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Buying Modernised Apartments In Spain

Larger Windows Give a Greater Airiness and Light to a RoomWhen you are buying a property in Spain there are many types to choose from. Today we are going to concentrate on apartments in Spain and more specifically the difference between an apartment “para reformar” and a fully modernised apartment. The price difference is often radical between the two so you may be tempted to buy a property to modernise yourself. However, the price difference may not be enough to make a difference in how much you pay at the end. When you are modernising a property costs can add up. However a modernised or an older property is almost always cheaper than a new build property as the land generally cost a lot more on the new builds and that is reflected in their costs.

Let’s look at what has usually been done in a modernised apartment compared to an older one and at the end look at the average cost of a modernisation.


Usually you can get away with a licence for an “Obra menor” when modernising a property. This is not the case when there are issues of extension, on historical properties or knocking a couple of properties into one or vice versa. Licences usually take a week or so to get for Obra Menor.


We have said before many times that walls are not load bearing in Spain in general. Many older apartments in Spain were built when Spanish families were larger and so they tended to try and fit in as many rooms as possible. Therefore knocking together rooms, adding bathrooms and extending living areas has often been necessary in a modernised property. Doing this requires not only the simple act of knocking down a wall with a sledgehammer but also changing any coving around the ceiling and oftentimes a new floor is needed. Modernised apartments in Spain therefore tend to flow better.

Opening Up Space

Opening Up Space


The new kitchen is often the cornerstone of any modernised apartment in Spain. Older flats usually have dingy, dark and small kitchens with a wall that often backs onto the living area and a small terrace gallery for washing up. Incorporating the terrace and extending into the living room actually gives a feeling of space and light to both areas.

Changing the Look Of A Kitchen is Essential

Changing the Look Of A Kitchen is Essential


There is a lot you can do to change a small bathroom and to give it more of a feeling of space and Spanish bathrooms tended to be very small in older buildings meaning they often feel cramped and unwelcoming. From making the tiling more modern to adding in smaller sinks and larger showers instead of old half size style baths, many changes are usually done in bathrooms in Spanish apartments when they are renovated.

Light and open bathrooms help a sale

Light and open bathrooms help a sale


Often you will find that the old floors are dark so as to not show the dirt and dust and as a result they absorb the little light that gets in (See windows later). Changing the floors for modern light coloured tiles or laminate floors is essential in many modernisations to make the most of the light, cover the areas where the knocked down walls used to stand and to give a better overall flow to the apartment.

Wooden Floors Make a Place Feel Warmer

Wooden Floors Make a Place Feel Warmer


Apartments in Spain are often built to keep the heat out and they were built in the days before air conditioning and centrally controlled heating systems were available.  Oftentimes, this means the windows are small or covered with roll down blinds which effectively cut out around half the light from coming in. These days the more light inside a flat the better so changing the windows and blind system is usually a major step. Also all new windows are at least double glazed for better heat retention whereas older windows are almost always single glazed and usually with badly fitting wooden frames leaving problems of draughts and dampness.

Larger Windows Give a Greater Airiness and Light to a Room

Larger Windows Give a Greater Airiness and Light to a Room


Needless to say older apartments in Spain have older electrical installations normally. This means that the electrical potential is usually low and as soon as you connect up a couple of appliances then the trip switch cuts everything off. Changing the electrics in a flat is usually essential. Also Spanish apartments invariably lack sockets. One of our clients bought a place that only had four sockets in the whole property, a four bedroom apartment, and one of those was above the door in the bathroom!


Many places in Spain have water with very high concentrates of limescale which furs up pipes over the years and reduces the water pressure. Often the pipes are lead or another metal and they burst often. Changing the plumbing is essential on older flats and also when changing the bathroom the redistribution of the toilet, shower and sink means this has to be done anyway.

Modernised Bathrooms Change The Feeling Of a Spanish Apartment

Modernised Bathrooms Change The Feeling Of a Spanish Apartment


The use of light is key but of course white is a very important part of most Spanish apartment modernisations. The light is reflected and therefore the place seems more airy, ornaments and mirrors stand out better and it gives a feeling of space even in smaller rooms. Check out a small selection of Spanish apartments on any portal and you will find a plethora of sins, usually involving dark walls and floors and bad lighting.

Furnishing an apartment to make it a home

Furnishing an apartment to make it a home


The single 40 watt lightbulb in the centre of a room surrounded by a chandelier with brown smoked glass giving a “CIA interrogation centre” feeling to many older Spanish apartments is popular. The bare single lightbulb hanging from a threadbare electrical string look is also popular. Populating the room with different lights gives a greater feeling of space and warmth. You can almost guarantee that in the majority of cases the lighting will have been changed when you buy a modernised Spanish apartment.

Different Points of Light Make a Room More Homely

Different Points of Light Make a Room More Homely


IKEA is king is modernised properties usually. It compares really well with the old, dark furniture often found in places that are described as furnished on the property portals and of course it is really cost effective as long as you don’t mind flat pack furniture and trekking round a huge shopping centre while half of the population of your city does the same.

Modern, clean lines and unfussy finishing makes a huge difference to the finished article and those little decorative touches that IKEA is so fond of also help in the presentation. Add in a few cushions, fabrics and homely touches and you have something infinitely more attractive than the usual properties for sale.


In the end the presentation of a property for sale in a modern and clean way like this will increase the price the seller receives for the sale compared with what is on offer on the rest of the market. However if you were to try to manage a project like this yourself then it could be that costs and time periods would likely get out of control and therefore it is often worth paying that premium especially if your property is an investment for renting out, effectively it is ready to rent. How much a project costs is a major consideration therefore if you are considering doing it and also it gives you an idea of how much the full cost would be if you bought asn older property to modernise.

A simple modernisation of a 70m2 apartment can be done for around 15,000 Euros plus VAT at the lower end of the costing scale. Prices can be higher if using higher end materials although the costing we give here is for medium quality. If some redistribution is needed, larger windows are to be used, lots of doors are required or any other work of that type the cost can go up to 30,000 Euros plus VAT. However the average price is going to be around 20-25,000 Euros.

If you are not around then it is advisable to use an on site project manager to oversee the work and report back to you on a regular basis of how the work is going. Of course this is a service we offer at the Spanish Property Network. We manage projects for clients from the initial identification of the property, through the modernisation process all the way to the decorative touches and interior design. This is especially useful if you are looking to buy one of these apartments as part of a portfolio to get your Spanish residency If you are interested in either that service or buying one of our Bespoke Properties either for yourself or investment contact us below and let’s chat.

And if you liked this article share it about through social networks and you may also like this about Spanish Residency changes

this about how to prepare for your Spanish Property buying visit

and this about Spanish Property in 2015

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Larger Windows Give a Greater Airiness and Light to a Room