The phrase “unprecedented times” is thrown around more times than we count at the moment. The world is in the midst of something we’ve never encountered before, nor the generations before us. A pandemic is sweeping the globe, grinding economies to a complete standstill, cutting off families from each other and turning the status quo on its head.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), who officially declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic on March 11th, COVID-19 has infected over 4 million people and claimed more than 326,000 lives worldwide – truly a world changing event.
The hospitality, travel and property markets are some of the worst hit sectors during this pandemic thanks to global sweeping lockdown restrictions. The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), which represents the global private sector of Travel & Tourism, estimates that, thanks to the Coronavirus pandemic, job losses have risen by 30% in a mere four weeks.
Halting global travel inevitably dampened property investment plans on pause for a long time- particularly in the overseas market. Spain was caught by surprise back in mid-March and quickly scrambled to lockdown on the 16th March before the virus took hold.
Over a month since Spain went into lockdown, figures from the National Institute of Statistics (INE), and the Association of Spanish Notaries paint a grim picture for the property market. Home sales witnessed by Spanish notaries were down 37.5% in March, while inscriptions in the Land Registry were down 18%.
The property market was already looking to be on unstable foundations due to domestic and international factors such as doubts and hesitation from UK investors over the question of Brexit.
So what will come next for overseas homeowners and those looking to buy or sell property overseas, particularly in Spain? The future is still clouded, a sense of trepidation lingers over the world as countries take tentative steps towards easing the lockdown.
Undoubtedly, the buying and selling process will have to drastically change. Travelling between countries will be one of the last restrictions to be fully eased in a post-Coronavirus world, especially between hard-hit countries like Spain, Italy and France.
A lengthy quarantine process, already put in place by the UK government, will be the new norm for travelling abroad. Both the UK and Spain have imposed two-week quarantine periods for arrivals meaning a month of quarantine. For many, this will make physical property viewings very difficult and likely impossible.
Queues at immigration control will also be painfully long, as people from different countries and regions will be filtered depending on the severity of infection in that particular region. Entry into a country could even be refused outright, unless some identification system is implemented proving you are vaccinated or somehow immune.
Overall, the general process for even just exploring moving options will be lengthy and limited, with arrivals and departures closely monitored to an extent not seen since the immediate aftermath of 9/11.
However arduous the journey towards moving abroad, without questions processes and the property markets in general are starting to slowly morph into some semblance of normality before the pandemic.
Researching property online using the likes of Zoopla, Rightmove and OnTheMarket thoroughly will now be more important than ever. When travel restrictions are lifted, expect brief windows of travel opportunities to rise. Remember, this will be compounded by the quarantine rules mentioned earlier.
Doing extensive research before travelling will be vital in order to make the most of your visit. Plan ahead, reach out to estate agents and build up a shortlist of properties that are of interest. This will reduce the time needed to travel and help speed up the decision making process.
Connecting worldwide to family, friends and colleagues has never been so easy and this has certainly been reinforced by the global outbreak. All sectors have utilized the power of the digital age to work from home, attend Zoom meetings and overall continue to work as efficiently as possible.
In a post-Covid-19 world, moving abroad will be no different. Potential buyers are already using virtual tours, Google Street View and even Virtual Reality to explore properties. These methods will become increasingly important and in demand as a new way of life sets in.
Mateo Perez, sales Director at Valuvillas.com, a leader in the Javea property market sector, said: “The property market in Spain has had a tumultuous few months and we’ve seen a drop in purchases in the overall property market here.
“Despite these troubling times, it hasn’t stopped the volume of enquiries about people wanting to invest in property here – these enquiries have not drastically reduced. This is despite many new build projects being halted and current transactions only just beginning to be processed once more.
“We’re beginning to see light at the end of the Covid tunnel. It will take time and things won’t be normal for many months ahead but there are plenty of ways for people to plan and purchase property here in Spain. Technology will continue to be important for house viewings, especially in an idyllic and popular spot like Javea.”
Despite all the gloom, the methods and processes to move abroad will slowly come together. Liaising with a lawyer, potential homeowners can begin to undertake formal procedures associated with becoming a homeowner, such as applying for a tax identification number or opening a foreign bank account, to minimise the risk of delays in the buying process.
Some people have even given lawyers power of attorney, allowing them to act on behalf of the purchaser in matters relating to their property transaction.
The world will look alot different once the pandemic has passed. The new normal is still not set in stone and there will be lengthy challenges ahead for people looking to move abroad. It is important not to lose sight of the bigger picture, adapting to the ongoing crisis quickly and effectively.
Sectors such as the property and travel industries will bounceback and normal life will eventually return. In the meantime, people looking to move abroad should utilize the power of technology to plan and research potential investment opportunities and rely less on physical travel.