When Mary Foxcroft from Manchester registered with The Property Finders she had been visiting Mallorca for several years and had fallen in love with the island. She decided to look for an apartment somewhere in Palma city that she and partner Mark could use as a base for future visits, in particular long weekends. She had been looking for months on the internet, had found scores of agents and been swamped with details of properties, many of which had been sold by the time she was able to arrange flights to view. Finally, she decided that the only way forward was to use a Mallorca property search service and that’s when she contacted The Property Finders.
- A two bedroom, preferably two bathroom apartment
- Must have outside space
- Must be able to walk to facilities
- Prepared to do some work, though not major renovation
- Could also be a new build
- Budget up to £210,000 (305,000 € at the time)
- Outside space in the city comes at a premium and the Spanish crave it as much as you do. Penthouses offer the most exterior space but ones with a private roof terrace would be over budget.
- Community roof terraces (shared with all the owners within the same block) can turn out to be tidy, pleasant areas to sit, with a defined area for laundry lines and neat lock-up stores or junk yards with aerials and clanky air conditioning units.
- Palma “casco antiguo” (old city) is atmospheric but its buildings in the narrow streets often lack light.
- Renovated apartments in old buildings are highly sought after and any period features such as wooden beams, original tiled floors or Mallorquin “winter balconies” bump up the asking price.
- The market at the time was moving rapidly. There was unprecedented interest from “euro commuters”, especially younger buyers in their 30s and 40s wanting to get a foot on the overseas ladder. The UK press was also inundated in the spring with articles about Palma’s regeneration and its growing popularity as a chic, lively capital akin to Barcelona.
Timeframe was not of great importance but Mary ideally wanted to find something before the summer season and had planned another visit in June for a week so I had barely seven weeks in which to scan the market. The most important part of any search is to establish suitable locations and work from there so we discussed the pros and cons of various city districts, to establish a search area. I hadn’t discounted Calatrava but warned it may be difficult to find the right outside space there for the budget. I suggested looking within the Avenidas zone (the zig zag peripheral road surrounding inner Palma) and very slightly beyond, as well as Santa Catalina (west of Avenida Argentina).
WHAT I SAW
Firstly, I viewed a duplex apartment Mary had seen advertised at €265,000 which I recognised as belonging to an acquaintance of mine in La Lonja! Private sales are always of interest if they can be tracked down. This one certainly had character – during the renovation process the owner had found part of an ancient wall fresco subsequently authenticated as showing James the Conqueror during his crusade and capture of the island in 1229. The property had originally been two, tiny adjacent townhouses (it had two escrituras) and had at some time in the past been knocked into one. However, this created a number of conflicting levels, so the layout was not ideal, and with other minuses stacking up (narrow access and still a fair amount of renovation work to do) I moved on. In the course of the next three weeks or so, I narrowed the search to around 15 apartments, which needed further investigation. Three were private sales and the rest via agencies, not all Palma based.
The apartment which interested me most came via a small agency in Son Ferriol, a bleak housing area way outside the city on the road to Manacor. It belonged to the owner’s daughter, so it was exclusive to that agency – very unusual. They only posted their properties on a Spanish websearch portal and had no website of their own. I discovered that a Spanish couple had expressed serious interest and were making mortgage enquiries. This didn’t look good so I was prepared for it to sell before Mary arrived. I realised that a penthouse within the budget was not out of the question – however, it would have to be on the 4th or 5th floor of a building without a lift, and after more discussion, this was ruled out. Walking up five flights of narrow stairs in the summer with the groceries is not for everyone. (Some buildings do still have the old pulleys they used in days gone by to haul up bags of grain etc whereas local supermarkets these days deliver heavy items, such as water and cleaning products, using special triple-wheeled trolleys to bump up the steps). I viewed several new apartments in renovated buildings where the developers had taken the opportunity to install a lift. Of course, you have peace of mind with new electrics and plumbing, but in many cases, there are very few traditional features left apart from the refurbished façade because the building has been essentially gutted. Furthermore, new apartments rarely have kitchens or appliances installed, so you have to invest more time and money.
As I viewed, I sent Mary details and we had a lot of email contact. When she finally visited in June we viewed seven properties in two days, the best in each area we had pinpointed, which also served as an introduction to areas she didn’t yet know. On the second day we viewed my “find”. I just managed to make the viewing appointment before the Spanish couple who were booked to view thirty minutes after us, for the third time. They were ready to buy. This renovated apartment was a dream – a great location in a quiet street off the Ramblas, with all its flower sellers, three minutes from the city market in Plaza Olivar and five minutes from Plaza Mayor, the heart of Palma. On the first floor with a sunny, private patio at the back, it was packed with traditional features. Asking €312,000. Realising that we could lose the property within the next hour, we acted like lightening to secure it with a reservation deposit – I would emphasize this is not the normal procedure in Mallorca but it bought valuable time. The next few days were a whirlwind. I introduced Mary to an English speaking lawyer within 24 hours and we arranged power of attorney (a simple procedure at the notary which shouldn’t take more than half an hour). I also introduced her to a local bank with highly efficient English speaking staff.
AFTER THE PURCHASE
Although the apartment had a wonderful open fireplace, I recommended Mary think about installing additional reverse cycle heating units. Even though we live on a Mediterranean island, winters can be chilly and heating is more important than AC. I arranged for a local company outside Palma to quote for installation. I also recommended a maintenance company to look after the apartment and hold keys. Mary decided to recoup some of her investment immediately by renting out. I introduced her to a reputable, specialist rental agency which quickly found a tenant for the next year.
Three years on, Mary and Mark are still enjoying their apartment to the full and have upgraded the bathrooms and decor. The surrounding infrastructure has improved greatly and Palma city council is now in the process of laying underground gas lines in the area which will enhance the eventual selling price.
“Jan was invaluable. I just didn’t have the time to research such a large market. Everything went smoothly and the speed at which it all happened took me utterly by surprise. Palma is a wonderful city, I can walk to the beach in 15 minutes!”
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