Best Beat

Setting the Rhythm for Your Music

Advice For Buying Real Estate in the Costa Del Sol in 2010

Advice For Buying Real Estate in the Costa Del Sol in 2010

If you are in the market for a main or second home in sunny Andalusia, this is a good time to buy. Plenty has already been said about the ‘market discount’, the price correction that logically followed the general and property market-specific recession. An additional boon, if you buy in euros from a British seller, is that you could also benefit from a currency discount. When it was introduced to the general public nine years ago, the euro was worth about £0.6, so it is quite dramatic that its value now hovers just under sterling, at £0.9. One implication is that British property sellers in Spain wanting to convert back their money to pounds can afford to lower their prices even further than the property market has dictated, making finding a British seller a particularly attractive option.

Independently of these conditions, the big question is what kind of properties are on offer and exactly where. This article is a brief roundup, travelling from east to west, of some of the main areas on the Costa del Sol, each of which present specific advantages and characteristics. You can click on the hyperlinks to find more detailed information about each area. In terms of property types, there is a vast choice of apartments, townhouses, and penthouses in luxury urbanizaciones (gated complexes), ranging in price from €200,000 to over a million euros. Period homes which can be village town homes or detached, either restored or not, range from €200,000 to several million. There are also new or recently built luxury villas, many of them in golf and/or gated communities, that can cost up to several million euros.

Most of the above properties types are available in the various principal areas of the Costa del Sol. You’ll never be far from a golf course, the sea, or a variety of sporting facilities, but the relative importance to your family, guests, and yourself of any or several of these particular amenities may help determine which area or areas you focus on during your search.

The eastern Costa del Sol, including Torremolinos, Mijas, Fuengirola, Benalmádena, Calahonda, and other areas offer all types of apartments, some of them at quite attractive prices. These resorts are somewhat less exclusive than Sotogrande or those around the Marbella area, but they are also places that provide a lot of local colour. Of particular note is Mijas, up in the hills about 10 kms from Fuengirola. This typical Andalusian white mountain village has managed to retain its original look and has famously been the residence of foreign artists and bohemian types ever since the sixties, about the time when Marbella was being discovered by the world’s jet-set. Today, the village is still home to a large foreign population that seems to get on alright with the locals. Hospital Costa del Sol, a large city-like facility, is also located in this area, catering to residents all the way to Estepona and Manilva.

Marbella can be divided in four areas: Central Marbella, East Marbella, Puerto Banús, and Nueva Andalusía. Central Marbella has the great advantage of having a charming historic quarter, a truly Spanish feel, and easy beach access. Here you can combine the pleasures of a cultural life -by taking advantage of the exhibitions and concerts taking place all year long-and leisure living, with the greatest concentration of restaurants and shops on the Costa del Sol. Marbella’s Spanish population is particularly ubiquitous and influential, so it’s easy to get to know locals here. Adjacent Puerto Banús, which can be thought of as the marina of Marbella, has a similar cachet and offers some of the same advantages. It is home to a greater proportion of foreigners, however, and one of its key attractions is of course the pleasure harbour, frequented by some of the world’s largest private yachts.

Luxury department stores, outstanding dining facilities, and a multiplex cinema are all located at or walking distance from the harbour. You might choose to invest in a property at Puerto Banús because it is relatively less crowded than Marbella itself, with long-established luxury complexes offering large green spaces. If you want even more space and quicker access to a variety of golf courses, consider properties in Marbella East or Nueva Andalucía. The former, which mainly consists of the residential complexes and golf courses, has a reputation for being quiet, and offers a small marina that you might find more accessible and convenient if you have a small boat than Puerto Banús. Last but not least, Nueva Andalucía is the elevated area just northwest of Puerto Banús, on the other side of the N340. The area was thusly named because its homes have been purposefully built in a way reminiscent of traditional Andalusian architecture, with overtones of Roman and Moorish styles. Living here one feels more remote from Marbella, as if the place were a town of its own, complete with an international school and other learning establishments for the children. Nueva Andalusia has a bullring, extensive shopping facilities, and a wide selection of international restaurants. Last but not least, its elevated position means that the local golf courses provide challenging playing terrain and that the views to the Strait of Gibraltar and Africa are outstanding.

