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Overseas news - desire to move to Spain still strong despite Covid and Brexit

A leading Spanish property expert says that British citizens still account for the largest proportion of buyers on the Spanish Costas, despite Brexit and the pandemic.

Sean Woolley, founder and director of Cloud Nine Spain, says Brits have always enjoyed a love affair with southern Spain, a relationship which began with the introduction of traditional package holidays to the sun in the 1960s and 70s, which then morphed into the dream and ultimate reality of affordable second home ownership ‘with the advent of low-cost flights and cheap finance’.

“Northern Europeans, and especially the Brits, still love the idea of a jet-set lifestyle. Now, with the opportunities created by increased home-working, the idea of living and working from a Spanish base, at least for some of the time, is offering greater appeal and possibilities than ever,” Woolley says.


“It’s tricky to obtain official figures that reveal true buying patterns in Spain, but having been in business on the Costa del Sol, the Costa Blanca and the Costa Calida since 2001, and being one of the most prominent agents in handling online buyer enquiries during the last 20 years, we are perhaps uniquely placed to offer an insight on what we consider to be the three key parameters – INTEREST (volume of enquiries), ACTIVITY (appointments) and COMMITMENT (sales numbers).”

For the first measure, Woolley says the firm can honestly say that there hasn’t been a noticeable change in enquiry levels, when assessed over the medium-term.

“Of course, there are often peaks and troughs in the figures, which usually reflect political issues such as Brexit progress, fluctuating exchange rates or even something as seemingly irrelevant as an unexpected heatwave at home!” he adds.

“The second measure – ACTIVITY – has undoubtedly been hardest hit of the three, as most people have simply been unable to get to Spain to view properties. Even when they manage to do so, there have been severe and ever-changing measures in place, restricting where they can travel, what they can see, and how they can do so.”

To overcome these issues, Cloud Nine Spain has adapted its service so that the research phase (normally considered the fact-finding stage of the property hunt) has become the equivalent of property first viewings.

“It has meant that our office-based team of property consultants have spent considerably more time on the phone, emails and WhatsApp than normal in trying to accurately define and then refine a shortlist of properties based on a client’s requirements. We have been helped by the markets that we work in being relatively ‘mature’, meaning that the vast majority of clients have a clear idea of what they are looking for, and where they would like to be,” Woolley explains.

The next stage has been to offer more interactive and ‘moving’ content to clients in the form of walk-through videos, virtual viewings and drone videos – all designed to create a 3D vision of the property in place of a physical visit.

“Many clients have been keen to take up the option of a virtual or video viewing, and a fair proportion of these clients are at a sufficient stage of the buying journey to make a decision and submit an offer based on what they see…albeit from a distance,” Woolley says.

“Our biggest sale agreed on a virtual basis during the pandemic was for a villa priced at €2.9 million in one of Europe’s most exclusive private villa estates.”

In fact, almost exactly half of the firm’s sales transactions since the pandemic began have been made without the client being present.

“I think this demonstrates the desire of clients to continue with their plans and dreams of overseas home ownership, in spite of the obstacles presented by travel bans, lockdowns and possibilities of infection,” Woolley continues.

“I’ve already touched on the final measure – COMMITMENT – in the previous paragraphs. It’s true that a lower volume of visits and tours has translated into fewer sales, but the truly interesting thing is how the pandemic’s restrictions have affected the profile of client and the corresponding budgets of those looking to buy.”

During the most stringent periods of lockdown in the last 12 months, the average budget per enquiry for the Costa del Sol that the company received edged above €1 million, whereas it generally hovered around €700,000 before. In the least restrictive times, the budget per enquiry dipped to around €550,000.

“This is clear evidence, at least to me, that in the times of greatest restrictions, the mass market with budgets of €100k-€500k was left behind, and that only buyers with significant budgets and greater opportunities and means to travel were ‘active’ in the market. Once the restrictions started to be lifted, even slightly, more buyers at lower budget levels started to drip into the market.”

Woolley says that whilst the buying market on the Costa del Sol has held up pretty well during the pandemic, especially at the higher pricing levels, business on the Costa Blanca and Costa Calida has gone into reverse.

“There have been plenty of enquiries (in fact, more so than ever) for these locations, providing clear evidence that pent-up demand exists, BUT due to the average budget for enquiries being around €225,000, the conversion to sales just hasn’t been there…at least not for our business anyway,” Woolley says.

