The end of the state of alarm has led to a renewed interest in the demand for housing in the provincial capitals. So far in May, 43% of searches for housing for sale have been concentrated in the capitals, compared to 40.4% in June 2020 (when the harsh restrictions of covid ended) and 38.8% in April 2020, in full confinement, according to a study published by idealista. Even so, interest in the capitals is still slightly lower than before the pandemic, when it stood at 44.1%.

For Christian Fisher, CEO of Costa Blanca Realty, the data show that “as happened at the end of the previous state of alarm, the desire of Spaniards to leave the big cities has diminished, although at the end of this exceptional situation in 2021, interest in buying a home is at levels very close to those recorded before the pandemic. Although demand may possibly be maintained in some specific areas, these data show that the urban exodus, if it ever occurred, has ended and that as we approach the end of the pandemic period, demand for housing is returning to urban environments and provincial capitals”.

Álava (up 6.7 percentage points) is the Spanish province where interest in buying a home in the capital has risen the most compared to June 2020, followed by Valencia (up 6 points), La Rioja (5.9 points), Huesca (5 points), Albacete and Seville (4.7 points in both cases). Murcia (4.5 points) and Zamora (4.2 points) increased by more than 4 points.

However, there are 11 provinces in which interest in buying a house in the capital has fallen compared to the end of the previous state of alarm: this is the case of Lugo (-5.6 percentage points), Ciudad Real (-3 points), Soria (-1.7 points), Teruel (-1.6 points), Lleida (-1.3 points), Badajoz (-1.2 points) and Cuenca (-1 points).

Among the large cities, interest in the capital versus the province has grown by 3.9 points in Madrid since the end of the previous state of alarm. This is followed by increases of 3 points in Bilbao, 2.7 points in Barcelona, 2.5 points in Zaragoza and 1.6 points in Palma. In Malaga, on the other hand, interest in the capital has fallen by 0.3 points.

Zaragoza is the Spanish province in which the capital concentrates the highest percentage of home searches with 80.2%, followed by Álava (78.6%), Córdoba (72.3%), Albacete (65.9%), Madrid (64%), Salamanca (63%) and Valladolid (62.9%). On the opposite side of the table is the province of Girona, where only 7.3% of home purchase searches have taken place in the capital. It is followed by the province of Pontevedra (9%), Cádiz (11.4%), Tarragona (11.8%), Toledo (14.9%) and Huesca (15.5%).

During the first year of the pandemic, the housing market has confirmed some changes in buyers’ preferences. Since the outbreak of the covid-19 health crisis, the search for homes outside large towns has intensified, in search of larger houses, with more space for teleworking or with communal and landscaped areas. In the first months after the end of the first state of alarm, idealista already detected this change in trend, which normalised during the second half of the year.

And from interest in buying to closing the transaction. The 2020 Real Estate Registry Statistics offered by the Association of Property Registrars has incorporated, from the second half of the year, a variable that measures the relative weight of sales and purchases in the most populated urban centres with respect to other nearby municipalities.

“The health crisis seems to be showing a predisposition to the fact that the weight of property sales in the provincial capitals with the largest number of inhabitants is losing relative weight with respect to their respective provinces as a whole,” the registrars state in their report. “In the fourth quarter this trend has been ratified”.

In 38 of the 50 provinces, the relative weight of the sale and purchase of homes in large towns with respect to the province has decreased with respect to the previous quarter. With the annual data for the end of 2020 compared to 2019, there are 41 provinces in which there has been a loss of relative weight in municipalities with a greater number of inhabitants.

The registrars clarify that in large population centres such as Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Zaragoza or Seville, a reduction in the relative weight of sales in the cities compared to the province can be seen.

“This reduction in relative weights was already occurring prior to the health crisis, but has intensified with it. In any case, we must monitor these results to measure this change or not, insofar as they are changes that normally require a more or less extended period of time, as they are relevant family and personal decisions and not immediate”, the registrars specify.