House Hunting in Spain: Mediterranean Views on the Costa Del Sol for $1.5 Million


This five-bedroom house, known as Villa Dos Palmeras, is in the comfortable Pinares de San Antón neighborhood, east of the historic town center of Málaga, on the southern coast of Spain.

The 4,090-square-foot villa, built in 2003, sits in the top right corner of a walled 0.34-acre lot in the Málaga mountains. Below, the old fishing village of El Palo bustles with shops, markets, tapas bars and fish restaurants along a string of sandy beaches. The two-story house faces south, with views over the Mediterranean Sea and, on a clear day, to the Rif mountains of Africa.

“My goal was to build a house that had every modern amenity but in a style of the old, classic palacetes found throughout Andalusia,” said Stephen K. Gomez, the owner, a novelist and real estate broker from San Francisco. With his wife, Marisa Moret, an attorney, Mr. Gomez wanted to build “something that represented a family home in Spain,” since his paternal grandfather was born in Málaga.

A wood door in a perimeter wall opens to the villa’s gardens and a stone stairway, which climbs to a front porch under a pergola draped with flowering vines. A double front door in an antique stone portal leads to a wide entry hall with an oak-beamed 11-foot ceiling. Thick, glazed “barro” clay tiles run throughout.

The interior designer Ronald Crosetti designed the house around the adjacent enclosed two-story center patio. At the center of its 33-foot wood ceiling, a skylight opens electronically to vent heat.

A chandelier beneath the skylight was fashioned from the metal cover of a church pulpit, said Carolina Herrera, an agent with Engel & Volkers Málaga East, which has the listing. To one side of the central patio, an antique Moroccan wrought-iron and glass door overlooks a mini interior patio with tiles copied from a Syrian mosque.

Two steps down from the porch, the massive living room has a coffered wood-beam ceiling and a fireplace with a hacienda-style sandstone mantel. Two sets of double doors open to a walkway between the house and a 40-foot long lap pool, which has a spillover that cascades into a small pond in the garden below.

Double doors from the TV room, also off the center patio, lead across an outdoor terrace to the pool. The TV room and adjacent first-floor bedroom have en suite baths.

The kitchen has a U-shaped work area, wood cabinets, terra cotta-hued marble countertops, a fireplace, breakfast nook, bar and elevator stop (the lift runs from the lower-level four-car garage to the upstairs bedrooms).

The second-floor landing has views of the Mediterranean through a trio of arched windows. All three bedrooms have en suite baths and walk-in closets. French doors in the primary bedroom open to a private terrace with sea views. The larger guest bedroom has a corner balcony with ocean views.

Next to the garage, a one-bedroom apartment is reached via an exterior door or through the garage. Access to a wine cellar, gym, storage, music studio and laundry room is in the garage. An antique stone pergola is in the garden. The house, which has five heating and air-conditioning zones, is being sold furnished.

The property is in a private development, two blocks from an entrance to a preserve and hiking area on the San Antón mountain, and a few blocks from the 130-year-old Málaga Tennis Club. Among Málaga’s 37 museums are the Picasso Museum Málaga and the influential Spanish artist’s Birthplace Museum. Marbella, popular with jet-setters, is 45 minutes away. The Málaga airport is a 20-minute drive.

The southern coast of Spain has long been a popular destination for tourists and foreign buyers, driving much of the nation’s housing-market recovery after years of falling prices in the wake of the global recession.

Before the coronavirus forced Spain to shut down in March, the market on the Costa Del Sol, just south of Málaga, was “very stable, with constant high demand since 2012,” said Smadar Kahana, managing director of Engel & Volkers Marbella. Sales-wise, 2019 was “one of the best.”

“Many important sales were achieved prior to the lockdown,” said Pia Arrieta Morales, a partner at Diana Morales Properties. “Prices did not seem to be affected by the fears announced by some experts.”

