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Wednesday, April 21st "Buying an apartment in Sevilla
and the consequences of high prices: Suburbia!"

Sorry, I'm not yet buying an apartment or house, although I think everyone who lives in the city contemplates this move at least once per week. As property values rose about 17% last year it's hard to imagine finding anything affordable in or around the center. In Santa Catalina a 90 sq meter (approx. 970 sq feet) two bedroom may set you back 300,000-400,000 E! Ok, this would be a pretty nice place, but nothing of luxury. And you don't get a garden or your own outdoor space. So what can you do? There are several possibilities:
-Suck it up, make the down payment and mortgage a bit of your life away. Interest rates are fairly good at the moment and you might be able to get something like 3%. As property values are rising it could be a good investment, although they have to top out somewhere.

  • Renovate! - Both friends and family seem to have had some luck with doing this. A completely new (on the inside, that is) two bedroom apartment in the center of Sevilla (Puerta de Carmona/Santa Catalina area) in an otherwise ugly building for a 400 E a month mortgage payment? It has been done, after dropping in 30,000 or so for renovations out of savings. An entire building near Calle Feria for 130,000 E? It has been purchased, although with many renovations still pending.
  • Move further away from the center - Better deals can be found as close as the Macarena and some of the outlying neighborhoods. You could move to Sevilla Este for a decent price, but you pay in being so far from the center and in a sterile, modern environment. Maybe not what you'd envisioned when moving to Spain.
  • Move to a pueblo - Get a 3 bedroom house with plenty of square meters, a garage, patio and more for around 120,000 Euros. More if you want more and less if you need less space.

The result of the high real estate prices in Sevilla is the opposite of what's happened in the states in many of the cities. In the 1990's many people in the U.S. flocked to cheaper or more convenient alternatives in some of city centers. Tired of commuting and with some urban renewal going on, a condo or house downtown looked a lot better. It was a race from the suburbs back to the city. (this of course doesn't apply to all cities - NYC will always be expensive amongst many others). In Sevilla and a lot of Spain the opposite is happening. After years of living in dense population centers many people are in search of affordable housing - some in search of a little tranquility - and have been moving to the nearby pueblos. New houses and apartments are being built in the outlying towns at a rapid pace and congestion on the highways from commuters is starting to become a problem. Good time for a Metro project! While the subway should help it still won't reach many of the towns it should. First leg is scheduled to be active at the end of summer, 2006. So I would expect it to actually be done around the beginning of 2007!

I guess the lesson is - it's getting expensive - 15-20 years ago would have been a great time to purchase something in Sevilla. 10 years ago, or even 5 years ago, too. But there are ways to live in the center more or less and get a good deal out of the purchase. Just be ready for contractors, building inspectors, permits and licenses. What you don't pay for with real money you may lose in sweat, blood and tears.