BARCELONA The secrets to investing in Barcelona's property market

As Athena Advisers prepares to launch in Barcelona, we talk to destination expert Amanda Kendzior about where to buy and why Spain's second city is onto a winning streak.


The secrets to investing in Barcelona's property market

As Athena Advisers prepares to launch in Barcelona, we talk to destination expert Amanda Kendzior about where to buy and why Spain's second city is onto a winning streak.

Beachfront in PobleNou Barcelona Property market

Talk to Athena’s Barcelona destination adviser Amanda Kendzior about where she is from, and she’ll laugh that it’s not the most straight-forward of answers.  With British-Chinese heritage, Amanda grew up in Kenya, Canada and America before moving to London to study International Relations and Third World Studies.  After the birth of her first child, she was inspired to find a better quality of life beyond London and decided to move to Barcelona with her Venezuelan interior-designer husband, the same city where they chose to get married. After a few years based in Barcelona’s hip Poblenou district – a favoured neighborhood for young international families – the couple recently invested in a house along the Costa Brava, a short drive from Barcelona. “I now mix city life in Barcelona with countryside living in the Costa Brava,”, Amanda explains, “ I grow my own vegetables, raise a few chickens and keep really active, exploring all that Catalunya has to offer, from weightlifting to horse-riding every weekend in neighbouring Begur.” With a strong background in sales and administration, Amanda combines her first-hand experience with relocating to Spain with a talent for fine-tuning the smallest details to step into the role of Athena Adviser’s Barcelona destination adviser.  She shares her experiences on moving to Spain, where to go and what to know about buying property in Barcelona. 

1.What inspires you about real estate?

Owning a property abroad opens the doors to discover a new way of life; to discover another culture, to make different friends and learn another language. I’m driven to help people do this through the process of acquiring a new home, and having just done so myself, I can relate to the excitement, wariness, and the strong need for a helping hand along the way.  Investing abroad is a weighted decision, and my goal is to make it an enjoyable process, and one that pays off for investors, whether in terms of finding properties offering a good rental yield, or a place that will secure them citizenship for their families in the future.

2. Why do you find Barcelona an exciting property market at the moment?

  • Barcelona is a thriving city and there is so much going on. Foreign investors are bringing more luxury to the city and the government is investing in pushing the city forward to become an international base for business; This is helped by excellent transport links throughout the city and strong connections to the rest of Spain and internationally. Secondly, business-owners in Barcelona have access to excellent value office space. One example is  @22, a public renovation project in Poblenou (which is heaving with expats, organic shops and sits right on the beach) where an old industrial area is being converted into modern office spaces for tech/sciences start-ups.
  • Finally, Barcelona has a well-deserved reputation as being a European city that combines the above with a great quality of life.  It has over 300 days of sunshine a year, excellent restaurants and a serious sporting culture.
  • Barcelona’s property market experienced a double-digit price growth of 12,7% in 2016, well above the national average. Interest rates are low and continuously falling, so it’s a fantastic time to jump on board. Spanish banks base their rates on the Euribor, which has been continuously falling for the past 12 months. The forecast for European interest rates is currently at 0% and this isn’t due to rise to 0.5% rise until 2020

3. What is it like raising a family in Barcelona compared to London?

To start off with, the cost of living is much cheaper. We are a family of 4 and probably spend €120 a week grocery shopping, and that is for really fresh, local produce, then bills and water are cheap. When we lived in London, our rent costs £1200 for a 40 sqm flat in Willesden Green.  In Barcelona, we rented a beautiful 100 sqm flat in Poblenou for €1000 a month, where we could walk to the water in 10 minutes.  When we had a second child, we decided to get out of the city and have a bit more space, so we bought a house along the Costa Brava, a 5 minute drive from Pals beach.  In London, whatever you do, you have to pay for it, you have to go TO somewhere. In Barcelona, it is normally sunny and the winter is mild, so you can cycle, go to beach or go to the park.  There is so much more freedom to do things without having to pay for it here because of the weather and the way the city is set up.

