Actress Gwyneth Paltrow, through her lifestyle portal Goop, recommended buying a Galician village a month ago to give away for Christmas. The message has gone far. It is already reserved by a Dutch couple and the Aldeas Abandonadas agency is preparing the purchase agreement for just under 150,000 euros. The village, in Lugo, is formed by a house of 360 useful meters, two barns, a hórreo and other properties located in the valley of the Eo.
Far away from the asphalt, the exhaust pipes and the skyscrapers there is another life that the more than 3,000 towns and abandoned villages that exist in Spain, especially in Galicia, Castilla y León, Aragón and Asturias. Many can not be sold because they lack the basic documentation, but hundreds of them are looking for a second chance, a new owner to turn on the chimneys once more and kick their streets.
And they find it, because the demand has not lost interest. Moreover, although 70% of the buyers are foreigners, especially English, Belgian and French, the national increasingly buys more. "If a few years ago Spaniards were not even 1%, now they are 30%", says Elvira Fafian, founder of the company Abandoned Villages.
Milagros Ruiz has bought a village in Lugo through this company. Pena Vella is the name of the enclave that this 45 year old malagueña works in banking and her husband, 51 years old, watched in a television program. They had gone to Galicia on holiday before and their idea was to buy a second home in the area. But soon after they asked themselves a question: Why not buy that town from TV? There were 15,000 square meters and six cottages. The whole was sold for 60,000 euros. When all the houses are rehabilitated – there is already one – they will be transformed into rural tourism accommodation and Milagros, her husband and children will leave the Malaga climate to start a new life in Galicia. Thanks to the aid of the Xunta and European subsidies have achieved 200,000 euros for the rehabilitation of houses. Keep in mind that most of these towns are in ruins and, on average, an investment of between 500,000 and 600,000 euros is necessary.
In addition to individuals (70% of the plaintiffs), who want to undertake in hospitality, agriculture, livestock, pilgrim hostels, ecovillages or simply telecommuting, there are also companies and large investors. Special interest is shown by Arab and Russian investors for rural Spain, says Fafian.
But many more are foreign individuals looking for a place to retire. Recently Rosi Costoya, founder with her husband of Galician Rustic, received a call from Canada. It was from a group of childhood friends who were looking for a village in which to retire, but did not want to retire in the typical urbanizations of the Spanish Levante. "They are lawyers, doctors … They look for a town and they want to set up a garden and a tavern and be close to a medical service," says Costoya. His Galician agency has located more than 400 villages. "Six are salable and between January and February we are going to sell two of them, the cheapest for 130,000 euros," he continues.
Market on the rise
The purchase of an abandoned town has proved to be more than a passing fad. And, therefore, more and more owners are encouraged to organize the documentation to be able to sell the inherited kernel. "We enter about 20 a month, there are many customers who want to sell, generations of 35 to 45 who no longer have an attachment to their family," says Fafian.
In addition, they take advantage of the fact that the market has become more expensive. Prices go up between 5% and 10% per year, especially the cheapest ones. "A few years ago the cheapest village was 12,000 euros, but now the most affordable costs 52,000," recalls Fafian. Even so, it is still a much lower price than what you have to pay for a flat in any capital. The agency Aldeas Abandonadas has a portfolio of 110 villages that can be written from one day to the next. The average price moves in the range of 200,000 to 450,000 euros, although there are more expensive: between 2.5 and seven million euros (a town in Huelva to reform).
The purchase and sale of these forgotten rural nuclei is not easy. One year Rosi Costoya is trying to collect all the necessary documentation to be able to sell a town in the environment of Viveiro. And at this moment he is in talks with the other 24 owners, an arduous mission. "It is usually impossible to agree to more than 10 owners," says Costoya. Some of the last towns he has sold have been to British families who intended to set up a charming rural hotel. This is the case of the parish of Xerdiz (Ourol, Lugo), sold for 150,000 euros.
These two specialized companies are in charge of dealing with the heirs, whom they try to agree on and, above all, locate, which is not always easy because some have died and others reside in other countries. They are responsible for going to notaries, registers, cadastres and town halls. Because the hardest part is making the people salable. The handshake that was worth in the last century is wet paper. "At the registry level, we do not have the village perimeter, and in the Registry there are different farms that the seller must identify and locate within the town," says Fernando Acedo-Rico, director of Institutional Relations of the College of Registrars.
Therefore, these companies use technicians to make accurate measurements and write the village in the Land Registry without fear that in a few years there will be an heir and claim a wall or five stones. "It is convenient to register it to show who the new owner is," says Acedo-Rico. For this meticulous work they count on the collaboration of the Town Councils, eager to repopulate and rehabilitate their villages. They collaborate to put supplies, sewage, lighting … Therefore, we usually require the buyer to make a reform and undertake an activity, not to buy a village and leave it there, "says Elvira Fafian.