A diverse and vibrant city, rich in cultural history, Barcelona boasts the perfect elements that make for an ideal city in which to invest.
Located in the Catalan region in the northeast of Spain, just 90 miles south of the French border, Barcelona is a city which really does offer something for everyone. Its location is the ideal blend of access to beaches, a thriving city centre, beautiful countryside, and mountains for exploring.
The city is well known as a cultural hub with a wealth of attractions which drive both domestic and overseas tourism. Benefitting from almost 5km of beaches, it’s easy to see why the city is the 6th most visited city in the world.
With an international reputation as a world centre for art architecture and design, the city has a highly developed economy, and Catalonia as a region accounts for over 20% of Spain’s gross GDP, despite making up only 16% of its population.
Catalonia is the headquarters of more than 5,000 foreign companies, with 90% based in the Barcelona area. More than 50% of Japanese, Italian, North American, French, Austrian and Swiss companies operating in Spain are based in Catalonia.
While the region enjoys its reputation as a centre for tourism, one if it’s major financial benefits is how diversified it’s economic structure actually is, with income generated from sectors such as engineering, wine production, automotive and consumer goods. It also has a growing tech sector and been a critical shipping centre for centuries thanks to its location, which acts as a gateway between Europe, the America’s and Africa.
Consistently topping polls as a leading European city when it comes to the quality of life, the engaging mix of a relaxed lifestyle, high employment levels, and a thriving social and cultural scene it’s not a surprise that the city’s five and a half million residents choose to make it home.
Home to 12 universities and 35 international schools, Barcelona has a diverse population, with both students and families choosing the city as a place to call home. It has good health and medical services, both public and private. These factors combine to make it an area that is attractive not only to Spanish nationals but also makes it home to a wealth of ex-pats from a variety of locations.
As a tourist destination, Barcelona is inarguably one of the world’s leading city’s. Around 9.5 million tourists stayed in the hotels of Barcelona in 2019. In 2018, international visitor spending in Barcelona reached 7.86 million USD, making it rank among the first 20 cities for visitor spend globally.
While, like many major cities, Barcelona’s tourism industry has been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, the tourism trade has adapted rapidly to attract those who can visit, either domestically or from higher spending visitors further afield. And with its evergreen appeal, it’s well placed to bounce back once international travel resumes.
Our experts say
“Barcelona really is a city with something for everyone. It offers all of the same economic appeal as other major global cities but has a relaxed Mediterranean atmosphere that you just cannot find in places like London, New York or even Berlin.
The Golden Visa programme means that we see interest in Spanish property from investors across the world, and for many of them, Barcelona does tick all of the boxes. It has a thriving tourist trade, is a business hub for a wide range of industries, and is also a place that’s appealing should someone wish to use their investment for personal use.
Although 2020 has, of course, bought changes to many of the markets we operate in, as one of the most visited cities in the world, with a robust infrastructure, Barcelona is likely one of the places to bounce back quickly and easily.”
– Matt Lavin
How to get there
You can reach Barcelona by car via three toll motorways. A ring road leads around the city, which merges into the highways. The border crossing with France is just 90km away, making the city easily accessible from France, Italy and the UK.
Barcelona is the easiest major Spanish city to reach by train from London, Paris and many other European cities. A high-speed line launched in 2013 dives under the Pyrenees, linking the Roussillon region of France with Catalonia. So Barcelona now has direct fast trains from more than a dozen cities across France. The trip from Paris to Barcelona is just 6.5hrs.
Barcelona El Prat airport is located just 12 km from the city centre and welcomes flights from 59 countries across the world. Additionally, two other airports nearby, Girona and Reus which are approximately 120km outside Barcelona that offers you access to Barcelona via transfer services.
The ferry port of Barcelona is right in front of the old town and links to other ports across Europe including Ibiza, Menorca, Italy, Morocco, and Algeria.
Barcelona enjoys a typical Mediterranean climate with reasonably mild, but often wet winters and hot summers with plenty of sunshine. Sunshine duration is 2,524 hours per year. An average of 4.5 hours of sun per day in December to an average of 10 hours of sunshine per day in July.
Mid-June to August are the hottest months with highs close to 30 °C (86 °F); the heat can be heavy feeling because of humidity, but sea breezes make it more bearable. Barcelona itself is somewhat protected from heat waves that can affect other parts of Spain, however incredibly hot days are not uncommon, with peaks of 35/36 °C (95/97 °F).
November until February sees cooler temperatures averaging around 12°C or 53F. Rainfall is not particularly abundant throughout the winter months, although rains are more likely in autumn. In a typical year, 620 millimetres (24.5 inches) of rain fall, with a maximum of 100 mm (4 in) in October, when it rains on average for seven days.
One of the biggest draws of property investment in Barcelona is the opportunity to acquire units at prices which beat almost all other major cities hands down. Prime property prices are 25% lower than Berlin, 60% cheaper than London and 6x less than in Hong Kong. This gives buyers the ability to enjoy the benefits of prime city real estate, without the higher price tag.
Demand for rental properties is generally high. While the market saw increased supply this year, thanks to lowered occupancy from tourists, the year on year price growth still shows that rental prices have still increased 12% in the third quarter compared to the same period in 2019.
Like most major cities, younger buyers are priced out of the market, which drives a strong demand for rental property.
Additionally, according to INE forecasts, the segment of the population set to experience the most considerable growth is overseas residents – a demographic that shows a far higher preference for renting – around 60% of foreigners rent compared to 12% of Spanish households. The abundance of good schools, reliable infrastructure and a socially exciting atmosphere make Barcelona a popular choice with those looking to relocate to Spain.
Tourism is also a primary driver of rental prices in the region. 2020 notwithstanding, the number of tourists visiting Spain from overseas has doubled in the past ten years. Additionally, thanks to the broader ability for landlords to promote short term lets online more tourists than ever are choosing to stay in private apartments as opposed to hotels. And post CV-19 this is likely to continue.
For investors who are outside of the Eurozone, a considerable attraction of purchasing a property in Spain is the availability of a Golden Visa.
In 2013, Spain introduced new laws offering residency permits to non-EU nationals who invest over €500,000 in Spanish property. This gives those who obtain the visa the opportunity not just to access Spain, but other Schengen EU countries.
Unlike the Wealth visa, there is only a necessity to visit Spain once during the residency period. The visa also gives holders access to work in Spain. Long-term residence can be issued after five years, with the possibility of being granted citizenship after 10 – a desirable proposition for investors who have dreams of retiring to the warm Spanish climate.
Currently, there is talk of tightening up Golden Visa restrictions; therefore, for those wishing to take advantage, it’s wise to do it sooner rather than later.
Property prices in Catalonia started growing steadily in 2016 – the first real recovery since the economic crash of 2008. While the pandemic has slowed the market somewhat, actual sales prices seem unaffected. Newbuild property is in strong demand, with a 6.1% increase year on year in the first quarter of 2020.
Barcelona has had very moderate amounts of new construction post-2008, which means that there is liquidity within the market, with sellers well positioned to find buyers.