Lucas Fox Prime Partner Tom Maidment shares his experience of heading up the Costa Brava & Girona office and why the demographic of buyer has changed over the past decade or so.
Tom Maidment has been Partner of Lucas Fox’s Girona & Costa Brava office for more than a decade. During this time it has earned a reputation as the go-to agency for prime residential sales. In the first three quarters of 2019, the office sold more than €35 million worth of property including the two largest residential transactions in the region. Following the sale of a large seafront property in Platja d’Aro and a luxury first line villa in Aiguablava – with a combined value of €15.7million – Lucas Fox has claimed 100% of the uber prime (above €7 million) market in the Costa Brava in 2019.
How has the prime market in Girona and the Costa Brava evolved over the last 10 years?
There has always been an appetite for prime properties in Girona and the Costa Brava. Even during the years of the property crash we saw a number of substantial transactions taking place in prime areas although the volume of operations obviously dropped off during that period. The prime market is now in a very good place and the number of high-end sales in the past couple of years has increased to levels not seen since the start of the crisis.
How have the demographics changed?
That is probably the biggest single change. 10 years ago the high-end of the market was dominated by Russian buyers and, to some extent, wealthy local buyers too. Russians were most active in coastal areas – particularly around S’Agaró, Platja d’Aro, Lloret de Mar and Blanes, whilst the high-end local buyers were more inclined to purchase luxury country properties in the prime areas of the Empordà. The Russian market is far less active now and we have seen very few prime sales to Russian buyers in the past seven years or so. Prime national buyers also withdrew from the market during the years of the crisis and it has only been in the past two years that we have seen them re-emerge as an active sector of the market. From an international standpoint, Northern European buyers are now the most active buyers – predominantly lifestyle investors from France and the UK. Prime buyers tend to be company owners and CEOs, often from the financial sector. In recent years we are seeing an increasing number of buyers from tech start-ups or from some of the establish players from Silicone Valley.
Would you describe the area as good value for money for prime buyers?
Everything is relative but if you compare with other prime areas of the Mediterranean coastline, including the neighbouring Côte d’Azur or the Balearic Islands (in particular Ibiza and Mallorca), you would have to say that the area represents excellent value for money. Prime buyers look for quality infrastructure and amenities and the Costa Brava delivers this in spades – from the excellent road network to the proximity of international airports (Barcelona, Girona and Perpignan), and from quality gastronomy and shopping to first class leisure facilities. What makes the region unique is that it attracts a discerning, discreet wealth. Buyers don’t invest in the Costa Brava ‘to be seen’. It’s not ostentatious. Investors choose the Costa Brava to enjoy peace and tranquillity in a family-friendly environment whilst enjoying everything the region has to offer amidst breathtaking, unspoilt coastal scenery.
Do prime buyers tend to want coastal or rustic properties?
There are two distinct profiles of buyer. Those who buy coastal homes want to be wedded to the sea when they stay there and will most likely own their own boat. They will be looking for fantastic sea views and easy access to a beach and nearby marina. Those who buy inland prefer to dip in and out. They are more likely to stick to the tranquil surroundings of their country home and know that if they choose to spend time at the beach then they can return to the peace and quiet of their country pad at the end of the day. More often than not buyers of rustic properties will look to take full advantage of their location, space and land – growing their own produce, keeping horses and playing tennis, for example. They are also more likely to be attracted to inland activities such as golf or cycling. Buyers generally come with a clear intention of either buying in a coastal or an inland location. It’s very rare to encounter a buyer who is open to both.
In the prime market, what are the main motivations for buying? Has this changed in the last few years?
Few prime buyers are investing for short-term gain – or even medium-term gain. Most will be investing for lifestyle purposes with the intention of enjoying the property over a prolonged period of time. It’s almost always a long-term play. That’s not to suggest that prime buyers will pay any price for unique properties in prime locations. Prime buyers are amongst the most savvy, cautious and experienced buyers and will always want to make sure that they are getting the best possible price. A prime buyer is unlikely to get emotionally attached to a property and this puts them in a very strong position during negotiations. They know that if they can’t achieve the desired price they can just walk away in the knowledge that they have plenty of other options to choose from. Sellers are often of the misguided opinion that prime buyers will pay any price. This is simply not the case and negotiations with prime buyers can often be long and protracted.
What do you think, if any, are common misperceptions of the area?
Most informed buyers will do their research so they will understand exactly what to expect from the prime areas of the Costa Brava. Many will be buying as a result of a positive referral from a contact or from having read positive articles in the press. If there are any misperceptions from buyers unfamiliar with the area it is usually from associating the Costa Brava with other, over-developed areas of the Spanish coastline. This is simply not the case with the Costa Brava and prime areas of coast around Cadaqués, Begur and Palafrugell (including Llafranc, Calella de Palafrugell and Tamariu) are a perfect example of how to successfully pursue a niche, high level of tourism in line with environmental protection. Planning regulations in these areas prevent any major development so you see very little, if any, high rise. There are few big hotels, just small, boutique family run businesses and the coastal towns and bays are beautifully preserved.
If you could describe a perfect day in the region, what would it be?
That’s an impossible question to answer. There is too much on offer to cram it all into one day. It also depends whether you are looking to spend the perfect day on the coast or inland. Suffice to say that whether you are into sailing, diving, sea kyaking, golf, walking, cycling, horseriding, music, art, history, culture or just lazing on a beach in the sun alongside clear, turquoise waters, there are a million and one ways to fill your perfect day. And for those attracted by the phenomenal offering of quality gastronomy, you can be safe in the knowledge that you will never be too far from the nearest Michelin starred restaurant.
How would you describe the region in three words?
Seductive. Enchanting. Authentic.
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