“Why would I stay in the UK or Germany for winter in the rain when I can spend six months in Mallorca working from home?” That’s how many of Alexandra Van Boxlaer’s clients rationalise their move to the Balearic island. Sun, sea and sand are top of their wish list, says the acting managing director of Savills international associate Balearic Properties – but this new tribe aren’t just shopping for holidays. They’re opting to put down permanent roots in hotspots that have long been popular with British and international vacationers.
Mallorca is just one destination in a list that also includes the Costa Brava in northeast Spain, the Greek islands and the Algarve. What these places have in common is not just a “holiday feeling”, says Van Boxlaer.
“On Mallorca, we have a limited amount of properties on the market,” she explains. “Over 70% of all sales in the Balearics are to non-Spaniards. British buyers love the northwest coast around Deià, with its pretty mountain villages and sea views.”
Jamie Robinson, sales director at QP Savills in the Algarve, is seeing a similar “run to the sun”. “Portugal is wonderfully laid-back, with year-round sunshine. Buyers favour the Golden Triangle around Faro, in particular Quinta do Lago, Vale do Lobo and the villages around Loule. Our buyers are not just looking for a place for holidays, they’re looking for a home. British and Irish clients account for 65% of our sales in the Algarve.”
Covid has been a key factor for many. “Just look at the number of people who have realised, ‘Actually, I can work from home in the Algarve and enjoy a more relaxed lifestyle,’” says Robinson. “Here, you’ve got super-high-speed internet, easy connections to London and other major cities and, at the end of the day, the lure of sundowners on the beach.”
Lifestyle and culture are also influencing this shift, says Tom Maidment, a partner at Savills international associate Lucas Fox on the Costa Brava. “The cultural element is a huge driver, particularly in the Costa Brava and the Empordà region,” he says. “The gastronomy here is amazing – El Celler de Can Roca in Girona was voted the best restaurant in the world for a number of years, and our wines are excellent. We have the Dalí museum in Figueres, music festivals in the summer, and there’s golf, trekking, horse riding, cycling. It’s a magical place.”
While high-end beachside properties along the coast, from Sa Riera and Sa Tuna to Tamariu and Calella de Palafrugell, are still being snapped up as holiday homes, inland it’s a different story. “We see a lot of people now looking for masias, rustic old stone houses,” says Maidment. “Buyers want to relocate to the area for good and set up revenue-generating activities – a yoga retreat, a place for cycling holidays or just a simple B&B.” In Girona and the Costa Brava, 74% of Lucas Fox sales since the beginning of 2021 have been to international buyers, with 69% of those coming from Europe.
For those buying second homes, the possibility of holiday rental income adds to the appeal. In Mallorca, says Van Boxlaer, these properties – which require a licence under Spanish law – are in high demand post-Covid. “The rental market is stronger than ever. During the pandemic, many hotels did not open, so holiday rentals were at a premium. All our clients want a property with a licence because, when you’re not using it, the rent will cover the cost of maintenance.”
In the Greek islands the holiday season can last six months or more. “Corfu offers a great range of possibilities for overseas buyers,” says Danae Tsakiris, director, Savills Greece. “You can find a small apartment in an old village house for €100,000 or a big villa in the northeast of the island with private access to a beach for €10m. A long season means maximum rental income. British people are also buying on quieter islands in the Ionians, such as Ithaca or Meganisi.”
For Maidment, what characterises his stretch of the Costa Brava – and, by extension, his clients – is a lack of pretension. “In Begur you won’t find lots of designer shops. The vibe here is much more discreet. We don’t do bling.”
Pictures from top: Mallorca’s northwest coast (Getty); Calella de Palafrugell on the Costa Brava (Alamy); the beach at Sagres in Portugal (Alamy); waterside living in Corfu (Getty)