CLICK HERE for our
FREE Weekly News Bulletin
Spanish weekly news round-up 28th February
Positive signs in Spanish property market, record tourism figures for January, mass assaults on Spanish borders continue
Spanish property news round-up
The climate in the Spanish real estate market continues to be curious and contradictory, with this week seeing a huge disparity between the usual round of statistics and reports which are meant to act as barometers for the property sector on the one hand, and the “gut feeling” of analysts and professionals on the other.
Certainly if the numbers released over the last seven days are anything to go by, the crisis is far from over just yet.
The week began with a management reshuffle in Sareb, Spain’s “bad bank”, where there have been constant disagreements up till now over how the bank’s asset portfolio should be managed and exactly what policies should be adopted.
This was soon followed up by the publication of a survey in UK broadsheet The Guardian which lamented the huge number of completed but unoccupied properties in the country: according to their figures one in seven of all homes in Spain are empty, and the total of 3.4 million represents almost a quarter of all such properties in the whole of Europe. So much for claims that inroads are being made into the stock of unsold properties!
More grim statistics were published later in the week showing, that the credit crunch is biting as hard as ever, at least in terms of mortgages. The number of mortgage loans granted last year was only a seventh of the figure seven years previously, and is at record low levels: it is no longer clear whether the banks’ unwillingness to lend to buyers is causing fewer sales to be made, or whether the scarcity of sales is bringing about low levels of mortgage lending. Probably a bit of both.
At the same time, the Ministry of Development released more official property sales figures, showing that average prices dropped by another 4.2% last year. Since the crisis began six years ago close to a third has been slashed from the level of house prices across Spain, and in some areas the decline has been even sharper: not since 2003 has Spanish property been so cheap.
And yet, and yet…
There is a feeling of positivity gripping the market at the moment. Especially in Mediterranean coastal regions, agents report that sales are picking up, as opportunist cash buyers bypass the need for bank financing and take advantage of what they perceive to be rock-bottom prices. In the case of British buyers, an additional incentive is the recent favourable exchange rate, with the pound now worth almost 1.22€.
At the same time market analysts are confident that renewed interest from foreign institutional investors will continue, and although none of this represents an improvement in the level of core demand from Spanish low-bracket earners, there is a strong perception that prices have bottomed out and the property market is coming out into the light after journeying through a very long tunnel indeed.
Among successful vendors this week has been the Ministry of Defence, which sold the at auction for just over 200,000 euros. A bijou residence with a difference, this military emplacement dates back to the 16th century, and has been purchased by a privately owned company: the MoD still has another 15,000 or so properties up for offer, so any upward trend in the market will be welcomed by their asset managers!
Parliamentary Debate of the Nation
This week the Debate of the Nation has occupied politicians for three days of non-stop public debate, each party given the opportunity to publicly air the topics which are causing the greatest concern to the Spanish people. The media have delivered a blow by blow account of “he said this, she said that” which has reflected in the top stories being read by the people of Spain this week in the digital media having nothing to do with the coverage, top choices instead being the performance of various football teams, pictures of scantily clad pop stars and the sudden death of one of the nation’s most prestigious flamenco guitar masters, Paco de Lucia.
Greenpeace relieved the monotony of parliamentary debate by gagging one of the lions outside the Congress as a protest against the suppression of the right to protest in the modifications made to the Citizen Security law.
Infanta and Caso Nóos
This week police investigators tightened the net and identified the individual believed to have filmed the court hearing of the Infanta, who remains a suspect in the Caso Nóos investigation. The lawyer was officially interviewed by police on Wednesday after posting the footage on the internet. However, investigations are now underway into the leaking of the actual transcript of the court hearing which has been analysed in brutal detail by the media , junior journalists given the unenviable task of adding up how many evasive phrases the infanta used in her testimony when answering over 1,000 questions, " I dont know, I don´t remember, I don´t recall" being the most common.
This week business partner ( Diego Torres) of the husband of the Infanta,( iñaki Urdangarín) has also gone on the assault, his lawyer delivering a document to investigating Judge José Castro, detailing 71 reasons why he believes the Infanta should face charges for her part in the case ( info on above link)
Other court cases
Another court investigation this week focuses on the deaths of a family of three in Seville. When these three individuals were first found dead, their deaths were believed to be due to scavenging out of date food from bins, and the case provoked a huge media outcry. However, as time has gone on, investigators have now discovered that the deaths were caused by an agricultural pesticide, inhalation of the chemicals facilitated by the damp conditions of the bathroom in which plastic bottle tops from containers which held these lethal chemicals were bagged up. The investigation has switched back to where these were scavenged from, as it is illegal to dispose of these chemicals other than by authorised means.
