20 Years since arriving in Spain… here is my account so far!
As I woke up this morning to the driving rain it occurred to me that on the surface not much had changed since the day I arrived on the Costa del ‘Sol’ 20 years to the day!!! My thoughts turned to reflection on what had actually happened in the last 2 decades since becoming resident of Spain.
Certainly, the hard hitting downpour of this morning was reminiscent of the same day back in 2000, but of course heavy rain is something I was used being British and coming from Central and South America where it can rain hard too, but this was relentless, a daily occurrence, something that everybody I spoke to just said it ‘was unprecedented’ but after 6 weeks I was beginning to wonder why on earth I had committed to living in Spain at all...!?
The weather aside, everything in my life has developed since that day, having arrived as a 28 year old who’s only real ambition was to look to further my experience in Real Estate having spent the previous 5.5 years working in Casinos in London, Peru and Venezuela.
As that chapter in my life came to an end in 1998, I was faced with a number of options but relished a chance to follow in my grandfather’s footsteps in the property industry and having just completed a good apprenticeship as an agent working in West London, I was looking to apply the trade somewhere more appealing – without the rain - you must be starting to appreciate the irony by now!?
So, it was from this point I began life with an Estate Agency company based in San Pedro de Alcantara, a small town that forms part of the Marbella Municipality. After four successful years working my way up through the company and managing a sales team that dealt in resale property and new development projects from Malaga to Gibraltar, I was given an opportunity to operate in a totally new territory - Cyprus.
It was a chance to apply the experience gained working with numerous new build projects on the Costa del Sol with a new developer from Israel who wanted to try and replicate the business model of the new development sales strategies on the Costa del Sol and they wanted advice on how to structure every detail and asked we act as promoter thereafter to deliver and apply best practices to meet their sales targets.
Every detail was discussed on unit sizing, layouts, orientations, phase releases, payment structures and price points to provide intended margins, and this was the first new build project I was involved in from the outset.
Working as the promoter gave ‘us’ the company, exclusivity on all sales and thankfully it all worked out way above expectations so we were asked to continue the relationship into other projects over the next 12 months where I would travel back and forth with clients from all over Europe buying in both countries.
Then came the economic downturn that smashed through the markets on a global scale and meant we all had to downsize and regroup. As the property market began to slow, I had to create alternative ways to make a living.
I first noticed the turn in early part of 2006 although official figures portray it began in 2007 but the signs were already apparent, perhaps made more obvious as it coincided with the demise of the reputation of Marbella and the town planning for the area which began in part due to numerous corruption cases that came to light at the time, which affected sales and it seemed all new developments were practically ceased through one complication or another.
As a result, those involved are now either locked up or mysteriously no longer with us. Marbella are still waiting on a new town plan and nothing has advanced since the PGOU of 1986 due to the disruption and all major decisions relating to building projects for the area have until recently been dealt with centrally by the Junta de Andalucia which did allow things to return to some normality by 2013 but by then the market was awash with bank repossession property…
Thankfully, more by luck than anything, clients began to realise there were short term issues with anyone meeting their own market value so during this period I turned my attentions to helping existing clients, and later on referred ones, to making home improvements with upgrades to the design and layout, often with more modern installations that would add additional space and value.
As achieving the same level of expectation for the sale of the house was unlikely, despite it all being relative, many of the clients were in a position to wait for the market to come back around as these properties were mostly second homes.
While working with the companies in the building trades we were able to deliver on making something special from idle spaces like basement areas, living room extensions, and building out to create larger sleeping quarters etc... Another request was upgrades to outdoor spaces - shaded terraces and pool decks to be converted into chill out areas became a big thing, which were very cool.
The best installations came with audio and TV systems added which connected to the main house with home control that could create various lighting scenes throughout each zone for the desired effect depending on the mood, occasion or time of day…
Once the market allowed, I was straight back into the new build promotion. 2014 saw the start of a resurgence for new development projects on the Costa del Sol and I was at the front of the queue to get back promoting. Interestingly though, the developer’s focus had diverted a little from Marbella due to the time it was taking to re-establish its reputation and building licensing, and as a result the areas of Benahavis and Estepona became the benefactors.
With town planning firmly established and technical personnel in both municipalities on hand daily to discuss any potential new build opportunities, it opened up a whole new market for those clients wishing to build their own home. Relationships I had established from the home refurbishments were already in place, so I was already ahead with architects, builders, interior designers and all other trades associated with getting the regulations in place to begin construction works.
My focus since that point has been to build a portfolio of plot options so clients had the best choice of locations on the coast anywhere between Mijas Costa and Sotogrande for those wanting to build their own villa.
That developed into investors looking for land for larger projects and has become a part of the business I have really enjoyed being involved with in the last few years with small developers, land acquisition investors and prospectors alike.
Alongside that grew my own interest in sustainable build projects, energy efficient housing that could be manufactured and delivered in less time and provide a far more eco-friendly solution. This was something that North European clients have been crying out for especially as the traditional Spanish build was no longer cutting their mustard…!
As build technologies have improved so too have the expectations of clients but as is typically the case Spain have been slow on the uptake, so it has been a challenge to entice builders and developers to embrace the new methods on offer. Architects, in the main, have been excited to be involved as they see it as natural progression and have been keen to work with builders comfortable working with these modern methods of construction.
Offsite manufacture and modular build are no longer perceived as being a risk nor inferior, and when coupled with modern HVAC and glass treatment solutions it has proven to be a more stable way to maintain temperatures in the home, something that will surely become the norm in an area boasting some of the best ‘all year round’ temperatures anywhere in Europe – my first 6 weeks here aside of course!
So where am I based now? Well my company, ‘The Marbella Connection’ has offices at the half way point from the two areas mentioned in San Pedro de Alcantara… Yep in 20 years I have managed to move all of 3 minutes’ walk from the original premises and I don’t consider myself a creature of habit, but one thing is for sure, the 3 children that depend on me have slowed my exploits down a little to the point I have to be somewhat more realistic in my thinking…!
Here’s wishing everyone a safe few weeks ahead, hoping that we can all remain healthy and be in a position to return to some level of normality soon so we can move forwards in 2020 wherever we may be…!