Co-Housing and Communal Living in Spain

The concept of co-housing or communal living seems to be growing in popularity in Spain but it is a relatively new concept. As we mentioned in our article about “The Community” people in Spain have been living cheek by jowl and cooperating within their buildings for many years but the co-housing movement now takes the traditional community model and extends the concept somewhat.

I have been doing it for over 20 years now to a certain extent and no, I don’t live in a hippy commune of peace and love. I share a garden and pool and the community takes responsibility for the gardening and looking after the pool. This means the pool and garden are always pristine and ready to use and I don’t have to garden or look after the pool myself as that would be an unmitigated disaster!.

Now though co-housing and communal living is becoming more and more popular in Spain due to various factors. However what we are beginning to see now are projects that are being developed specifically for communal living. Today we are going to look at what these concepts are and what they tend to offer.

The Traditional Community

In the traditional community in Spain the people living in a building or an urbanisation are responsible for common areas but in apartment buildings those common areas are often limited to the stairwell, the lift, the garages and storerooms for example. The cost of upkeep, the lighting and cleaning of these areas is shared proportionately by the owners of the individual units

The Difference in Concept

The concept of co-housing varies to a degree but it usually implies a common area where the people living in the apartment block or planned urbanisation can meet up and get together and use without being responsible for 100% of the price. Typically the common areas are gardens, roof terraces, gyms and social rooms or co-working spaces. These areas are built into the design of the property off-plan so that potential buyers can see what they are getting. It is difficult to find places with co-housing facilities in older blocks and estates as the facilities need to be built in to the original design to work well and getting an agreement in a community to develop a common space as a community facility is very difficult.

As things change rapidly with home-working, online shopping and home delivery being more common then there is less demand for ground floor shop premises and more demand for spaces that can act as both leisure and workspaces to allow people to get away from their living space into a different environment without moving away from where they can easily return home.

As we have noted previously on these pages, the Spanish love nothing more than the lack of a commute and working under where they live is a sort of nirvana for many people. If this can be combined with leisure in the form of a gym or a garden to relax in then these ground floor spaces become very popular. New developments offering these facilities are becoming more common as a result. It is also a favoured style of living for millennials wanting to live with like minded people of a similar age and demographic rather than in a more traditional community structure where they feel more disempowered.

Business Models

The off-plan cooperative model is gaining ground at the moment with a development being promoted by a group of friends or workmates where they try to attract people to commit to buying off-plan and develop the building and the space themselves through a contracted developer/builder.

This can be seen in Valencia in the Lotus development in Ruzafa, see more of that here. In this development there is a common garden and swimming pool area and the building was done as a traditional cooperative model. No co-working spaces in this as the initial idea was around 5 or 6 years ago before Covid and before the huge rise of Amazon and online shopping in Spain. Nevertheless, the pool and garden area is almost unique in Ruzafa and therefore the building has been very popular despite the high price of the individual units.

We are also seeing the rise of the individual developer promoting a co-living and co-working building where they attract people to their developments with promises of these common areas. The use of the roof space as a common area is becoming more popular and you can see that in this development in Mislata in Valencia as an example. Gardens, green space and barbecue areas are taking off on these underused spaces as they also provide a green area to provide a cleaner environment and also to cool down the rooftops meaning that oftentimes the upper flats are cooler too as they act as an extra layer of insulation.

Opportunities

The demand for this type of property means that there are opportunities in place for developers looking to buy whole buildings comprised of various units and redeveloping them to offer these facilities or to develop this type of property on new sites. The addition of common areas, gyms, gardens and the like adds to the value of the units and you can see an extra 20-50% on the price of properties offering these facilities compared with buildings without this type of attractive offer.

What This Means For You

As a buyer it means you get a larger choice of property types. Apartment doesn’t necessarily mean just an apartment. If there are more common facilities that are available then you need to be made aware of it in the advert because there will be a cost to those facilities both initially and ongoing, expect community fees to be higher as there is more upkeep needed of common areas and facilities. However, it will always be the case that a communal swimming pool is cheaper to look after than if you have your own pool with its associated costs as the cost is pooled (pardon the pun)

One other upside, or at least potentially a good point, of communal living is that you are more likely to find yourself in situations where you get to use your new found Spanish language skills (You WILL be learning Spanish won’t you?) and therefore you will get better quicker.

The Potential Downsides

As a buyer you need to make sure that the promised facilities will be included in the final project and that there is a plan for the upkeep, cleaning and updating of facilities over time. As a developer you need to realise that there may be costs further down the line as you have a responsibility for the building for ten years after construction and common facilities might not be as well looked after by the community as their own apartment units.

Both parties need to be clear about what is on offer. One argument I saw was that a developer promised a gym but when the signings were made there was just a space to put in a gym. The community sued the developer and got their gym put in but only after a long court battle. Making sure the wording in the documentation is clear is very important.

Valencia Property News

Good news this week as the dreaded Article 28 was taken off the statute books. This has been a particularly thorny issue recently as it involves inheritances and with the number of deaths from Covid it has meant that people were not able to easily sell apartments or houses that they had inherited.

Essentially Article 28 meant that there was a potential for a previously unknown person to come forward in the two years after a sale and take the property from the purchaser as the legitimate heir. Obviously no sane person would buy a property with an article 28 on it until the end of the period where someone could turn up and get the property. Equally banks would not mortgage properties with the article 28 on it meaning that people needing a mortgage couldn’t buy one even if they were mad enough to want to buy it. Article 28 also meant that somebody who had inherited a property and needed to mortgage it in order to pay off any estate or inheritance taxes couldn’t do it so it will be a relief for a lot of people.

Summer Is Over

The truncated summer has finally ended with the rescheduled Fallas fiestas finishing off the summer period by being tagged onto the start of September and people go back to work this week and kids are back in school mostly from Wednesday (Can you feel that collective relief that kids are actually going back to school?)

Covid is currently retreating, vaccine rates in Spain are the highest in Europe and case numbers are falling every day currently. Valencians are still being careful, masks are still mandatory in shops and offices and most people wear them in the street too if social distancing cannot be maintained, eg in the city itself, and people still meet where possible outside or in extremely well ventilated areas where there is less chance of Covid being transmitted.

We have a slew of new clients coming into Valencia this month many of them looking for similar things. Popular at the moment are villas at over 500k for Golden Visa purchases from American clients and Brexit refugees, redevelopment projects in the Cabanyal and other beach areas of the city and the usual apartments with terraces. If you are thinking of coming over then make sure to take the first step by filling in our form and letting us know what your ideal property looks like. Meanwhile if you like this post then maybe also take a look at other similar posts below. Just click on the images to be taken to the posts and properties in a new window.