Location, location, location: why nothing is more important than determining where you want to live

A golden rule states that there are three criteria that matter in real estate: location, location and more location. Where your future place is under the sun determines not only how happy you will be there but also its value. In other words, when buying a home in Spain, no decision is as important as this one.

Obviously, location is a key element. And that’s because it’s about the only thing you, even with endlessly deep pockets, really can’t change. You can remodel a bathroom, ugly wallpaper is easily ripped off the wall, but a home in the wrong place cannot – for now – be teleported. While waiting for Elon Musk or other tech wizards to come up with a solution to this, you’d better make sure you’re bang on it from the first.

The repetition “location, location, location” indicates the various aspects involved in the location of a residence:

Location 1: the neighborhood

Is it bustling with life or is it more residential? Are there stores, cafes, restaurants, banks, post offices or schools within walking distance? Are there parks where you can have a picnic or play soccer with the (grand)son? Where can you take bus or train? How easily do you get to the highway or city center by car? And where can your visitors park their cars?

Location 2: the street

At least as important as location 1. Within the same neighborhood are narrow or wide streets, busy traffic axes or quiet cul-de-sacs. In some streets the houses are built close together, in others there is room to breathe.

Of course you want smooth access to certain services. But if these are too close, then there may as well be adverse effects. Think of the smell of the gas station wafting in through your window, the early deliveries a supermarket requires. That cozy neighborhood cafe on the corner loses a lot of sympathy when you can’t catch sleep in the dead of night because of the drunken ramblings of regulars on the terrace.

Location 3: the building

First, orientation is important. Do you enjoy natural daylight on the terrace, garden or in the rooms where you spend most of your time? In apartments, the floor is also crucial. Do you sit high and dry on the top floor, where you benefit from light and visibility? Or do you reside downstairs, where the garbage cans may be out front and headlights shine in, but where you have direct access to a little garden? Do you look out your window on the vast Mediterranean Sea or the unfinished construction site next door?

Bonus location: the region

Traditionally not included in “location, location, location,” but obviously important: the region. Especially in Spain, where the regions differ significantly in terms of climate, mentality, price of real estate and you name it, you better think twice about where you camp.

On prospecting

‘Location, location, location’ equally means that there is no hierarchy in the various aspects of location. Each of the three locations is equally crucial. When choosing real estate, it is therefore best to visit neighborhood, street and premises several times, preferably at different times. This is how you identify potential pain points most efficiently. If you go on a prospecting trip, use all your senses to take in the different forms of location. Ask yourself the questions we suggested above. And don’t make light of the pros and cons.

Keep in mind who lives nearby. Better good neighbors than distant friends. That cliché is certainly true in Spain. Consider the type of people – Are they mostly Hispanics or expats? Young or old? Permanent residents or tourists? – and consider whether you can get along with them. Feel free to chat with local residents. They are the best, most reliable source about life in the neighborhood. Not insignificantly, what happens to other residences in the neighborhood? What do they look like? And is the price rising or falling?

If a residence does not meet all the requirements you set for it in terms of location, then you had better look further. Because: to be happy anywhere, you need to be able to check off all the right boxes. Just because you have a residence in the hippest neighborhood in town to grab doesn’t mean you can count yourself rich. Street and premises play an equal role.

The key element of a good location: you have to feel good about yourself

After all the above, you understand that a lot of criteria play a role in choosing real estate in Spain. The question remains: what is a good location?

Much depends on your personal needs and preferences – as these are different for everyone. Some want to be able to drink a coffee or eat a plate of paella within walking distance; others don’t want to take more than ten steps to the beach. For some, having a bus stop nearby is crucial, while others swear by the tranquility of a remote location. Those who immigrate to Spain for good with their children need a school within walking distance. While a retiree would rather not be stuck with such a soundtrack of playground whining all day. Many “Spanish Belgians” want to keep the line with the homeland as short as possible. In that respect, you should take into account the distance from the residence to a local airport with regular flights to and from Belgium.

Factors that affect the value of a home

You guessed it: location, location, location. Some cities, towns or neighborhoods are simply more expensive. Closer to home, a home in Knokke Het Zoute will always cost more than one in Molenbeek. In Spain, the same is true. For example, the beach resorts on the Costa del Sol, such as Marbella and Estepona, are considered more exclusive and therefore more expensive. Within cities, especially hip or upgraded neighborhoods attract a lot of people. And an apartment overlooking the sea will always fetch more than one overlooking the hinterland.

Of course, location is not the only factor affecting price. Think about finishes and materials used, energy efficiency and facilities such as garage, terrace, pool, fireplace or number of bathrooms. Still: those who buy real estate as an investment had better think carefully about its location. This determines not only the rental potential, but also the potential for a resale at a profit.

A property may appear cheap – and therefore attractive – but that equally means it may remain cheap. And that reselling is not easy, let alone at a hefty profit. On the other hand, if you choose to invest in real estate in a prime location, your money will grow the fastest.

Houses and apartment in such locations – easily accessible, with easy access to services or near water – are always in demand. As a result, you can get more returns from renting them out. Not only do many potential tenants have their eye on it, but they are usually in good shape.

The price of housing in a prime location is also more stable and more resistant to shocks. Even in times when the economy is sluggish, real estate prices in prime locations are holding up. Due to the high demand, those properties also appear to be easy and quick to sell at market prices. Do anticipate a slightly longer investment horizon, at least ten years or so.

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