An understanding of the architectural, geographical, cultural and economic landscape of Asturias in Northern Spain are all really helpful in gaining an understanding of the present-day property market there.The classic, traditional Asturian house is constructed from stone and wood, with thick stone walls, timbered beams and floors and a wooden galleria or Asturian corridor (corridor.) The wood most commonly used in the floors and beams was traditionally chestnut – a very hard wood indeed.
Thus you see that the Asturian house is very much of its environment. Both the stone and the wood used in its construction would have been harvested locally and usually the house would have been constructed by a team of neighbours and relatives working together.
The very typical Asturian ‘corredor’ or galeria was designed to make the most of the sun and views and the way in which it overhangs the entrance provides a wonderfully practical porch area, in which to kick off your madrilenas (Asturian clogs, worn as overshoes while working on the land) as you enter the house on a wet day.
Often, coming from the UK or Ireland, property buyers are surprised to find a relative scarcity of detached properties in the Asturian countryside but delving a little into the economic past of the place gives a ready explanation of this.
The vast expense and massive amount of manual labour involved in the traditional construction of the stone-built Asturian house, plus the economic poverty of the region at the time is reflected in the very common practice of building ‘pareada’ or ‘adosada’ houses – that is to say terraced or semi-detached houses. Another practical solution that is writ large on the architectural landscape of Asturias.
Since approximately 1940, the practice of stone-built houses has ceased with the introduction of cheaper and easier modern building methods and materials. This means that the classic stone-built Asturian house is a finite resource and this is reflected in the local property market and property prices.
Particularly right on the coast, where the influence of the second-home buyers from Madrid and Barcelona has long been felt, it can nowadays be quite difficult to pick up a stone-built house for renovation and if you do find one, it may not be quite the steal you were hoping for.
As a result we are seeing a wave of barns entering the market as these stone buildings have a similar charm and great potential for conversion into a dwelling (given appropriate change of use permission), all at a much cheaper price.