THE inaugural Olive Press Property Observatory drew together some of the Costa Del Sol’s most respected real estate experts to discuss the market and make forecasts for 2016.

property-observatory-IMG_5639With the Costa del Sol’s property market continuing to grow, our panel of experts, including agents, surveyors and lawyers identified trends for 2016 and predicted possible pitfalls.

Among the topics discussed were price rises, nationalities buying, corruption, town planning, PGOU issues, the fusion of Zagaleta and Sotogrande’s Valderrama golf course and the Olive Press very own Kickbacks campaign.

On the panel were: Alex Radford from My Lawyer in Spain, Kristina Szekely from Sotheby’s International Realty, Scott Marshall from Properties Spain, Adam Neale from Terra Meridiana, mortgage expert Tancrede de la Pola and Campbell Ferguson of Survey Spain.


  • Property growth to continue
  • Prices up in Marbella
  • Driven by Madrid and Barcelona

2015 saw growth of five per cent or more in the Marbella and Benahavis areas and prices started going up in the second half of the year. The trend will continue in 2016.

AR: A recent survey said average house prices in Spain have increased 2.9% between December 2014 and December 2015, and by 1.1 % in the last six months. That’s across Spain, driven magnificently by Madrid and Barcelona and it’s positive. Generally, across the board, prices have stopped falling. They are definitely going up in Marbella.

KS: I think prices are going up, but not very fast. Above all, they stabilised in 2015 and it became the year when people stopped asking me ‘When will the crisis stop?’. In the latter part of 2015, prices started to go up. This will continue in 2016.

TDP: Yes, I agree, with prime areas on the Costa del Sol beginning to see distinct shortages of supply it was only inevitable that prices would go up and we definitely saw evidence of this during 2015.

SM: I definitely saw growth of between five and 10% last year and I expect more of the same this year

KS: My figures were similar for sure.


  • Russian investment down
  • Arab investment up
  • US and European investment to remain steady

Geopolitical issues such as oil prices, terrorism and a fluctuating world economy have a significant impact on Costa Del Sol buyers.

TDP: Norwegians had been big until 2014, due to their wealthy oil-based economy. Last year, with the oil price collapse, they were largely replaced with Swedes, Danish and Finns. The market from the USA, Canada, the Gulf States and Kuwait remains strong.

KS: I agree. I think America will be a growth area because American funds are buying up big property developments here. One American I have been dealing with is going to take a house in Granada for a year. Quite a few more are sniffing around

AR: The Russians are certainly drying up due to problems with the Ukraine war.

AN: I think with Russians, they want to buy but they can’t. We have certainly had a big increase in French buyers, and the Scandinavian market is huge. The French buy here because of tax. Wealth tax on the Cote D’Azur is horrendous. You are not charged wealth tax on your foreign property.

KS:  There is still a lot of turmoil in the Arab world and they like the idea of of a home in Spain to come to. For this reason I think the Middle Eastern market will be stronger and stronger.

SM: Yes, we have also seen growth from the Middle East and it will continue to be strong. And where I have seen a massive increase – the 3rd or 4th biggest in number of buyers – is the UAE.

CF: I agree. Marbella has long had a Saudi link, so there is Sunni interest, but little from Shia. But it only takes one major terrorist incident and all buyers will have second thoughts.

AN: The British market is also definitely going to remain strong. It has been growing very nicely

SM: Yes, that is definitely the case.

AR:  In terms of British buyers, I don’t think Brexit (the UK leaving the EU) will make a blind bit of difference. What really pushed the market last year has been the exchange rate and prices hitting the bottom.


  • Excellent news for Sotogrande
  • Zagaleta looking to future
  • Initial issues for nearby areas during construction



A ‘megafusion’ between development company Zagaleta and prestigious Valderrama golf course was announced this month, as reported first in the Olive Press online.

AN: It’s fantastic and great for Sotogrande. You are going to get a whole new network of high-end clients looking there, hopefully. It is surely win win for the coast.

SM: Zagaleta is privately funded, which is going to help get more Swiss buyers over.

AN: I think it’s pretty brave of them. They have still got land to develop in the second phase of Zagaleta, so this is a big departure. That said they have had a very good last two years.

