Always a long, hot winter

White sand, year-round rays and easy access make the Canaries popular with sun-seekers and investors alike. Zoe Dare Hall reports

Though Costa del Sol devotees would be loath to admit it, even Spain's most southerly fringes can get nippy in winter. But there is a farther-flung part of Spain where, come Christmas, you can still laze on beaches whose golden sands have generously been blown over from the Sahara desert, 50 miles away.

Though Costa del Sol devotees would be loath to admit it, even Spain's most southerly fringes can get nippy in winter. But there is a farther-flung part of Spain where, come Christmas, you can still laze on beaches whose golden sands have generously been blown over from the Sahara desert, 50 miles away.

The Canary Islands - Tenerife, Lanzarote, Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura and La Gomera - lay claim to being the only place in Europe with guaranteed winter sun. And for property-owners, that means a year-round rental market.

Ten years ago, the Canaries were one of the most expensive regions in Spain, on a par with the Balearics. But the latest figures show that house prices are now significantly below the national average and way behind Mallorca. "Prices have still increased by about 12 per cent in the Canaries, but not at the same rate as other Spanish coastal areas, which have gone up by at least 20 per cent," says Mark Stucklin from Spanish Property Insight. "They are that much farther away than the Costa del Sol and the Balearics, and they lack the glamour and cultural draws," he explains.

Leslie Beeson from Tenerife Property Shop argues that the less steep price rises compared with other Costas demonstrates real growth rather than the "false UK-inspired bubbles that we've seen in parts of mainland Spain. Tenerife is a safer investment." Safer in many ways. Deterred by the freak weather conditions on the other side of the Atlantic, buyers who would have invested in Florida or the Caribbean are now settling for Tenerife.

Beeson adds that buying in the Canaries is unlike investing in the mainland. "Restoring rural fincas isn't popular in the Canaries - there's no DIY culture. There's far more money to be made in buying into newer developments and renting out because the year-round rental market is Tenerife's selling point. The tourists never go away."

Beeson describes the bulk of British buyers there as retiring Woofties (well-off over-50s), and the upmarket new San Blas Village is just the sort of thing they go for. Set on a nature reserve by the sea, villas are dotted around two golf courses and a man-made lake; from €480,000 (£330,000).

Development on Lanzarote has always been reigned in by tough planning laws; buildings must be single-storey and whitewashed, with green window frames. But developers are starting to rebel and higher buildings are emerging around the island's main resort of Playa Blanca. Some are even painting their windows blue.

"Inland properties in Lanzarote are starting to take off," says Paul Sully from Freedom For Sale, a Canaries property portal. "A few years ago, you could buy rural properties very cheaply, but the Spanish have realised how much foreigners are prepared to pay. The average house on Lanzarote costs €407,000 (£280,000) and the average apartment €157,000 (£108,000)."

Fuerteventura is the second-largest island and the closest to Africa. Its beaches are of the white-sand-and-turquoise-sea variety and the interior resembles a volcano-strewn lunar landscape. "The Spanish regard Fuerteventura as the Wild West. There are more goats than people," says Beeson. But Jonathan Salsbury of Hamptons International considers the island's unspoilt beauty its main selling point. "The new government has launched a drive for quality development to keep the tranquillity as its main feature," he says.

Promoting the Origo Mare development near Corralejo in the north, Salsbury is surprised to find that most of the people who have expressed interest have been holidaying there regularly over the past 20 years. "Fuerteventura is the Canaries' best-kept secret. The lack of greenery takes some getting used to, but the beaches are beautiful and the roads are good."

Fuerteventura - host of this year's Spanish Open - is also catching up in the golf stakes. Having seen how British buyers will snap up anything near a golf course on the Costa del Sol, developers on the Canaries are following suit. At Caleta de Fuste, two-bed apartments start at €200,000, and at Origo Mare, €136,000 (£94,000) will get you a villa with gardens and views across the Majanicho beach. So how about buying in the Canaries to play golf? That really would be killing two birdies with one stone.

Hamptons International: 020-7589 8844, see www.origomare.com

www.tenerifepropertyshop.com, 0871 871 6131

www.freedomforsale.com, 00 34 928 845 944

www.spanishpropertyinsight.com

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