Home sales including squatters new trend in Spanish real estate market

by Lorraine Williamson

Can you buy a completely renovated apartment right in the historic heart of Almería for €73,000? Yes, you can! However, you just have to be prepared to deal with the problems associated with its occupation by squatters. 

Last week, the National Police in Almería dismantled several marijuana plantations. This was in a characterful residential building on Calle Reina in the provincial capital. Furthermore, they arrested ten people living illegally in the building. However, one of those apartments, as published by IDEAL on Friday, is for sale for €73,000. That includes ‘okupas’. “Illegal occupancy” adorns the announcement of a renowned housing portal. 

However, it is not an isolated case. Similar advertisements can be found in other parts of the province. “For sale with squatters,” reads another ad on another website. This time it is for a 113 square metre apartment in El Ejido, available for €52,000 euros. Furthermore, 20 properties are advertised on the same website in the same situation like the one in El Ejido. 

‘Situation which harms everyone’ 

“Homes with squatters are mainly owned by banks, says José Miguel Clemente, a real estate expert with a lot of experience with this situation. However, in his view, this “harms everyone”, because it causes the market to devalue. “If the bank does not have occupancy problems they could just sell the houses,” he explains. He goes on to say that they are cutting prices considerably because otherwise there would be no sales anyway. “This affects banks, investors, and those who want to own a house and can’t. buy,” he says. 

Advertisements of houses with squatters 

Pisos.com, Idealista, or Milanuncios are some of the platforms used by individuals and professionals to advertise these properties. Advertisements of houses with squatters here alternate with those of houses without problems with illegal habitation. But it could be many more, according to one of the aforementioned professionals from the real estate sector in Almería.  

Who are the buyers of occupied homes? 

But who buys a house with squatters in it? “There are people who see a business opportunity. Average investors who think they can evict the squatters to sell the homes for much more money later” says one of the experts. 

There are also investment funds that specifically focus on this type of acquisition. As an example, Clemente points to a case of a 14-family building – “all occupied” – in Campohermoso (Níjar). That was bought by a fund that then offered the same residents to legally take over the homes. “I think they sold six of the flats that way,” he notes. 

Evictions and Security 

On the same sales and rental classifieds web pages, companies that specialise in restocking squatters advertise. A growing, but very controversial market in Spain. “During the pandemic, even beach chalets were occupied,” the property seller says of one of the reasons that led to this scenario. 

See also: Help, my house in Spain has been squatted! What now? 

According to him, more and more people from Almería are choosing to secure their homes with ‘anti-squatter’ doors and with security and alarm systems. 

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Selling is one of the best alternatives 

But the advertisements that appear on the aforementioned websites and are linked to occupied homes, are not limited to providers of anti-squat or eviction services. More and more companies are also offering to buy homes directly, including illegal residents. “If you have a squatted house and you don’t know what to do, selling is one of the best alternatives out there right now”. This is what it says on the information page on the website Urgecompraventa. 

This company claims to bring “peace of mind” to sellers. They are rid of their maintenance costs and “waiting times and complications that come with the entire legal process”. It is clear that the “current legislation protects the occupier better than the owner”. 

Some of the comparable companies combine evictions, brokerage, or property management with the sale of this type of property. Such is the case with Fuera ya, which reveals several cases in different parts of Spain on its website. 

Related post: Squatter gangs use vulnerable families to prevent eviction 

In addition to the companies that offer to invest in occupied homes, there are advertisements for investment companies dedicated to buying houses “in difficult situations”, which they define as foreclosures, auctions, and, of course, illegal occupation. “We offer you the solution you need to get out of this harrowing situation,” says one of these companies in its ad. 

‘Ridiculously low prices’ 

José Miguel Clemente of Real Estate Expert explains how the sale of real estate is closing for almost ridiculously low prices. “Recently an inhabited house in the Cerro de San Cristóbal (in the city of Almería) was sold for €1,000,” he says, pointing out that everyone who sells at these prices does so “because they are desperate and want out of trouble.” 

Moreover, this house, like many others, was owned by a bank. Clemente also points to other types of situations that arise in deprived areas of the city. Here keys are “sold” for a certain amount and when the owner wants to sell the property, it turns out that it is occupied. 

The number of squatted homes sharply increased in 2021 

In February, we wrote here that by September 2021, the number of squatted homes in Spain had increased by 18% to a total of 13,389 cases. And those are just the known and registered cases. The official statistics, reported by Europa Press, confirmed the upward trend of this phenomenon in 2021. The trend coincided with the instructions of the Attorney General and the Ministry of the Interior in September 2020 to tackle burglary and squatting. 

What to do if your home is occupied? 

As soon as you notice that people are illegally staying in your home, call the police right away and seek legal help. Do not immediately cut off utilities, such as gas, electricity, and water, because then you – however contradictory that may sound – are in violation. Via the ‘Alert Cops‘ app of the Spanish National Police and the Guardia Civil, you can immediately report a home robbery. 

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