbers of buyers and overall sales, particularly by international buyers, during 2019 compared with the previous two years. There has been no slowdown in the numbers of new properties being built, however – now estimated at some 250 projects on the Costa del Sol. The result being that it has now become very much a buyer’s market and closing prices of many new projects have been coming down with discounts and offers increasingly being accepted.

Since the growth in new build projects three to four years ago, there are also increasing numbers of projects that either have been or are approaching completion and a significant number of properties are still unsold. A positive impact of this is that there will be more completed turnkey homes available during 2020.

The change in supply and demand of the new build market has also had an impact on the resale market and closing prices have been coming down as sellers are accepting lower offers.

Nationality-wise, we’re seeing fewer UK buyers, particularly over the €400,000 budget level. There’s also been falling numbers of Scandinavian buyers, who were fairly dominant  during last five years, but Belgian and Dutch buyers are still around. There are also fewer retirees and buyers over 55. Most buyers are now lifestyle-orientated, although many are also looking to earn income from properties via rentals, at least in order to cover operational costs. Therefore there is increasing interest in properties either with or near to resort and lifestyle facilities.

There’s no clear picture for 2020, due to Brexit and world economy uncertainty. It will continue to be a buyer’s market.  The over-supply of  projects could lead to more aggressive sales and marketing by developers initially but some developers will compete by improving the quality of the product and its services, but many others may reduce prices by reducing costs.

There is increasing importance for buyers to research and select the best and most secure ‘value for money’ projects and seek independent advice.”

Stephen Lahiri, Partner Lucas Fox Marbella

Stephen Lahiri

Ibiza

“It has been a challenging year for the Ibiza property market, following several years of consistent double digit price increases, there is a general feeling that prices reached their peak during the last year and an important price correction is now imminent. Although tourism figures have been down 20% two years consecutively, demand still remains high for good quality luxury villas with attractive views in this very unique island in the Mediterranean. Buyers are no longer willing to pay any price for their dream house and are negotiating hard with lower offers. Property owners are needing to adjust their valuation expectations and are doing so if they want to sell. A number of world-class luxury New Development projects have come onto the market during the year and are in demand. Many buyers are attracted to the possibility of buying hassle-free, warrantied, well-built properties without any planning issues often found on resale properties in Ibiza.

Buyers on Ibiza are mainly Northern Europeans, aged between 35 and 55, with a concentration of Dutch, German, French and a reduced number from the UK. The main reason for purchase is for second homes although there is a growing number of successful professionals from IT sectors with young families who have relocated to Ibiza for a more healthy lifestyle. International schools are oversubscribed due to the increased number of inscriptions. Ibiza also attracts a hippy chic crowd who are holistic and environmentally conscious, who want to live in a privileged and beautiful natural setting to enjoy the outdoors.

Ibiza continues to and will always have its loyal followers. For many, once you have the Ibiza bug it is there to stay. As time goes on, the increasing availability of upscale properties, luxury services, high-end beach clubs and gastronomy on the island is attracting more and more discrete wealth. Next year the market will continue to go through its price correction and buyers will find what they are looking for at a more reasonable level. We expect to see further development of top luxury developments offering elite services that will satisfy this end of the market.”

Rod Jamieson, Managing Director Lucas Fox

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