PLEASE NOTE: This article was written in 2014.
Market conditions have changed dramatically since this time, so this article was completely rewritten and updated for 2018.
In May 2012, we published the feature 'How to bag a Spanish bargain' and it's been popular ever since. This tells us what we already know - that Spain is the most in demand overseas property buying destination for A Place in the Sun'ers.
At the time, there was a lot of talk and excitement about Spanish banks offloading billions of Euros worth of troubled property assets, including repossessed houses and those with bad debts - and the anticipated knock-on effect this would have on the availability of cut-price coastal properties for holiday home buyers to nab.
The reality was that bank repossessions were - according to Bob Shepherd, Managing Director of Euro-Prestige - "a bit of damp squib to start with, due to so many rules and regulations to the public buying them."
As a guide for you, we have asked local experts in the main hotspots of the Costa Blanca, Costa del Sol, Murcia, Almería, Tenerife and inland Andalucía to give their opinions on their respective areas - whether there are still bargains to be had, and if so - what types of properties, prices, locations - and any tips and advice on securing them.
Bob Shepherd, Euro-Prestige
"The market in Costa Blanca has changed dramatically over the last year or so. Most of the genuine bargains have been snapped up. There are no 'steals' anymore and it's getting back to original prices, as supply is depleting and demand is increasing. There doesn't even seem to a recession on any more with lots of new builds on the southern Costa Blanca selling out with increased prices on the next new phases. Virtually everyone is paying cash with very few Spanish mortgages."
"We are expecting the next four to five months up to Christmas to be the last chance for buyers to grab any chance of a bargain, as 2015 will be just like 2000 - with people buying off-plan again. If ever there was a time to buy on the Blanca, it's now."
Sales have doubled - new-builds selling well too, although more difficult to bag massively cut-price property.
Kieran Byrne, Owner of HomeEspana:
"Prices in established, sought-after areas are no longer falling, and offers significantly below the asking price are rarely being accepted for quality properties. If you're looking for good size properties for your money in the southern Costa Blanca, there is plenty of choice in Villamartin, where you can still pick up apartments for under €80,000."
"For clients looking for more space, and maybe a detached villa with a budget around the €150k mark, there isn't much available anymore directly on the coast, but you can get that sort of property in the popular community of Ciudad Quesada."
"In the northern Costa Blanca, towns like Benidoleig and Murla in the Orba and Jalon Valleys offer exceptional value when compared with the better known coastal destinations like Moraira and Jávea, despite being only a short drive away."
"British buyers are gradually finding out about these locations, where a traditional two-bed village house might cost €60,000, while villas with three-beds, two-baths and a swimming pool can be purchased for less than €200,000 and still have a view of the sea!"
Prices in sought-after areas are stabilising. Villamartin in the southern Costa Blanca and Benidoleig and Murla in northern Costa Blanca are good bargain hotspots.
Kieran's top tip
Search for property outside of better known coastal destinations in order to secure better deals on similarly appointed properties.
Costa del Sol
Mia Pearlman, Affinity Spain
"People are buying in the Costa del Sol in droves. It's busier now than back in the boom years. We have seen a 4.8% increase in average property prices in the first quarter of 2014, compared to the same quarter in 2013. Properties on sale are mostly resales, although off-plans buys are making a big comeback at the top end of the market.
"There are also some bank repossessions still available but it's always best to go through an agent, as the paperwork needed is never ending. The 1.8% commission banks pay to chosen agents is a small price to pay for the increased chance of securing a property."
"Casares and Duquesa continue to be prime buying spots, mainly because these towns have the biggest discounts. You can buy a brand new property that was previously listed at €260k for €95k. It's pretty unbeatable, plus there is a pretty little marina there with a blue flag beach either side. However, Marbella is always top of people's list and we still have a handful of reduced properties available."
It's busier than the boom years with property prices up by 4.8%. Mostly resales on offer, although off-plan making comeback. Casares and Duquesa are the best bargain hotspots.
Mia's top tips
Try and make yourself a cash buyer, as those who can move quickly get the best deals. If you need finance, get it arranged in the UK which will effectively make you a cash buyer in Spain. Also, if looking to buy a bank repossession property - go through an agent.
Paul Cherry, Chersun Properties
"The Murcia property market is very strong. Our [Chersun] property sales have increased by over 200% this year - with more British buyers in the last 12 months compared to the previous four years. This is due to the favourable exchange rate and buyer confidence resulting from positive news about the British economy."
"We've seen more high net worth clients taking advantage of the reduced property prices in the area. The prices in the Murcia region have generally fallen between 40-50% from the highs of 2007."
"Clients can pick up bargain properties by working with reputable estate agents who have access to the bank repossession properties and distressed sellers. Better estate agent will offer a sign-up service where customers can receive regular mailings about repossessed properties being released on the market."
It's also important to have finance in place so you can act quickly if a property becomes available - more of the best buys are sold within hours, not weeks! There are fewer bargains available close to the coast, as these have already been purchased by savvy clients -so we'd recommend you heading inland with prices starting at around €50,000 for a two-bedroom apartment. The location will determine price."
