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House Hunting in…Spain | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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New York Times

This seven-bedroom six-bathroom villa, built in 2002 on a 2.2-acre plot, has the thick, whitewashed walls, multiple patios, ornate grilled windows, hand-painted tiles and terra-cotta-tiled roof of a traditional Andalusian home.

The 6,437-square-foot villa, in the gated development of El Madroñal in Benahavís, has views of the Mediterranean Sea from all three levels. It also has a 36-by-12.5-foot swimming pool with a blue-and-white mosaic of hand-painted tiles on a nearby wall depicting a Spanish cowboy.

A driveway flanked by cork trees leads to the main entrance of the villa. The antique wooden front doors open to a foyer displaying a painting resembling the Infanta Margarita Teresa, who was depicted in works by Velázquez; paintings of Spanish royalty also hang in other rooms. The villa’s furniture and art are included in the asking price.

Floors of handcrafted terra-cotta tiles are found throughout much of the villa. To the right of the foyer is an open-plan living room and dining room. The living room has a fireplace and leads into a lengthy veranda with another fireplace and ceiling beams. Tall wooden doors open to the pool area.
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Also on the main level is the rustic-style kitchen with ceramic tile countertops and appliances by Smeg; and an independent two-story guest wing with a separate entrance, a lounge with a fireplace and a bedroom with an en-suite bathroom.

Stairs with a wrought-iron balustrade lead to the upper floor of the villa, which has a master suite with a vaulted beamed ceiling, a fireplace, a canopy bed, a dressing room and an en-suite bathroom with access to a balcony and an open terrace. Across a corridor with a balcony are two bedrooms that share a bathroom.

The lower level, which was refurbished in 2015, has three more bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms, a powder room and a bricked lounge with a bar area and a wine cellar. The exit from the wine cellar to a downstairs terrace is lined with typical Arabic-style tiles. The villa is air-conditioned and has oil-fired central heating, an alarm system and a two-car garage.

The garden of bougainvillea, thyme, rosemary and heather is surrounded by cork, pine, oak and arbutus trees. The villa is in a 560-acre gated development of about 108 homes, with six secured entrances, said Carlos Padilla, a property consultant who has the listing with Diana Morales Properties.

The villages of La Heredia or El Madroñal, a few minutes’ drive, have restaurants, cafes and grocers, and about 10 golf courses are within a half-hour drive. Nearby beaches include those in San Pedro de Alcántara and Puerto Banús, which is a major tourist destination, with upscale shopping, restaurants, clubs and the largest mall in the area.

Just north of the development is the Sierra de las Nieves, a Unesco biosphere reserve. Twenty minutes away by car is Marbella, the prime real estate market on the Andalusian coast. The international airports in Málaga and Gibraltar are both within an hour’s drive.


Definitions of the Costa del Sol can differ, but it is frequently seen spanning roughly from Nerja in the northeast down to Algeciras in the southwest, and running up to 10 miles inland. However, few brokers dispute that its heart and soul is Marbella, a cosmopolitan city of almost 150,000 near the geographic center of that stretch.

The prime real estate area is the seaside “Golden Mile” from Marbella to Puerto Banús, a strip of several miles developed with five-star resorts and apartment complexes. The few villas there are in high demand and can command prices as high as 10 million euros, or about $11.2 million, said Kristina Szekely, the owner of Kristina Szekely Sotheby’s International Realty, which is based in Marbella.

Two-bedroom apartments on the “Golden Mile” can be found for as little as 300,000 euros, or about $336,000, said Mike Braunholtz, the chief executive of the Prestige Property Group in London, which handles a lot of sales in the area.

While the Costa del Sol suffered, like the rest of Spain, after the 2008 global real estate crisis, with home prices typically falling 15 to 20 percent, Marbella was one of the first places to recover, Mr. Padilla said. The market is now even seeing price increases in more popular enclaves, brokers said.

Other parts of the Costa del Sol, particularly the area between Marbella and Málaga, which was popular among British tourists in the 1960s and ’70s, are significantly lower priced and have not fared as well since the 2008 crisis, Mr. Braunholtz said.

Benahavís is a small town, but has several well-regarded residential areas, such as El Madroñal, La Zagaleta, La Alqueria, La Quinta and El Paraiso, which represent about 90 percent of the municipality’s area, Mr. Padilla said. Prices have recovered fully since the 2008 crisis, and currently villas range from about 700,000 euros, or about $784,000, to 18 million euros, or about $20 million, he said.


The 2008 global real estate crisis and the British vote in June to leave the European Union, which has sent the value of the pound sterling plummeting, have both affected the composition of foreign buyers on the Costa del Sol, Ms. Szekely said.

“Before it used to be one-third Spanish buyers, one-third British buyers and one-third mixed buyers,” she said. “Now, it’s very mixed.”

Buyers are coming from the Middle East, Scandinavia, the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, France, Switzerland and Russia; North Americans are buying, but not in large numbers, brokers said. While Chinese buyers are still not numerous, there are more of them than ever before, they said.


There are no restrictions on foreign home buyers in Spain; however, they must obtain an identification number, a simple process that typically costs about 250 euros, or about $280, Mr. Padilla said.

A lawyer is recommended, though not necessary, brokers said. A typical lawyer’s fee for a property conveyance is about 0.75 percent to 1 percent of the property’s sales price, Ms. Szekely said.

Besides nominal notary fees and registration fees, home buyers must pay a purchase tax that varies based on the home’s sales price, but is typically 10 to 12 percent of the home’s price, Mr. Padilla said.

Foreign home buyers can obtain mortgages from Spanish banks, which typically finance up to 60 percent of the official property valuation, he said.

New York Times