News & Blogs For sale: one Spanish village, free to the right owner (1 Viewer)

Matt Derrick

Semi-retired traveler
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Aug 4, 2006
Austin, TX
For sale: one Spanish village, free to the right owner
A Barca, a 15th-century hamlet in northern Spain, is being offered free of charge to anyone willing to restore it. And it is far from the only village for sale in Spain …


One of the abandoned hamlets for sale in Spain. Photograph: Miguel Riopa/AFP/Getty Images
Most who glance at the hamlet of A Barca in northern Spain see only 12 crumbling stone houses that were abandoned decades ago. But for one Galician mayor, this hamlet is a yet-to-be-built tourist gem that could revitalise the whole region. That's why he's giving it away for free.

The catch, explains Avelino Luis de Francisco Martínez, the mayor of Cortegada, is that the new owner must present a development plan that will preserve every single building in this 15th-century village. "We're hoping they can add value – whether it's building some sort of tourist attraction or a bed and breakfast. We have an idea of what we want, but we don't have the money."

Nestled into the hills overlooking the Miño river near the Portuguese border, the lush, green hamlet has been empty for more than 40 years, after a Spanish company bought out its residents to build a dam. The company eventually gave up on the project, handing over ownership of the entire hamlet to the municipality.

Martinez started hawking the offer about six month ago. So far the municipality has fielded nearly a thousand requests for more information, from individuals and companies. He has yet to receive one firm plan. "As soon as we see one we like, and that's feasible, we're ready to sign over the 12 homes and the land they sit on."


The abandoned village of A Barca, near Cortegada in Spain. Photograph: Miguel Riopa/AFP/Getty Images

A Barca is one of more than 100 Spanish villages on the market, according to Rafael Canales, who runs a website that specialises in the sale of deserted hamlets. Across the country, 50 years of urbanisation and the economic crisis have left more than 2,900 hamlets empty. The majority are nearly impossible to sell because of questions over ownership.

"Ten years ago, businesses were buying," says Canales. "But now 75% of our clients are individuals." Much of the demand comes from Spaniards, but "they lack access to credit". Instead, his principal buyers are Norwegians, Swiss and Belgians.

Villages for sale range from minuscule six-house hamlets to streets with dozens of homes, as well as churches, bars and museums. Around €62,000 (£52,000) will buy you a hamlet of six fixer-uppers, while those with millions to burn can get a 75-house village to themselves. While he gets thousands of inquiries, Canales says realistically he sells two or three hamlets a year.

Despite those odds, the abandoned homes of A Barca are now front and centre in the mayor's plans to boost the local economy. He is hoping the development will create jobs for the region, whether they be in construction or tourism. "And when the project is completed, they'll pay taxes," says Martínez, laughing. "These days in Spain, you have to get creative."


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