The Lucas Fox regional directors reflect on the property landscape so far during 2015 and share their thoughts on how they think it will shape up for the rest of the year
Alexander Vaughan, Lucas Fox Founding Partner
In 2015, we are seeing the start of what potentially could be a spectacular turnaround for Spanish real estate: the tide is turning and people’s faith in the market is slowly being renewed. There is more confidence, transaction numbers are going up, and prices, after falling up to 40% in some areas, have leveled out.
Barcelona is one of the cities leading the way in Spain’s recovery, thanks to a combination of factors: lowest prices for a decade, a strong local economy and the ongoing appeal of the city for lifestyle investors – Barcelona has a great climate, is well communicated with the rest of Europe and is an established cultural and gastronomic hub.
Thanks to the strong Pound and Dollar, 2015 has seen growth in the numbers of British and American buyers looking to invest in the city. Many international clients want new build turnkey projects, but demand currently outstrips supply and it will be a while before sufficient numbers of new build properties come onto the market.
Lucas Fox will further consolidate its position in the Spanish property market by re-launching its New Developments business in September 2015, and I believe that this part of the market will be driving sales for many years to come, hopefully assisted by the re-activation of the local market. In 2014 around 90% of our sales were to foreigners. In the first two quarters of 2015, that figure has dropped to 75%, a sure sign that national buyers have also decided that now is the right time to buy.
Rod Jamieson, Director Lucas Fox Madrid
The property market in Madrid continues to attract more and more investment from both national and international investors. On the national side, there have been an increased number of transactions from investors wanting centrally located primary and second homes in the Spanish Capital and the recent wider availability of financing, combined with low rates, is having a positive effect.
International buyers from Northern Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America continue to look at Madrid for a stable property investment, mainly due to improved economic indicators, bottomed out prices, and an excellent potential for capital growth over the years to come.
Depending on the location, the average selling prices remain between 23% and 35% lower than 2007 levels, but are on the rise again. Demand is high for newly renovated apartments with 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms, located in classical buildings in sought-after areas such as Salamanca, Chamberí, Justicia, Cortes and Palacio. For the moment, there is a short supply in the market of this product and they sell very quickly. We will see a number of interesting new build/renovation projects come to market in the third and fourth quarters of 2015 and I expect this to result in a very positive end of the year for Lucas Fox’s Madrid business.
Tom Maidment, Partner Lucas Fox Maresme
The first half of 2015 has seen a continued rise in the number of transactions on the Maresme Coast. Whilst international buyers are still the most active clients, perhaps the most notable change in the market since the start of the year has been the increased activity by national buyers. Whereas in previous years Spanish buyers accounted for as little as 20% of Lucas Fox’s Maresme sales enquiries, this figure is now closer to 50% and there has been a substantial increase in the number of sales transactions to local clients. National interest is primarily focused on properties in the €400,000 to €700,000 price bracket.
International investment in the Maresme region has once again focused on the southern stretch of the coastline, between Alella and Sant Vicenç de Montalt: the area that offers best access to Barcelona city and the Hamelin international school in Alella (now relocating to a new site in nearby Montgat for the new academic year).
The greatest volume of transactions have centred on the €500,000 to €800,000 price bracket and, to a lesser extent, properties up to around €2m. It is now much easier for Spanish and foreign clients to finance property transactions and this has helped to stimulate sales activity. There is strong competition amongst lenders and some very interesting mortgage products on offer as the Euribor remains at record low levels. The absence of Russian buyers is still impacting on sales activity at the higher end of the market and this is reflected in the very limited number of transactions over the €2m mark.
Tom Maidment, Partner Lucas Fox Costa Brava
Sales in the Costa Brava in the first half of the year have been dominated once again by Northern European buyers – British, French, Swiss, Dutch and Scandinavean clients being the most active. There has also been a notable increase in demand from British and American clients, no doubt taking advantage of the weak Euro and low property prices.
Another interesting factor this year has been the return of Spanish buyers to the market. We have seen a significant increase in demand from local buyers and a number of transactions closed. Domestic interest is focused primarily on the low to mid end of the market, from around €400,000 to €1m. With the continuing political and economic troubles in Russia, this segment of the market has all but disappeared and has had a major impact on areas of the Costa Brava that have traditionally attracted large numbers of Russian buyers, particularly Lloret de Mar and Blanes in the southern area of the coastline. Whilst most of the sales activity has focused on properties in the €500,000 to €1.2m price bracket, we have also seen a handful of sales between €5m to 15m, suggesting that buyer confidence at the very top end of the market is also on the rise.
This is a very exciting period for the Costa Brava real estate market with some opportunities available that perhaps won’t be repeated for a generation. In areas such as the exclusive bay of Aiguablava near Begur there as many as eight first line properties currently on the market. For such a small area this is an unusually high level of seafront product and a situation that, prior to the start of the crisis, would have been unimaginable. A significant number of these properties have been owned by the same families for generations but – primarily due to the economic crisis of the past 7 years – many owners have taken the tough decision to sell. Many of these properties will sell over the course of the next 12 to 18 months as the recovery continues to gather pace and it could be many, many years before buyers have the opportunity to once again acquire prime seafront properties in these exclusive areas of the Costa Brava coastline.
