Business Over Tapas (29th November 2013)
By Lenox Napier and Andrew Brociner
A digest of this week's Spanish financial, political and social news aimed primarily at Foreign Property Owners: with Lenox Napier and Andrew Brociner. For subscriptions and other information about this site, go to businessovertapas.com - email: [email protected] - Note: Underlined words or phrases are links to the Internet. Right click and press 'Control' on your keyboard to access.
It's one thing when politicians are revealed to be venal or corrupt, but quite another when they are shown to be stupid or worse, traitors to their electorate. The stories this week in the Housing section below beggar belief.
'Confidence in the Spanish property market appears to be returning at last with British buyers returning in their droves. In November alone, the country has so far accounted for 43 per cent of enquiries received at Conti, higher than any other country including France which has held the coveted top spot for several years. The story was similar in September and October, with Spain outperforming any other destination. This is the first time since 2008 that Spain has accounted for so many of our enquiries over so many months. It was very popular over the summer period, but there’s been a definite shift over the last six weeks in particular'... a trustworthy report (?) From Financial Reporter.
'Investors from the east are flocking to Spain and Portugal in large numbers as they look to make the most of the golden visas scheme and acquire fine properties for significantly inexpensive prices. People who purchase properties worth 500,000 euros or more claim that it is by far the best advantage of purchasing real estate in Portugal as they get free access to the European Union.
Prior to the recession, buyers from across the world visited Portugal and Spain because of the beautiful beaches. They would then purchase properties solely for the beauty of the location, but since the economic crisis left the Iberian peninsula stranded in debt, investors are now taking full advantage of low pricing and the visa scheme. Asian investors are especially interested in the scheme as they can travel freely to any location in one of the 26 countries that form part of Europe’s Schengen zone'... From Property Abroad.
'According to the ‘Report on Foreign Real Estate Demand in Spain’ prepared by Quick Telecom, a company specialising in digital real estate marketing and advertising, for the real estate portal Casaktua, the average housing type acquired by foreign buyers in Spain is a detached property, close to the coast, with 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms. Foreign buyers also appreciate the proximity of their potential home to infrastructure, supermarkets, hospitals and other important services. Although it depends on the area, the price most attractive to the foreign buyer is between 65,000 and 250,000 euros – 158,000 euros on average. The luxury homes, with higher prices, are purchased primarily by Russian and Chinese buyers.
With regard to the size of the property, Dutch, Swiss, Norwegian, English, Danish, Russian and German buyers prefer homes of more than 100 square metres, while the Chinese, Algerians and Romanians are more inclined towards homes of between 60 to 100 square metres in size. The smaller houses, of less than 60 square metres, are more favoured by Finnish, Italian and French buyers'... Found at Kyero. More at La Verdad de Murcia.
'The landscape today is very different to the forest of cranes that could be seen all over the Costa del Sol before the property bubble burst, but neither does it resemble the desert that followed that crisis. The construction industry is beginning to show signs of life again, thanks to the high-end property sector, which so far this year has experienced a growth which is even greater than that achieved in 2012'... The Sur in English writes of 'High-end residential properties bringing sustained growth to the sector in Marbella'.
'Vast numbers of British families and older couples have shelved plans to buy holiday homes because of the economic crisis in Europe and an income squeeze back home, new figures suggest. Before the 2008 credit crisis struck, it had become common for those with money to buy property in sunnier climes, such as Spain or Portugal. As well as providing a getaway spot, letting the property often yielded an income.
However, the European property market crumbled when the euro-zone plunged into crisis in 2011 and carefully laid plans have been scuppered by rising bills and smaller pensions in Britain. Newly released figures show the number of new holiday homes bought by British residents in Spain has decreased by 26% since 2008'... From The Telegraph.
'During the height of Spain’s real estate boom Britons flocked to the country’s coast. They bought holiday and retirement homes, and fulfilled long-held dreams of a place in the sun.
'Those affected by the purchase of illegal houses in the Almanzora Valley of Almería, of British origin, are following with hope the visit to Andalucía for their new Ambassador to Spain, Simon Manley. Last week, the President of the AUAN met with the representative of the British Government together with the leader of the Save our Homes from the Axarquía Region in Málaga, Philip Smalley.
Mr. Manley has meetings pending with National Government Ministers and it is hoped that he can bring some pressure to bear to remove the constant fear of demolition and to legalise those homes'... FromLa Voz de Almería.