Another great thing about Barcelona is that it has a really good selection of schools, from international schools to more alternative schools, like Montessori, and then tri-lingual public schools.  My kids are now three and a half and one and a half and are learning to speak English, Catalan and Spanish. One of the things my husband was concerned about before we moved was the job market, but work hasn’t been an issue, in fact, we’ve been up to our ears in it!  A lot of our friends who are expats run their own businesses, such as recruitment businesses or virtual support.  Everyone has found their niche, and because you don’t need such a huge amount of money, you don’t have to run these enormous businesses to cover living costs. 

3. What effect is Brexit having on Barcelona?

As Barcelona cracks down on tourism to ease the some 44 million visitors who overwhelm the city every year, it is opening its doors to foreign investment. Government workers are actively bidding for companies, like the European Medical Agency, to move their headquarters to the famous Torre Agbar.  This alone would bring 900 skilled and well-paid workers to central Barcelona. Barcelona is pushing to become a new European business hub and it doesn’t have to work that hard to woo people over, as many skilled professionals want to live in a sunny city by the beach, with a much more affordable lifestyle compared to the likes of London and Paris. More than 5,000 foreign companies are currently headquartered in Catalonia, with 90% based in the Barcelona area, while more than 50% of Japanese, Italian, North American, French, Austrian and Swiss companies operating in Spain are based here.

4. What is your dream neighborhood to buy in, and why?

For me it would be Llacuna, which isn’t yet very well known. It’s just on the edge of the central city, nicely placed between the centre and Poblenou, which has its own buzzing neighbourhood vibe. Llacuna used to be an industrial part of Barcelona filled with factories. Now, it’s gentrifying and the warehouses are being converted into beautiful lofts. In addition, it’s just next to the beach, so you have the best of everything right on your doorstep, yet without the noise.

5. Secret tip on where to look for the best investment at the moment?

Eixample is the hot neighborhood of the moment when it comes to investment, but as a result, the starting prices for buying property here are much higher, and so I would recommend looking at other neighborhoods. Poblesec is a fantastic option, with great local bars and restaurants, the Monjuic park just next door, and yet prices are still very reasonable. It has a great mix of a residential community with very easy access to city life, ideal for a couple or someone looking to have a quiet place to live without compromising on cool options to socialise locally.

On the other end of the city, Poblenou is amazing for families – there are lots of nurseries in various languages, it’s right on the beach and very social. It has its own version of La Rambla and all the amenities you could ever need, so it’s like a private little enclave within Barcelona. There are a huge number of expats from all over the world,  so you can tap into a ready-made social life, especially if you have young children. Whilst prices have already jumped up recently, you can still find well-priced flats if you look away from the Rambla and more towards Diagonal Mar or the ‘outskirts’ of Poblenou.

6. What is it about Barcelona that you wouldn’t trade for the world?

The quality of life – you have everything most people dream about. It is a beautiful city with incredible architecture that is perfect for wandering around. There is so much history and plenty of art museums (such as the Dalí museum, Miró foundation, Sagrada Familia, etc) musical performances and some of the best restaurants in the world.  Then there is the beach, which lines one side of the city, and the mountains, which line the other.  You really have the best of everything here, and it’s all within easy access as it’s a relatively small city. Plus, the airport has great connections to key cities around the world, so it’s a very good option for a world-traveller.

Favourite spots for a:

A Sunday Morning? Because almost all commercial spaces are closed on Sundays, Barcelona folk tend to spend the day as a family and many do outdoor sports. My favourite thing to do is stroll all along the coast from Poblenou down to the W Hotel. You can walk along the beach the whole way, coming across restaurants and beach cafes (called ‘Chiringuitos’) where you can grab a coffee or smoothie. It’s the best for people-watching!

Also, there is a weekend-long market once a month in Poblenou called Palo Alto. It’s where you can see the latest handcrafted and small-name designer goods and listen to live music, eat lunch from a food truck, sip a beer and enjoy the sun in a beautiful setting with a hip crowd.

A Weekend Away? Super easy – the Costa Brava. It’s incredible here, with Michelin-starred restaurants, gorgeous coves and medieval villages. I would stay in Begur and head to one of the local coves before lunch at Toc Al Mar.

Dinner with Friends?  Tickets is a really fun restaurant by the Adriá brothers, who offer creative tasting dishes in a dramatic environment.  Alternatively, I like El Nacional, a recently converted parking lot with beautiful belle-epoque interior design. 

Family lifestyle in barcelona and where to buy property and which schools to go to