A finca off the tourist trail

Far from the crowded, coastal developments of Spain, a growing number of adventurous British buyers are looking further inland for their dream home. All you need is dogged determination and fluent Spanish, says Ginetta Vedrickas
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The Independent Online

Everyone has heard of Malaga, Marbella and Pollensa, and evidence of the Brits' love of these popular Spanish destinations is in abundance at these coastal resorts. But what if you want to buy a home on mainland Spain or on the isle of Mallorca and prefer to be off the beaten track? Where do you look and how do you go about it?

Everyone has heard of Malaga, Marbella and Pollensa, and evidence of the Brits' love of these popular Spanish destinations is in abundance at these coastal resorts. But what if you want to buy a home on mainland Spain or on the isle of Mallorca and prefer to be off the beaten track? Where do you look and how do you go about it?

An estate agent or the internet may be your first port of call but, if you do not know exactly where you wish to be, this can be frustrating. And, while the coast is inundated with estate agents, in the countryside they are few and far between. Barbara Wood, of County Homesearch, is a search agent in Andalucia. She now finds that 99 per cent of enquiries are for inland properties but she warns: "Buyers abroad typically underestimate how time-consuming and costly information-gathering and looking can be and they do not factor this into the equation."

Wood often faces reluctance from British house hunters who balk at her £500 registration fee – Danes and Germans will pay it readily – but she believes that using a search agent saves buyers time and money. "Otherwise, you end up wasting thousands of pounds in air fares, hotels and car hire. Often people go out especially to see something recommended by an estate agent only to find when they get there that it is complete dross."

Buyers who wish to go off-track may also find the language barrier more of a problem than on the coast. Philip Williams recently bought a small village house outside Girona, near Barcelona, but found the process difficult. "I know the area very well, having holidayed here for many years. I'd hoped to rely on my own language skills but in the end I paid someone I found locally to do all the negotiations for me, as the estate agent who was selling the house had little English, which I hadn't reckoned on."

Williams' purchase was straightforward but it can be helpful to have a third party on your side, particularly when it comes to buying rural properties. Percentages charged by estate agents can vary widely in prime areas and Wood warns that estate agents rarely offer impartial advice. "I recently spoke to a guy who was interested in the Ronda area, which he'd seen on postcards. It was only when he mentioned that it was for a winter residence, and I pointed out that it snows most winters in Ronda, that he realised it was not a good idea. He could have bought something totally unsuitable, but an agent would just assume he didn't care about the temperature."

As road improvements bring many more inland villages within easy reach, buyers find their budget goes a lot further than on the often over-developed coastline. Wood recommends areas such as Antequera, Alhaurin, Yunquera and Alora, where she has built up contacts with local agents such as Inland Properties who currently have a finca near Alora for sale at £210,000. This eight-bed farmhouse needs modernisation but has an adjoining, habitable one-bedroomed house.

Fincas Andalucia have a village house for sale for £70,000 in Yunquera, which has three bedrooms, and a large attic that could be converted. The property has many original features, countryside views and balcony and roof terrace.

On the Balearic island of Mallorca, most British visitors are familiar with resorts such as Pollensa in the north, Cala D'Or in the south-east and Magaluf, but there is a lot more to the island than these areas, according to search agent Jan Westwood. "Many British buyers focus their search in these areas alone, but there are some great rural retreats to be found in alternative locations." Westwood regularly sources fincas scattered in the foothills of the Tra- muntana around the villages of Campanet, Moscari and Caimari, which are only 15 minutes from the coast, with distant sea views of the bay of Alcudia.

Grupo Mundo Mediterraneo currently has a newly refurbished Mallorcan house in the Moscari Campanet area for £1.13m. It is on a 35,000sqm estate, with six bedrooms, three bathrooms, a library, several terraces and a pool area with breathtaking views over the Tramuntana mountain range.

Alaro, within easy reach of Palma, is another location for those wanting to be off the general tourist trail, and Deià and Valldemossa are picturesque mountain villages in the north-west, although they are well-populated in the summer. "Visitors are drawn to the monastery, the cultural centre created by Michael Douglas, and the hotel La Residencia in Deià, formerly owned by Richard Branson. Fincas in the surrounding hills are highly sought after and prices are high," says Westwood, who recently found a restored village house there with pool and village views on offer for £299,000 through Brinkama Consulting.

Further down the coast, Banyalbufar is still a secluded bolthole and, deeper inland, Westwood recommends Esporlas and Campos, which lies in the heart of the agricultural flatlands extending towards the salt lakes. But there are some spots that the island's inhabitants would rather keep to themselves. "Ses Salines is a busy little community where many still cycle about the town. Only five miles to the south is one of the most unspoiled stretches of fine sandy beaches, Es Trenc, which is popular with the Mallorquins."

www.wefindproperty.com

County Homesearch: Andalucia, 01908 218753; Mallorca, 00 34 971 233 207

Inland Properties: 00 34 95 2497575

Fincas Andalucia: 00 34 95 2482094

Grupo Mundo Mediterraneo: 00 34 971 516 599

Brinkama Consulting: 00 34 871 942 842

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