In this regard Valencia is not much different from many other European cities. The majority of properties in the market consists of flats (apartments), pisos, but there are quite a lot of townhouses (casa adosada, chalet, casa de pueblo). Further away you get from the town, you can also find many houses with their own piece of land.
If your preference is to have an apartment and enjoy the city life, you will have plenty of choice in Valencia. You can choose between different types of flats, those built at the beginning of last century, those built in the sixties and seventies and the brand new ones. The old flats are naturally in the oldest part of town, mainly in Ciutat Vella, L’Eixample, and some in the areas of Extramurs. Further afield you move, they are rarer and rarer. Apartments, especially in the Old Town can be found in beautifully ornamented buildings, and equally amazing streets, but, don’t take it for granted. Sometimes, in-between those majestic houses, city planners allowed modern ones. Yes, they probably looked modern in the sixties and seventies when they were built, some of them maybe even looked pretty, but, today, they are just sticking out, and it is only because how they look. The only positive side is that once you are inside, and there are few of them in the street, you will be looking only at nice ones. But, let’s not be negative from the start.
As you move away from the central, wealthier areas, the ornaments on the buildings start to lose their richness and you are slowly getting into the area of blocks of flats, where all the buildings look the same. In a bad way, though. Also, the further away you advance, the facades start looking tired and demographics change. Prices are going down too.
When buying the apartment in Valencia, biggest surprise you might encounter is their unique design. The flats here (and this is “Spanish” thing) are very narrow and are usually facing the street on one side, and the strange, and very limited space in between the buildings on the other. Picture an apartment that is 5 meters in width and 20 in length. Although Valencia is sunny city and most of the foreigners come here for the Sun and the climate, plenty of flats will give you everything but the Sun. Depending on the orientation of the apartment (and you should look for the ones facing the south), you might have daylight only in the room facing the street. Sometimes, the gap between the buildings at the back is bigger so you can get the light there, but the rest of the flat will be in the dark, relying for its light only on small spaces in the middle of the building, designed to provide some light to the inner rooms, and ventilation for kitchens and bathrooms. Obviously, those spaces are usually dirty, smelly and also dark, the lower you are. I’ve seen apartments with 4 bedrooms where only living room and one bedroom had natural light. All the other rooms were getting its light from this dark space. Occasionally, it will look even worse, there will be rooms without any light at all, or there will be a room in the middle of the flat that has a window looking out to the lounge! I am not saying that all the apartments are like that, but this was one of the things I never knew about that seriously limited my choice.
When you combine this with often narrow streets in the old town, you get the feeling that is a mission to find an apartment with sufficient light.
You would think that the designers of the apartments in the sixties and seventies have changed this design. No, they haven’t. Regardless of the age, those apartments follow the same design, long, narrow apartments, sometimes 4-5 meters wide and up to 20 long, strange skylights in the middle, the only real source of light in the front and in the back, and that is it.
The flats you might look have three distinctive types: apartments on the first floor, attics, and apartments in between.
a) If you are looking for some outdoor space or a terrace, the apartments on the first floor can be a good option. Sometimes, they have decent if not massive terraces, facing the interior, and can be a good value for anybody wanting to enjoy the beautiful climate. They are usually built on top of the commercial space that is underneath and can have as much as 100 square meters. There are a couple of problems you can encounter there: they are sometimes positioned on top of a busy nightclub and unless you are ready to rock and roll every night, that might be a deterrent. Since they could be at the base of the high buildings, you might have plenty of neighbors looking at you from above. More than often they will not be shy to discard butts or other items. The last problem is that those terraces are usually connected to either the kitchen or the main bedroom, which complicates its use if you intend to entertain there. It means that you will have to completely redo the layout of the apartment and this can be costly. If there are any with the desired distribution and the right size, that will reflect in the price.
b) You will not have many surprises with the apartments from the first to the last floor. Obviously, the higher the flat is, the more Sun it gets and it is further away from the noise if there is any on the street. Unfortunately, not all the buildings have elevators. Although this fact cannot be hidden from you, it would be advisable to check this upfront, so you don’t waste your time. In Valencia, some buildings, even 5 floors high, can be without the elevator. In those cases, flats above the second floor should be, and usually are cheaper, and the cheapest properties in the whole town are the ones on the fourth or fifth floors in buildings without the elevator. Some of them have stood unsold for years, so be careful. You might be fit and tempted by the price, but one day when you decide to sell, you will have to find somebody equally fit to buy it.
