Expat property broker: Spanish property market ‘resurgent’

A company which specialises in helping expatriates to buy properties in Europe is calling what it says is “the start of a renewal in the Spanish property market”.

The mortgage brokers, Offshoreonline, cites recent data published by BNP Paribas and UCI, its joint venture Spanish domestic lender – which points to four years of rising property transaction volumes – among the reasons it believes the market is in a “resurgent” mode.

According to this data, total property transactions have now risen for four years in a row, from a low of 300,000 in 2013 to just under 460,000 in 2016, Offshoreonline says, citing the BNP Paribas/ UCI research.

Over the same timeframe, mortgage volumes have risen to €30bn from a low of €20bn, the data shows.

Offshoreonline goes on to argue that this uplift in activity is being accompanied by a “return to the market in strength” by foreign buyers.

From an absolute low in 2006, when overseas buyers accounted for just 6% of all transactions, by last year, this figure had risen to more than 17%, “with British buyers the largest group, accounting for nearly 19% of foreign transactions, more than twice the number of French buyers in Spain, the next largest cohort”, Offshoreonline says.

This activity, in turn, it adds, is bringing new mortgage providers into the market, and departed ones back, reinforced this time around with the trappings of fresh regulations that have been put in place since the credit crunch in 2008, which have been designed to limit lending and make house buying a safer process for both lenders and buyers.

With respect to these new regulations, Guy Stephenson, a spokesperson for Offshoreonline, notes that the traditional model used by European mortgage lenders, which  was based on determining a personal “debt ratio” for each individual buyer – effectively creating a de facto “affordability test” – is dead.

“Buyers [today] are not allowed to exceed certain debt ratios, once all mortgages and other loans, both Spanish and in their home country, are taken into account,” he explains.

“As brokers, one of our jobs is to pre-qualify buyers, and ensure they meet the debt ratios now in place, which means that a buyer knows exactly what they can afford at any given time.”

Based in London, Offshoreonline was founded 20 years ago, and claims to have “pioneered the concept of the discount broker in the expatriate market” in 1998, when it started offering no- and low-fee deals to expats.

It is a part of FCA-regulated Expat Mortgages Ltd, and offers advice on, and acts as a broker of, mortgages in the UK, French, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish markets.

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