Rent tumbles in Madrid and Barcelona amid pandemic

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FILE PHOTO: Ines Alcolea places objects inside moving boxes before leaving her rented apartment in Madrid

MADRID (Reuters) - Rents have tumbled in Madrid and Barcelona because of the coronavirus pandemic, property portal Idealista said on Monday, a stark contrast to once-saturated rental markets in which landlords could expect ever-higher returns.

Rental prices dropped 17% in Barcelona and 12% in the capital Madrid in January compared to May of last year as the cities suffered the consequences of slashed international travel, restricted mobility and the shift to remote working.

Professionals and students have left Spain's two major cities as economic and academic activity moved online, while vast swathes of the country's usually vibrant hospitality sector have shuttered, dimming the cities' appeal as employment hubs.

Rents nationwide fell 1% in January compared to December, Idealista said, with provinces favoured by tourists, like Seville and the Balearic Islands, and those hard-hit by COVID-19, like Lleida in Catalonia, losing the most rental value.

(Reporting by Clara-Laeila Laudette,; Editing by Ingrid Melander and Ed Osmond)