Sometimes, on Internet, information about an elevator will be missing from the general info, but it is probably only an agent’s honest oversight rather than purposeful omission. Either way, if you are not sure, the fact that there is no elevator will reflect heavily on the price.
c) The attics are the most expensive and most wanted types of apartments in Valencia. They are apartments of choice for most foreigners and there is a big variety of them. But, they will cost the most, obviously. The terrace (open) space in those apartments is valued often more than the built space and that will elevate the price. Valencia is known for its beautiful weather, so, naturally, living in the attic would be the best way to enjoy it.
There are many names you can use to describe those properties, not only in Spanish (Chalet, Casa Adosada) but in English as well (detached house, townhouse). Since space is scarce, and it is cheaper to go up, typical, townhouse type complexes are not easy to find. They were mostly built in the nineties or at the beginning of this Century, and in the newer areas, further away from the center. To have your own plot in Valencia is a real luxury and it is priced accordingly.
As you move outside of Valencia you find more and more of them. They are especially numerous in beach areas, starting with Playa de Puebla de Farnals, Playa Puig or Playa Pucol, on the north coast, as well as El Perellonet and El Perello on the south coast. They are also relatively easy to find in all the outlying areas of town. There, together with houses, they form Urbanizaciones, small satellite villages that consist of houses mixed with townhouses, and are usually boomed off. This type of living has its own merits: while maintaining the privacy you can still get away with less maintenance and enjoy communal areas, like pools and clubhouses. Obviously, your monthly contribution to the upkeep of the complex will reflex this, but, it could be the best solution for people wanting to be relatively close to the town and still have some kind of privacy
So far, the foreigners have shown the most interest in what they call Casa De Pueblo, an old house, usually built at the end of the 19th or at the beginning of the 20th century. They used to house big families and were also a statement of the owner’s wealth and social status. Unfortunately, many of them are nowadays in the state of disrepair. It is not surprising – many were inherited by numerous relatives and often subjects of lengthy court cases, so, today they stand completely abandoned. It is amazing to find some that stood empty for 30 or 40 years, but, in Valencia area, this is normal. Sometimes, with no apparent reason, people just don’t want to get rid of them.
They are usually built on three levels. The ground floor is used either as a garage or living area, with lounge and kitchen. The first floor is the sleeping area, with 2 or 3 bedrooms and a bathroom, and unless they have a flat roof with a huge terrace on top, they will have the attic (buhardilla) with some additional space, limited in height.
You will not find many in the city center, because, although they existed there once, they were replaced by bigger houses a long time ago. But, there are a couple of areas where there are still many of them. One of the barrios most renown for this type of buildings is Cabanyal, where you can find plenty, some redone, most of them not, beautifully decorated on the outside and more affordable. There are more in the areas close to the sea –Nazareth and Malva Rossa, and then, further away from the coast you get, their number reduces. You can find them in Grau, Ayora, Cami Fondo, Patraix, Mont Olivette, Courts, even in Campanar. Obviously, as you get away from Valencia, and you go to any of the surrounding villages, now joined to the city, they become a predominant type of building. The most beautiful areas where you can see plenty of Casas del Pueblo are in Alboraya, Burjassot, Puig, Mislata, Sagunto, but there are to be found in just about any small village next to Valencia.
This was my preferred type of property when I started looking, because it combined a look of the house, in the city environment, with certain freedoms that go together with the ownership of the plot. But, there are numerous problems you can encounter if you decide to purchase them. First, they are very old, many of them derelict, so it means that you would literally have to rebuild them from scratch. They are usually very long, like apartments, (this is probably where architectural ideas came from) and light is often a problem. Sometimes the only source of light on the ground level would be the entrance door. The main building material at the time they were built was wood, so once renovating, you would have to reinforce the whole structure, and change wooden beams with steel or concrete ones. So, the best option for me was to look for a house that was structurally renovated, but still not expensive.
