Foreign Property Purchase In Spain: British Are Still Buying The Most But Biggest Growth From Russians

two men opening holiday house door

Foreign purchasers in Spain rising. Credit: Image by Freepik

The Spanish Ministry of Transport, Mobility and Urban Agenda has released its report on house purchases in Spain for the first half of 2023 which highlights a 7.5 per cent year-on-year decrease of house purchases by foreigners.

Despite the decrease in this half-year period, overall 21.4 per cent of property sales in Spain are to foreign resident and non-resident purchasers, the highest level recorded. In the first half of 2023 out of 67,983 house purchases by foreigners, 56.8 per cent were made by resident foreigners, a decrease of 3.4 per cent on last year,  and 43.2 per cent were carried out by non-resident foreigners, a drop of 12.4 per cent.

Purchases By Nationality

The British appetite for Spanish house purchases does not appear to have been too dampened by Brexit and Brits still lead rankings of house purchases by foreigners with 9.6 per cent of the total, followed by the Germans (8.1 per cent), Moroccans (7.3 per cent) and French (6.56 per cent.)  Morocco has the highest population of foreign nationals living in Spain with some 800,000 recorded in 2022; the British make up the third-highest foreign population with around 316,000, some distance behind the second place Romania with 632,000 nationals in Spain.

The foreign national house buyers seeing the biggest growth in the first half of 2023 have been the Russians with a staggering 50.2 per cent, followed by Ukrainians at 41.6 per cent and Americans at 13.6 per cent in third place. 

There are some big regional variations in where foreign purchasers choose to buy with only four autonomous communities registering an increase in the purchase and sale of homes by foreigners: Asturias (27.7 per cent), Galicia (14.8 per cent), Murcia (5.5 per cent) and the Valencian Community (1.3 per cent). The biggest decreases were seen in the Balearic Islands (-32.0 per cent), Navarra (-19.7 per cent) and Andalucia (-15.3 per cent).

The massive decrease in purchases in the Balearic Islands by foreigners is likely to do with the regional government setting up a commission to look into the possibility of banning the sale of houses to anyone who has lived in the islands for less than five years in an attempt to cool house prices that have become prohibitive for locals.

Prices Paid By Nationality

Looking at how much foreigners are prepared to pay per square metre for property highlights that the Balearic regional government’s worry about house prices may well be legitimate.  Government figures show that foreigners pay an average of €2,095 per square metre for property and that’s broken down to an average of €2,598m2 by non-resident foreigners and €1,676m2 by resident foreigners. Compare that with €1,574m2 paid by Spanish nationals and it’s clear that foreign second homers are driving house price increases the most.

When looking at the nationalities who are paying the most per square metre, it is the Swedes who get first place with €3,036m2, followed by the Danes at €2,930m2 and the Americans in third place with €2,921m2. At the other end of the scale, the Moroccans pay the least at €689m2, followed by the Romanians at €1,086m2 and then the Ecuadorians at €1,335m2.

Interestingly, although the Swedes are paying the highest amount per square metre, they also have the highest value mortgages with €337,413 on average taken out in Spain.  Americans hold the second highest value mortgages in Spain at €335,625 on average, followed by the Germans (€322,455 ), the Dutch (€226,340) and the British (€232,597 euros). The stand out there is the British, who buy the most property in Spain, are not at the top of the mortgage rankings, perhaps indicating that the purchasers are either wealthy Brits or possibly families who have sold up in the UK and come out on a Non-Lucrative or other residence visa.

Regional Price Variations

The regions experiencing the biggest property price hikes are Extremadura (12.3 per cent), Cantabria (11.1 per cent) and Murcia (10.2 per cent), whereas Aragón experienced the biggest decrease with -7.4% per cent. Different nationalities also appear to gravitate to different regions with Americans buying the most in Cantabria, Castilla La Mancha and La Rioja, the Germans buying the most in the Balearic and Canary Islands, the French in Aragon, Castilla y León, Catalonia, Extremadura, Galicia, Navarra and Basque Country and the British in Andalucia and Murcia. That picture changes for the Valencian Community, Madrid and Galicia where the main buyers are now from Argentina, Belgium, China and Portugal.

When it comes to purchasing, it seems to be a sellers’ market with little to no price negotiation in the regions of Seville, Valencia, Tarragona, Barcelona, Zaragoza, Madrid, Guadalajara and Toledo. With the exception of Granada, which is currently a buyers’ market, the Costas of the Spanish South are neutral on the prices asked for versus those ultimately paid. Within that neutral picture on the Costas, however, are small hot-spot pockets such as Malaga and Marbella where there’s little negotiation on price and it’s a sellers’ market.

Property Investment And Affordability

It’s not great news for foreigners who are purchasing with a view to acquiring rental income as figures show that profitability has decreased with the Bank of Spain placing it at 3.39 per cent, down from the maximum of 4.29 per cent recorded in 2017. Buying to let in Spain is not a good investment for many European foreign nationals.

It’s even worse news for Spanish nationals looking to buy their own home because the average house price in Spain now represents 38.9 per cent of disposable income per household, an increase of 20 per cent on the same period last year. Mortgage loans in 2023 have also fallen by 21.7 per cent seeming to indicate that the Spanish are putting off house purchasing in the face of a difficult and volatile economic and political climate.

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Written by

Emma Mitchell

Emma landed in journalism after nearly 30 years as an executive in the Internet industry. She lives in Bédar and her interests include raising one eyebrow, reckless thinking and talking to people randomly. If you have a great human interest story you can contact her on