28 Nov, 2007 @ 16:02
2 mins read

“Only ghosts will live there”

palmera properties2
palmera properties2

Dream homes left unfinished in La Alpujarra as agent refuses to return deposits

Olive Press Exclusive

DERELICT and shattered, the dreams of many Britons have been left in ruins after they were forced to wait four years for their promised home in the sun.

Some also fear they have lost their 23,000-euro deposits placed on property in the Zoco complex in the hamlet of El Golco in la Alpujarra.

Agents Palmera Properties had initially insisted the two-bedroom apartments in phases 4 and 5 would be ready for 2006.

In a series of emails seen by the Olive Press, buyers were promised apartments from 1 to 59 would be ready in June and 60 to 80 in January of that year.

The completion dates were later delayed more than 12 months, with half promised in April and the other half in July of this year.

However as our photographs show, when the Olive Press visited Zoco in October the complex was more like a building site than a luxury development.

One local resident, who lives in the completed phase 1, said no work had been done since the spring.

“Those who have bought there have lost everything,” she said. “Only ghosts will live there.”

Building materials such as bricks and cement lay strewn around and weeds come out of every crack.

Peering through the holes in the walls, the half-finished homes are still in need of considerable work.

Bare walls, empty window panes and missing doors reveal the state of unfinish.

Now, worried buyers are demanding their deposits are returned and Palmera Properites is refusing to give an explanation for the delay in completion.

It is estimated the lost deposits could reach hundreds of thousands of euros.

Buyers also complain the company should have organised security for the deposits, which under Spanish law they are obliged to do.
Palmera Properties
“We used their lawyer and we were not offered any banker’s guarantees that would have secured our deposit,” Martin Hewitt told the Olive Press.

The 52-year-old customs officer from Hull put down a 16,000-pound deposit in April 2004 on what he called his “dream holiday home.”

“Palmera Properties has lied to me. When it became obvious my home was never going to be finished, I was promised my money back within three months. But this never happened.

“What was my dream home is only one third built and is missing basic services like electricity and that is how I expect it to stay,” said Hewitt, who planned to use the apartment as a base to explore the nearby Sierra Nevada mountain range.

Hewitt insists he was convinced by Palmera Properties to use a lawyer affiliated to the company.

He also claims this lawyer offered him no legal help instead acting in the interests of the real estate company.

It is a similar story for shopkeeper Jemma Paish. The 42-year-old placed a deposit of 23,000 euros on a two-bed apartment in June 2004.

What was to be her holiday home, it is now nothing but an empty shell.

“I feel that I was taking a risk buying off-plan but I was reassured this was common practice. Initially I had regular contact with Palmera with regular photographic updates on the development. But over the past year this has completely stopped,” she said.

“I was told it was better to use a lawyer recommended by Palmera, but this is something I regret doing.”

Despite regular telephone calls and several email requests to offer the company a right to reply, Palmera Properties refused to comment.

Spanish property expert Mark Stucklin is adamant that buyers should always seek independent legal advice and treat offers of legal help with scepticism.

“When buying something as expensive as property you need a lawyer who you can be certain is working for you and you alone.

Estate agents have an obvious incentive to recommend lawyers who will not cause problems with thorough legal searches.

“You are asking for trouble if you use a lawyer recommended by an estate agent,” he said.

Mark Stucklin is the Spanish property expert for the Sunday Times and runs www.spanishpropertyinsight.com – a property information website.


  1. We are doing what we can to help and now have thirty fully paid-up cases with our lawyers IURA Despacho Juridico of Fuengirola.
    Grupo Mirador have agreed to refund money and tough negotiation are on with Palmera Properties who are offering settlemnt. Other developers linked to PP are also in the frame.
    Gwilym Rhys-Jones
    Adviser and Investigator
    Costa del Sol Action Group
    E-mail: [email protected]
    Tel: + (34) 951 31 82 77
    Mobile: + (34) 699 840 606
    Skype address: gwilymrj

  2. Is there any chance for Ideal Spain (mediterraneo estates)purchasers will get representation /refund or any assistance.We were all in same boat but with different agents.Any help or contact is greatly accepted.

  3. Have only just been given the details of all the action group who have all been going through the same problems that we have for the past four years.We have been advised for many months that all is legal all is finished and we need to pay the final payment to complete.My independant solicitor is on the case and has been for nearly a year to sort this out.I so want to get together with the action group to work together in numbers.

  4. Dear Sirs have been reading your comments bought an.Appartment from palmera properties on ElZoco.Nearly four and a half years ago.Just about to compleat.When suprise suprise builder told gone missing.What a con.

  5. Again – very good advice about having an independant lawyer and not using a lawyer recommended by an agent – BUT
    A lawyer is lawyer isn’t it?? Are they not all bound by the same rules and laws??

    Spains legal system is as old as ours – it had very definite rules to be followed – But getting any justice for problems caused by dodgy lawyers – consequences to make lawyers do what they are supposed to – THAT is the problem – The main and really the only problem.

    These developers wouldn’t get away with all these cons if the lawyers were not helping them!

    Get Spains Law Society to crack down and do something -NOW!!!