AR: I think it’’s very positive news. I agree with Adam, they are looking for more growth down the line, when they’ve sold all their properties. There are only so many people who can buy multi-million villas up there. Will they do it cheaper or similar prices?

AD: The concept of Zagaleta is quite unique. There are country estates that you can’t really regulate anywhere. Madronal doesn’t really have the security, with five different entrances.

AR: Valderrama having the golf heritage is very good.

CF: One issue though is that it will blight areas near the construction for a few years and add competition for sellers of existing properties.


  • Uncertainty caused by Supreme Court ruling
  • Could take years to resolve
  • PGOUs throughout Spain are not safe

PGOU-bernalIn November 2015, the Supreme Court ruled that Marbella’s 2010 PGOU town plan was to be scrapped. It leaves 16,500 homeowners, whose homes were authorised under a 2010 ruling, in legal limbo.

SM: It is a big mess, but I would say given it is the same political party (the PSOE) in at the Junta and in Marbella, it could take just a year to sort it out.

AN: No way, it will be five years or more. They are going to have to go through the whole process again. They have to revise everything and give the public the chance to debate the changes.

AR: It means the only town plan standing is 1983, it’s ridiculous. The politicians should work harder to get this sorted out. They have to make the whole process a lot more agile. It’s such an important part of the future of Marbella.

TDP: Yes, the PGOU issue has definitely created a great deal of uncertainty, not least, among estate agents and their clients. However, thus far, the banks are continuing to value properties as before and work on the basis that this is an issue that will be dealt with.

CF: Some properties will be paralysed and the bad publicity regarding that will affect some demand. No professional will be able to guarantee that any property younger than 1986 is completely safe. That said, no PGOU in Spain is safe until all appeals have been to the Supreme Court, and that will certainly be the case for Marbella’s new plan.

AR: There is paralysis in the town hall. They are going back to a plan that was drafted 30 years ago.

AN: At least it was a very good plan. There are plots which have more build volume than before and it is certainly fairly green and low rise.


  • Marbella to continue growth, while further west and Axarquia to also grow
  • Exchange rates to affect 2016 trends
  • Modern properties in demand

TDP: We have noticed that a lot of the new building is taking place in the prime areas of the Costa del Sol so, on that basis, you would expect very good growth in the areas surrounding Marbella.

CF: Yes definitely… and all the way to and including Sabinillas (Manilva).

SM: If I was a builder I would go to Axarquia.

AR: Yes, the Axarquia. Nerja area is also prime property. It’s the Marbella of the East.

AN: Marbella is a brand that sells around the world; Estepona isn’t. Benahavis isn’t. The problem is that brand has been tarnished to a certain extent by the PGOU ruling and that is going to cause problems. People want to be in Marbella, near Banus, and there’s no land left.

KS: I think modern properties are still very much in demand.

SM: There is always a scare with people who want to build from scratch. There is always a horror story in Spain. My clients generally prefer to buy something that is brand new but already there.


  • Corruption still an issue
  • Laws are confusing
  • All political parties are culpable

Backhanders and town hall corruption have a long and unfortunate association with the Costa Del Sol property market. it hasn’t gone away yet.

AR:It has got a bit better, I reckon. There are no more brown bags in envelopes.

SM: No, It’s exactly the same, just a little bit more clever. In the town halls, you have political parties that say, ‘We are going to help you’, but it’s all exactly the same. Both sides are as bad as each other. All the political parties are saying they are going to try to clean up and do things by the law. But sadly I don’t see that happening just yet.

AN: I agree with Scott, it has not disappeared yet, despite all the horror stories finally coming out in the press. Central Government is going to have to work much much harder to eradicate corruption.


  • The Olive Press campaign has been a success
  • Backhanders from Urbanisation Administrators and Presidents a problem
  • Problem needs to be stamped out


The Olive Press launched a campaign to highlight the practice of lawyers giving estate agents backhanders of up to 20% for working on conveyance deals.

AR: I think the Olive Press campaign is great. It’s an unfair practice that needs to be stamped out.

