A Spanish Passion ; Upmarket Islands and Lively Cities, Grand Architecture, Charming Fishing Villages and, of Course, golf.The Iberian Peninsula Is an Appealing Place to Buy Property
Hawker, Cathy, The Evening Standard (London, England)
EVER since the first package holidays in the Seventies, Spain has been top choice for British house-hunters abroad. Western Europe's second largest country has 1,300 miles of coastline facing the Mediterranean and Atlantic. Early buyers wanted sun, sea and chips, but today the lifestyle, upmarket islands and lively cities attract buyers looking for more.
A glass of rioja on a balmy evening, a family bonding over paella, yachts moored in Mediterranean marinas, iconic architecture: this is Spain today. EU membership has transformed the country's infrastructure. Getting there is easy via its 10 international airports and 37 regional ones served by low-cost and scheduled airlines.
The Spanish like the British, the country is generally safe and the cost of living low. But it has been a difficult year for the Spanish market, with buyer confidence shaken by over-building Caixa Catalunya Bank estimates Spain has half a million unsold new-builds and high-profile cases of official corruption.
Fifty government officials in Marbella were accused of benefiting from allowing illegal building property that now faces demolition while Valencia's landgrab laws have been used to seize property from British owners. In a final blow, coastal property built within 100 metres (328 feet) of the sea could be pulled down in accordance with Spanish laws.
The rule is: pay for independent legal advice: do 'These villages maintain a Spanish lifestyle and welcome British buyers' not use lawyers recommended by the developer; do not sign anything that hasn't been translated; and never buy without thorough legal searches.
On the south coast, Costa de la Luz shone last year. Spain's longest coast, stretching from the
Portuguese border past Cadiz and southwards to hippy-chic Tarifa, where surfers and kite flyers race up empty Atlantic beaches, saw price rises above average.
The western stretch near Huelva runs east-towest in a natural bowl protecting it from the notorious wind that can rattle up this Coast of Light. Small fishing villages and long beaches are backed by protected forests of umbrella pines perfect shade for a summer picnic.
Golf remains important but with charming fishing villages, such as El Rompido, and prices about 30 per cent lower than the Algarve or the Costa del Sol, there is value, too. Expect to pay about Pounds 150,000 for a two-bedroom golf apartment and from Pounds 295,530 for a detached villa. Airports at Faro and Seville are an hour away, with plans to create an international airport at Huelva.
Next door, on the Costa del Sol, it is a buyer's market, but remember: location is key. Dense building has transformed some stretches into solid concrete high-rises, nothing like their origins as fishing villages. Just inland are whitewashed Moorish villages such as Gaucin with its traditional Andalucian squares, which maintain a Spanish lifestyle and welcome British buyers.
An hour to the west is the golf mecca of Sotogrande, which wears its wealth discreetly.
International demand and proximity to booming Gibraltar have kept prices high, while properties with private moorings carry a heavy premium.
For a social life based around exclusive beach clubs, polo fields and tennis clubs, you can snap up an off-plan marina apartments from Pounds 354,300.
The Mediterranean coast around Barcelona Costas Brava and Dorada has sandy beaches, golf courses, marinas at Cambrils and Salou and good access through Barcelona and Reus airports.
The Catalan region of Costa Brava has the medieval walled city of Gerona, good connections to Barcelona and a winning combination of sea and mountains.
Explore the Spanish countryside
Inland, Spain is more affordable. Buyers wanting to escape crowded tourist traps should head there. …