Global Geopolitics Fuels Demand for Luxury Homes in Madrid

12 May 2019 – El Confidencial

Wealthy investors and families from China, Russia, Venezuela and Mexico are particularly active in the luxury home segment in Madrid, in particular in the districts of Salamanca, Chamberí, Retiro and Moncloa-Aravaca.

According to the College of Property Registrars, foreigners accounted for 6.7% of all residential purchases over €500,000 in the Community of Madrid in 2017, a figure that rose to 8.4% in 2018.

There are several pull-factors motivating these buyers including tax exemptions, golden visas (thanks to Law 14/2013), (relative) legal certainty, low rates of crime and affordable prices, compared to Miami and other European capitals. The language, climate and excellent transport infrastructure also play their role, as do the world-class universities and business schools in the Spanish capital.

A number of push-factors are also evident, which is where the geopolitical developments come into play. The political and economic crisis in Venezuela, the election of Andrés Manuel López Obrador as the President of Mexico in December, the political uncertainty in Cataluña and even the on-going Brexit saga, are all important reasons for wealthy buyers to turn their backs on their home countries in favour of Madrid when it comes to buying a property.

To date, since they were introduced in 2014, 2,948 golden visas have been granted for the purchase of luxury homes, with half going to Chinese citizens (1,476) and a fifth going to Russians (621).

Moreover, according to official statistics from Spain’s National Institute for Statistics, the number of Mexican residents in Spain has risen from just over 20,000 in 2014 to more than 25,200 by the end of 2018, of whom one third live in Madrid.

Meanwhile, the number of Venezuelan residents has increased from just over 32,000 five years ago to 57,120 in 2018. Nevertheless, in both cases, the real number of arrivals is higher since many move to Spain through family links making them entitled to Spanish passports.

Original story: El Confidencial (by Marcos García)

Translation/Summary: Carmel Drake

Foreigners are Driving the Housing Market in Spain

31 January 2019 – Eje Prime

Foreigners are boosting house sales in Spain. The number of transactions undertaken by foreign residents in Spain is on track to set a new record, with almost 70,000 sales during the 9 months to September 2018, according to the latest data available from the Ministry of Development.

Since 2010, the purchase of homes by foreigners has more than tripled, from just 21,576 transactions during the first nine months of that year. The major boost came with the approval of the so-called golden visa in 2013, a measure to facilitate visas for real estate investments in Spain amounting to more than €500,000.

Since then, real estate investment by foreigners has doubled. The País Vasco, Cataluña and Castilla-La Mancha have been the regions where transactions have been boosted by the most since then, with multiples of six, five and four, respectively.

In the last year, the drivers have been the sun and the beach, and the central area, with double-digit increases in Murcia and the Castillas. Meanwhile, on the islands and in Cataluña, the number of operations involving foreigners has decreased.

The promise of the golden visa

(…). The PP Government introduced the golden visa model in Spain, in which thirteen member states of the European Union currently participate (…).

In fact, it is the most used element of that legislation: until October last year, it was used by 546 people, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, almost equalling the figure for the whole of 2017, when 563 residency permits were granted to foreigners acquiring property for more than €500,000.

At the end of last year, the European Parliament started to place the focus on this visa policy, warning that it was opening the door to crimes such as tax evasion, corruption and money laundering.

In a report, compiled by the MEPs Ludek Niedermayer (Europe’s Partido Popular) and Jeppe Kofod (Socialists and Democrats), the European Parliament warned that the economic benefits of such programs do not compensate the “serious risks” of money laundering and tax evasion, and called on the Member States to withdraw from these types of schemes “as soon as possible”.

Original story: Eje Prime (by C. De Angelis)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Lucas Fox: Luxury Home Sales Soared By 31% In 2016

27 February 2017 – Expansión

Luxury homes enjoyed a buoyant 2016. Sales soared by 31% thanks to the boost from foreign investors, above all in cities such as Barcelona, where the purchase of high-end residences increased by 69%, according to the latest report from the real estate company Lucas Fox, which specialises in high-end homes. In Madrid, the increase amounted to 12%.

The study attributes this mini-boom to the declining demand for properties in London following the Brexit referendum. That “has caused citizens from outside the EU to be more interested in Madrid and Barcelona, and the trend is set to continue in 2017”.

