Marbella and the Marbella Property Market
Christopher Clover comments on the Marbella property market in an interview published in the official magazine of the Davis Cup, the quarterfinals of which took place in Marbella.
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What exactly is the “magic” that Marbella holds? Why do people choose Marbella to live or to spend their holidays?
For the people who decide to live here, Marbella is Magic for many reasons:
- Quality people in a quality environment: Marbella has always stood out as the “Jewel in the Crown” with respect to quality, which started with its jet set image in the 1960’s, and it has successfully broadened the jet set definition over time. It is low-rise, despite overbuilding in certain but very limited areas of the municipality, and offers extensive green areas, now highly competent local administration and more respect for the environment than any other Coastal City.
- A 12-month season: Marbella is full of life and activity even in the “low season” winter months. For this reason, it is unequalled by any other resort city in Spain or indeed the rest of Europe. Due to a core “off season” population of more than 250,000 people, it is able to offer a variety of public and private events and parties, concerts, nightlife, glamour, excitement, superb restaurants and trendy bars, all year round. For the many who choose a quieter life, the nature and peace (and incredible quality of light for artists) in this part of Spain is unique.
- Geography and consequently, weather: as the southernmost point of Europe it enjoys the best winter weather anywhere in Europe. The mountain behind us, “La Concha”, also gives us a micro-climate meaning that it is warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. The distance from the Straits of Gibraltar and the Atlantic, added to the mountains behind, also protect Marbella from the winds prevalent in Western Spain and Portugal, and this balm Mediterranean climate is no doubt one of the many reasons for the “Magic” of this area.
- Geography also means close proximity by car, to the white Andalusian villages, and Seville and Granada, two hours away, Tangiers and the rest of Morocco, which is an amazing country, just a hop across the Straits of Gibraltar, Portugal less than five hours and Madrid about the same.
- International residents: Marbella is very cosmopolitan in nature, with people from at least 45 different countries and all religions living here in peace and harmony. This is probably the most important quality of Marbella for me. I have made great and interesting friends from all over the world, thanks to Marbella and my profession.
- Infrastructure: direct flights, sometimes several daily, from major Western European airports puts Málaga at a two to three-hour flight away; a great road system places Marbella a little more than half an hour from Málaga airport; the Fast Train which puts Málaga a mere 2½ hours from Madrid; and a modern Coastal train, whose first phase has been approved for construction, will facilitate ease of access to Marbella; good water supplies compared with most other areas of the Coast and Spain; a central sewage collection system; and substantially improving municipal services and communication, under our new Mayoress Ángeles Muñoz.
- Sporting facilities of all types, not the least of which are the 35 golf courses within a half hour drive from the city.
- And compared with non-European resort destinations, Marbella offers the security of the European Union, excellent medical and educational facilities, ease of access as mentioned and, in general, a very high quality life style.
What special characteristics does the real estate market have in Marbella?
Marbella offers properties for all tastes and most budgets. The minimum “quality” level of prices starts around €250,000 for a one or two bedroom apartment, and the most exclusive properties go up to well over €10,000,000 in price, with the largest bracket of property availability priced between €400,000 and €1,000,000.
During this recession period, how is the Marbella real estate market holding up? Are there good bargains to be had?
After an autumn and winter of very low sales volume, as potential purchasers were waiting for prices to drop (while still following the market very closely) the market suddenly came back to life in April and good activity has been prevalent right through the month of June.
The market is dominated by bargain-seekers who have now entered the market with some strength, and sellers who have dropped their prices, in general, at least 15% and up to around 30% (sometimes slightly more) from market peaks two years ago. Properties are currently selling in the area of prices achieved between 2002 and 2004.
The speculator has disappeared from the market, which is a healthy sign. People buying properties here are doing so mostly for their own use and their own quality of life.
The best located properties, in the most consolidated areas, are achieving the best prices as well as selling more quickly.
What would your best advice be to a potential buyer?
It certainly appears that the market in Marbella (this is probably not the case for Spain in general), has touched the bottom, but it will be several years before a full recovery can take place. As there is now a reasonable sales volume which was absent in prior months, it is safe to say that there has been a beginning to a long road towards recovery, and an excellent time to purchase property here.
However, there is not a large number of high quality properties in the best areas available for sale in the first instance. The real bargains are now getting snapped up quickly and are not always being replaced.
And negotiating the purchase of a property today is not easy. Buyers need good market knowledge of comparable sales, which a good agent will share with them. And a buyer should choose an experienced agent who has all his paperwork in order with respect to the property, and who has good negotiating skills. Panorama has been doing that longer than any other agent in Marbella – since 1970 – as my father and grandfather did before me, starting with my grandfather’s first real estate agency in Chicago in 1904.
And what is the best piece of advice that you would give to a seller client?
A seller must be highly realistic today, and look for an agent who will help him determine the correct “asking price” based on the market comparables that a good agent can provide and that he can also research on his own. Prices have dropped not only in Marbella, but all over the world, even in the quality sector.
A seller looking to recover the price he paid for a property in 2006-2007 will not likely achieve his goal. If he looks for an agent who “tells him what he wants to hear”, rather than giving him realistic market input, he is in for a disappointment, as properties do not sell for more than their comparative sale value on the open market, anywhere.
Where do you see the Marbella property market in the next few years?
The fact that the property market in Marbella has already commenced its long road to recovery before the national market, speaks for itself. Marbella is perhaps the most important resort city in all of Europe and attracts the type of buyer looking for a quality environment and a quality life style, and now, properties priced at levels not imaginable only a year ago. It is not a place for everyone, and there are many who wish to discover new lands and have holiday homes in different places, which is as it should be.
The prices achieved in 2006 and 2007 were a result of an overheated market, and no doubt speculative in nature. It will be some years before prices recover to that level, although they will rise gradually in accordance with the classic laws of supply and demand.
With the increasing competence of the municipal government, the good local services and infrastructure, and the extreme care given to environmental issues compared with the past, I am confident that Marbella has a great future ahead.