Another case in court this week is that of a gang who stole 1000 kilos of hashish from a customs storehouse on New Years Eve after it had been seized during a drugs operation. Surprise, surpise, this was an inside job, and not the first one for the individual concerned.
A case which actually has a happy ending this week is one of a footballer, fined 2000 euros for wearing a shirt with text supporting local cancer victims beneath his team shirt during a match. After scoring his third goal and throwing up his top shirt to reveal the shirt below, dedicating the goal to the brave 15 year old cancer sufferer watching from the guest box, he was fined 2000 euros for showing non-sponsor logos on the pitch. Read on to see how the story ended.
And one of Britains most wanted, "the Sheffield Smuggler, " has been detained on the Gibraltar/Andalucía border, using false papers.
Melilla and Ceuta borders
Staying with borders, the Guardia Civil were subjected to trial by media this week as coverage of the situation on the Melilla and Ceuta borders rattled on.
It’s been a difficult week for all those involved in this sorry situation, in which 15 illegal immigrants drowned while trying to reach Spanish soil.
The Guardia Civil have been accused of using excessive force, videos posted in the public arena showing them using anti-riot measures to repel hundreds of illegal immigrants trying to climb over the border fencing between Spain and Morocco, and swim around the beach border.
The Guardia say they have been routinely using anti-riot measures for years, as their job is to protect the border and repel the immigrants, the truth being that were force not used, thousands would swarm across the border and into Spain.
This week the decision was taken to stop using rubber bullets and tear gas when the borders were attacked, the result being that two mass assaults on the border resulted in over 250 immigrants entering Melilla, and this morning at 7am, as confidence grew, the biggest assault in years took place, with over 200 illegals managing to enter Spain. The Guardia did not use anti-riot measures. The immigrant transit centre in Melilla is now at several times its capacity, and the army are having to bring in field tents to house these unwanted immigrants, many of whom will end up being let loose on the mainland, with no jobs, no money and no legal means of earning a living as they have no papers and cannot be repatriated to their country of origin. The repercussion of what is happening on the border in Melilla is that those living on the mainland will be left to deal with the problems caused by illegal immigrants left to fend for themselves with no money, no home and no future. What do they live on?
Centimo sanitario declared illegal
Another major story broke yesterday, with the European Court of Justice declaring the Centimo sanitario illegal. All of us have been paying this tax for years every time we filled up our fuel tanks, and the EU estimates over 13 billion euros has been “illegally” charged to consumers. Money paid between 2010 and 2012 can be legally reclaimed, and businesses who have proper invoices will be able to undergo a process to reclaim the tax they have paid, but this will be hugely complicated as each region imposed its own taxes, which varied in each of Spain’s 17 autonomous communities, from nothing up to 4.8 cents per litre.
ETA continue in the headlines this week, a major row breaking out over the video posted by the BBC at the end of last week which showed International verifiers signing a document verifying the arms which ETA said were being decommissioned by the Basque separatist group.
As we entered the early part of the week, it was revealed that these independent verifiers were being paid 750 euros a day each, yet had not actually seen the weapons being sealed up, or even knew where they were, they had simply been filmed in a flat in France verifying what was on the table in front of them. The Spanish media, who have written about more than 800 people being blown up by this same group over the last 40 years, shredded the video in their reporting of the subject, and President Rajoy said it was “not worthy of comment”. The verifiers maintained that they see this as a “real opportunity for peace” but today hard hitting direct criticism of the BBC has been printed and we´ll be publishing a full report about this over the weekend.
Positive economic indicators
However, economic news this week has been positive, the European Commission raising their forecast for the Spanish economy, estate agents reporting green shoots of optimism in the property market and Moody’s raising the rating of Spanish debt.
Other positive stories have included Spain beating its own record for the number of transplants undertaken in a day, the UNESCO caves at Altamira have opened for the first time in 12 years, allowing just 5 lucky members of the public to see the prehistoric rock-art inside, Spain delivered record tourism figures in January and conditions couldn´t be better for those who live near enough to head for the slopes and hit the Spanish ski resorts this weekend.
