The battle of Lake Zahara

LAST UPDATED: 6 Apr, 2009 @ 14:58
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The battle of Lake Zahara

After their stunning home appeared in the Olive Press’s ‘Bargains in the Mountains’ feature in May, the owners of Finca Pantano found a trio of buyers in a bidding war. Who said the property market was dead?

TRY telling Adrian Day and Mark Florko that it’s a quiet, depressed housing market out there.

Having witnessed a bitter tug of war over one of their company’s recent restorations, Finca Pantano, near the inland Cadiz town of Zahara de la Sierra, they might be forgiven for thinking they were in the middle of a boom!

No less than three potential buyers offered the asking price for the charming one-bedroom mountain home when it went on the market for 350,000 euros a month ago.

Sitting in an unrivaled position overlooking the beautiful Zahara reservoir, just 20 minutes to Ronda and with plenty of outside space, it was always going to be a desirable property.

The fact that it had a healthy rental income with more than half the year rented on a weekly basis certainly helped.

Yet too many people are listening to the harbingers of doom, convinced that the market is dead and in freefall.

So what is it that makes Finca Pantano so different? Is it the impeccable reform, the magical scenery, or the old ‘supply and demand’ problem with few good properties actually reaching the market?

It is probably a mixture of all three, but – without a doubt – the issue of quality needs to be factored in. At Finca Pantano there are lovely beamed ceilings, antique wooden doors and antique furniture, as well as wood burning stove and terracotta tiles on the floor.

“Ultimately properties have to capture a buyer’s imagination and encourage them to open their cheque books despite the economic down-turn,” explains Adrian Day, who moved to the Ronda area a couple of years ago.

Labour of love

Certainly, Adrian and his business partner Mark have found themselves an interesting niche in which to operate.

Since moving to Spain they have focuses on finding run-down and unloved period properties in great locations, and then restored them to their original beauty with deference to their historical integrity.

“Each house is a labour of love,” says Adrian. “It takes a long time to do it right. In fact up to three or four years per house.”

Exclusively ‘period’ properties, as Adrian puts it, sometimes it means undoing a poor quality conversion from the 1970s or 1980s.

There is also the matter of sourcing materials for their properties, another of which has recently gone on the market near Ronda.

“We have travelled thousands of miles scouring the whole of Spain sourcing appropriate materials” explains Adrian. “But we think it is this attention to detail which sets our properties apart, and we only ever buy period properties with architectural merit.

“Each has to have been lovely at some point, and it doesn’t matter if they have been badly converted. We are perfectly happy ripping out the bad and taking them back to the way they were originally conceived.

“People come thousands of miles to marvel at the ancient Andalucian cities, yet in towns such as Ronda the buildings that are going up today have no soul or character. Who’ll be coming to look at the new buildings in 200 years time?

“The places we take on have character and charm and we see it as our job to bring them back to life.”

In a booming market, after all, any fool can knock up and sell a bog-standard villa with a pool, but in a quieter time it is clear that buyers are looking for more. This has certainly been the case for renovation company Andalucia Exclusive (AE).

“Unique properties, well sourced and well restored are some of the keys to our success,” says AE director Robert Barclay, whose company also specialises in sustainable renovations using original and good quality materials.

Many enquiries

His company’s philosophy is remarkably similar to Adrian and Mark’s, in that Andalucia Exclusive spends months sourcing its properties, which it offers through British magazines such as Country Life and the Telegraph.

“We know that there is still a pretty decent pool of people looking for that dream Andalucian property, as we are getting quite a few enquiries every week. And while they are currently looking for bargains, they know when they see something of quality and are prepared to pay for it.”

His company currently has an original stone house for sale in Arriate, near Ronda and a beautiful farmhouse for sale near Olvera (see www.andalucia-exclusive.eu).

Olvera is an area that currently ticks many boxes for overseas investors. Aside from its breathtaking countryside and celebrated white town vista, there are some amazing country properties waiting to restore.

“We are getting a large range of nationalities looking to relocate to the area,” says Zoe Males of Olvera Properties, the agent that eventually sold Mark and Adrian’s property.

“While the market is a little quieter for British buyers, it doesn’t mean the market here is dead – anything but.

“There are so many reasons for people to come here. The climate, the scenery, the people and the laid-back pace of life. Why wouldn’t everyone want to spend at least some of the year here?”.

The facts, of course, speak for themselves. Within weeks of placing Finca Pantano on the market, Olvera Properties was indundated with enquiries from all over the world.

“As well as several offers over the phone, there were three clients willing to pay the 350,000 euros asking price,” continues Zoe.

“When it was finally sold we actually had several others lined-up to view.”

In the end, a family from Montreal in Canada won the battle. Having holidayed in the area a number of times they knew the house would be perfect for them before they actually took a flight over to see it specially.

On arriving they made an instant decision to proceed and put a deposit down within days. They plan to continue renting the cottage and spend a few off-peak months here themselves.

As Zoe explained: “They loved the location but ultimately they appreciated the way the cottage was restored.”

Quality counts after all, just like anywhere else in the world, it seems.

For more information please contact Olvera Properties on www.olveraproperties.com

Mark and Adrian can be reached on 600 700 797 or e-mail adrianday101@yahoo.co.uk

Andalucia Exclusive can be found at www.andalucia-exclusive.eu or on 665787191

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