When you look at the statistics for house sales in Spain lots of focus falls on the Valencian Community as a whole. The Valencian Community is formed by three provinces, Valencia (Of course), Alicante and Castellón.
Now Castellón is the least known of the three and for the purposes of today’s article it will remain that way. Just quickly, it has it’s own underused airport (and, boy, is there a story behind that!), it has a large, rather unknown outside Spain, holiday resort called Oropesa, it has the fantastic Benicassim with its annual music festivals and a few other sandy beach resorts which are wonderfully empty all year round. However Castellón is little known really. When people talk about the Valencian Community they usually mean either Valencia or Alicante and the two are used interchangeably. The truth is that they are very different though.
Alicante is known for being an airport connection to Benidorm and other beach resorts. The negatives would say it’s a place to get ripped off for your car hire, see boozy stag and hen dos, high rise hell in Benidorm, beach resorts full of northern European expats where the average age is waiting for the reaper, and well, let’s keep away from more negatives.
What it is less known for is the city of Alicante itself, palm lined boulevards leading to the sea, the fact that the original name was Lucentum, the original “City of Light”, the Palmeral at Elche, the Santa Barbara Castle on the hilltop overlooking the Marina and Port, lovely inland attractions such as Guadalest and a whole lot more including a decent and well used theme park at Terra Mitica.
However, Alicante is associated with retirement and property for many Europeans. The airport is well connected to many parts of Europe and easy to get from to the resorts of Benidorm, Calpe, Altea, Moraria, Javea and Denia among others.
Those with less of a budget head south to the sprawling estates of Torrevieja with its rather lovely nearby salt flats, to the south of which overbuilding and real estate excess can be seen in so many ugly 1970s medium rise properties which have seen better days and largely empty estates that extend for miles around golf courses and shopping centres. It’s some people’s idea of heaven, not mine, but a lot of people love it there.
And yet people class the Valencian Community as one homogenous area, it’s not. You won’t find anything similar to that in Valencia.
Valencia Is Very Different.
In the third quarter of 2019 there was a marked difference in property sales in Valencia and Alicante. It’s the same every year. Foreign buyers of property in the two provinces are not only very different people but they also want different things and have different backgrounds. Almost 41% of buyers of property in the Alicante province were foreigners whereas just 11% of buyers in Valencia came from abroad. There were 9247 sales of property in Alicante meaning around 3800 were to foreign buyers. In Valencia there were 7472 sales meaning there were around 820 sales to foreign buyers. So not only are four times as many sales to foreigners as a percentage in Alicante but because there are more transactions there are five times as many purchases by foreigners compared to Valencia despite Valencia having a considerably larger population. If you strip out foreign buyers from the figures there are more transactions in Valencia than Alicante which is what you would expect due to their respective populations.
This of course means that issues in other countries such as the dreaded Brexit, can effect the local property markets of Alicante much more than they do in Valencia. Indeed, if we take into account that the largest percentage of foreign buyers were the British, we can take a look at how demand is affected by any problems emanating from Brexit. 14.27% of the foreign buyers as a whole were from the UK in the last quarter slightly up from the lowest figure ever recorded of 13.31% in the previous quarter. As a comparison, in 2009 32% of all sales to foreigners were to British buyers. If we take the average figure of 14.27% of sales being to British buyers in Alicante that gives us around 520 purchases by the British. In Valencia the number drops to 114. That Brexit rubbish about the Spanish needing the Brits for their economy doesn’t really add up to much in the end although it can have a significant effect on local markets where Brits traditionally buy such as Torrevieja and Javea.
Valencia is a working city, Spain’s third biggest city with an economy based on services, construction, the port, agriculture and manufacturing. In general you don’t find towns that are full of foreigners in the summer on the edge of a beach and empty in the winter where they feel soulless. Most Valencian towns have a stable population throughout the year, though in some cases rising slightly in the summer as people go back to their pueblos for the holidays perhaps. There are exceptions such as Canet, the immensely ugly La Pobla de Farnals and Puzol Playa which are full of life in July and August but rather empty the rest of the year, but mostly people live in their houses all year round and most properties are not second homes. This cannot be said of Alicante!
The people who buy property in Valencia tend to be people of a working age who want to do more not less, they want to participate in the culture and life of the city and the surrounding towns not opt out. In Alicante a lot of the purchases are from the older retired generations looking to live out their golden years by a warm beach. There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s just not what people look for in Valencia and if you are looking for it it’s less likely you will find it.
Below you can see that in the Valencian Community 25.86% of all sales are to foreigners, or 1 in 4. Only the islands come close. However the figures are skewed upwards by Alicante of course just as they are in Andalucia by Malaga, the Costa del Sol, of which we will see more later.
In the Valencia Community there is a huge difference between Alicante and the other two provinces as you can see below, 40.77% in Alicante to 11.48% in Valencia and 12.02% in Castellón.
Even more startling is the case of Andalucia. In Andalucia, Malaga has 28% of all sales to foreigners whereas Cordoba is 0.7%, a huge difference. If you want to get away from all of those pesky foreigners then go to Orense in Galicia where not a single sale of property was made to a foreign buyer in the last quarter!
What This Means in Valencia
When you walk around Valencia you aren’t often surrounded by English, Dutch, German or French speaking people. You might hear the odd conversation in English especially in the favoured bars and cafes of the Old Town, Ruzafa, the Patacona and the Cabanyal and on some days the area around the central market can seem overwhelmed as cruise ships stop by and disgorge thousands of tourists into a very small area. However mostly you hear Spanish and maybe some Valenciano. The lingua franca of many Alicante beach towns is English unfortunately, it’s less authentic.
You are not generally surrounded by tourist fayre and tourist souvenir shops. Once away from the area around the central market and town hall you will struggle to find a souvenir shop and the cafes and restaurants are serving more traditional menus of the day rather than tourist packaged meals.
There are not areas which seem closed down for ten months of the year because the owners of the shops, bars and restaurants have to make their money during the summer season when there are people there. And in turn this means you will not find many rip off places with high prices even in the summer. The owners recognise that if their year round customers of locals don’t spend their money at their bars and shops then they will go under. And they open all year round giving life to all areas of the city and all of the local towns around.
We are biased of course. We live, work and enjoy Valencia. We know of plenty of people that enjoy Alicante too but let’s not pretend the two are the same. The foreign buyers who look to come to Valencia are generally very different people to those looking to move to Alicante. If you are unsure of where to go then you need to do more research because the differences are so large you are not comparing apples with apples if you are looking at properties in the two areas. As we always say, there’s no point falling in love with a property if you don’t like the area it’s in.
And if you want more information search through the blog or just click on some of the images from previous articles below to discover more about Valencia.