25 Apr Spanish Real-Estate and Work-Culture
The Spanish Real-Estate Market
Before the burst of the Spanish property bubble in 2007, the construction industry in Spain was at its peak, with eight hundred thousand properties being built on average per year, which was more than of Germany, Italy and France put together. This was due to various reasons, the first being the fact that Spanish people take a lot of pride in owning their own home. Furthermore, in these times the cost of buying was very low, particularly due to the low interest rates on mortgages and the willingness of banks to lend. Secondly, more and more foreign retirees were investing in the market as well as those looking to buy holiday homes. Lastly, the influx of immigrants caused a further rise in demand for property.
The introduction of the ‘Golden Visa’ in 2013 (a scheme which grants visas to those spending over €500,000 on property) meant that more money was being injected from Russia, China and the Middle East. During these times, as the demand was so high, an emphasis was shifted from interior design to speed and cost, and as a result much of the buildings constructed in this period lack the character and charm that properties before them enjoy. When the economic crisis hit Spain, the construction industry suffered massively. Lenders couldn’t pay back their huge loans and construction projects were put to a stop. The market was filled with empty and half-built houses. Many agencies shut down and unemployment in this sector rose by 50%. House prices fell by 40%, investors left the market and many people who had bought property were shocked to find that they were illegal (as there was no real planning permission) and as a result the properties were destroyed. All in all, there seemed to be no light at the end of the tunnel, but things have brightened up.
At this moment, Spain’s GDP is rising, consumer confidence is following suit and unemployment, though still high, is decreasing. These signs of recovery are breathing new life into the real estate sector. Property prices are recovering from the burst of the bubble and have been slowly since 2014, but are still roughly 35% below the 2007 peak. It is a good time to put trust in the Barcelona property market that is likely to go from strength to strength.
Foreign buyers, primarily those hailing from Britain, France, Belgium, Sweden and Russia, helped fuel demand, with around 17% of all property transactions in 2014 coming from abroad. At Casamona we welcome tremendous amounts of Scandinavians year after year (roughly 80% for sales), who have the tendency to bid significantly higher buying offers than any other nationality. There has not only been a change in the market’s economic outlook but also a change in tastes. There is now an increasing number of owners wanting to invest in old apartments with unique Catalan features such as wooden beams and parquet flooring. It seems that the ‘bubble properties’ demands are falling and property owners may have to think twice about their plastic window trims and plain white ceilings.
The Spanish Working Culture
Delving into the Spanish working environment may not seem as impressive as working in the heart of London, perhaps due to the stereotype held that all Spanish people are lazy, taking siestas and hardly ever working. However, this is extremely inaccurate. When I arrived to Spain I was surprised at how long the working hours were. Instead of the 9-5 routine – with which I am accustomed – a typical working day here is from 8am to 8pm (which means you can enjoy Zara until sunset and beyond!). According to EU statistics, Spanish employees work for 38.5 hours per week, which slightly puts to shame the UK’s 36.3. The Spanish actually sleep less than the average European and only around 20% of them enjoy the siesta. This group largely consists of elderly and retired people living in rural areas; those who live in the city are unlikely to take a midday nap. While Casamona, being an international firm run by a Danish partnership, only requires its employees to work an 8-hour shift, they still acknowledge the fact that business in Spain does not finish at 5pm as it does in many other countries like the UK and so assigns a late shift to some certain employees, running from noon to 7pm every day, in order to accommodate the late wonderers. The major difference between the UK and Spain with regards to the working world are Sundays. Spain observes the Christian tradition of Sunday as a day of rest. In Britain we abandoned this practice many years ago and while Mr. Cameron may insist that we are a ‘Christian country’, I’d be outraged if I couldn’t pop to Tesco for some milk on a Sunday. However, here in Barcelona, it’s advisable to get your weekly shop done in, well, the week. Furthermore, small enterprises tend to close so that during the hottest hours of the day proprietors can take a midday nap. Although, as I mentioned before few actually put head to pillow, perhaps its an excuse for some midday wine. How very Spanish, indeed…
Casamona International Real-Estate
Casamona is a real estate agency in Barcelona which focuses on offering individual properties to international clients for both sale and for long-term rent. The business was founded in 2004 by two Danish women, Tine Mathiassen and Anette Kragdahl, as they perceived the Barcelona real estate market to lack professionalism and customer service. The name ‘Casamona’ translated to English literally means ‘cosy house’. The emphasis on ‘cosy’ is extremely prominent throughout the business, with us employees only being told to reach out to new owners if we ourselves would live in their property. This cosiness, coupled with an international emphasis is what distinguishes Casamona from its competitors and has held it through thick and thin.