Want to buy a little vacation house in the Spanish countryside? Thanks to Spain's economic downturn, some buyers have picked up entire villages for as little as zero euros, AFP reports. Thousands of villages have been abandoned across Spain, often by residents seeking city life or better farmland, and officials are open to serious buyers who present development projects to preserve the towns. "We count as our clients many writers, painters, or rural tourism professionals," says the manager of a website that sells deserted hamlets.
Foreigners like Neil Christie are perfect: A British 60-year-old who used to work in television, he paid $62,000 for the hamlet of Arrunada, with its granary on rock pillars and three stone houses. He's been restoring the main house for four years now. "I wanted to flee the stress of London," he says. "It is a very pretty region. People are very nice." Russians, Germans, Americans, and Norwegians are also buying up villages, says a real estate developer. But make no mistake, the Spanish downturn has been long and harsh: The mayor of one town has led mass burglaries in supermarkets, reports WFAE, and another town agreed to be painted blue for Smurf film in 2011—and stayed that way to attract tourists, the CBC reports. (Click to read about more extreme measures Spain is considering in the face of its economic crisis.)