In Barcelona’s genteel Dreta de l’Eixample neighbourhood across from Casa Calvet, an early Antoni Gaudí mansion, workmen are busy renovating a stately turn-of-the-century building.
The project, managed by local developers Bonavista Developments, is part of a planned €100m investment in Barcelona real estate by London-based Europa Capital. Expected to be finished this year, the 14 luxury apartments with a rooftop pool have already been sold, for prices between €600,000 and €1.85m, all but two to foreign buyers.
Foreign money is driving a recovery in Spain’s property market, a sector that has been the country’s Achilles heel since the real estate bubble burst in 2008 and brought the economy crashing down with it.
According to Spain’s property registrars society, foreign nationals bought 12.2 per cent of residential properties in the first quarter of 2015, up from 9 per cent in 2006.
Their impact is most prominent in the luxury market. Home prices fell more than 35 per cent between 2007 and 2013, according to Spain’s statistics bureau. But posh areas popular with foreigners — such as Pedralbes and the Passeig de Gràcia in Barcelona, and Salamanca and Chamberí in Madrid — have already recovered 20 per cent of the lost value, says Patricio Palomar, director of research at CBRE Spain.
“At the high end — €500,000 and up — it’s primarily being driven by international demand,” says Alex Vaughan, who in 2005 co-founded Lucas Fox, the Barcelona-based luxury estate agent that sold two-thirds of the units in the Bonavista project. Last year, 91 per cent of Lucas Fox’s 126 sales went to foreign buyers.