Cost of living in Spain continued…

House prices & healthcare

Today's blog is the second in a mini-series about the cost of living in Spain - or more specifically, you could say - the true cost of the Costa. The focus of this post is to, firstly, look at how house prices in Spain and the Costa del Sol stack up compared to other European destinations and then discuss the cost of private healthcare for those who don't qualify for free cover. 

In this first section, I take it as a given the fact that you’re looking for a place to live in Spain and you’ve done ample research into the subject. You may be considering popular Spanish resorts like the Costa Brava or Costa Blanca, or you’re reading this blog precisely because you want a heads-up on what life’s like on Málaga province’s Costa del Sol.

If you remember, in the first of these blogs on the cost of living in Spain I claimed that the quality of life on the Costa del Sol was unrivalled – and that’s coming from someone who’s lived elsewhere in Spain for a decade and travelled extensively throughout the country. So I might be a tad biased.

But I stand by what I said. From a lifestyle point of view, it really does have it all. It’s cheaper to live in than most of Spain, has more outstanding natural beauty than other Costas, has 17 Blue Flag beaches, is extremely well-developed (with all imaginable amenities), has an established international community, enjoys the best climate of anywhere on the continent, is perfectly set up for leisure activities (walking, tennis, pádel, water sports and not forgetting its status as the “Costa del Golf”) and is easily reachable from any European destination.

These reasons alone set it apart from most other areas, but they are ultimately inconsequential if not accompanied by an active local property market with a strong housing supply… and at reasonable prices. After all, why move if buying a property – for many, the principal upfront cost of living in Spain – is expensive by comparison?

House prices in Spain

What the Costa del Sol has to offer

To answer this question, I’m going to delve into recently updated property price statistics to highlight the price per square metre averages on the Costa del Sol compared to those of other European cities.

In the spirit of impartiality, I’ve used the same source1 for all cities and have included figures for the outskirts of larger cities, where appropriate. All prices represent per metre squared values.

Costa del Sol

  • Málaga: €2,833
  • Marbella: €3,100

Rest of Europe

  • London: €14,639
  • Greater London: €8,135
  • Manchester: €3,724
  • Paris: €11,020
  • Greater Paris: €8,317
  • Bordeaux: €5,167
  • Brussels: €3,208
  • Berlin: €6,059
  • Greater Berlin: €3,905
  • Munich: €10,583
  • Greater Munich: €7,502
  • Hamburg: €6,157
  • Stockholm: €8,490
  • Oslo: €7,935

Whether these values are perfectly accurate or not is secondary to the stark affordability of the Costa del Sol when compared against these other destinations.

Indeed, for a more accurate picture of house prices in Spain, one should consult a more authoritative source. According to property valuations firm Tinsa’s Third Quarter IMIE Local Markets Report2, the average price of residential property in Málaga province as a whole in Q3 2019 was €1,664/m2.

For this reason it – and specifically the Costa del Sol – continues to shine out like a beacon for prospective home buyers in Spain, with more homes being bought month-on-month in Málaga than in any other Spanish province and an increasing number of new developments being built to satisfy demand.

For a huge selection of property options for all budgets and in all areas of the Costa del Sol, look no further than VIVA’s dedicated homepage for property buyers

Properties For Sale in Spain, Costa del Sol


Free for EU citizens with Social Security number

One of the many draws for expats is Spain’s exceptional healthcare system. It is thought of as the best in Europe and Bloomberg’s Healthcare Efficiency Index 2018 confirms this, ranking it as the world’s third most efficient healthcare infrastructure.

And access to healthcare is easy for EU nationals as well. Up until now, it has been possible to get assigned a GP (or family doctor) with no more than your NIE card, padrón certificate (your local town hall registration) and evidence that you’re paying into the Seguridad Social (Social Security).

All you need to do is prove you are legally allowed to reside in Spain, have the right to public health cover and that your current address – be it your own property or a rental arrangement – falls within the catchment area for the medical centre you want to be on the books of.

A simple process

I went with the correct documentation one morning after moving into a new flat in Marbella and, after tapping away at the keyboard of her computer (quite brutally, I remember thinking) for a couple of minutes, the receptionist issued me with a temporary certificate and sent me on my way. A few days later, my green Junta de Andalucía health card fell through the letter box and the process was complete.

Compared to other, more onerous, administrative procedures in Spain, I must say that this really was a walk in the park. It’s also completely free and covers me for emergency healthcare (trips to A&E) as well as any visits to said medical centre. Prescriptions are well-subsidised, too, so their cost is minimal.

Private healthcare

On the other hand, if you don’t fulfil the pre-requisites for public healthcare, you must seek private insurance cover. In the case of individuals from non-EU member states obtaining a visa to live in Spain, this is an entry requirement, while there are various other groups to whom this is applicable.

I will speak more about these categories in another blog, as it remains to be seen how Brexit will disrupt (or not) the status quo. But, for now, I’ll focus on the cost of private healthcare for those whose stay in this country is contingent upon it and who must factor it in as part of the cost of living in Spain.

The first thing to note is that, as is the case anywhere in the world, your insurance premium is dependent on your overall health at the point of starting the policy, so the following indicative prices are based on having a clean bill of health.

What Is The Cost Of Living In Spain? Part II: private hospitals

In plain terms, you will be able to find medical insurance for as little as €20-€25 euros per month, with dental plans only for even less. Most policies require at least a 12-month commitment on your part, with many companies setting a grace period called a periodo de carencia before you can use certain medical services.

The catch

You will only achieve that price, however, if you are prepared to accompany the premium with co-payments. That is to say, your basic check-ups are included but you should be expected to pay separately for any scans, jabs, tests, complex procedures or surgeries.

If you expect to use it a lot, the solution could be an all-inclusive health insurance policy, which might cost you between €50-€75 per month. For a higher risk policyholder, however, this may rise to somewhere in the region of €100-€150.

Oh, and one final thing... Note that, even if you have private health cover, your General Practitioner must sign off on any prescriptions written out in order to get the reduced, state subsidised rate.

An anecdote

I almost fell foul of this myself when I injured myself playing rugby a few years ago. Although I was able to get surgery, treatment and the necessary rehabilitation on the private health insurance plan I paid for that season, I had to buy some medication to self-inject in the stomach (not an experience I would recommend, by the way).

On my final trip to the local pharmacy to pick up the last box of these needles, I was hobbling out the door – on a single crutch, by that point – before the kind lady behind the counter called me back inside.

She explained that I could have saved myself loads of money on the stomach-puncturing medicine by getting a prescription and showing that at the time of purchase. Which would have been gutting for 99% of the human race.

Good result

I, however, had kept each of the boxes as some kind of bizarre trophy or reminder of the surgery I had undergone. So I went straight to my doctor, got the script for all the medication and limped straight back to the pharmacy to get the barcodes scanned and receive the difference back. To my surprise, the 55€ per pack I shelled out shrank to about 5€ now I had right signature on the paper. Needless to say, I was pretty relieved!

Moral of the story: always get your GP to sign off on prescriptions… and never underestimate the lengths a hoarder will go to to keep meaningless trash.

Did you find this post useful? Is there anything else you would add to my observations about house prices in Spain and healthcare? Let me know in the comments below!