The next important place in the western direction is San Pedro de Alcántara, which has peldanía legal status, which means that although it is a part of Marbella municipality, it enjoys a town hall of its own with limited jurisdiction over local affairs. San Pedro is the starting point of the road to Ronda, on which some important golf resorts are found such as the world-renowned La Zagaleta, an exclusive golf and residential domain famous for its sloping hills and mansions. Further up the road is the Ascari race track, a sports car owners’ country club where the rich and famous including none other than groovy speed fan Jamiroquai can legally push their cars’ engines to the performance they were designed for. On the coast, San Pedro offers residences on both sides of the N340 road, with the beach-side residences forming nice neighbourhoods of private villas and gated communities that are a close walk away from the beach. The N340 road has seriously stressed the town centre with excessive traffic but this will end within a couple of years as the underpass is completed and a green area built atop. San Pedro has several long-established golf courses as well as other attractive amenities, such as schools, shopping facilities, an exhibition centre, and many restaurants. It also features Roman and Paleo-Christian ruins, as can also be found in Manilva and parts of Estepona. On a modern culture note, San Pedro is also home to Ganjazz, an outstanding band blending hip hop, funk, and Cuban sounds, by far and away the Costa del Sol’s best young musical act.

Moving on westward, we find the much less densely populated area of Estepona, Casares, and Manilva, two towns that have grown tremendously over the last six years. Estepona, a fishing town now equipped with a marina, has experienced the most dramatic changes. It features a nice old town with quite a Spanish flavour, an landscaped and newly refurbished seaside promenade, and a golf club of its own. Estepona was quite a compact town some years ago but has expanded dramatically in all directions. The town is dominated by a 1,450-meter high mountain called Sierra Bermeja (Terracotta Mountain) behind which is a network of valleys, white villages, and streams to capture anyone’s imagination (one highlight being the blossoming almond trees in February-March). On a clear day, from the top of the mountain the view in all directions is impressive: you can see Sierra Nevada, Gibraltar, Africa, and more. The mountain is spectacular during the few winter days that it becomes snow-capped, usually in December or January, and it is one of the last places to see the pinsapo, or Spanish fir, a Christmas-tree like pine that was widespread all over Europe some 20 million years ago. Estepona is a good place to find an apartment in the town itself, but it also has a number of gated communities. Rural properties are available in the campo (countryside), as the gently sloping foothills of the Sierra are referred to, and there are some new villas on the road leading up to the top of the mountain, all with the wonderful views one might expect.

Next in the western direction is the municipality of Casares, which is divided in two population centres. The old village is situated up in the hills amidst beautiful groves of cork oak and other trees, and a newer part of the town is by the sea, so this is a great place to get either a rural or seaside property. The larger town of Manilva also has both a section up in the hills and one by the sea, the latter being much newer and having expanded rapidly over the last decades. Here, the construction of large complexes is still underway and the small downtown area recently was made more pedestrian-friendly when an underpass was built for the N340. One of the greatest attractions of Manilva are its Roman ruins such as those seen in the Manilva river at Baños de la Hedionda, where one can still bathe in sulphurous water inside the Roman structure built to that effect. The rest of the river valley makes a great hike, with cascades and pools for further bathing. Next to Manilva is Puerto de la Duquesa, which features a marina, the main golf club in the area, and a number of residential complexes.

Last but not least is the resort-town of Sotogrande, with its six golf courses, polo grounds, stately homes, world-class hotels, equestrian centre, international school, beaches, marina, and new developments. As we describe at length in the separate article, the resort of Sotogrande was built in the sixties and from the start equipped with American-grade infrastructures, which means it has always enjoyed wide roads and that its old neighbourhoods are typical of upscale neighbourhoods in the US, with individual villas featuring large mature gardens. Many of the older homes are owned by Spanish people from Madrid, but there is also a large foreign population. If for no other reason, Sotogrande has acquired fame due to Valderrama, the masterfully designed, challenging, and stunningly beautiful golf course that hosts championships as important for the sport as the Volvo Masters. The most significant news with regard to Sotogrande has been the recently completed construction of five residential islands offering private moorings for residents’ boats as well as underground parking.