Murcia News www.murciatoday.com
Uncertainty reigns at the moment as the two big projects which will change the face of business in the region remain up in the air with little visible progress. This week President Valcárcel commented on both the Paramount Park project and the Corvera airport situation, reminding the media that no further progress can be made at Corvera until a decision can be reached by the European Commissioner for Competition about the regional government’s plan to re-finance the former concessionary. This makes it increasingly unlikely that the airport will be operational for both summer and indeed, winter 2014, so if you’re waiting to book flights, it’s advisable to bank on Alicante, Almería or San Javier for the moment.
He also commented that he still believes that the Paramount theme park project in Alhama de Murcia is a viable proposition, despite the fact that after four years of presentations, construction work has not yet begun and no firm investors have yet been announced to enable construction to start.
Property news has been mixed this week for Murcia: on the one hand, Murcia recorded thebiggest fall in the numbers of mortgages granted for property, with figures now at one tenth of their peak construction boom levels, and prices are confirmed by official Ministry stats to have fallen by 37% from boom highs, a hefty 7% more than the national average, putting prices in Murcia back to 2003 levels.
On the other hand, the Financial Times has named Murcia City as one of the most attractive cities for investors and positive tourism figures have shown Murcia has attracted increased numbers of tourists during January, figures rising by 44% to 32,724. Of these, the British remain by far and away the biggest target group, contributing more to the local economy than any other nationality. In total, foreign tourists spent 38.8 million euros in this region during January, 70% more than they did last year during the same period, yet this is still only just over 1% of the national total, showing there is plenty more opportunity for Murcia.
However, another set of stats showed that hotel occupancy was just 25.8% in Murcia, way below the national average of 38.4%, showing that most of the “tourists” coming here are staying on urbanisations or in holiday property they own. This accounts for the fact that the average stay in Murcia is so much higher than the national average, yet the amount spent per day by those who are here is lower, as visitors are not spending their money on “holiday pursuits”, they’re spending it in shops, businesses and supporting the local economy in a different way.
This makes some of the other stories featured this week so surprising, with Spanish Camposol residents now threatening to start protests outside the town hall due to the fact that their street lights remain out of action, while the council choose to spend their money on sporting installations and cultural projects rather than attending to the basic needs of 20% of their population, and English Camposol residents starting a campaign to persuade the council to give them a kitchen for their social centre, as they’re currently unable to even make a cup of tea and the premises aren´t licenced to be used for social events.
Ex-pats who have lost so much money on the Trampolin Hills development are also “nauseated” by this week’s court decision in relation to the case.
Valencia News www.valenciatoday.es
Caterpillars, quakes, hallucinogenic mushroom and marijuana cake in Valencia this week
In the Comunitat Valencia this week the news has featured a diverse range of stories involving earthquakes, shoe thieves, caterpillars and marijuana cake, as well as a fair scattering of good news for the regional economy.
The earthquakes in the province of Alicante have been numerous but small, to the relief of residents. Seven tremors were recorded in and around Monforte del Cid on Saturday night and Sunday morning, and then another quake, measuring 3.2 on the Richter scale, was reported on Tuesday just offshore from Santa Pola. Following the earthquakes in the north of the region last year, which were almost certainly caused by the gas storage facilities near Vinarós, it is small wonder that residents are nervous about the idea of petroleum prospecting in the Gulf of Valencia: fishermen received widespread support in their demonstrations against these soundings last weekend both in the Comunitat Valenciana and in the Balearics.
Other natural phenomena to feature in the regional news include a forest fire in Alcoy which necessitated the evacuation of elderly Alzheimer’s patients and the early arrival of the dreaded processionary caterpillars in Guardamar de Segura. Careful with your pets if these nasty beasties are seen in the area where you live as they’re lethal.
While the fuel prospecting in the Mediterranean may have to be put on hold, there was good news elsewhere for the region’s economy. Exports from Valencia rose by over 13% in 2013, giving a much-needed boost to the region, and 2014 has begun with increased numbers of foreign visitors throughout Spain: in Valencia, the number of foreign visitors in January was almost 5% higher than in the same month last year. The continuing popularity of the Costa Blanca is one of the pillars of Alicante’s economy, and the announcement of new flights between Alicante and Brussels in Belgium can only serve to increase the number of people visiting from the north of Europe. In the light of all these and other factors related to Spain’s tentative economic recovery, a survey published by the Financial Times has named Valencia as Southern Europe’sfifth most attractive city for investors, in a ranking which is topped by Barcelona.
