Forget Panama and Costa Rica: You need to retire in Spain!

Are you searching for the ideal place to retire? If so, look no further! Spain has everything a retiree is looking for: beautiful weather, a low cost of living, excellent medical care and more. Keep reading to learn about prices, the legal requirements and the best city in which to retire in Spain.

Basics first

Most people initially focus on two things when choosing a place to retire: affordable housing and high quality healthcare. Spain provides a very neat solution for both of these concerns. In fact, if you have an initial 500k€ to spend on a house, you can even kill two birds with one stone.


This is a real estate blog so let’s start here! During the Great Recession, Spain was hit very hard. Much of it was due to property overbuild. For example, Spanish construction companies once built more more residential homes every year than the rest of western Europe combined. Prior to 2007, these companies had access to cheap debt and kept building. This resulted in a speculative property bubble. When it crashed in 2008, it brought the banking sector and large swathes of the Spanish economy with it. To this day there are still many unsold homes, some of which are located in empty cities.

Housing prices greatly recovered in 2017 and the first half of 2018. However, prices in many locations are still below their pre-crisis levels. Much of this is due to the fact that the Spanish construction industry seems to have learned its lesson. Consensus is forming that the industry is acting with much greater restraint, post crisis. Today, the Spanish construction industry accounts for 5% of GDP, half of pre-crisis levels.

retire in Spain

These are the reasons that Spain is consistently ranked as one of the best places to purchase property. International property broker Tranio recently analyzed price dynamics in 40 cities around the world to find the best places to buy property in 2018. Their criteria was to find cities with recovering property markets that still had plenty of room for price appreciation. Spain was one of the countries they highlighted. Moreover, they expect “Madrid to lead this growth.”


Within Spain, Madrid is still one of the cheaper cities in which to buy property, which is unusual for a capital city of its calibre.


Do you want to learn more about available properties in Madrid? Contact our property shopping experts today to learn more.

Spain’s Golden Visa Program

The first question most non-EU residents ask when they want to retire in Spain is, “How do I get a visa to live in Spain?” If you are looking to buy a retirment home, the answer is quite simple. If you invest 500k€ or more in a property, you automatically qualify for a Golden Visa.  Through this program, you and your family are immediately entitled to Spanish residency. This is not just for your immediately family and partner, but extends to your parents and grandparents. After living in Spain for five years you can convert this to permanent resident status. After 10 years, as long as you still own your property, you are eligible for Spanish citizenship. This comes with no additional requirements for yearly income. And your kids will be able to attend Spain’s excellent universities at a fraction of the cost of secondary education in the US or the UK.

Most importantly, if you pay into Spanish Social Security you receive free access to Spain’s excellent public healthcare system.

Click here to learn more about Spain’s Golden Visa program, and why it is the best in Europe for retirees.

Cost of Living

One of Spain’s greatest selling points is its relatively low cost of living. Many people wish to retire in Western Europe, but assume the costs are prohibitively expensive. The truth is, Spain has a relatively low cost of living. In fact, it is cheaper than Costa Rica and only a bit more expensive than Panama. Plus you have the advantage of living in a highly walkable, elegant European capital filled with art and culture. This is why Money Magazine recently rated it one of the top 10 cities in the world in which to retire.

*For those with more money to spend, Spain was given a + in this category. This is because although the average monthly cost of living is quite low, it is a major European capital so if you want to spend money on luxury goods they are readily available.

It’s also important to point out that the above numbers include private health insurance. So using Spain’s excellent public healthcare system lowers Spain’s cost of living to be on par with Portugal, Panama and Malta.

Excellent medical care

As one gets older, affordable, high-quality healthcare becomes an important priority. This is where Spain stands out. Its healthcare system is one of the best in the world. If you buy property in excess of 500k€, you automatically get access to its public healthcare system. If you want private healthcare, you can get coverage from a major insurer such as Sanitas or Mapfre for less than 150€ per month. Click here to calculate your monthly cost of private health insurance with Mapfre.

Other enticing reasons to retire in Spain

Affordable housing, a low cost of living and excellent healthcare are all excellent reasons to retire in Spain, and cover all the major bases. However, if you’re looking for a little icing on the cake, the following will allow you to truly enjoy your retirement.


