How to move to Spain
While the Spanish economy is still reeling from the effects of a deep economic crisis, the last 12 months or so have seen a slight increase in property prices across the board. But with the market still significantly below pre-crisis levels, there are great deals to be found.
Swedish author Birgitta Bergin moved to Marbella with her husband in 2011. Her latest novel En Oemotståndlig Affär (An Irresistable Affair), which is due to hit Swedish bookstores this month, was written on the Costa del Sol.
“Living in Spain spurs my creativity,” she says. “I don’t work in an office; I prefer to be outside – at a café or a beach bar – stimulated by my surroundings and the people I see.”
Before Spain, the Bergins had lived in Brussels for 13 years.
“We were already ex-pats,” Bergin says, “so moving to a sunny, warm place was the logical next step. In my experience, people who live abroad tend to be more open, sociable, and unafraid of new things. And we enjoy being part of an international social circle too.”
Optimism back in the property market
With its fantastic climate, spectacular coastline, peaceful countryside, and renowned golf courses, it’s not surprising that the area around Malaga and Marbella is popular with Scandinavian would-be property buyers.
When they first arrived in Marbella, the Bergins rented an apartment. Two years later, they bought a house in Nueva Andalucia, just west of the town.
“Moving here and renting gave us time to scout out the areas we liked and choose the type of home we wanted,” Bergin says.
They decided on a house, with a central location and a garden for the dog.
“We’re within walking distance of pretty much everything but, because of the large garden, it’s still a lovely green oasis,” Bergin says.
In the four years she has lived in Spain, Bergin has seen the country embark on a slow recovery from the devastating recession that began in 2008.
“When we arrived here, the mood was quite dark,” she says. “But these days, people are more optimistic. We’ve seen house prices start to rise again, while properties appear to be selling faster than they were a couple of years ago.”
Bergin’s observation is backed up by Christopher Clover, Managing Director of Marbella real estate agency, Panorama Properties. In a recent blog post, he wrote that: “The property crisis in the Marbella area is finally over, at least with respect to sales volume, which has been steadily increasing for three years. But the crisis is not really over with respect to prices, if you are a seller: prices are still 15-25% below market peaks even in the most consolidated areas.”
Bag a bargain in Estepona
Swedish real-estate agency Skandiamäklarna started doing business in Spain more than 30 years ago. Since then, it has opened offices in eight locations on the Costa del Sol and Costa Blanca, and in the Canary Islands. Stockholmer Lotti Ander moved to Spain in 2011 when her husband was offered a job in Marbella. She joined Skandiamäklarna’s Estepona office last year.
“Although Malaga is the hub city in the region, most Scandinavians tend to look for homes in the smaller towns on the coast,” Ander says. “Over the last 30 years, new development has moved west to towns such as Torremolinos, Fuengirola, and Marbella. Right now, Estepona is the place to be if you’re looking for a good deal.”
Estepona is the largest of a group of small towns located between Malaga and Gibraltar. The area is much less developed than places such as Torremolinos and Fuengirola. What’s more, a house or apartment here will set you back about 25–30% less than an equivalent property in Marbella. Between €170,000 and €250,000 will buy you a two-bedroom apartment with a large living area and a terrace with sea view, right on the beach in central Estepona.
The new buyer: Active and family focused foodies
So who buys property on the Costa del Sol today? Ander and Bergin agree that the profile of the typical Scandinavian buyer has changed dramatically in recent years.
“We know people of all ages here – families with young children, self-employed professionals and some older people too,” Bergin says.
Ander adds that today’s buyers are more active than their predecessors. They want to explore their surroundings. Their interests include hiking and biking as well as gastronomy and wine.
“While the coast still attracts plenty of pensioners, the stereotype of an elderly person sitting in a deckchair with an umbrella in their drink no longer applies,” she says.
Text: Isabelle Kliger