In addition, at long last this winter’s flu epidemic appears to be practically over! Everything seems to be good news this week!
Well, not quite everything. The good news about more flights at the airport has been soured somewhat by the ongoing disgruntlement of taxi drivers from Elche, who resent the fact that what they view as unfair competition from outside the municipality is allowed to operate freely within the airport. Their threat of strike action could have serious effects on the smooth running of the airport this summer.
In addition, the usual assortment of unpleasantness accompanies this week’s crimewatch, where top of the list are five over-ambitious Colombians who have been arrested for stealing as many as 90,000 pairs of shoes. Copper cable thieves were foiled at Lo Romero golf course in Pilar de la Horadada, the man believed to be responsible for 29 burglaries in Torrevieja was placed under arrest, and in the province of Valencia those responsible for selling hallucinogenic mushrooms and marijuana cakes were detained. In addition, a gang of Rumanians who carried out variousthefts from tourists’ cars along the AP-7 motorway are now awaiting trial.
Local news in the southern Costa Blanca features positive developments regarding the public health service in various municipalities. Firstly, there is to be an extra doctor assigned to Pinar de Campoverde as of next week to deal with the increased population, and at the same time residents in Bigastro, Almoradí and Albatera will be pleased to know that their all-night emergency units are to be reopened following a redistribution of medical personnel in the Vega Baja.
In addition, dog-owners in Orihuela Costa now have a special fenced-off area in which to train and play with their faithful canine friends in the La Florida park, and residents in the outlying rural districts of the same municipality are to be catered for by a wider range of services at the local Town Hall offices, meaning that they will no longer have to trek into the city centre to deal with all their administrative paperwork. In Torrevieja, meanwhile, the council is upgrading its efforts to provide adequate parking for the disabled, and reminding other drivers of the need to avoid the temptation to use these spaces unnecessarily.
The police in Orihuela also contributed to the good news this week, averting a tragedy when they evacuated eight people from the site of a house fire in the city.
As is the way with local politics, there are a couple of municipal disputes which seem to be rumbling on indefinitely. In Torrevieja the Town Hall’s ten-year rubbish collection contract with Acciona Servicios Urbanos is due to expire later this year, but in the meantime a local councillor is unhappy that the size of the bill has gone up by 60% over the last few years. This contract has been a constant source of controversy, and has already resulted in the former Mayor being convicted of perverting the course of justice.
And in Orihuela, the dispute regarding the city’s two weekly markets just refuses to die down. The council’s plans to change the venues on both Tuesday and Saturday have met with vehement opposition from the stallholders since they were announced, and now that the changes are being implemented local residents have joined in the protests. All sides concerned, except the council, maintain that the arrangements regarding the markets were working fine before the Town Hall stepped in and changed them.
A message to all local councillors: please, if it ain’t broke, why fix it?
Click for this weeks currency round up showing the exchange rate between Sterling and the Euro. If you would like a free quote to see how much can be saved on regular currency transfers such as a pension, or one-off lump sums such as the purchase of a property, call for a no obligation quote.
If you enjoyed this free weekly round-up, then please support us by forwarding it on to your friends. If you have received this from a friend and would like to have it sent directly, then click Register for weekly bulletin to sign up.
We GUARANTEE your details will not be passed on, sold, or used for any other purpose, and are maintained in an isolated off-site facility from which you can unsubscribe at any time.
Images: Copyrighted Murcia Today and Efe. Full or partial reproduction prohibited.
Cádiz Province, Andalucia
Granada Province: Andalucia
Huelva Province, Andalucía
Jaén Province, Andalucia
Málaga Province, Andalucía
Region of Andalucia
Seville Province, Andalucía
Córdoba Province, Andalucia
Autonomous Community of Galicia
Castilla La Mancha
Castilla y León
Airlines and Travel SpainCaso BárcenasCaso NóosEbola SpainGibraltarProperty in SpainRodrigo Rato BankiaSareb, Bad Bank, Banco MaloSpanish separatism/ETATourism SpainWeekly Bulletin Spanish NewsWeekly Bulletin Spanish Property