Foreign investors will continue to be the main driver behind Spain’s luxury residential sector. They now account for 65% of the market, according to the real estate company. The remaining 35% are Spaniards.

Buyers from the UK and Ireland accounted for 11% of overseas purchasers in 2016, whilst French buyers accounted for 5%. Purchasers from the Middle East were the cohort that grew by the most, to account for 8% of all luxury residential property purchases. Scandinavian buyers accounted for 6%.

In terms of buyer motivation, 30% acquired a property as a primary residence and 43% as a second home. It is worth remembering that 75 million tourists visited Spain last year, a historical record. There was also a considerable increase in the number of buyers who purchased properties for investment purposes (22% of all purchases by overseas buyers). Finally, 3% bought because they were looking to obtain a Golden Visa, in other words, the permit to reside in Spain that is granted to real estate investors from outside the EU.

In fact, Lucas Fox estimates that demand for Spanish properties from buyers outside the EU, including from the USA and the Middle East, “will cause the current bullish trend to continue throughout 2017, thanks to the Golden Visa program”.

During the first three quarters of 2016, foreigner buyers spent just over €47 million on new build and recently renovated properties, which represents a YoY increase of 9%. The apartments that are most in demand are those located in classic buildings in prime areas, measuring between 150 m2 and 200 m2 and worth between €1 million and €1.5 million.

Original story: Expansión (by Juanma Lamet)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Large Chinese Investors Pounce On Spanish Hotel Sector

27 April 2015 – Expansión

The Asian giant is taking centre stage / Since HNA acquired shares in NH, interest from Chinese investors looking to buy hotels in Spain and forge alliances with chains such as Melia and Barceló has skyrocketed.

The Spanish tourism sector has sparked significant interest amongst Chinese investors. Since HNA knocked on NH’s door for the first time in 2011, interest in investing in Spain has been unleashed. In recent years, hotel purchases by Chinese investors and alliances between Asian groups and major Spanish (hotel) chains, such as NH, Melia and Barceló, have exploded, as all parties look to explore opportunities in Europe and Asia.

In the past two years, China has invested more than €870 million in Spanish hotels and chains. Of that amount, €420 million relates to the funds disbursed by HNA to become the major shareholder of NH. The industrial conglomerate paid €234 million for a 20% stake in 2013 and last year, it purchased the shares owned by Amancio Ortega, owner of the textile empire Inditex, and Intesa Sanpaolo.

Furthermore, in 2014, Chinese investors signed five transactions to purchase hotel assets, including the deal between Barceló and Kangde for the Hotel Santiago in Tenerife (pictured above), which was agreed at the end of last year and signed in 2015.


Out of all of these deals, the one that attracted the most media interest was Dalian Wanda’s purchase of Edificio España (Madrid) for €265 million. The intention of Wang Jianlin, who owns Wanda, is to create a residential, retail and luxury hotel complex. However, for the time being, Jianlin is focusing on the five-star hotel that he is preparing (to open) in London, where he will launch his Wanda brand in Europe.

Platinum Estates, the group led by the textile businessman Harry Mohinani and headquartered in Hong Kong, has closed two deals on a smaller scale. In February 2014, Platinum acquired the Estel building, in Barcelona (Telefónica’s former headquarters) for €56 million. In the autumn, it purchased Hotel Asturias (Madrid), near Gran Vía, from the Salazar family for €35 million.

The company plans to convert both properties into luxury apartments. According to experts in the sector, that is one of the keys to explaining the Asian interest in Spain, where foreign citizens are required to invest €500,000 in a residential asset to obtain a (resident’s) visa (known as the golden visa). Other factors include the measures promoted by the Chinese government to encourage investment overseas and the revaluation of the Yuan against the euro. Sources in the sector confirm that interest from Asian investors has increased, but they say that they do not seem to follow any particular investment pattern, and that, to date, they have focused on individual assets. Despite all of this, the large consultancy firms in the sector are optimistic about the potential of the Asian market – they have already recruited Chinese employees and are now preparing tours around the country to bring the two markets closer.

