A myriad of new new rules – and strict enforcement from the Spanish police – have left many of the 360,000 Britons living in the country fearing for their future. And property expert and real estate managing director Robert Barnhardt told Express.co.uk many are now starting to sell up.
Robert moved to Spain in 1984 and runs an estate agency in Fuengirola, a Costa del Sol town known for sandy beaches and summer festivals. His customers include both British and Spanish people and he spoke to Express.co.uk about the latest Costa del Sol property trends.
He said: “A lot of retired British people are starting to sell up. They used to come down here in September or October and then stay until April/May for the six months of better weather.
“But now they can only come for 90 days and also a lot of them used to drive down. The Spanish are now getting pretty strict on foreign plated cars and mainly British cars.
“Down on the rural roads, where I live out in the sticks, a lot of people have been driving around in the same English cars.
“I mean I’ve certainly seen them for 10-15 years with the same vehicle. And now it’s against the law and they’re being impounded.”
The RAC advice for driving in Spain is that your vehicle must display the UK letters and the letters must be visible regardless of what’s on the car’s number plate.
Robert also suggested health insurance is having an impact on British expats’ decision to sell up on the Costa del Sol.
He told Express.co.uk: “A lot of elderly people are choosing to go. Sometimes because of healthcare, or their health coverage.”
Expatica states that an expat can only access free healthcare in Spain now if they are a resident, or working and paying social security contributions.
Around 360,000 Brits are registered as permanent residents in Spain but moving post-Brexit has become a lot more difficult.
Robert said: “The British people don’t have the rights they had before Brexit to come and live down here now.
“You could get yourself a temporary residence permit but like when I first came to live here permanently in the early 80s it was very complicated.
“We had to have a minimum of 25,000 pounds in a Spanish bank account. We had to get a certificate to say the money was in the bank account, take that certificate to the Spanish consulate in Britain, get a visa, come down here with your visa and then you used to get a regular temporary residence permit.”
In the absence of Brits, Robert’s agency has seen plenty of Spanish buyers after the Spanish lockdown ended.
He said: “I would say 85 percent of the buyers we’re seeing now are Spanish, mainly from the provinces in Seville, which are the nearest inland regions.
“A lot of our work is done by word of mouth, so people that bought 25 years ago, now their kids are coming to buy.
“So often wealthy Spanish families and businesspeople are looking for second homes down on the coast.”
Despite the new rules, Robert is sure that Britons will always want to go to the Costa del Sol for a holiday.
He said: “Brits will always come down here whether they come down as tourists or residents.”
Robert also said that anyone who has a holiday home and wants to visit within the 90 days out of 180 days rule will be fine to do that.
He added: “But if people want to come down and live under the radar without a resident permit, sooner or later they’re going to get caught.
“If you don’t want to work, nobody’s going to give you money, you have to prove that you can support yourself and if you don’t have a sufficient pension then frankly they don’t want you.”