CORONAVIRUS

Fearing new coronavirus lockdown, Spaniards look for bigger homes outside of the city

The prospect of another few months of confinement as well as the shift to remote working are driving the market for more spacious properties in more remote areas

A residential neighborhood in Boadilla del Monte outside of Madrid.
A residential neighborhood in Boadilla del Monte outside of Madrid.Víctor Sainz

During the 99 days of Spain’s lockdown between March 15 and June 21, most people’s lives unfolded within the confines of their homes, many of which failed to meet the new dual demands of family life and teleworking.

According to the real estate sector, this has led to a shift in the general perception of what a property should have in the way of essential features. Now with the number of coronavirus cases continuing to rise, the fear of a new lockdown has led to a significant increase in searches for more spacious properties away from the city. The main real estate platforms describe this new trend as yet another fallout of the coronavirus crisis.

“At the end of July, the increase in demand for locations outside the big cities, particularly Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia, had risen by 17%,” says Emiliano Bermúdez, deputy general manager of the Don Piso real estate business. “With a second lockdown in mind, people are demanding a specific type of product. They are looking for homes with a balcony or access to community areas that allow them greater freedom of movement and space.”

There is no point in having a bar or a store close by if you do not have space for the children to play and where you can feel a little more relaxed
América Hernández, who has moved outside of Madrid

According to Ferran Font, director of analysis at the real estate site Pisos.com, while price is still the main priority when buying or renting a property, the importance given to other features has changed. “During and after the confinement, 60% of people felt they lacked something in their home – 35%, a balcony and 20%, a garden,” he says.

Another indication that more people are keen to get out of the city is that removal companies are experiencing intense activity after business was suspended during lockdown. “Right now there is an incredible stampede at the inter-provincial level,” says Santiago Pérez, head of the removal company, Portes 365 Días. “Many people know that they will not be working from now until the end of the year and, as they perhaps have a house in a small town somewhere, they are going in droves to sit out whatever is coming our way.”

According to the online real estate platform Idealista, the percentage of searches corresponding to property in provincial capitals fell to 38.8% during the 14 weeks of lockdown, compared to 44.1% in January. However, once the state of alarm was over, this rose again to 40.4%.

Teleworking will give us more freedom to leave the city and move to more remote areas
Anaïs López, director of communications at the Fotocasa real estate platform

“There is one essential stipulation right now and that is that the home has a balcony. More than 80% are looking for that,” says Lola Alcover, secretary of the General Council of the Official Associations of Real Estate Agents of Spain (COAPI). “There is also far greater interest in properties with a garden and land plot in the commuter belt, but far enough out that there is no population pressure. And we have detected an increase in interest in the energy rating of housing,” she adds. “While it figured before, only a small percentage gave it any importance. Now that people have spent a season locked in their homes 24 hours a day, they have become more aware of the cost of heating a home and also the importance of good sound insulation.”

América Hernández has just made the decision, together with her husband Javier, to move with their two small children from their rented apartment in the Salamanca district of Madrid to a much larger home in San Sebastián de los Reyes, 18 kilometers north of the capital. “After being stuck between four walls, we have realized that there is no point in having a bar or a store close by if you do not have space for the children to play and where you can feel a little more relaxed,” she says.

After deciding to make the change, they found a lot of others had the same idea. “We noticed that when a house with the characteristics we were looking for went on the market in this area, it was snapped up,” says Hernández. “Before we found this one, three that we were interested in were snatched right from under our nose.”

Boom in estates and villas

According to Anaïs López, director of communications at the Fotocasa real estate platform, while searches for homes with a balcony or garden have increased by 40% compared to pre-pandemic figures, searches for country estates have risen 46%; villas, 36%; and townhouses, 24%. Meanwhile, at the other end of the spectrum, searches for apartments have fallen by 14%. “The change in tendencies is particularly noticeable with regard to the rental market,” she adds. “If, before the pandemic, 34% of those in the market were seeking to rent, that’s now 39% – the same as those wanting to buy [also 39%]. And, during the months of confinement and deescalation, 42% of those renting were looking for another property.”

Teleworking

Another factor behind this trend is the shift remote working, which has made distance from the city center less of an issue. “Those who can telework and realize they will continue to work remotely after the pandemic is over consider it another reason to get out of a big city,” says Bermúdez.

And, according to Anaïs López: “Teleworking will make a big difference to where we live. Since we won’t have to live near the office, it will give us more freedom to leave the city and move to more remote areas. Teleworking will also mean many families having to find a home with more rooms, as having an office space will be more important than ever.”

English version by Heather Galloway.

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