KS: I agree, and always make a point of saying we don’t want money from architects, or lawyers, or anyone. I won’t take money from these people. It’s their job and they have to do a good job and that’s the end of the story.

AR: I went to see an estate agent and he showed me a pile of lawyers card and said, ‘Would you give us commission?’ I said ‘no’ and he said,’That’s your card at the bottom then’ and put it there’. I walked out. The agency still exists.

CF: You need to also look at backhanders from building contractors to lawyers, agents and especially urbanisation administrators and presidents. Also FX, insurance, advertising companies. It’s only bad if it’s not declared to the end client who is paying for the work.

AN: I’m not a fan of regulation but in this case it is about regulation. You need to create a level playing field. It needs to be stamped out.

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  1. “In terms of British buyers, I don’t think Brexit (the UK leaving the EU) will make a blind bit of difference.”

    That’s a very (very) naïve statement. Leaving the EU will could big ramifications for British residing in Spain, especially on residency rules, paperwork and taxes. Bigger issues include healthcare and human rights. There is no precedent here, so Spain really has the UK over a barrel on this one, should it happen of course. Overall, a Brexit would not be a incentive to buy in Spain at all, and it’s quite amazing that so-called “property experts” would say to the contrary. These are the same experts who didn’t even know about the decade long crisis and property crash, remember.

  2. Fred, that’s not a naive statement it’s a great big porky. The only Brits who will not be affected are the loadsamoney.

    The biggest issue for Brits who are not loaded, is healthcare costs. Has anyone who lives in Spain bothered to check out PHI – you risk a heart attack. Someone around 65 wanting total cover, that is to include teeth,eyes, outpatient and everything else will need to find around €12k. It will be possible to get restricted cover for around €9K. At 70 you can easily kiss off €16/7K and that’s per person. If you have existing conditions – don’t even think about it.

    There are many in France who exist on their State pensions. Most live in houses the French were only too happy to sell. Even without a Brexit they are nearly impossible to sel and with aBrexit – forget it. Cameron the pork prodder is intending to cut all index linking for ex-pats anyway.

    As Fred has said, if the UK governments have done nothing to defend and protect it’s citizens, just what measures will the Spanish think up to bully Brits with once we are out.

  3. It looks like a recognisable group of agents with vested interest in talking the market up yet again, some are pretty well known for it historically even when the market was not rising. Why not get together a group from the larger community of distressed buyers who’ve been on the market for years now, who if they sell, will sell with huge losses, including their 20% buying and selling costs?

    Fred is absolutely right with his last sentence. 20% transaction costs make investing in Spanish property? To make that up alone just to break even makes that hugely risky, Buyer Beware!!

  4. This is a definite case of talking up the market and smacks of sheer desperation.

    Re Brexit, nobody can possibly know what the terms will be. It is likely that any UK national who is already resident in an EU member state will be allowed to remain resident but it will probably be a different matter for new entrants. Obviously this is only my view and not gospel.

    Stuart, I don’t know where you got those figures for private health insurance in Spain but they are way out. Part timers who spend large chunks of time in Spain are advised to take out private health insurance because the EHIC card is only for dire emergencies and not much use if you become ill on day 1 of a 3 month stint. It only patches you up to the extent you can be sent home and is really only suitable for a short holiday.

    We have private health insurance in Spain and it costs us about €50.00 per month each. This covers absolutely everything except dental/eye care and only has a very small excess charge. We don’t use it much but it is excellent and I can tell you that my parents pay far more for much less in the UK. I know of part timers with health insurance in Spain who get everything done while they are in Spain and hardly bother using the NHS.

    For what it’s worth, the EU is doing a good job of falling apart by itself at the moment so who knows what the next 12 months will bring.

  5. Jane G, how old are you. I simply cannot believe the figures you are quoting and does it cover existing conditions. Private health cover costs are much the same in Europe as a whole, what is the name of your company, I like to check out all the stats.

  6. Stuart, I’m not going to give away a load of personal information about myself on a public forum but I can assure you the figures are correct. I try to be fair but I’m not exactly known for talking up Spain so I have no reason to lie about it. We are not supposed to use OP as a free advertising tool but it’s not difficult to get hold of the details at most banks.

