How to choose an apartment in Barcelona

Searching for the perfect apartment is different for everyone. While some may instinctively know when they’ve found the ideal space, others take a more planned approach in terms of research.

However, there are definitely certain factors one has to consider when scouting for an apartment in Barcelona, as the city’s prime views, world-renowned architecture and tranquil Mediterranean setting aren’t the only factors that influence residential structures.

The Location

The perfect location can mean very different things for different people. While a beach view will be the deciding factor for some, others value elements like good schools or no traffic as aspects that make up the perfect location. But as long as these locations appeal to enough people, the property prices will be higher.

Whether you’re looking to buy or rent an apartment in Barcelona, the following factors are the most well-known influences in terms of a property’s location:

  • Transport – roads, bus routes, distance from airports, parking, etc.
  • Education – nurseries, secondary- and high schools, colleges and universities.
  • Shops – anything from corner cafés to gigantic shopping malls.
  • Business districts – easy access to places of work.
  • Entertainment – golf courses, restaurants, cinemas, etc.
  • Nature – public parks, playgrounds, beaches and other areas that promote peace and tranquillity.

Similar to design trends, the popularity of locations can also change. And while certain locations have historically been in high demand, leading to a dramatic increase in property prices, the appeal of any setting is open to change. Therefore, in order to better understand property prices, it’s important to realise the value of research, the appropriate logistics involved, and try to discover what the future holds.

Certain factors can definitely influence a location’s prices, such as new/good schools, easy access to entertainment venues, or safe transport. And should these factors already be well known, the added value may be factored into the local property prices. But with the appropriate research and knowledge, one may uncover covert elements which could assist with choosing the right apartment in Barcelona. For instance, a suburban neighbourhood privy to improvements and renovations may increase its overall appeal and, thus, prices.

However, there are other features which could also result in negative consequences (lower prices), like businesses moving away from a certain area or public parks starting to look neglected and unsafe.

In terms of locals versus foreigners, certain Barcelona locations seem to be favoured above others. Locals are more interested in newer structures that speak of comfort and convenience like elevators, spacious parking, close proximity to colleges, etc. Therefore, districts similar to Zona Alta like Sarriá-Sant Gervasi, Turó Park, and Les Corts are more popular, with the priciest streets being Pau Casals, Pau Alcover de la Bananova, etc.

Foreigners are generally more attracted to Barcelona’s historical areas, choosing the Catalan modernistic architecture of Old City and Eixample. Aiding in these locations’ popularity is the fact that many tourist attractions such as shops and cafés are within walking distance. Among the most expensive streets in these areas are Paseo de Gracia, Rambla Catalunya, Enric Granados, and Paseo de Joan Borbó.

Those seeking Barcelona properties in up-and-coming neighbourhoods are advised to have a look at Sant Antoni and El Poblenou, as well as listings in the major avenue of Passeig de Sant Joan.

Conditions of the Building

Aluminosis

The choice between a new or historical building is up to the buyer. However, an important deciding factor when it comes to seeking out an apartment in Barcelona is “aluminosis”.

 Between 1950 and 1980, quite a few buildings in Spain were constructed with concrete that contains over 35% alumina. Combined with carbon dioxide (CO2), humidity and the right temperature, this concrete becomes porous and less sturdy, which could eventually result in a collapsed building. This has been the case in the past where nearby building activities affected the concrete structure, which is known as aluminosis in Spanish.

ITE

The technical inspection of buildings in Barcelona is known as Inspección Técnica de Edificios (ITE). This system involves the periodic monitoring of any residential building older than 45 years to determine whether they have been kept in good condition, what renovations were carried out, etc. Preparing a building for ITE means lots of preparations and expenses on the part of the owners; therefore, it is vital that potential buyers enquire about whether or not buildings have passed the ITE.

Additional factors

Easy access to a residential structure is crucial. That is why the additions of a wide entrance and spacious elevator become sought-after elements for Barcelona apartments, especially since not all buildings in the city (particularly those in the older parts of Barcelona) possess elevators.

It is also recommended to seek buildings with disabled access (for disabled residents / visitors, but also families with baby carriages).

The Apartment’s Interior

Sunlight and view

In addition to appreciating the world-class views offered by Barcelona properties, incoming natural light is another factor one should keep in mind. In areas like Eixample this becomes a less crucial factor, as the streets are generally wide. However, in older parts of the city, streets are narrower, resulting in less sunlight and gloomier interiors.

For optimum results, seek windows facing south-east, or corner buildings exposed to street intersections that provide wider views of the surroundings.

Ceiling and space distribution

In addition to allowing more light into an apartment, high ceilings are also perfect for making interiors seem more visually spacious and “breathable”. With Barcelona’s historical buildings, the highest ceiling is usually located on the first (principal) floor, as that was usually the space occupied by the family / owner of the building.

Another characteristic of Barcelona’s historical buildings is the division of the apartment in two zones: the day area which possesses windows to the street side, and the night area with windows towards the patio. A single, tight corridor connects these two zones, although there are additional areas to make the most of the liveable spaces.

Floor Levels

In the past, apartment buildings’ top floors were occupied by servants. Nowadays, these have become the most desirable due to their beautiful views and wide terraces. However, if a rooftop / top-floor apartment is what you seek, a building with an elevator is recommended.

The floor which may be the least desirable in an apartment building is the ground one, as it often gets the least sunlight and has the lowest ceilings. However, the upside to a lot of ground-floor apartments is their easy access to outdoor gardens or courtyards – a real treat for those sunny days in Barcelona. But whether it’s a small garden, a comfortably sized terrace or a spacious balcony, any outdoor space connected to a city apartment should be seen as a bonus.

For more information on purchasing a property in Barcelona, especially the relevant costs and procedures, we recommend The Buyer’s Guide to Purchasing Property in Barcelona.

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