The costa still costs a little less

Property prices are spiralling up along the Spanish coasts, but you still get value for money

While many agents report a downturn in property sales on much of the Spanish coastline, there seems to be one
costa which is continuing to grow in popularity: the Costa Brava.

While many agents report a downturn in property sales on much of the Spanish coastline, there seems to be one costa which is continuing to grow in popularity: the Costa Brava.

George Lacey of Lacey & Co. has been selling property along a coastline stretching from the French border right down to Barcelona for over 15 years and has noticed a recent change in demand. "Generally I think people are getting fed up with Spain. The continually spiralling prices are putting them off particularly on the Costa del Sol where prices are now horrendous. But the Costa Brava is still popular - although I don't think that people fully realise just how upmarket it is."

Readers with long memories may well remember "the bad old days" when the Costa Brava was the first stretch of Spanish coastline to welcome package tours in droves and many places are still suffering the consequences. Lacey says that some resorts have never quite recovered. "Some are horrible, really ghastly. They're dirty, untidy and rather like the Spain of 30 years ago."

But Lacey speaks highly of numerous towns and resorts on this stretch of coast which are far from downmarket and which have property prices to match. "Begur is very expensive: on average you can expect to spend £400,000-£500,000. Pals is great for golfers and Empuriabrava attracts people of all ages and especially those with a love of boating. It's extremely popular."

Lacey Property Brokers are selling a range of property in the region including a restaurant with an apartment overlooking the coast at Empuriabrava for €290,000 (£193,000), a six-bedroomed house in Blanes for €462,780 (£308,000) and a house which needs renovation in Vilert near Banyoles for €550,000 (£366,000).

This part of Spain seems to attract buyers of all ages. Mark Stucklin of Spanish Property Insight, an online consultancy for overseas buyers, lives in Barcelona and has noticed a wave of British buyers who have relocated from the Costa del Sol in search of the "real Spain". "You definitely don't find British ghettoes up here," he says. "Whether you buy a holiday or permanent home, your neighbours are likely to be Spanish." Other nationalities also drawn to this region include Dutch, German and Swedish buyers, but the market is mostly locally driven. "Many people who live and work in Barcelona have holiday homes further up the Costa Brava and a strong local market is good news for everyone."

Stucklin recently carried out research comparing the Costa del Sol property market with prices on the Costa Brava. He compared prices for new build property in Marbella, the Costa del Sol's most upmarket location, with the most affluent resort in the Costa Brava, Begur, and found Malaga prices were around 14 per cent higher. A similar comparison of resale property showed the Costa del Sol on average to be 29 per cent higher. "You not only get more bang for your buck here, but other things are so much cheaper too, for example green fees, and there are some great championship golf courses here."

But as the popularity of the Costa Brava grows, does Stucklin believe it will suffer from over development? "It's far too rocky and hilly so it's not conducive to building the large, new developments that you get on the other Costas; plus the planning regulations are far stricter and less corrupt, so you're never going to get the big British agents bringing over hundreds at a time. There's no such thing as an inspection visit on this coast."

Parador Properties may best be known for higher volume sales on the Costa Blanca - they have only been active in the Costa Brava for three years - but managing director Simon Lambert's association with this stretch of the coast goes back further. "I grew up on the Costa Brava and it's the part of Spain which I love most," he says. "It may not be our biggest, strongest market compared to the other Costas, but it's definitely the place where I would choose to live one day."

Lambert believes that even formerly frowned upon tourist spots from the Sixties such as Lloret are now fast going upmarket and points to a current development being marketed by Parador, Villas Aries in Tossa de Mar, where three-bedroomed villas with gardens and a shared pool start from €310,000 (£207,000). Lambert believes that this development not only offers excellent value but has other advantages. "Pine-clad hillsides surround it and the view is jawdroppingly unspoilt so you can barely see another house. I think that £200,000 for a three-bedroomed, two-bathroom villa is a good price to pay for somewhere within easy reach of Europe's number one city destination."

Barcelona is certainly the jewel in the Costa Brava's crown and agents report that its popularity is having a knock-on effect on the entire coastline. The Property Finders' Rita Fryer is a search agent who finds property in Madrid, throughout Catalonia and Barcelona itself and she believes that the British fascination for the latter borders on a "love affair" which she believes can only increase in passion. Fryer has noticed prices creeping up both in the city itself which she reports are "now on par with Paris" but also throughout the region.

Select Resorts' Pauline Bonnani agrees that Barcelona's popularity is boosting the whole of the Costa Brava and is also prompting buyers to look further down the coastline on the Costa Daurada, where she is selling golfing development Bonmont. The development is around one hour from Barcelona and two hours from Girona airport with prices starting at around £174,000 for two-bedroomed apartments, which come with a rental guarantee of 6 per cent for two years. Villas with shared pool are around £240,000 and villas with private pool have a price tag of £278,000.

Lacey & Co.: 01702 603210, www.laceypropertybrokers.com;

Spanish Property Insight: www.spanishpropertyinsight.com;

Parador Properties: 0800 083 8658, www.paradorproperties.com;

The Property Finders (who help people find and buy property in Catalonia, Andalucia and Madrid): 0871 218 0500, 0034 9 7262 4557, www.thepropertyfinders.com;

Select Resorts: 01202 786490, www.selectresorts.co.uk;

Your House in Spain: 00 34 9 3467 1523, www.yhis.com

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