Buy your own ghost village for £50,000: Thousands of abandoned Spanish hamlets for sale at less than the price of a London garage
Rotting and abandoned, these ghostly Spanish villages were deserted during the recession as their owners fled the country to find jobs in the city.
But now they are being snapped up by foreigners, a third of them British, for knock-down prices and turned into idyllic retirement properties.
For just £75,000 an adventurous investor can snap up the village of Ribeira Sacra along with six houses, a warehouse, and 32,000sqft of land - the same price as a parking space in Battersea or a two-bedroom bungalow in Bognor Regis.
For sale: hamlet in Spain. Needs work. Price: zero euros.
Like thousands of abandoned villages in Spain, A Barca -- with its 12 crumbling stone homes covered in moss and ivy -- is seeking a new owner to bring it back to life.
Local officials in Spain's verdant northwestern region of Galicia hope to give away the hamlet, which is nestled in a hillside overlooking the Mino river near the Portuguese border.
The successful applicant must present a development project for the village, which dates back to the 15th century, that will preserve all of its buildings.
Several proposals have already been made but Avelino Luis de Francisco Martinez, the mayor of Cortegada, the municipality that oversees A Barca, said he would prefer a tourism project.
"Something that would provide work to villagers and local businesses," he said.
The residents of A Barca left in the 1960s when a dam was built, which flooded their farmland.
But most of Spain's abandoned hamlets have been deserted by residents who moved to larger cities or better land for farming.
Spain's National Statistics Institute estimates that there are around 2,900 empty villages across the country, according to Rafael Canales, the manager of a website specialising in the sale of deserted hamlets called aldeasabandonadas.com.
Over half are in Galicia, a largely rural region that is home to the famous pilgrimage site of Santiago de Compostela, and the neighbouring region of Asturias.
Spain's lengthy economic downturn, which has sent the jobless rate soaring to just over 26 percent, has pushed more owners to put their properties up for sale.
"We count as our clients many writers, painters or rural tourism professionals," said Canales.
Mark Adkinson, the British manager of a rival online portal called galicianrustic.com, said his company had identified 400 abandoned villages in the eastern part of Galicia alone.
When Adkinson, who is based 150 kilometres (90 miles) north of Cortegada, finds an empty village he starts searching for its owners.
The task is sometimes difficult, even impossible.
Often the owners of abandoned properties moved away long ago and have not been heard from since. In other cases property deeds have been lost and can't easily be found.
"It also happens sometimes that owners themselves come to us and propose putting their property up for sale," said Adkinson, a former livestock breeder from Lancashire who has lived in Galicia for nearly three decades.
- Foreign interest -
The abandoned villages are especially appealing to foreigners like Neil Christie, a 60-year-old retired Briton who used to work in television.
He bought three stone houses and a granary raised on rock pillars -- typical in the northwest of Spain -- that make up the hamlet of Arrunada in Asturias for 45,000 euros ($62,000).
Christie has spent the past four years restoring the main house, located amid green pastures some 30 kilometres south of the Atlantic coat.
He hopes to move in at the end of the year.
"I wanted to flee the stress of London. This was just a bunch of ruins. But I would never be able to buy something similar in England," he said.
"It is a very pretty region. People are very nice. There is a real quality of life," he added.
Britons are among the foreigners who have shown the most interest in buying Spain's abandoned hamlets.
But Norwegians, Americans, Germans, Russians and even Mexicans have also made purchases, said real estate agent Jose Armando Rodil Lopez.
"In general, once you cross the barrier of 80,000 euros, the potential buyers are foreigners," he explained during a tour of the hamlet of Pena Vella, also in the Asturias.
The hamlet, which is on sale for 62,000 euros, is made up of five stone houses with slate roofs surrounded by pine and eucalyptus trees.
"A family used to live here. Some of them made knives, others were carpenters and farmers," said Rodil Lopez.
The village of Barrerios, near Pontevena is just one of 2,900 villages which lie abandoned in rural Spain and are being sold off for knock-down prices
Similar villages in the same region are being sold for as little as £50,000 which includes a three-bedroom main house along with five other buildings
At £50,000 the whole village costs £200,000 less than the average house in the UK, and £350,000 less than the average flat in London
Another village is being sold online for £75,000, the same price as a parking garage in Battersea or a two-bedroom bungalow in Bognor Regis
These pictures show the village of Pena Vella, near Pontenova, one of many similar clusters of homes that are now being sold.
A similar village in the same area is being sold for just £50,000 and comes with a three-bedroom main house, five other buildings, a fresh-water spring, and 140,000sqft of farmland. According to estate agent Rafael Canales there are around 2,900 empty villages in rural Spain, the majority of which are bought by middle-class couples in their 50s or 60s looking for somewhere quiet for their retirement.