That is another one of the advantages that the alliances with Chinese groups offer the Spanish hotel chains. For example, NH will enter the (Chinese) market hand in hand with HNA. Both have created a joint company, with a Chinese majority, which will begin operating in 2015, when NH takes over the management of 6 of HNA’s hotels. In the case of Melia, the chain operates two hotels owned by its partner Greenland in China, and in 2014, it teamed up with the travel group Ctrip.

Original story: Expansión (by Yovanna Blanco)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Chinese Investors Seek Large Housing Developments

27 January 2015 – El Economista

Spain is now very attractive for Asian capital. And so, investors are looking to build authentic Chinese cities in our country. Several Asian funds and companies have been looking for large developments of up to 2,000 homes in Spain, which they will then market in their own countries.

The aim of these investors is to create a genuine Chinatown with a complete set of services, including schools for Chinese children, restaurants, beauty salons and shops run by Chinese businessmen, which would sell products from their own country.

Spain has not traditionally been one of the main destinations for Asian investment, their money has typically ended up in countries such as Canada, USA, Australia, UK and France. Nevertheless, the collapse of housing prices, which have fallen by up to 40%, caused Chinese investment in Spain to double in 2014 over the previous year. It is estimated that Chinese investors purchased 6.5% of all of the homes sold in Spain last year.

Their interest in Spain is growing and although their aims are clear, it is nevertheless almost impossible for them to find developments of the size that they are looking for that are entirely for sale.

According to industry experts, these investors will have to understand that their “city” will have to be smaller. “What they are looking for, in a best case scenario, are developments containing between 200 and 500 homes”, they say.

Undoubtedly, this could represent a very good opportunity for the clean-up of the banks, which are accumulating thousands of residential assets and developments in their portfolios, which have been half completed and foreclosed. Investors are aware that these financial institutions need to offload properties and therefore they hope to acquire properties a bargain prices and then resell them, grouped in packs, to other Chinese citizens.

The Golden Visa

This is where the Golden Visa comes into play. The concept originates from the Entrepreneurs Law, which was approved in September 2013 and which puts a price on Spanish residency. This legislation allows non-EU buyers who purchase property for an amount that exceeds half a million euros to obtain Spanish residency. Although it is worth noting that the law does require them to have that amount of money in cash and does not allow them to resort to any kind of financing.

Moreover, the new investors cannot have a criminal record in Spain, or be present illegally in the country. They must also have private health insurance and sufficient financial resources to support the members of their family for the duration of their residence in Spain.

Thus, the intention of these Chinese companies is to sell groups of homes so that their price reaches the €500,000 threshold. In this way, buyers will be able to acquire a residence permit and therefore do business across the European Union.

The real estate sector looked forward to the arrival of the Golden Visa with baited breath as a means of stimulating activity in the market, however, for the moment, it does not seem that this visa has resulted in the entry of much capital into Spain. One of the main reasons is the failure by the Chinese Government to market the initiative, something which it is doing for some of our neighbouring countries. Portugal is ahead of us in this regard, since its Government has taken steps in China to sell the advantages of investment in its country. Thus, during the first hald of 2014, Chinese investment in Portugal amounted to €33 million, but following President Aníbal Cavaco Silva’s visit to China, investment increased to €760 million during the second half of the year.

Patricio Palomar, Head of Alternative Investment at CBRE stresses, however, that it is important not to loose sight of two aspects when drawing comparisons. “In Portugal, the measure was introduced much earlier, and the two countries have traditionally had strong ties, primarily due to the Portuguese colony of Macao”.

Indeed, one of the richest people in Hong Kong and Macao is Stanley Ho Hung Sun, the largest casino owner, who purchased the Casino Estoril many years ago and has other significant businesses in Portugal. Stanley Ho has Portuguese citizenship and makes investments across Europe through his company in Portugal.

Regarding the arrival of investors such as Wang Jianlin, who plans to invest €3,000 million in the development of a macro-residential project in Madrid, Palomar says that “over the medium term, it is likely that we will see some of the developments being designed and constructed to suit the taste of the great Asian fortunes, and that the most luxurious units will be sold in Asia, and so capital inflows from there will be boosted significantly”.

Original story: El Economista (by Alba Brualla and Virginia Martínez)

Translation: Carmel Drake