BRITS are leaving Spain in droves according to reports in the British tabloid press this week, but is there any evidence that this is actually true?
Whilst it’s fair to say that some will or already have returned home, an inevitability in light of more post-Brexit red tape, is it a trickle or a tsunami? Whilst it may make for salacious headlines, what does the actual evidence suggest?
The Olive Press decided to find out.
Our first stop was Mark Stücklin, a leading authority on Spanish property sales and author of the book ‘Need to Know: Buying Property in Spain’. He also runs Spanish Property Insight, a web site which offers expert and independent advice on the housing market in Spain.
He says there is not any evidence to suggest that British expats are “leaving in droves” at all, even though he acknowledges there has been a dip, but not a collapse, in the number of Brits buying new homes in Spain post Brexit.
He told The Olive Press: “It’s completely anecdotal, there is nothing to suggest this is true. Whilst it has dropped a bit, and a lot if we’re talking historically … in 2007 Brits accounted for 50% of all foreign property sales, compared to 9.5% now … but you have to remember that Brits are still the biggest buyers among any nationality”.
Brits may still lead the pack when it comes to investing in new homes, but they are closely followed by Germans (9%), Moroccans (8.3%), French (7.0%) and Romanians (6.1%).
Mark Stücklin expects this figure to dip further, he said: “I think we could see another nationality overtake Brits for the first time ever this year”. He does however acknowledge that the number of Brits buying new homes in Spain does stand a historic low.
Official data from Spain’s Land Registry does confirm that the number of new British home buyers in Spain has decreased post-Brexit, but it also confirms that Brits still account for 9.5% of all real estate transactions carried out by foreigners in Spain, which according to Mark Stücklin represents around 1% of the total figure overall. This figure compares with 14.1% in 2019. This does not support the idea of a sudden and dramatic mass exodus whatsoever.
It has always been difficult to find statistics confirming the exact number of Brits with property in Spain, or those who spent a significant part of the year living here because huge numbers of Brits were not registered on the padron or as residents.
However, Brexit now means that only those who are officially registered as residents are able to stay beyond 90 days in a 180 day period.
By the end of 2020 there were 360,000 British people legally resident in Spain, according to Spanish authorities. Alicante, Malaga and the Balearic Islands remain the most attractive destinations.
British citizens can visit Spain without a visa for up to 90 days during a 180 period for tourism and business purposes. Those who wish to move to Spain must now meet certain criteria to obtain residency, including financial means as well as private healthcare.
Next year the European Union will introduce a new visa waiver system, which will require many nationalities outside of the EU who want to enter Spain to apply for a waiver online. The process should only take a few minutes, and once approved the waiver will be valid for 3-year periods. But it still means that travel to the EU is limited to 90 days within a 180 day period.
We can conclude that whilst it has become more complex, especially for people moving to Spain from the UK for the first time. There isn’t any real evidence to suggest that thousands are abandoning the country “in droves”, and we should remember that Brits still buy more property than any other nationality in Spain.
They also represent the third highest number of foreigners by country, behind only Romanians and Moroccans.
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