Buying an abandoned village in Spain is a new trend among foreign investors

by Lorraine Williamson
foreign investors

MADRID – “They call us from all over the world and tell us that they want to come to Spain to buy villages, monasteries, farms, vineyards or mills”. That says Elvira Fabian from Spain’s largest real estate agent specialised in this type of rural real estate. It has become a new trend for foreign investors.

It is estimated that there are about 3,000 abandoned villages in Spain. That number continues to rise after decades of rural exodus and the ageing of the inhabitants who have remained behind in the often tiny hamlets. Most of those abandoned or almost empty villages are in the interior of Spain. It is most affected by the phenomenon of depopulation. Oftentimes they are surrounded by spectacular landscapes. 

A recent report by the Bank of Spain estimates that 3,403 municipalities are still in danger of disappearing. These may all become part of the real estate offer in the coming years. 

Dozens of these hamlets or villages are for sale. Many of the properties available for purchase cost no more than an apartment in a major city. It is a unique real estate product that is arousing increasing interest from investors and international assets.` 

75% are foreign investors

Elvira Fabian, the spokesperson for the agency Aldeas Abandonadas, explains to El Confidencial: “We work with almost 75% foreign clients. Foreigners are no longer looking only for beach tourism, but also a refuge for their wealth by investing in villages and farms”. Aldeas Abandonadas (abandoned hamlets) arranges visits for these clients. According to Fabian, it mainly concerns Americans, Argentines and Venezuelans who want a lot of land and buildings. 

A haven for money or new life for families 

Some “pieces” of Spain for sale are very attractive to this type of investor who has no relation to the villages they buy. They mainly use it as a haven for money that they cannot find in their country of origin. According to Fabian, other types of customers are mainly families who want to drastically change their lives and raise their children in a rural environment. 

Salto de Castro 

The abandoned villages and farms are often ideal locations for business, including catering and rural tourism. Such is the case, for example, of Salto de Castro in the province of Zamora, which we wrote about earlier. A small town of 6,600 square metres that was built to house the workers who built the Castro Dam. In 1989 it was abandoned.  

Recently it was for sale for only €260,000. It has now been sold to a construction company that wants to transform the village into a tourist complex. There are 44 houses, a bar, a church and a school. Of course, the businessman from La Mancha is not there yet for the amount of €260,000. Substantial investments are needed to make the place habitable again. 

Village for 100,000 euros in Segovia 

Elvira Fabian shows that there are up to a dozen options in the different provinces of Castilla y León. In Segovia, a village with 12 houses and a farm of 5,500 square metres is offered for €100,000. “In the middle of nature and well located”, the advertisement says. 

Cogesa Expats

Town for sale in Burgos for 339,000 euros 

In Burgos, interested parties can get their hands on an abandoned town with 60 houses for €339,000. Or in León, a rural complex with two buildings and a museum for €300,000. Those amounts make you think when you realise that an average apartment in Spain costs €223,000. 

Small town with ruins for 900,000 euros 

There are also options in the province of Ávila, such as a city that consists mainly of ruins for €900,000. It is promoted by Aldeas Abandonadas as a “spectacular location” in an area highly sought after by tourists from the Madrid region. “From here you can even see the Sierra de Gredos”. 

Village in good condition in Palencia for 2.3 million euros 

€850,000 is the asking price for an abandoned village in Burgos. There are ten houses and 200 hectares of land on the river Ebro. Slightly more expensive is a village in Palencia with houses that are still in very good condition. For €2.3 million you own an old factory, houses where the workers lived, a school, a villa, a chapel, stables and a mill. 

Salto de Saucelle 

Real estate platform Idealista is also promoting a town in Salamanca for sale with 32 homes “in perfect condition to move into immediately”. That is Salto de Saucelle on the border with Portugal. The current owner asks for €4.8 million. There are already three people interested. 

How do the villages come into the hands of one owner? 

How is it possible that villages that are left empty due to depopulation are sometimes owned by the same owner who can sell them? Elvira Fabián explains that “entire families lived in these villages. In the past, families were very large and people married very close relatives. The succession of legacies then led to the ownership of the whole village falling into one or a few hands of the same family. Many of the family members moved elsewhere and the properties were ceded to those left behind, who in some cases later bought more houses in the same village.” 

Family circumstances 

Carlos is an example of this. He sells “because of family circumstances” a rural complex in the province of León with a mill. It is a property that has been in the family for 80 years, but he is unable to carry out the necessary reforms. It is a sawmill from the end of the 19th century with a unique German industrial machine park of 500 metres built. Carlos assures that it is perfect for “people who want to make it their dream home or turn it into hotel accommodation. The second option is mentioned by the majority of interested people Carlos speaks to. 

Purchase often complicated 

However, the purchase of an entire village is often a complicated process. According to Fabian, people should bear in mind that when you buy a village you don’t immediately own everything. Some objects or elements cannot have a private owner. “There are common parts, such as roads, access to farms, cemeteries or churches. These cannot be sold,” explains Fabián. For this reason, selling such an abandoned village is a complex process that can take many months or even years. 

At Aldeas Abandonadas they not only sell villages but also castles, monasteries and large estates. An average of 50 calls a week are from people who want to know what they can buy for the amount they have reserved. 

Dream away 

In any case, it is very inspiring to take a look at the website of Aldeas Abandonadas and dream away at the hamlets, mansions, palaces and even bodegas with entire vineyards for sale. For example, take a look at this village in the southwest of Andalucia with eight houses and buildings for €380,000. Or to this mansion of 558 square metres in the Canary Islands with a sea view and on a plot of 900m2 for €535,500. 

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