Knowing that renovation costs can be as much as the purchase costs, estate agents often offer to bring their architects so you can get an idea of the total price. On occasion, they were not real architects, but more than often they were. There is a huge debate on the Internet about how much the renovation of those houses would cost since it is very hard to estimate this upfront. From the cases I personally witnessed, they can run well over 100.000 euros if you are buying ruin (always add IVA which is another 10%) but less if there is something that you can work with. I think that the most of the builders work with the figure of Euro 1000 for the square meter if it’s really a bad one, to Euro 600 a square if it is in much better shape. Sometimes, I thought that some of those ruined houses were overpriced, but, in the essence, the stand on which they were built has a certain value under which you can’t really bargain. And many times, they were selling them just for the price of the stand.
Unless you are a seriously rich, in which case you wouldn’t read this blog, but instead organize a team of property specialists, you will not contemplate buying a house in Valencia city center. Yes, there is some, spread throughout the city, but they cost serious money. Most of them have historical value too. Drive around Calle de Isabel de Villena in Malvarossa and you will see some beautiful ones. Many of them have a price tag of Million+.
Most of the decently priced houses are spread around the city, in areas close to small villages on whose infrastructure they rely. Some of these villages are well-connected to Valencia with either train or bus, but most are not. Few of them are part of bigger complexes, where the whole area is enclosed and has a controlled access. They are usually in the outlying areas of town, with no good connection to Valencia, forming limitless rows of undistinguished looking streets with nothing in between. This type of living has certain advantages. There is more space, they are well suited for families with younger kids, and many International schools are nearby. To have your own plot with a pool, in this beautiful climate, can be a really great choice.
I will name only a few because there will be more information in the section that describes the barrios. Some of the most popular areas are Alfinach, near Pucol, (heavy populated hill from which you can see the sea), Santa Barbara, close to Godella, El Vedat, close to Torrent, Naquera, in the middle of the nature reserve or El Bosque, close to nothing but with the Golf Course in its vicinity. The area around L’Eliana is also very popular for house hunting. La Canada is closest to the town and well-connected by metro, same goes for Riba Roja de Turia and further away you can look at La Pobla de Vallbona and San Antonio de Benageber. Before you make any decisions, unless you don’t mind driving every day, even for a smallest of things, it is very important to figure out how far is your house from Metro station. Certain areas are connected much better than the others, but generally, trains don’t run very often here, and they stop very early in the evening. You will not have more luck with any other means of transport. If there is a bus connection, it will take you, very slowly and not very often, to the center of the adjoining village, and there you will have to get another slow bus to town.
But, if you don’t have to get to Valencia every day, or you work from home, or you simply don’t work, buying a house can be a very good choice. Property prices per square meter are much lower than in the city, and for the same amount you would spend to buy a nice flat in Valencia, you can get a huge house just 15 minutes away. The prices start from 150.000 Euros and for 200.000 there is already a nice pool of properties you can choose from.
Another interesting type of house, especially wanted by foreigners is a farmhouse. There are many around since Valencia is nothing else but a huge town placed in the middle of one of the most fertile areas in Spain. It is waste, it is called Huerta and chances are that many of the oranges you ate in your life, came from those fields.
The easiest way to see these farmhouses is if you drive on V21, or circle Valencia using Ring Road. It is a bit strange how Valencia suddenly stops and how farmland appears, in close vicinity of skyscrapers and shopping centers. Farmhouses are either isolated, on their own piece of land, or they form a small cluster that usually belonged to one family and nowadays is split between different people (Alquerias). Areas known for those houses are Alboraya, Tabernes Blanques, Poble Nou, small villages in-between, like Carpesa, Borboto, and many others. The further you go from Valencia, the more of them you encounter. Two big areas, Horta Nord and Horta Oest are nothing but kilometers and kilometers of farmland, with small villages every now and then.
For practical reasons, many of those houses were positioned close to the busy roads, but there are plenty still hidden in big areas of orange groves, very quiet and secluded. Sometimes they look like a dream come true, but, be aware. They come with unbearable smells and unwanted insects and can ruin your dream. The fields around Valencia are farmed very extensively, so, quite often there is a strong smell of manure, or pesticides enveloping not only Huerta but some edging parts of the town. Also, those houses are built on rural land, and there is a completely different legal regime that applies to them, as to how to renovate and how to use them. In an effort to protect Huerta, City Council has proclaimed all those fields, together with houses, as Protected areas – it means you cannot add anything anymore, just renovate to its previous look. Regardless of that, some of them really look stunning, and, if the price is right (they could also be seriously overpriced) they can be an excellent choice.