Spain is known for its sunny, warm weather. However, people that are accustomed to living in seasonal climates often have difficulty living in places like Malaga year round.  For this reason, Madrid is an excellent choice for most people. It is bright and sunny in the summer, with an excellent selection of swimming pools. Plus you can take the train to the beach- Valencia is a mere hour and twenty minutes away on the high speed train.

Winters in Madrid are mild compared to most places, but you will need a jacket. Locals never wear hats (most don’t even own them), which says it all. Most winter days are very sunny. For example, according to the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), Madrid averages 6 days of rain in the months November, December and January. Sometimes you even get a sprinkling of snow, which makes for a lovely, festive Christmas season.

Spring and fall in Madrid are positively delightful!

Social Life

Spain is a very social country. This is not just for young people- even older people hang out in cafes and on park benches and socialize. The 1:00 pm, pre-lunch beer is an institution with many retirees. Since so many people lose social connections after they retire, and many older people live alone, this is a “mental health benefit” that is widely over-looked but cannot be underestimated.


Spain has some of the best art in the world. The Prado in Madrid has arguably the best collection of Old Masters in the world. The Reina Sofia has an excellent collection of contempory art, including Picasso’s famous La Guernica. The Thyssen’s Museum is located in a lovely old palazzo and contains an excellent private collection, plus it gets some of the best international exhibitions, particularly when it comes to fashion. In Madrid there is also the Sorollo Museum, Caixa Forum, an excellent archeological museum (MANN), the Mapfre Institute plus numerous small galleries. It has a world class opera house and one of the best ballet companies in the world (Victor Ullate). Madrid also has a very dynamic Fashion’s Night Out (sponsored by Vogue Magazine) as part of Madrid Fashion Week, a vibrant restaurant scene and many renovated old market places that are filled with restaurants and artisanal food stands.

Barcelona has the Picasso Museum, the Miró Foundation, a Caixa Forum and many innovative restaurants. And let’s not forget the fascinating, fairy like Gaudi architecture.

Spain now boasts 24 Michelin starred restaurants! Rioja and the north are home to many of these. Rioja features many bodegas designed by Starchitects such as Zaha Hadid and Frank Gehry. Many include hotels, spas and restaurants. They are the perfect destination for a long weekend away if you retire in Spain. Plus, you can take advantage of cheaper hotel rates in the middle of the week.

Close places to travel and explore

If you like to travel, you must retire in Spain! Madrid is an easy two hour flight from all the major European capitals: Paris, London, Rome, Milan and Frankfurt to name a few. If you wish to explore something more exotic, Morrocco is a two hour flight from Madrid. Plus there are many beautiful places to explore in Spain. The wine country in La Rioja and Ribero del Duero is a 2.5 hour drive from Madrid, the Celtic Coast of Gallicia and Asturias are cool and green all year round and the country is ringed by amazing beaches. If you like mountains, here is a little known fact: Spain is the second most mountainous country in Europe after Switzerland.

Low crime

Spain has a very low crime rate. There are very strict gun control laws so aside from minor pick-pocketing in heavily trafficked tourist centers such as Barcelona, you can walk around at all hours of the night and be safe. This is not the case in most cities located in the US and Latin America.

Easier pace of life

Spain is known for a quieter, more relaxed pace of life. People take the time to chat with each other. Picking up the phone and calling friends is still the common practice (as opposed to texting), which is perfect if you no longer have to work and commute 10-12 hours per day.

Special perks for US Citizens that retire in Spain

Spain has only recently come on the radar for US Citizens. Now that Americans are casting the net further, they are realizing that Spain has some excellent advantages, in addition to those mentioned above.

No double taxation

If you are an American citizen and wish to retire in Spain, you can benefit from the treaty signed between the US and Spain that prevents double taxation. Read more about it here.

You can buy a property through your 401K plan

This is especially interesting if you’re looking for an early, active retirement. Even if you don’t have the savings to purchase a 500k€ property and get a Golden Visa, you can purchase one through your 401K plan. Follow this blog for details on how to do this- our next article will explain everything.

Do you want to learn how you can purchase Spanish property through your 401K plan? Book a FREE CONSULTATION to learn how to do this.



Posted on 24 September, 2018 by Admin in Buy, New? Start Here


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