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When the UK left the EU last year British nationals began being subjected to the same rules as other ‘third country’ citizens. Since the Brexit transition period came to an end at the start of 2021, British travellers have only been allowed to spend 90 days in any 180-day period in the Schengen Area. The Schengen Area is a region of 26 countries, including Spain, that have got rid of their shared border and passport controls.
Spain’s property market has felt the impact of the new post-Brexit limits on UK travellers in Europe, according to local experts.
Up to one million properties in Spain are owned by Britons and British buyers continue to make up the largest proportion of foreign investors in the Spanish market.
However, now that the EU’s 90-day visit rule applies to Britons, many have seen their access to their holiday homes slashed.
British second homeowners who are not Spanish residents could spend up to 183 days in Spain before Brexit, allowing them to get away from the UK during the winter months.
But some people in this group – who are often dubbed ‘swallows’ – are now “selling off” their properties because of their restricted access to them, according to Maura Hillen MBE, an Irish expat, who is an expert in Spanish property.
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Ms Hillen is the spokesperson for AUAN, a property association based in Spain’s southernmost region of Andalucia.
She told Express.co.uk: “You are seeing people selling off for that reason because why keep a property in Spain if you can only visit it for 90 days in any 180-day period.
“So, in terms of property, that’s more or less the picture as I see it at the moment.”
However, she pointed out that there are other Europeans who are “picking up the slack” left by Britons who are packing up and leaving.
She said: “But the impact is not that noticeable because there’s lots of Belgian, French and Dutch buyers in the area if a British person is selling.
“It’s noticeable that foreign buyers of other nationalities are picking up the slack.”
Many of the Spanish properties owned by Britons are along the coasts and in the Balearic and the Canary Islands.
Around 50 percent of the homes are owned by residents of Spain, who are therefore not affected by the EU’s 90-day visit rule.
The combined impacts of Brexit and COVID-19 appear to have curbed British investors’ interest in the Spanish property market, with the number of transactions carried out by Britons sinking to a historic low this year.
Britons still accounted for 9.5 percent of all Spanish property purchases from foreign buyers in the second quarter of 2021, however, meaning they are still the largest contingent of foreign buyers.
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Ms Hillen explained that in the region of Murcia, which borders Andalucia, the effects of Brexit on British homeowners was also being seen.
She said: “Probably the biggest area of impact will be these ‘swallows’, people who like to spend more than 90 days in Spain.
“Certainly, speaking to the president of a residents’ association on a big urbanisation in Mazarron in Murcia, he tells me that he can see that a lot of people who have bought properties to spend the winter months here like six months, that they are selling up.
“Because there’s no visa that allows a person to operate as a swallow to spend six months in Spain and six months in the UK.
“There’s no visa that allows that and I can confirm that because I had to write to the Spanish Consulate in London to query that.
“They confirmed that there is no visa that allows you to stay.
“It’s either 90 days or become a resident and if you don’t want to do that, then there’s no visa that will offer you an alternative.”
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