Rachel Haslam, Director Lucas Fox Sitges
Lucas Fox’s Sitges office has had a very positive start to 2015. Buyers are more serious and ready to pass offers and close transactions quickly. In some cases we are seeing buyers being gazumped, a scenario which would have been unheard of a couple of years ago when the market was more stagnant. We recently had a young couple who have lost out on two properties because they didn’t act quickly enough! They now have the money in their pockets and are ready to sign immediately on the next property that appeals to them. These are local buyers , who we are definitely seeing more of recently. We have a lot more enquiries than previously from serious local buyers although still the vast majority of sales are to foreign buyers.
Most of our buyers are still cash buyers although mortgage rates are currently very attractive and offer potential buyers the possibility to top up their budget. We have just sold a €1m property to a couple who initially set out with a €600,000 budget! It took them a while but they ended up getting an 87% loan with excellent mortgage conditions (no bank commissions and Euribor + 1.5%).
Most demand comes in Sitges from buyers with a budget of €500,000 to €800,000 searching for a detached contemporary villa as close to the town as possible, preferably within walking distance from the centre and with a sea view – these properties do come at a price and generally command prices upwards of €1.2m. Buyers looking in Castelldefels or Gavà Mar generally are people who travel a lot for work and wish to be closer to the city and airport. Modern detached villas close to the beach or with spectacular sea views in the areas of Bellamar, Rat Penat and Montemar are most in demand. However such properties command a premium.
Jason Ham, Head of Business Development Lucas Fox Ibiza
Q1 and Q2 2015 has been extremely busy for Lucas Fox’s Ibiza office, both in terms of the increased number of serious buyer enquiries, and the volume of sales completed. This stems from a number of factors such as the Ibiza ‘lifestyle destination brand’ continuing to spread globally (particularly to the USA), the strength of Sterling against the Euro and Spanish banks keen to start lending again. As a result we have seen numbers of UK buyers increase here hugely, American interest surge (initially on the tourism front, but then followed rapidly on the buying/investment front), and also a large increase in investment and lending requests from the normally cautious Scandinavians, a great indicator of market confidence.
The rental market this summer has also hit incredible levels encouraging increasing numbers of investors to look for properties where average 8-9% annual rental yields are achievable in just 4 months.
The trend in increased demand for the northern more tranquil parts of the island such as Santa Gertrudis, San Juan, and San Carles continues, especially for year-round living, although the south west of the island (in particular Es Cubells) still dominates for wealthy summer home investors and the Marina Botofoch zone for apartments. One area that we predict could be a hot spot in the next few years is the land running south from Cala Conta around to Cala Tarida and Cala Vedella in the west, as island tourists become more adventurous and start looking for new good value properties in beautiful scenic areas.
As ever, requests for plots with licences to build villas continue to far outstrip supply and the current strict planning policies which look set to continue whilst the new political party are in power, will only serve to push prices up across the island, which can still vary wildly. This makes providing comparables notoriously difficult. Most sellers have realised that if they price their properties even relatively reasonably, then they will sell fast. Ibiza may be a dream destination but the majority of high-end buyers are ‘property-savvy’ and the investment market is also well educated here.
Stephen Lahiri, Partner Lucas Fox Marbella
The real estate market in Marbella is now well and truly buzzing again. Good quality properties in desirable locations are selling well and in prime locations (La Zagaleta, Golden Mile, Nueva Andalucía), prices are increasing. Overall, however prices are around 20-30% lower than at the peak in 2007. The number of transactions is up significantly (78% since 2011) as sellers feel more confident that prices will not drop further. However they are less open to negotiation.
Since sales have increased there is now a shortage of good quality properties in prime locations, which is pushing prices up. Buyers are also snapping up new off-plan properties that are being launched and in some cases projects are selling very quickly, as they are cheaper than most re-sale properties. These turnkey projects are selling so fast that we are seeing regular price increases of new off-plan properties coming onto the market.
Buyers are very design, quality and location-orientated, with the strongest demand seeming to be for properties within the €400,000 to €2m price range. Most buyers are cash buyers, although some do take up mortgages where available. The mix of nationalities buying is very varied including from Northern Europe, the Middle East and Asia. Villas and apartments in prime locations, close to the beach and near amenities in Nueva Andalucía, Golden Mile, San Pedro de Alcántara are in demand but there is also strong demand for luxury villas sometimes slightly inland in the district of Benahavís, in locations such as La Zagaleta, El Madroñal and La Alquería.
Juan Luis Herrero, Partner Lucas Fox Valencia
Overall the Valencia real estate market is evolving positively so far during 2015 and has done so since the start of summer 2013. It started off with a slight recovery that sped up during 2014 and ended with a significant growth, especially in the last quarter of 2014, where re-sales in Valencia city went up by 47%.
The first quarter of 2015 has seen an increase of 14% for property re-sales, a sure sign that the sector is becoming stronger. House prices are remaining constant because the increase in demand has been accompanied by a similar increase in supply, which has meant more competition.
Lucas Fox Valencia has historically attracted local buyers but so far during 2015 we are seeing increasing numbers of overseas buyers mostly from the UK, thanks in part to the strong Pound. After the results of the elections on 25 May, we get the feeling that uncertainty is returning to the market once again and buying decisions require more thought, the impact of which we will see in the next quarter. We are also wary of the market getting too hot as it did around 7 years ago so we welcome a respite from the price rises.