'The Superior Court of Justice of Andalucía (TSJA) has upheld an appeal by the Ministry of Public Works and Transport of the Junta de Andalucía and nullified the building licences granted by Zurgena Town Council (Almería) to Welcome Spanish Homes SL, for the construction of nine houses in Llanos del Peral, Zurgena, currently owned and occupied by British ex-pats. The judgement (dated May 2013) states that there is no leave for ordinary appeal. The next legal step is usually the execution of the judgement which involves demolition proceedings'. Statement on 25 November from the AUAN.
...and then there's The Daily Mail (Circulation: 1,579,000. Readership:4,339,000).Headline and sub-headings of a four-page-special on 'illegal homes' in Spain which appeared on Wednesday: 'We're trapped in a ghost town': The 100,000 British ex-pats whose Spanish homes could be bulldozed any day: Thousands told their homes were built illegally after they bought them. 'Barmy' planning rules and topsy-turvy laws leave residents in limbo. Concrete jungles left behind as construction stops mid-development. There's an editorial on the subject as well. How much can all this do to help the Junta's dream of an empty countryside and a cowed and broke population? '...Now vast swathes of these homes are threatened by demolition. It is difficult to see how the random and heartless destruction of people’s homes is going to make life any better for anyone. If the intention is to return some of the protected land back to its former state, the Spanish government shows no signs of doing this'... Almería is also home to hundreds of square kilometres of plastic farms, said to be the only man-made construction visible from space. Are these also under threat from the ecologists?
The Telegraph has a go as well: 'The Spanish government has been accused of pushing illegally built homes to British buyers. The country has an estimated three million homes standing empty due to the property crash that began in 2007. One million of these may have been built illegally due to rife corruption in the construction industry and town halls which gave permission to build. Many will be demolished'...
It couldn't get any worse, or could it? - '...spare a thought for those in extreme poverty, whose chabolas, huts made out of plastic, metal sheets and whatever can be found, are routinely demolished by the authorities. Again, these victims are generally foreigners, only in this case it's the impoverished North or Black African workers on the plastic farms of Nijar and El Ejido who are being punished. According to Caritas, there are about 10,000 people living in Almería without shelter, including about 7,000 on the farms'... From The Entertainer Online.
From El Confidencial, an article called 'No Green Shoots Here: Too Many Homes, Not Enough demand'. - "We have managed to stabilize the GDP but working with the estimates for the Spanish economy up to 2016, growth in employment will be almost nil. In addition, the little that is created will be of poor quality and will be linked to a drop in wages. If there is no employment, then there can't be an upsurge in demand for housing. And if wages do not grow, but rather fall, then people won't be considering buying houses". So says Fernando Rodríguez y Rodríguez de Acuña, President of consultant firm RR de Acuña y Asociados, answering the optimism that has been generated in recent months regarding a recovery in the Spanish real estate market'...
El País tells the story of Castellón, the province with the most empty houses or apartments in Spain, where one in four of every homes in the province are empty and unsold. 'A man called Primitivo is the caretaker of an almost ghostly urbanization. He looks after six blocks of new flats built just three years ago in an expanding area of Castellón, built beside the only commercial centre in the city. Currently, there are not even thirty people living there. Work on the apartment blocks started almost at the same time that the housing bubble exploded. The then Mayor and now President of the Valencian Government, Alberto Fabra, placed the first stone in April 2007 in the area known as Boera Park, with a projected 700 high-end homes. Today it is one of the examples that most exemplifies the urban fever in the province.
"Of the six blocks of apartments only two are on the market and there are 26 neighbours spread across 264 flats", explains Primitivo. He has been working in the estate since 2011'...
'Between January and October, the more than 54 million international tourists who visited Spain recorded an expenditure of 52,551 million euros, 8.2% more than during the same period of the previous year. According to the data from the survey of tourism expenditure (Egatur), prepared by the Institute of tourism studies (IET), France, the Nordic countries and United Kingdom were the main architects of the growth of tourism expenditure until October. The British tourists, the largest market in our country, spent the most, with an outlay of 10,922 million euros in ten months, 7% more than in the same period of the previous year. The greatest percentage growth corresponded to the French market, 20.2%, with an expenditure 5,315 million euros (just in October, the figures record a 41.3% increase). The Nordic countries, with a 19% improvement, followed with 4,785 million spent'... From Hosteltur.