  6. “Sheri Smith” i’d just like to point out that a lawyer isn’t a lawyer anywhere, and the reasons are basicaly that in the UK we use Common Law, and in Spain they run on Civil Law: spanish law is written down, and it’s only 30 years old (spanish Constitution of 1978) = see “Franquism”. What i recommend everyone who comes over here to buy a “property” (not a “home”) is that: you’ve tried to make a profit from a “banana republic” for the last 20 years, don’t whine when you find out that they were cleverer than you, and have made a profit from YOU! Also, lawyers aren’t liable, it’s the Notario or notary (does not exist in the UK) who is held responsible. But don’t worry, in the long run (spanish judicial system is something we can all grow old waiting for) you won’t get anything, so a “very good deal” you got 10, 15, 20 years ago turns out “in the long run” to have been a “very good scam”. Hey, i know, if you want a good deal now, there are some cheap places going in Rumania or Turkey, why not try them? –

  7. Wow Graig – thanks for your comment.
    We did not come here to buy off plan and make money. Our own personal case we MOVED here because of health reasons. We also did not buy offline or look to buy and sell quick for profit.

    All of these “cons” do not make them cleverer than their victims !?! – they only get away with them because of corruption not cleverness.

    And as for the type of law practiced – thats not the issue – I was not talking about the set of statutes they use today i was talking about the profession of Lawyer – the point I was making is that lawyers in Spain have rules and consequences – they are just not enforced – certainly in Andalucia – therefore there are no disincentives to stop these things from happening.

    Also the main weapon all of these conmen use is the phrase – well you know this is Spain you could end up in court for 20 years – much as you said. Our own case has been through all levels including the Supreme court in 4 years – even though they appealed after every sentence. Not long at all – in fact out of all of our dealings with the legal system the courts I cannot fault.

    Your point about the notary….. it is hard to take the office of supreme lawyers seriously when you can sit in SOME of their offices and watch person after person count out their black money!

    Our own case has involved mayor, notary, lawyers and developers – most of them will get away with it.

    As for buying in Romania or Turkey – no thanks – but not because i would distrust their people but because far too many of the conmen have left Spain and are over in all of these countries ruining their system and peoples lives!

    The consequence to most of these cons are not rich people losing money – it is simple people who have put their life savings hopes and dreams on the line and they have lost it all – not because they were not careful enough or were stupid but because in Spain far too often a lawyer is NOT a lawyer!

  8. Sheri Smith, i agree entirely, “a lawyer in Spain is not a lawyer” as we understand it, and too many people who have come over to Spain to buy have put their faith in buying a home entirely on their lawyer: big mistake. Would you do that in France, or Italy, or Germany? Would you try to buy a home in the USA the same way as in Mexico? No, you wouldn’t. But i do agree with you about the corruption: even the spanish get conned from the ayuntamientos and the developers. Why, you ask? It’s the way Spain has always done things. The legal system may have changed from Franco’s time, but it still pays out best to the people in charge. Aznar’s government saw that there were good pickings to be had from the expat property market, and they went for it, making it easy for the developers to make money and pay “revolutionary taxes”. Anyway, there’s one thing that doesn’y change: lawyers are blood sucking leaches wherever they are. But i’m glad you got your problem sorted out so quickly, if you ask around (and also to your spanish friends) you’ll find that buying a property in Spain almost always means a trip down the Juzgado, unless… wink, wink. Just remember though, “Spain is not the UK”

  9. Thanks again Craig – But we need to stop saying “this is Spain….” and get them to enforce the laws that would make it the Spain that it should be for all of our sakes!

  10. Dear Gwilymr Rhys-jones
    I have been fighting palmera since 2004. they never paid
    the last lot of vat to aifos as agreed aifos took the apartment back we lost it and are still figting. The MD at the time was SIRA he is a conman and jumpship.We do not have the money to fight them.
    yours sincley mr&mrs Etchells

    40 Glendale rd Boothstown
    worsley manchester
    tel 00441617900836

  11. Craig,

    Your comments are so base and accusatory! You think anyone buying in Spain is as crooked as the “System” which has inadvertantly allowed these property robbers to exist! IE: realtors, developers, notaries, banks etc…

    Spain is a member of European Union, and so must adhere to principles of Human rights and Justice. The problem is the EU high Courts are Guttless, and up to now they have turned a blind eye to what the Spanish having been perpetrating on mainly innocent property owners!

    Many of these people were SPANISH as well!

    land grab laws in Valencia are so barberic as to be compared to some African nations!

    So your “stupid greedy buyer beware” advice is somewhat bizarre!

  12. I think the sooner we all face the unpalatable fact that the vast majority of abogados/lawyers (I have another, less polite name for them)are CROOKED and most likely are related (however distantly) to the people you are attempting to get your money back from.

    Spain is still a developing country as far as infrastructure, education, animal welfare etc. etc. is concerned.

    Time to quite being polite, EU and force them to tow the line or simply withold that lovely money you keep doling out to them.

  13. Hi evebody,
    I am also a victim of el zoco apartment , can anyone tells me what’s happening now,, how will we get our money back, I have tried everything even I hired a lawyer called Maria de Castro she become a very corrupted lawyer, I paid her fees of £1200′ she had done no legal work at all, I have lost almost £20.000 since 2003 when purchased this property from palmera properties , they now gone to hide, they are one of the con artist I have ever met,,,
    As we are tax payer can we get any help from british government to help us to get as least our deposit back from the Spanish government, I recently heard from the news that, our prime minister wants to give a fund of 1.7 billion towards EU,, this is my tax money so why not get our deposit back from Spanish government ,,,

  14. Interesting comments, there must be thousands who have lost out. Shame you have had to throw good money after bad with Lawyers promising everything and doing little except take money upfront.

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