"Our 'bargain' recommendations would be La Torre Golf Resort which has some very good buys - fully furnished two-bed apartments overlooking the golf course starting at €69,500. Also, the Mar Menor area of Murcia has some good buys too, and benefits from local beaches and proximity to Los Alcázares and Lo Pagan."
Property market very strong - house prices in Murcia about 40-50% cheaper than in 2007. La Torre Golf Resort and Mar Menor are best bargain hotspots, especially for two-bedroom apartments.
Paul's top tip
Use estate agents to get access to bank repossession lists - sign-up to receive mailings when these are released. Make sure you have finance in place so you can act quickly. And head inland to find better bargains
Derryl Philpot, Undiscovered Spain
"So many people are buying. The first six months of 2014 have been the busiest period in the 12 years I've been selling property in Spain. Since April this year, we [Undiscovered Spain] have sold 20 properties.
"People are finally discovering the appeal of inland Spain. It seems that many had misconceptions about there being fewer amenities here - internet and the like, or they thought that the region was barren and desert-like - when in fact, it's very well served for internet and modern conveniences and is also really green and lush.
"Homes in inland Andalucía tend to be the reforms of older villas and townhouses, sold by Spanish who've inherited them - and not new-builds. There are bargains to be had, depending on what you like. The cheapest property I have on my books is on at €18,500 - and is a one-bedroom apartment in good condition.
"The two areas I'd recommend are: Montefrío - if you want a family property to live in - a large villa with land and a pool will set you back around €150 -220,000."
"And, if you want your 'bargain' to represent a strong return on investment, then the only other place to buy is Martos. There you will be able to find a decent two-bed townhouse for around €25,000, which would earn you around €250 a month from the long list of locals looking to rent in the town."
It's a busy 2014 so far with lots of sales - properties tend to be villas and townhouses. Best investment property bargains to be found in Martos.
Derryl's top tips
Make sure you buy property in proximity to Alcalá la Real, Montefrío or Iznájar, as they have the best amenities and represent the best return on investments. Also, make sure to check that homes have been legally built and registered, and remember that older buildings have certain legal restrictions about installing pools.
Colin Haydon, CML Tenerife
"This has been the best year for sales in the last five years, mainly because buyers are more confident now - especially with the GBP/EUR rate hitting its highest level in 20 months. Tenerife is a completely different market to mainland Spain."
"In any market there will be distressed sellers allowing for bargain properties to be found, however Tenerife has no 'winter' so properties are dearer and the island has weathered the recession more successfully than its Spanish counterparts.
"Apartments for sale in the most popular areas such Playa de Las Americas, Costa Adeje and Los Cristianos are in most demand due their coastal location. New developments represent a small percentage of the market. There's a great availability of resale apartments and you can get a decent one-bedroom apartment on the coast for less than €100,000."
Best sale numbers in five years, although fewer distressed sale properties. Majority of homes are resale.
Colin's top tips
When you´re looking for a bargain you have to act quickly so ensure you have finance available. Also, bargains are not just about price - consider whether something is undervalued or if it will give you a good return if rented.
Sharon Garner, Spanish Property Choice
"The market for pre-owned properties has increased significantly over the first half of 2014. Prices are still at low ebb but are stabilising, which suggests they will increase in the coming years. Also, 85% of our buyers are now cash purchasers, as opposed to a figure of 54% before the financial crisis.
"The term bargain is relative to a property itself and many investors have of course, taken full advantage of the reduced house prices seen throughout the whole property spectrum. Bank repossessions are now not the good deal that they were with costs and additional charges determining the sale price."
"The majority of the 'bargains' are now based in most of the large city locations as against coastal holiday properties. Our definition of a good deal are those homes that offer value for money taking into account location, services, quality of build, views, etc. The cheapest property is not always the best value for money."
"Arboleas is a great place to pick up a bargain and one of the best towns to buy in our province, due to a proactive town hall that has worked to have a lot of land re-categorised as 'urban settlements' under Innovation 14. Three-bed villas for around €145,000 would be classed as a really good deal here - representing a 35-50% reduction on 2007 prices. Mojácar is always number one for properties and there are still some good value properties available now, which will achieve a good yield in years to come."
More property sales, with a significant increase in the percentage of cash buyers. Best bargain homes to be found around Arboleas, with some good properties still to be found in the ever-popular Mojácar.
Sharon's top tip
Register with agencies that have mailing services that will send automated newsletters listing property details the same day a house comes to an agency.
The unifying factor across all of Spain is that sales are booming in 2014. While hotspots like Murcia and Almería are experiencing some lower property prices than before the global financial crash, overall house prices are slowly creeping up, as the strengthening British economy improves buyer confidence.
Unlike predictions in 2012 that suggested bank repossessions would represent the soundest way for buyers to 'bag a bargain', it would appear that the best way to get a good deal on an overseas property purchase in 2014 is by practising common sense: having your finances in order, so that you can move quickly if and when a suitable home becomes available.
The market is fast-moving throughout the country and it is important for buyers to have a clear idea of where they want to buy before looking. Our local experts have highlighted their pick of "bargain" locations in their respective hotspots, so you can always start your search in these places if you need a steer.
Happy (bargain) house hunting!