View of Valencia’s old town © Leonid Andronov / Getty Images

Talk of its city beaches, Modernista architecture and fatigue-inducing nightlife, and you might be describing Barcelona. But Valencia, 300km down the Spanish coast, is like a compact version of the Catalan capital — without the pressures of separatism.

With the face-off between the national and regional governments causing uncertainty in Catalonia, Valencia is providing an appealing alternative for would-be property buyers, according to several agents.

Foreigners are increasingly valuing the quality of life Valencia offers, says Francisco Ballester of Rimontgo, Christie’s International Real Estate’s affiliate in Valencia. “It’s an authentic Spanish city with a rich cultural offering and fine local cuisine.”

Sonia Fabra of Engel & Völkers says the city is much more affordable than Barcelona. “Here you can get a villa with pool 15 minutes from the old town for €200,000,” she says. A similar property in Barcelona would cost around €500,000.

Juan Luis Herrero of Lucas Fox says he has noticed a “significant” increase in inquiries and transactions since the separatist debate heated up two months ago. “Before, we had a number of clients who didn’t know which to choose [from] between Barcelona and Valencia. Before, 80 per cent of those went with Barcelona, which is better connected and three times the size. Now it’s the other way around,” he says. “Between 70-80 per cent are choosing Valencia.”

More than 1,800 companies have fled Catalonia for other parts of Spain since the referendum on October 1, according to the College of Registrars of Spain. “Now we expect a lot of workers to follow,” says Fabra, who predicts 2018 will be the best year of property sales since the crisis.

Valencia was badly hit by the global downturn, with prices dropping 30-50 per cent. Critics claim the regional government over-invested in architectural projects. The result is contemporary architecture that would be worthy of a far bigger city.

In 2014 the property market in Valencia seemed to bottom out, with prices remaining flat throughout 2015, then beginning to rise slowly in 2016. In the year to June 2017, prices rose 2.6 per cent, compared with 3.5 per cent in Spain as a whole, but are still far below 2007 levels.

Figures to be burnt in the Fallas festival © Gonzalo Azumendi / Getty Images

Transactions are growing rapidly. In the first half of 2017, they were up 16 per cent year-on-year, according to the National Institute of Statistics. By the end of June, asking prices averaged €1,594 per sq metre, up 7 per cent, according to property portal Idealista.

The most sought-after area of Valencia is Eixample near Mercado de Colón and the Turia gardens. Here buyers will find Modernist and Rationalist buildings and prices reaching €3,500 per sq m. Engel & Völkers is marketing a four-bedroom apartment in a 1920s building next to Colon market for €1.85m.

Foreigners are often drawn to the old town’s narrow streets where you’ll find town houses with high ceilings and original features. Christie’s International Real Estate is marketing a six-bedroom penthouse in an 1860s mansion in the old town with frescoes for €4m.

Some new developments can be found near the City of Arts and Sciences, a complex of contemporary buildings and bridges designed by Santiago Calatrava. A four-bedroom penthouse with a 250 sq m terrace is on the market with Lucas Fox for €3.8m. Detached family houses can be found in developments outside the city. Some of them have international schools, sports clubs and golf courses. Lucas Fox is marketing a villa with large garden next to the American school in Los Monasterios for €810,000. Christie’s International Real Estate is selling a five bedroom villa with pool in the same area for €3m.

Villa for sale in Puzol LosMonasterios, €3m, through Christie’s

The dream of an independent Catalonia appeared to melt away this week as Madrid mounted an effective suppression, reasserting its authority. Parliament was dissolved with the ousted Catalan leader, Carles Puigdemont, travelliing to Belgium.

In fresh regional elections to be held December 21, secessionists could take the larger share of the votes, leaving Catalonia’s status unsettled. In such a scenario, workers could be forced to relocate, putting pressure on accommodation in cities such as Valencia and increasing prices in the long term.

But polls suggest unionists could take the larger share of the vote, heightening the likelihood that the bid for independence will come to nothing. A further defeat for the separatists is likely to see Valencia remain a charming but junior partner in the competition of the Costas.

Buying guide

  • Year-round temperatures in Valencia average 18C
  • Sales tax is 10 per cent on existing homes. On new-builds, VAT is 10 per cent, plus 1.5 per cent stamp duty is payable
  • It is illegal to let out property in Spain for periods of less than 31 days without a tourism licence
  • Valencia airport has flights to major European capitals but is less well connected to the US

What you can get for . . . 

€600,000 A five-bedroom villa near Valencia

€1m A six-bedroom penthouse in Mercado de Colón

€1.5m A nobleman’s house in the old town