As of Aug. 18, Spain had reported 359,082 cases of Covid-19 (the most of any European nation) and 28,646 deaths (fewer than Italy, France and Britain), according to the The New York Times’s coronavirus map.

Today, the market has nearly bounced back to pre-pandemic levels. “Though a few deals were immediately canceled when the lockdown began, most agencies saw strong interest, fielding more inquiries than usual from local, national and international buyers,” Ms. Kahana said. “We were able to close deals also during the lockdown and some deals were generated via virtual viewings.”

Still, total real estate transactions fell by about 20 percent from 2019, said Mario Garnica, director of Engel & Volkers Málaga, because of the “historic drop in air traffic and to the quarantine imposed to avoid the virus spread.”

When stay-at-home measures were eased in Spain and other countries, “pent-up demand” for properties on the Costa Del Sol rocketed, Ms. Arrieta said, with property searches on her company’s website climbing 34 percent compared with the same period last year.

“As soon as flights were authorized to land in Spain, sales started to happen,” she said, “with many of the deals agreed prior to Covid-19” completed in May and June. “Prices and sales remain on par with 2019, with neither significant discounts on the deals nor big hits on the asking prices,” she said. With so much demand, some asking prices have increased.

Deals are also closing quickly. “We have many European clients that seem to be in a hurry to purchase houses here,” Ms. Kahana said. “People realize the comfort and efficiency of working remotely.”

The Costal del Sol has 17 municipalities and more than 93 miles of coastline. Marbella has long been “the jewel of the crown,” including the neighboring towns of Estepona and Benahavis in the “Golden Triangle,” Ms. Arrieta said.

The “Golden Mile,” between Marbella and Puerto Banus, is also coveted by deep-pocketed foreign buyers, with luxury prices ranging from $3.5 million to more than $70 million.

Sixty percent of buyers are purchasing holiday properties, Ms. Kahana said, often seeking modern new houses with traditional Andalusian flair. Prices for two-bedrooms near the beach range from 700,000 to 2.5 million euros ($828,000 to $2.95 million). Further inland, buyers can find properties for as little as 350,000 euros ($415,000), Ms. Kahana said.

In the port city of Málaga, home to about 570,000 people, the majority of buyers are full-time residents, Mr. Garnica said. Resales of older homes dominate and Mediterranean style is most coveted. New condominiums are being developed in the city and along the coast. In Málaga East, mansion prices top out at 4 million euros ($4.7 million), far lower than in Marbella, Ms. Herrera said.

In the province of Málaga, 28 percent of property transactions in 2019 were completed by foreign buyers, said Maria del Mar Poza, marketing director for Diana Morales Properties. In the first quarter of 2020, it was about 33 percent.

Hans Veenhuijsen, managing director of the local Christie’s International Real Estate, said buyers typically come from Britain, Germany, Scandinavia, the Netherlands and Belgium.

Buyers also come from France and Finland, Ms. Herrera said.

Lisa Sadleir, a relocation consultant and property finder who runs the website MoveToMalaga.com said clients span the globe, including the United States, Canada and the United Arab Emirates.

There are no restrictions on foreign buyers in Spain.

A Foreign Identity Number, obtained through the police department, is required for opening a bank account or to buy property, Ms. del Mar Poza said.

A notary must oversee the process of signing contracts, transferring deeds and ensuring that taxes and fees are paid. An independent lawyer specializing in Spanish conveyance laws is highly recommended to do due diligence and check title.

Banks offer mortgages to foreign buyers for up to about 50 percent of the purchase price, Mr. Veenhuijsen said.

Spanish; euro (1 euro = $1.18)

The annual property taxes on this house are 2,320 euros ($2,668), with monthly homeowner association dues of about 100 euros ($118).

Transfer taxes are approximately 10 percent. Notary fees run about 1 percent; lawyers also charge about 1 percent. The seller pays the 5 percent real estate commission.

Carolina Herrera, Engel & Volkers Málaga East, 011-34-689-434-343, engelvoelkers.com

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