Property investment: Balearic blissPosted on: 23 September 2010 by Mark O'haire
With the government injecting serious euros into Majorca’s rural infrastructure, now is the time to invest inland, says Laura Henderson.
The largest of the Balearic Islands and a celebrity bolthole for the likes of Claudia Schiffer, Richard Branson and Hollywood golden-couple Catherine Zeta Jones and Michael Douglas, Majorca is a past master at reinvention, having successfully graduated from the high-rise grip of the 60’s and 70’s to more mature responsible development in recent years.
Now, with the advent of green tourism, yet another facet of island life is opening up, bringing with it a new wave of investors; those happy to forsake Majorca’s crowded coastal pleasures for a slice of rural peace and tranquillity.
“Ten years ago, you’d be hard pushed to find international buyers inland,” says Palma agent Michael Pott, “but times have changed, since the government began quietly and systematically upgrading the island’s interior and created several newly classified ‘eco-tourist’ communities. From nature retreats to upmarket rustic restaurants and boutique hoteles rurales, local community regeneration is big business.”
Few would disagree that Majorca’s topographically diverse hinterland merits closer attention; a mosaic of undulating tilled fields, vineyards, hill-hugging olive plantations and innumerable almond groves, all within easy reach of both the coast and the island’s historic capital, Palma.
“The mountain range to the north west combines with much of the surrounding rugged terrain, to offer natural protection from uncontrolled growth,” explains Roberto Piquer of the Majorcan Island Council, “but stringent planning controls are also now in place to keep urban development in check.”
“The island has more than its fare share of high-value locations,” adds Pott, “but the unspoilt central region of El Pla is tipped to be the biggest growth area in the next five years.”
Sprinkled with country estates where the landed gentry once lived, properties are on average 30% cheaper than the coast, with a restored finca (farmhouse) with land starting around £300,000 while a possesio (manor house) with landscaped gardens can set you back anything from £850,000. Hectare for hectare, the best value is currently to be found around the serene rural villages of Alaró, Santa Maria del Cami, Binissalem and Santa Eugenia. Similar tranquil retreats such as Algaida, Montuiri and Sineu may be a little further off the beaten track, yet these established communities boast excellent infrastructures, are populated year round, and are unlikely to attract the packaging hordes.
Buying inland however, does carry certain restrictions. Building regulations for one differ from community to community.
“Plots with ruins are also increasingly rare,” confirms Remco Jongsma of Kensington Properties, “a throw-back to the 2001/2 moratorium on new construction building in rural areas, which caused a stampede to buy up most of the ruins and renovate from scratch. Many of these properties have now resurfaced as secondary sales, and represent exceptional value, with the potential bonus of year round rental income, depending on the location.”
Movers & shakers - where to invest now
Santa Eugenia has for the most part avoided tourist ‘honey-trap’ status and remains one of the prettiest authentic Majorcan villages still in existence. Situated just 26kms from Palma in close proximity to the buzzing coastal resort of Puerto Soller and the bohemian village of Deià, many of the village’s trademark stone houses have been updated, giving the village a pristine appearance. Renovated village homes start around £250,000, while smaller fincas with good-sized plots in the immediate surrounds cost around £400,000.
Santa Maria del Camí
Situated just ten minutes from Palma, this mellow, little-touristed oasis along the Palma-Inca railway is fast becoming one of Majorca’s artistic centres. Steeped in the past, with its pre-20th century architecture and clutch of family owned bodegas, the colourful market held here every Sunday, draws locals from miles around. Village houses start from around £160,000, while cottages in the surrounding area can be snapped up for around approx £80,000. Property choice is equally diverse at the top end, with country estates on the market for £600,000.
A fifteen-minute drive from Santa Maria brings you to lazy trained vineyard territory stretching some 400 hectares around the residential town of Binissalem. Many of the 5,000 strong population have a hand in this award winning local industry, but the town is also slowly waking up to tourism with a small number of trendy eateries and bars making an appearance. The town centre itself is an architectural delight packed with century-old mansions-conspicuous wealth attributed to its two local industries namely stone masonry and wine. Prices however are on average 20% lower than Santa Maria with a four-bedroom semi-renovated country house costing around £400,000.
North west of Binissalem, lies the village of Alaró, dominated by its Moorish castle, which juts out of the cliff face overlooking the stunning scenery of the Tramuntana Mountains. Tucked away up high, detached casitas offer to-die-for panoramic views, while the main village streets are tightly packed with tastefully restored spacious two and three storey homes. Entry-level prices for a village home start around the £150,000 while country houses fetch in the region of £250,000. Nestling in the nearby sheltered mountain valley at the foot of Puig d’Alfabia and surrounded by olive and almond groves is the almost cloyingly beautiful village of Orient, a community of some 30 or so houses and one of the best hotels on the island, L’Hermitage, lending the village an exclusive feel. Prices range from £275,000 to £400,000 for fully renovated village houses with gardens.
By Laura Henderson
Property journalist, columnist and author
Laura is a UK-based property journalist and author specialising in domestic and overseas markets. A regular contributor to the Financial Times, Sunday Express, Daily Telegraph and Homes Overseas magazine, she also edits a monthly property column for the Scotsman newspaper and is the author of several on-line investor guides for among others, Channel 4 Homes.
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