“The assumption has to be that buyers at this level of the market don’t enjoy the same freedom and ability to travel in order to view properties in person, and that they are generally proposing to spend a higher proportion of their overall wealth than somebody at the level of €1 million or more.”

Caudwell sells 50% of Riviera development

A British luxury property developer has sold 50% of its apartments at Les Oliviers, a prestigious development in the South of France.

Caudwell has sold two apartments and a duplex to international buyers in the past few months, for just shy of €5 million in total. 

Centrally located in Cap d’Antibes, Les Oliviers is an Art Deco-influenced building that has been carefully revamped into six exclusive residences.

The site of Les Oliviers was originally the attendants’ quarters of Le Provençal, the former glamorous hotel which hosted the likes of the Kennedys, Coco Chanel, Joan Collins and Charlie Chaplin in its heyday from the 1920s to the 1970s. 

The three sold apartments have been purchased by international buyers, including one apiece from the UK and Germany. These include a four-bedroom, four-bathroom duplex (spread across two floors) with its own private pool, and two apartments both with two bedrooms and two bathrooms.  

Residents can enjoy manicured Provençal-style gardens, a shared sundeck and heated outdoor swimming pool and pool house, as well as access to a private tennis court at neighbouring Caudwell development, Parc du Cap.

For botanical enthusiasts, meanwhile, there is a carefully conserved arboretum complemented by indigenous Mediterranean plants including lavender, roses, mimosa and jasmine.  

“We’re delighted to welcome our international owners to Les Oliviers. If the past few months have taught us anything, it’s that time with family is paramount – something we believe is a driving factor for these three apartments being snapped up in a short space of time,” Reynald Lapitz, chief executive of Caudwell France, says.

“It is clear people’s priorities have shifted, as we see more and more owners attracted to Les Oliviers for the indoor space, private pool and gardens, and to accommodate their families. You really won’t find many apartments as spacious as what’s on offer at Les Oliviers.” 

The remaining residences at Les Oliviers include a three-bedroom, three-bathroom penthouse; a three-bedroom, three-bathroom apartment with private garden; and a two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment with a private garden. Prices start from a pricey €1,590,000.   

12-year expat visas for property investors the Middle East

Property investors have the opportunity to secure a 12-year residency visa and business license when they purchase a ready-to-move in home in Ras Al Khaimah, UAE.

The RAK Live & Work initiative is a joint venture between Al-Hamra Real Estate Development and Ras Al Khaimah Economic Zone (RAKEZ).

The homes on offer start in value at AED 292,00 (approximately £56,500) and are either seafront or with a golf-course view, in Al Hamra Village or Bab Al Bahr.

Investors have the option to make the payment over a five-year period, with a 20% upfront payment of the total value. The freehold home will be 100% owned by the investor, while investors are offered additional incentives such as an additional partner visa and a flexi-desk with modern amenities to conduct business.

Al Hamra Village and Bab Al Bahr are popular residential areas situated just 30 minutes from the Dubai International Airport and include a championship golf course, a marina and yacht club, a clubhouse, the Al Hamra Mall and luxury hotels.

The team behind the scheme say that investment assures long-term return on investment, estimated at up to 8% annually. Investors can also benefit from high rental values, with Al Hamra renowned for its amenities, low service charges and competitive utility charges compared to other emirates in the UAE.

For those that utilise the free business license, setting up a business in RAK aims to offer low-cost resources, modern infrastructure and state-of-the-art facilities, while business owners benefit from 100% ownership of the business, 100% repatriation of capital and profits, no corporate tax and zero personal tax.

“The UAE is among the top places to live and work in the region, in addition to being ranked as one of the world’s most-preferred tourist destinations,” Benoy Kurien, group chief executive officer of Al Hamra, insists.

“With its vibrant expatriate community, which makes up around 80% of the population, international investors feel instantly at home in the UAE. Further, the nation’s strategic geographical location, government support programmes, policy reforms, and infrastructure offers attractive opportunities for entrepreneurship and business growth.”

He adds: “Ras Al Khaimah, named as the Gulf Tourism Capital for 2021 at the fifth annual meeting of tourism ministers of the Gulf Cooperation Council, is now the fastest-growing tourism and investment destination in the region.”

“The new package aims to attract entrepreneurs, freelancers, consultants and seniors, anyone looking to live and work in the UAE,” Kurien concludes.


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