Take the example of British father-of-two Neil Christie who bought the hamlet of Arrunada in an idyllic corner of rural north west Spain.
Even after he has totally renovated the four dilapidated properties, he expects to have spent no more than £140,000 on the project.
He and his wife have moved from their former home in Cumbria and are now staying in a nearby village where Mrs Christie works as a schoolteacher, while Mr Christie spends his time renovating their future home.
British pensioner Neil Christie bought a village last year an expects to spend just £140,000 renovating it for him and his wife to live in during their retirement
The villages, some of which have been owned by the same families for generations, were abandoned during the financial crash as they headed to cities to find work
A map shows the extent of the abandoned properties across rural Spain which are being snapped up for knock-down prices, 8- per cent of which go to foreign investors
Even the most expensive village on his books, Ribadero, will set the buyers back just £372,000, roughly £25,000 less than the average London flat.
Spain was one of the worst-affected countries in the recession, with unemployment surging 20 per cent in the aftermath of the crash, and today more than 5million people are still without a job.
Mr Canales added that families who fled to larger towns in order to earn money are often loath to return to the country because it is viewed as taking a step backwards.
Spain's economy was one of Europe's worst-hit during the financial crash as unemployment surged 20 per cent. Even today more than 5million people are without jobs
The abandoned homes are being sold now because the families cannot pay the upkeep or know they will never be able to afford to return
The ghost of seaside holidays past: Inside abandoned hotel that was a hit in the 1930s but forced to close due to falling visitor numbers
At one time the Art Deco stylings of this abandoned hotel would have been the height of fashion - but now the building stands as a crumbling monument
Built in 1938, the deserted Royal York Hotel in Ryde, Isle of Wight quickly became a popular destination for high-society holiday-makers but was forced to close in 2006 due to a dwindling number of guests. Today the hotel stands ruined and abandoned, but retaining the same period features that made it popular.
Urban explorer Darren Finch, 26, went inside the dilapidated but 'beautiful and spooky' building to take these stunning photographs.
'It was really nice to walk around thinking of all the families who must have good memories of happy times there... But at times the old corridors made the hotel look like a scene from The Shining,' he said.
Despite being a fixture on the Ryde skyline for more than 75 years, the building may not be around much longer as a recent application details proposals to turn the site into a new 30-bed hotel and four flats.
History: The Royal York Hotel's kitchen appears to be crumbling after half a decade of neglect. The historic building was built in 1938 to replace a Victorian hotel of the same name. At the time the Isle of Wight was a very popular holiday destination
Garish: In the 1970s the hotel underwent re-modelling to appeal to younger customers, despite the fact that many were by then choosing to holiday abroad
Protected: So many classic 1930s Art Deco features remain inside the hotel that it was registered as a grade II listed building in 1998
Empty: Towards the end of its life the Royal York Hotel was only open during the summer, before it finally closed down forever in 2006
Forgotten: An old wheelchair sits in the ballroom in the abandoned Royal York Hotel on the Isle of Wight. The hotel closed its doors for the final time in 2006
Dirty: Plates, some of them still unwashed, are piled high in the hotel's now filthy restaurant kitchen. Plaster has started falling from the ceiling in the room
Future: Despite being a fixture on the Ryde skyline for over 75 years, the Art Deco building may not be around much longer as a recent application details proposals to turn the site into a new 30-bed hotel and four flats
Memories: As these old framed advertisements testify, the Royal York Hotel was once a popular destination for high-society holiday-makers in the 1930s
Stunning: The hotel boasted an impressive, if a little dated, spiral staircase. The stairs are it by a glass skylight and tall curved windows
Classic: Although the hotel stands ruined and abandoned, it retains many of the Art Deco features that made it incredibly popular in the 1930s
Abandoned: The hotel features a derelict terraced lounge bar and restaurant, a games rooms (pictured) and three floors of bedrooms
Past: A collection of photo negatives found inside the hotel show guests visiting in the 1970s. Urban explorer Darren Finch, 26 said he enjoyed walking around the building thinking of all the families who must have good memories of happy times there
New life: The hotel has stood empty since it closed in 2006. A recent application details a proposal to turn the site into a new 30-bed hotel and four flats
Dated: An old-fashioned umbrella rests on a 1970s-style chair inside the abandoned Royal York Hotel. The hotel was at its busiest in the 1930s
The view: The Royal York Hotel overlooks a small pier and has stunning sea views - even on a depressingly grey and rainy day