Managing Expectations

Three months on from my last report and we have moved on from the ’shorts ‘n t-shirt’ theme of November in Moraira at 25ºC. We are currently enjoying our one week annual holiday, skiing in Andorra, just a brisk six hour drive from Moraira. Trying to get back into the local property mind-set at the end of a hard day’s skiing is no easy feat, but here goes!

The local property market, in and around Moraira is entering into a rather difficult stage of its recovery. Local prices have clearly bounced off the bottom of the 2008/9 lows and, whilst most of the so called ‘distress sales’ have been absorbed, there remain many excellent buying opportunities. The difficulty now is the emerging miss-match of expectations between aspiring buyers and sellers.

There seems to be no shortage of deluded souls who think they can buy in Costa Blanca north – at Costa Blanca south prices. Sorry chaps, no-can-do! Virtually every day we get hopeful enquiries from UK folk (and many other northern Europeans) seeking detached three bedroom, two bathroom villas with private pool, garage, sea view and walk to town and/or beach, for around €100-150,000! One would be very hard pressed to find this in Torrevieja - certainly not in Moraira or Javea etc., one would certainly need to at least double this budget. I wonder just what kind of property €150,000 would buy in the UK?!

Adding to this conundrum we now have local property sellers who are catching a whiff of solid recovery in the local market and are thinking they can push for rather ambitious prices! A key role of our local estate agency arm – SELECT Villas of Moraira - is to manage and guide the expectations of buyers and the sometimes over-optimistic aspirations of local property sellers.

At this stage of the market recovery, it is a major task for us to engender realistic and reasonable valuations and expectations to both sides of the property sale/purchase equation, without offending either party.

On the assumption that most of my readers are likely to be buyers, I shall be pleased to offer comments and guidance in each issue’s MARKET REPORT which I hope will provide some help & enlightenment in terms of purchase considerations:

SIZE AND SCALE. Many older properties, especially those built during the 1970s/80s and early nineties were built to supply the burgeoning demand for cheap holiday homes and were, therefore, often designed with very much smaller rooms than we are used to. In those years UK buyers were easily deceived as we were used to judging size in imperial terms on a room by room basis, whereas villa designs were quoted in metric measures (metre2) and applied to the overall build size only. Buyers only had basic floor plans which were fine for an indication of layout, but many people found that they had bought miniaturized versions of the homes they had imagined. More recently, build size and proportion has grown steadily to match general EU rules, standards and expectations – as has the quality of build and specifications.

However, our advice to those planning on visiting Spain with a view to property purchase would be:

A). Ahead of your visit, measure and note down the size of all room measurements (in feet and metres) of your UK home and be sure to bring this, together with a tape measure, with you on your viewing visit. When looking at new or empty (unfurnished) properties, or drawings of off-plan proposals, you shall be in a good position to compare room space and better judge proportions of room areas etc.

B). Please try to resist the approach of making judgements on Spanish properties, on the basis of UK lifestyle & conventions. Please bear in mind that Mediterranean Spain is a ‘cold country with a hot sun’, for eight or nine months of the year our routine lifestyle is relatively ‘al fresco’ and the layout and proportion of our homes – in terms of inside space compared to external, will have a very different emphasis to homes we are used to in the UK. This is often used to explain the reduced internal living space; to a great degree this is justifiable – but not in the more extreme cases!

C). A similar situation relates to kitchen sizes. Many UK based property buyers visiting Spain expect to find kitchen sizes to match those of the UK. However, most villas here have a poolside ‘summer kitchen’ or barbeque complex of varying size, complexity and extravagance which duplicates the internal kitchen facilities, and is very much the favoured catering base for much of the year.

D). Generally, Spanish homes do not have attics or accessible loft space. Usually, they will have an area of underbuild – especially when built on a sloping hillside plot. This is an area beneath the lower or main level of accommodation accessed through a conventional door, often with ventilation and light provided by windows. Depending on the layout of the home and the contours of the land, this extra accommodation can amount to anything from a shed sized store for garden furniture etc., to a series of rooms, of full height and totally above ground, which form an independent guest apartment.

E). In the absence of an underbuild, we would suggest buyers considered adding an extra bedroom to their criteria for the specific use as storage. This will be particularly sensible if one intends to let out the property, as the extra room could be secured to store personal items, purely for the owner’s use.

F). Do you really need a garage? Many buyers specify this, but the reality is you probably don’t! Private driveway parking – yes, and a car port will provide shade from the heat and occasional dust. There is probably no more need to protect your car from vandalism or theft here, as there is to protect it from frost on an icy morning – I can’t recall an incidence of either, in the nine years we have lived here! Rest assured, a garage is not a necessary feature here, especially if you have an underbuild for storage.

Well I’ve completed this wonderful piece back in our office, in Moraira. We are missing the snowy views, but so grateful to be back in temperatures around 20ºC – not too bad for early February!

Author:  Chris Garwood – Partner, Estate Agents Moraira, Select Villas of Moraira
February 2010
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