An Interview with American-born Amy Lerner about buying in Barcelona

LF: You recently purchased an apartment in Barcelona through Lucas Fox. Can you tell us where it is, the style of the property and what attracted you to this apartment in particular?

AL: We have purchased an apartment in the Eixample Dreta, in a Modernista building dating back to 1895.  The location is very central yet feels very quiet and residential.  The apartment retains many of the original architectural features, which we loved.

LF: What first drew you to Barcelona?  What would you say are the city’s most desirable factors? 

AL: The scale and accessibility of the city as well as the seaside location make it a great place to own a second home.  The variety of neighbourhoods, each with its own character, is reminiscent of New York City.  Of course, there’s the food, wine, people, culture, architecture, parks, beaches…….

LF: The dollar has been increasingly strong against the euro in recent months. Did this play a role in your decision to invest in Barcelona?   

AL: The exchange rate was certainly a consideration, though not as much a deciding factor as the overall condition of the property market at that time.

LF: You are planning to undergo a considerable renovation – can you tell us a little about your plans and vision for the property?

The property had been an architects’ office for the previous 30 years and was fairly untouched.  Many original details including suelos hidráulicos (mosaic tile floors), stained glass windows and the ceiling medallions remained.  We will be restoring as much as possible while adding bathrooms and a new kitchen.  The original layout of the rooms will remain pretty much as it was 120 years ago.

LF: How did you find the buying process in Spain, in comparison to your previous experiences? (feel free to mention Lucas Fox (; )?

AL: Our agent, Liza Kjellberg, from Lucas Fox was exceptional throughout the buying process and afterwards as we got settled.  She sent many listings with photos and spent countless hours on the phone with me as we narrowed down the options.  Liza really got to know our needs and wishes and had good insight into where in the city would be best for us. Lucas Fox has a great network of professionals that helped make the process quite smooth from afar.

LF: Have you undertaken this sort of project before? How have you gone about sourcing the various suppliers needed for the renovation (from workmen to furnishings)? 

AL: I haven’t done a renovation project but have been able to take advantage of a friend from Catalunya and her network of family and friends in town.

LF: What tips would you give to someone planning to buy and renovate a property overseas? 

AL: Find someone with whom you have good communication and don’t hesitate to be in touch often.

LF: You currently live in New Jersey – will you relocate permanently to Barcelona when the renovations are complete? 

AL: The Barcelona apartment for us is an early retirement home – not sure if we will manage to retire early but we will certainly enjoy visiting until we do.

LF: Do you speak Spanish or Catalan? Did your knowledge of the language have an impact on the buying process and subsequent renovation? 

AL: I know a tiny bit of Spanish and no Catalan (yet).  There’s a lot of English spoken throughout the region and it is probably possible to live successfully in Barcelona only speaking English, but to really become part of a community learning the language is super important.

LF: You previously lived in Manhattan – how does life in New York City compare?

AL: The vibrancy and energy in Barcelona reminded us of Manhattan, though the scale is more comfortable.   The pace is different; in NYC, one gets the sense that things never stop.  In Barcelona, there’s definitely time made to stop and just enjoy.

LF: What are the biggest differences and similarities between the lifestyle in Catalunya and the US?

AL: Well, eating dinner at 10pm was an adjustment.  There is a similar ‘work hard, play hard’ feeling in both places.

LF: You began rally driving 5 years ago. With some of Europe’s most prestigious tracks located just a hop, skip and a jump from the city centre, will you continue to race in Barcelona? 

AL: I compete in cross country rally, an off road race but am thrilled to be so near to so many exciting motorsports venues and the Spanish Formula 1 Grand Prix.

LF: Can you name some of your favourite Barcelona haunts?

AL: Mercat Santa Caterina, Bar Canete, 9 Reinas, Lasarte, Flax & Kale

LF: What three words would you use to describe the city?

AL: Exciting, Warm, Delicious.

View properties for sale in Barcelona on the Lucas Fox website