Looking for a new home and a project? Many people, especially in colder climes, may love the idea of escaping the rat race and adopting a rustic sunshine-filled lifestyle, perhaps in a thick-walled cottage in a Spanish village. But how about buying the whole village, and for less than the price of a starter home in some European cities?
Towards Spain’s northwest, not far from the Portuguese corner, the village of Salto de Castro sits on a hillside deep in the Meseta Ibérica UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, near the Castro Dam. It has river views and bathes in sunshine 135 days a year. And the entire village could be yours for less than the price of a two-bedroomed flat in London.
Originally built in the 1940s by Iberdrola (the electricity company who built the dam), Salto de Castro once provided homes for construction workers. But by the 1980s, a rural exodus was taking place due to lack of work in the region and in 1989 the village lost its last inhabitant. It lay abandoned for three decades.
Attempts began in the early 2000s to rehabilitate the village as an attractive tourist destination, but with little success. The buyers at that time went on to blame the 2008 financial crash for thwarting their plans. After attempts to sell it for several million euros, it was eventually purchased last year for €300,000: that’s the whole village, including 44 homes, a bar, a barracks, a church, a hotel, a pharmacy, police station, school, plus a sports area and even a swimming pool.
Location, location, location
Buyer, Óscar Torres Gallego, is a Toledo businessman who also had tourism-based ambitions. But Salto de Castro is now back on the market again for nearly twice last year’s price. He justifies the price increase with the architectural work he says he has already carried out. The agent notes he has already received offers of over half a million euros from potential buyers in the U.S. and Saudi Arabia. Unusually, the sales notice on property site, Idealista, describes Torres Gallego as “an urbanite unable to pay the inheritance or donation”.
Although the price has doubled, the whole village is still less expensive than many single- family dwellings in more sought-after locations. Indeed, Salto de Castro’s location, while idyllic on paper, may be part of the issue. The emptying of the region has continued – things have got so bad further north in the Galician village of Rubiá that the local authorities are paying people to come and live there.
Aside from the isolated rural area, the eventual buyers of Salto de Castro will have to deal with the problems years of neglect and vandalism have created. Idealista estimates the “investment required in order to make the village 100% workable and to become profitable would not exceed €2million.”