British people seeking an expat life in Spain are being offered the chance to rent a property to try out the lifestyle before committing to buying in what is currently a depressed real estate market.

Clydesdale and Yorkshire Banks have added what they describe as a 'risk free' option to their Spanish property service for those looking to buy a home in Spain.

The banks have joined with Caja Mediterraneo (CAM Bank) to offer UK buyers the opportunity to rent a property in Spain before buying it, with the added benefit that rent can be discounted from the purchase price.

With around one million expats already in Spain, a further 50,000 heading there each year and the Foreign & Commonwealth Office suggesting that four out of 10 over 55s want to emigrate, there is likely to be more demand than ever for Spanish property, they claim.

However, the reality is not so idyllic for many with an estimated one in six who emigrate, returning within the first two years. The banks said the opportunity to rent before they buy on certain properties would give potential expats peace of mind and allow them to experience having their own place in the sun without committing to buy.

It says that the rental contracts can be flexible and vary between 12 months and seven years. Subject to terms and conditions, if they choose to buy within the first two years, all the rent paid will be taken off the purchase price.

The cost of Spanish property has fallen considerably in the last few years and discounts of up to 50% on previous asking prices or current valuation are now available, it adds. 'Clydesdale and Yorkshire Banks, with CAM Bank, are able to help customers with more than just the mortgage; providing support for buyers throughout the process and removing many of the barriers they can face when purchasing abroad. The service provides all the benefits of dealing with a UK High Street bank with the added flexibility and experience of a Spanish partner and UK based lawyers specialising in the Spanish market,' said Steve Reid, retail director, at Clydesdale Bank.

'With prices in Spain coming down so much there are potential bargains to be had for those looking to buy. However, many are intimidated by the idea of dealing with a foreign house buying process where different rules and language barriers can add to the stress and may want to see how Spanish property prices fare,' he explained.

'Our new package of services gives buyers the opportunity to take advantage of low prices in Spain by taking the stress out of the process and removing some of the risk with the opportunity to rent first,' he added.

The package includes being able to search hundreds of Spanish properties online, a choice of a Sterling or Euro mortgage, legal services provided by a US based solicitor with experience in Spanish property, a Spanish bank account with online banking in English and help with the whole viewing and buying process.