Covering everything from the major news of the week and burning social issues, to expat living and la vida local, EL PAÍS’ team of English-language bloggers offers its opinions, observations and analysis on Spain and beyond.

3.4 million empty homes, falling prices and foreign money: the Spanish housing crisis by numbers

Por: | 07 de abril de 2014


Picture: Billy Ehrenberg 


Additional reporting by Nassos Stylianou (@nassos_)

Spain has the highest number of empty houses in Europe: 3.4million of them at a time when many are facing evictions for defaulting on their mortgages. House prices in Spain are also at an all-time low, according to Instituto Nacional de Estadística (INE) numbers for December 2013.

What is more with prices so low, record numbers of foreigners have been flocking to buy houses, with numbers tripling since 2009.

These things in themselves are not news; we’ve know this for a while and it’s been well publicised in the press both in Spain and abroad.

What is an interesting exercise is to look at where these empty homes are and how much house prices have dropped in those regions.

We don’t have the data for where exactly expats are buying the most houses, but we can make an educated guess that it will be on the Costa del Sol and the Costa Brava.  

So first lets look at where the empty houses are. I’ve plotted them on a map, with the bigger red bubbles corresponding to larger amounts of empty homes:


Click on the bubbles to get the stats for each region.

The first thing we notice is that the largest numbers of empty houses are in the Valencian Community and in Andalucía. This figure holds true, even when we look at the percentages:

18.5% of houses in Andalucía are empty - almost a whopping one in five. Valencia isn’t far behind on 14.7%. These are big numbers.

Surprisingly, Cataluña is third with 13% - despite being one of the few regions to have seen a drop in the total number of vacant homes.

As you may have suspected it seems that a large number of houses were built in theses areas because they are popular for second homes, both for Spanish nationals and ex-pats.

So where are the cheapest houses? Or rather, where have the biggest drops occurred?

The INE published the figures, and as you can see from this graph they’ve been dropping steadily since 2007 in some communities, with all areas having experienced large declines.

You can use the drop-down menu in the top-right of the graph to choose which regions you want to include or exclude. Click on the names of the regions in the legend to select the line for that Autonomous Community.

What is interesting is that, despite having the highest number of empty houses (both by volume and %), houses in Andalucía and Valencia have held their prices far better than other regions.

Andalucian properties are going at 73% of their 2007 value and the Comunidad Valenciana is seeing houses sell for 68% of 2007 prices; the third and eighth highest on the list, respectively.

Not so Cataluña. Prices have dropped to 55% of their 2007 level for the Catalans, despite that overall reduction in the number of empty properties.

Why might this be? One possible conclusion is that the number of foreign buyers snapping up cheap properties could well be preventing more pain in Valencia and Andalucía, where the areas around Benidorm and Malaga/Marbella remain favourites for ex pats.

Let’s have a quick look at who it is buying the most properties. Click on the tabs at the top to change between numbers and percentages. 



By far the biggest buyers are the Brits - which will surprise few - but the figure fails to take into account is that 12.85% of all new house purchases in the fourth quarter were by non-Spaniards. El País has a more in-depth article here.

How long that support will last is anyone’s guess, but the number of foreign buyers is higher even than before the crisis, perhaps showing how any recovery from the crisis is leaving Spain behind.

How long it will last is anyone’s guess.


Nassos Stylianou is a freelance data journalist working in London. You can read his blog The Data Party here.


Hay 2 Comentarios

Thanks for the comment Michael - you are quite right.

I saw in a piece by the Telegraph today (link below) prices in London have risen as much as 18% and may rise a further 30% over the next five years.

As you say, there is no reason to believe the influx will be stopping any time soon... will have to keep an eye on the stats!

There is little reason not to expect the trend of UK buyers in areas like Andalucia to continue. The same economic factors that were there for the 1st half of the last decade are repeating. Significant growth in UK house prices (some areas of London have increased by more than 10% in the last 6 months) means lots of spare equity to secure mortgages at historic low interest rates. The opportunity to buy at the bottom of the market, therefore with the potential of some growth ( if you are prepared to wait a few years); have a home in a beautiful, politically secure and now economically safe area are the same factors that existed in the boom times.

Publicar un comentario

Si tienes una cuenta en TypePad o TypeKey, por favor Inicia sesión.

Authors (Bloggers)

Chris Finnigan is a freelance journalist based in Barcelona. He writes for Barcelona Metropolitan and is a book reviewer and reader for The Barcelona Review. He is a graduate of the London School of Economics. You can find him on twitter @chrisjfinnigan

Ben Cardew is a freelance journalist, translator and teacher, now resident in Barcelona after growing up gracefully in Scotland via Norwich. He writes for The Guardian, the NME and The Quietus, among others, on everything from music to digital media. You can find him on Twitter @bencardew

Fiona Flores Watson is a freelance journalist, guide and translator who has lived in Seville since 2003, and has been a writer and editor for more than 20 years. She writes for the Guardian, Telegraph and Sunday Times Travel Magazine. Originally from Essex, Fiona is also Consulting Editor of and has her own blog, Scribbler in Seville. She has been contributing to Trans-Iberian since 2014 and tweets at @Seville_Writer

Jeff Brodsky is a freelance writer. He arrived in Barcelona in 2013 via an admittedly indirect route, living in Chicago, Arizona, Seville, Amsterdam, North Carolina and Madrid. Despite not having stepped foot in Seville for over five years, he still speaks Spanish with an Andalusian accent. Jeff’s writing has been published in newspapers and magazines in America and Europe.

Koren Helbig is an Australian freelance journalist and blogger enjoying a life of near-eternal sunshine in Alicante. She writes for publications in Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom, focusing on stories exploring smart and positive approaches to social issues. She hangs out on Twitter at @KorenHelbig and keeps a selection of her favourite stories at

Julie Pybus lives in a small off-grid house on a hillside in Catalunya. She usually focuses on helping charities and social enterprises with their publications and websites, but has also written for The Guardian, Country Living and The Observer. Julie launched and runs a hyperlocal website which endeavors to increase understanding between the different nationalities in her area @JuliePybus

Paul Louis Archer is a freelance photographer, multimedia storyteller and artist educator. A cross-disciplinary worker, who endeavors to encompass the mediums of photography, audio design and writing. Born in Hertfordshire of an English father and Spanish mother. Based in the United Kingdom. @PaulLouisArcher

Vicki McLeod is a freelance writer and photographer. She has lived in Mallorca since 2004. Vicki writes about her beloved island for The Majorca Daily Bulletin, the only daily English language paper in Spain; produces regular columns for the Euro Weekly News, and articles for Vicki runs PR strategies for several businesses in Mallorca and London as well as working on her own blogs and projects. She and her husband, Oliver Neilson, supply photo and text content for private clients via @phoenixmediamlr. She tweets at @mcleod_vicki.

Born in Newcastle upon Tyne and based in Barcelona, Alx Phillips writes about contemporary art, dance and theatre in a way that human beings can understand. For more previews, reviews, interviews and extras, check:

El País

EDICIONES EL PAIS, S.L. - Miguel Yuste 40 – 28037 – Madrid [España] | Aviso Legal