'International credit rating agency Moody's warned Thursday that Spain's banks still face significant challenges despite nearly completing a 41-billion-euro ($55 billion) eurozone-financed bailout.
'Brussels enters into a new era, allowing itself to amend the budgets of the countries of the euro before they reach the national parliaments. A revolution that affects Spain and its bulging fiscal hole:- the European Commission called on Friday to the Government of Mariano Rajoy for a further round of cuts to ameliorate the risk of breaching the public deficit targets. The fiscal hole which stood at 10.6% of the GDP last year, will close at 6.8% this year and will drop to 5.9% in 2014, according to the forecasts of the Community Vice President, Olli Rehn. The Commission considers that this sacrifice is not enough: in a nutshell, Europe wants to work with their scissors some more'... From El País. In short, 'The Commission urges the Government to undertake an adjustment of up to 5,000 million in 2014, and 35,000 million until 2016'. Here in PDF is the Commission opinion from Brussels on the Draft Budgetary Plan for Spain (in English).
'They are called Vulture Funds. The concept appears regularly in the economic news from the media and also from companies, countries or financial institutions that are standing at the very edge of the financial precipice. In these times of crisis, in which banks won't lend money or refinance loans, these vulture companies have become potential investors willing to assume a high risk upon their investment. For this reason, investment societies remain lurking in the forest, waiting until their prey is close to death before acting'... The article comes from El Diario de Burgos. More:
'Currently in Spain, there are more than one hundred of these foreign funds shopping for bargains and they seem to be willing to spend up to 20 billion euros to put into real estate. In a couple of years, and following the improvements in the economy, the prices will rise and then will be the time to sell'.
El País in English has an interesting interview with Pedro Solbes, the Finance Minister under Zapatero, called “My mistake was to stay on during Zapatero’s second term”: - 'He shouldn't have continued as economy minister during Socialist Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero's second term in office. This is the only thing that Pedro Solbes regrets after a lifetime of public service. The man who sat at the heart of power for several decades is speaking out now to reveal his thorny relationship with the former Socialist leader, which ultimately led to a well-publicized resignation'...
Mariano Rajoy's government has now reached the half-way point, at two years of office. As El Plural says, the PP ex-treasurer and currently imprisoned Luis Bárcenas has plans to ruin the celebrations: 'Mariano Rajoy should not let himself become too comfortable when it comes to his ex-treasurer Luis Bárcenas. He is waiting until "the elections are a little closer" before return to the fray... Sources in the know are offering up a taste: Bárcenas may feel obliged to reveal his part in "deliveries of cash for compensation", in hand, to millionaires and aristocrats who passed into Swiss accounts'...
Carlos Fabra, the eternally sun-glasses wearing ex-president of the Castellon diputación, has been sentenced to four years of prison and a fine of 693,000 euros (plus the payment to Hacienda of a similar amount) for tax evasion. His ex-wife was sentenced to two years and a fine of 274,000 plus the same amount to Hacienda. Carlos Fabra is the genius behind the Castellon airport. Following the sentence, Fabra said he will appeal. (story at El Huff Post).
The UGT union in Andalucía is getting into an ever deeper hole. It seems they bought a fancy Spanish designed handbag from Salvador Bachiller, had it copied in China, and gave 700 of them to their supporters. The bill, suitably massaged, was then passed on to the Junta de Andalucía. More at El Mundo.
The Houses, the Cheek and the Chair (Translation of an article that appeared in La Opinión de Almería)
It appears that the Junta de Andalucía has now noticed that to go about knocking down houses for reasons of urban illegality is a lousy promotion for our region, and that the sight of bulldozers crushing the duplexes of English pensioners is not the best way to look for investment and tourism. So it has decided to lay off demolitions and other policies of an equally shocking nature.
Since, of all the Andalucian provinces, most demolitions have taken place in Almeria, we must look on this phenomenon as coming under 'fuego amigo', or since we are speaking of the houses of British citizens we might say in English: ‘friendly fire’, a term invented by the Pentagon to explain that the peppering you were receiving from behind came courtesy of your own allies.
The issue that today preoccupies the Junta is to see how to resolve years of turning a blind eye, which has resulted in an extensive stock of illegal houses, built metre by metre and day by day with the connivance of those who now go about blithely ordering that some of these houses are to be demolished for breaking the selfsame rules that they themselves failed to comply with.