    This is the tariff:

    0-54 years old €49.00 per month
    55-59 year old €70.00 per month
    60-64 years old €85.00 per month
    65-70* years old €125.00 per month

    *I don’t know what happens after 70 but I believe the tariff depends on your history etc.

    Admittedly it goes up but not to the figures you suggest. It doesn’t include any pre-existing conditions but no PHI ever does. We were both fortunate enough not to have any pre-existing conditions. We were also told we would get a low useage discount but I’m not sure we do.

    It includes everything except dental and eye care.

    Hope this is useful to others who might be considering taking out PHI.

  7. Jane G,
    I never expected you to disclose personal info but I don’t include age as being particularly personal. I have looked at most of the international healthcare companies and the figures I quoted are kosher, it also includes travel. Do your figures only apply to Spain ?.

    So the question remains – if there is a Brexit or if the EU collapses, what happens if you do have existing conditions. Most Brits are not healthy because of lack of exercise and bad diet, in fact we are the most obese and unhealthy in Europe, the Spanish are’nt far behind and catching up quickly.

  8. Stuart, it is a Spanish company and only includes treatment in Spain but I think you can opt for a second opinion in your own country and I also think it includes emergency treatment abroad but you would have to pay for it and then claim the money back. We don’t use it much and have never put it to the test.

    It offers things like an extra bed in hospital for your partner/a companion and the cover is extensive – it offers all kinds of things that are difficult to get on the NHS.

    There is no mention of this cover only being available to people from EU countries so you would be still able to use it if we come out of the EU. If you have pre-existing conditions you will not be covered so that will be a problem.

    Brexit and/or EU collapse is looking more and more likely by the day so it is very likely that the whole EU health issue will have to be renegotiated one way or another. I wonder, is there any reason why there cannot be some kind of reciprocal agreement regardless of EU membership? Why can’t the NHS reimburse other European countries for treatment of their citizens and vice versa?

    My observations are that fewer Brits are moving to Spain permanently and most simply downsize, retain a place in the UK and only spend part of the year in Spain. This is quite a shift from the way it was back in 1998 when we bought our first place in Spain. That being the case, this kind of PHI would probably suit most of them.

  9. Jane G,
    reciprocal re-imbursement is what happens now within the EU but you must surely know that. The Nasty party fully intends to do away completely with all benefits for UK ex-pats, they have made no secret of that. So, should a Brexit take place, it will destroy the lives of those who are not loadsamoney. What is the upper limit on your insurance, an important point.

    Yes the sensible Brits are retaining a property in the UK, it was what we had intended to do when we toured the UK in 97 but everywhere we looked had a damp cold climate. Devon, north Wales to Dumfries & Galloway, in hindsight it would have been a good idea financially as nice little houses were in all those locations around the £35-40K mark then. I defy anyone to have forecast the insane prices of today.

    Remember that when the UK housing market crashes as it must, all financial bubbles do, then Sterling goes with it, since all currency values are determined by asset backing, national and personal debt levels – don’t check this data out if you’ve just had a good meal – you may well lose it.

  10. Stuart, we could slog this one out indefinitely. Suffice to say, I am aware of the reciprocal arrangement between the NHS and other health care providers throughout Europe. That is why it annoys me when people made snide remarks (not on OP but elsewhere) about Brits costing the Spanish health service money when they are treated, this is completely wrong. Apparently, other countries are much better at claiming the money back than the NHS.

    My point is this, why does this arrangement have to end because the UK leaves the EU? I am not aware that anyone has specifically said it will have to end and until they do, it must remain a possible option.

    As to the upper limit of the health insurance, I don’t know but it is dependant upon your overall state of health. Neither of us are anywhere near 70 so I haven’t paid a great deal of attention to it.

    I realise that none of this is ideal but since when did we live in an ideal world?

  11. I am bemused to read that prices are increasing in Marbella. Thousands on sale, have been for years. The matter of the town plan being thrown out leaving 16500 properties illegal.

    La Zagaleta has more on sale than lived in. Another mentioned is Axarquia, only about 30,000 illegal properties there.

    What did you put in the Agents coffee. Wink.

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