Ever since King Fahd of Saudi Arabia joined the international jet set in Spain’s Costa del Sol, Marbella has been a preferred destination for Arab buyers and visitors. Such was the Saudi royal family’s love of Marbella that King Fahd had a magnificent palace built and a lavish park landscaped on the fringes of the palm-lined Golden Mile.
The Golden Mile has been a particular favourite, wedged in as it is between Marbella town and the glamorous nightlife of Puerto Banús. The glamorous resort town of Marbella has long been a hot favourite, but when Middle Eastern royalty began purchasing homes and spending part of their summers on Spain’s sunny southern coast, many others traded in their suites at the iconic Marbella Club Hotel for private villas and penthouses in the town’s finest addresses.
Many of the reasons why Marbella is so popular among Middle Eastern buyers is that it offers some of the best weather in Europe (with manageable temperatures), a beautiful setting between green mountains and the Mediterranean, and a very high level of luxury services and amenities. The marina in Puerto Banús and the international airport at nearby Málaga offer linkages to main destinations in Europe and the Middle East, along with a growing network of private air travel, while the residential areas and properties include everything from beachside to hill club, and from compact modern apartment to palatial mansion.
Prices can therefore range from £200,000 (Dh976,000) up to over £35 million, depending on the budget and preferences. But people from the Middle East also feel a connection to this region because of its long historic ties. Nowhere else in Europe is the culture as close to that of the Middle East, as is seen in the white plaster architecture of the area, the many historic monuments and in elements of Andalusian culture and cuisine. Perhaps related to this is the fact that many investors say they feel more welcome and better treated than in other similar resort areas.
After reaching a low point in 2011, property sales in Marbella began to rise consistently, recording year on year gains that have long since surpassed double digits. The trend started in Marbella and has since spread to the entire Costa del Sol, rolling outwards from the most desirable beachside locations to include more outlying areas that were first developed during the previous boom.
Though this has in many ways been a ‘top-down’ recovery, it gradually broadened its scope from a premium segment heavily dependent on Russian buyers to one dominated by mid to high level homes attracting cash buyers from Holland, Belgium, France, the UK, the Middle East and above all Scandinavia.
Security and services are also important, especially in the form of luxury apartment complexes with manned security, concierge and in situ spa, gym and swimming pools. In terms of architecture the younger generation of entrepreneurs and professionals are keen on sleek modern styles that are in vogue, while somewhat older buyers — often government officials and diplomats — still prefer more classical homes with Mediterranean and Arabian design features that include shaded areas, cooling patios and shuttered windows.”
Most people want holiday homes, with a significant number buying for investment and a smaller number using the property as their main residence. In recent times there has been growth in middle-class buyers looking for more affordable apartments, and naturally the Golden Visa offered by the Spanish government is an added form of attraction.
But at the heart of the demand for Marbella real estate is a long-standing love affair with the setting, amenities and lifestyle it offers.
The writer is an Associate Partner at Knight Frank.