These things happened in Almería, providing a good life for those in high places who must now try to resolve the problem without drawing any more unwelcome attention to it. And the formula they have arrived at is far from pretty; they wish to go from illegality to legality via the law. Or at least that’s what they explained to me the other day after a meeting which set the scope of the efforts to provide a solution.
Moulding the law to adapt to specific necessities is not a particularly commendable gesture, although you will notice that nobody was very specific on the details. The point is to save the houses, sure, but above all else, to save face and to save their own asses. Above all, to save their own backsides.
'Tensions have been growing for some months between Britain and Spain over Gibraltar. Both in terms of rhetoric and physical incursions into Gibraltar's territorial waters, the Spanish seem to be intent on provoking some sort of crisis. This is extraordinary behaviour for a democratic European state in the twenty first century and more akin to that of a Fascist dictatorship or banana republic'... From The Telegraph, which evidently feels that Spain is behaving like an idiot. Things then took a turn for the worse a day later when Spanish customs officers opened a diplomatic bag travelling by courier from the Governor of Gibraltar. Story at The Olive Press.
'They are often portrayed as flamenco artists or petty criminals. But what is Spain's Roma population really like? And how has the crisis affected them? The Local spoke to Carolina Fernández at Spain's Gypsy Foundation (the FSG) to find out'... Interview here.
Did you ever have a partner that you knew, even before you signed the paper, was going to be a major headache? - 'At this point in the party, it is obvious that the huge project that the mogul Sheldon Adelson is said to have planned to build in Madrid, depends not only on the reform of the law banning smoking in public places; well, casinos anyway.
In addition to this legal change which the Government is already studying openly and which has raised indignation and criticism aplenty, the President and Chief Executive Officer of Las Vegas Sands has also raised a series of fiscal, social and labour and measures with the Spanish authorities, as well as a commitment from the State to build infrastructure to round out the town of Alcorcón, where the project will be located'... El Mundo weighs in on the eccentric magnate (who recently called for a nuclear attack on Iran by the Pentagon).
Is the Spanish language sexist? To English-speaking eyes, that's a 'no-brainer'. But, can a female member of a Government, such as the last Ministra for equality Bibiana Aído, be a miembra? Ministra, yes, miembra no, says the Royal Spanish Academy, who decides these things. So, should the 'clearly machista language of Spain be forced to change?' El País has more.
'Those born in Spain have a life expectancy of 82.4 years, the second highest in the European Union after Italy (82.7) and ahead of other countries such as France (82.2), the United Kingdom (81.1) and Germany (80.8), according to the latest edition of the Panorama of Health 2013 report from the OECD'... From El Mundo.
British people living in Spain can now use two new social media channels to engage with fellow residents, as well as to find news and advice from the British Embassy in Madrid and its partners who support Britons abroad: Brits Living in Spain on Facebook and Brits Live Spain on Twitter.
The Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform, a far-right American anti-abortion group has a slogan which reads "abortion represents an evil so inexpressible that words fail us when attempting to describe its horror. Until abortion is seen, it will never be understood.". The group has painted up a bus with appalling photographs and is driving it for the next two weeks around Madrid. More at El País.
Dear Lenox, We are out of here I’m afraid….
My wife and I have had a great ’stay’ in Spain – we bought in ’98 – we learned the language – I ran a business up to retirement age - we have many more Spanish friends than enemies!
We are however returning to the UK for the last decade (plus or minus!) of our mortal existence as:- 1, Tax rates are much higher in Spain, 2, The UK pays the Spanish “NHS” for our healthcare but we do not feel we get ‘value for money’ and 3, On the level of the over-riding ‘authorities’ we feel persecuted by them – they pick on ‘we little people’. We don’t understand why they don’t go for the corrupt ‘politicos’….. surely that would be a better “Return on Investment” of Hacienda time.
Good Luck Lenox – your BOT newsletter has been read with interest – but we are moving on... Bob
The Christmas lottery, erroneously called 'El Gordo' by the foreign-language press (the first prize is El Gordo), moves a lot of money. Mathematically, one's chances of winning the Fat One is the same if you have one décimo or fifty of them in your pocket. That is to say, nil. Nevertheless, where else can you enjoy such a long and agreeable fantasy as winning the lottery for a mere twenty euros? So, here's a hilarious version of the famous Christmas Lottery TV advert, here celebrating the Partido Popular's two years in office. It looks like we all won after all!
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