The only way is up:
The Balearic Islands have become one of Europe’s most cutting-edge and desirable property hot spots, with the international rich flocking to invest in state-of-the-art villas,
Anywhere else in Spain, the Chameleon House would stand out like a sore thumb. Its €40m price tag alone would set it apart from the rest, never mind the fact that every internal room and external space changes colour thanks to whizzy LED light effects co-designed by James Turrell, whose light installations also grace One Hyde Park.
Every tree, plant and stone at Chameleon House can switch colours in a flash – and the 10-bedroom villa’s outdoor pool has a floor that raises to adjust the water’s depth and a swing bridge that converts into seating around a vast roof terrace.
In Mallorca, though, such a property – while certainly at the highest end of the market – barely raises eyebrows. The Balearic island, along with neighbouring Ibiza, has become one of Europe’s most cutting-edge and desirable spots, not just for summer fun palaces among the world’s super-rich but, reports Christian de Meillac from Knight Frank, as a place wealthy buyers want to live full-time, running their businesses from their island home.
After seeing a 20-30 per cent dip since the worst of the recession, Mallorca’s property prices rose by nearly five per cent last year, according to Chesterton’s Overseas Research and Lifestyle report. It adds that one in four residential sales in Spain in 2012 took place in the Balearics, which is pretty astounding for two tiny islands, and Knight Frank concur that last year was their best in a decade for Balearic sales.
Daniel Chavarria Waschke, MD of Balearics Sotheby’s International Realty, seems pretty happy too. “Never before have so many €5m+ villas been sold in one year,” he says, reporting 30 such sales in Mallorca in 2013. “This is record-breaking. The Balearics have the highest foreign resident population in the whole of Spain at 20.1 per cent, and it’s this nationality mix that keeps our property market so resilient. Germans are still the biggest buyers, but Brits are in second place and I expect more Chinese, Middle Eastern and other non-European buyers this year as the law granting automatic residency to investors who spend more than €500,000 on Spanish property is now in full effect.”
Mallorca’s money is currently congregating in the south-west, around Andratx, which saw the majority of those reported €5m+ sales. Ibiza, due to its more diminutive scale, has “hot property” all over the island, according to Glynn Evans from Ibiza Sotheby’s International Realty (ISIR). The millionaire DJs, celebrities and business types tend to settle in the countryside around villages such as Santa Gertrudis, where their restored farmhouses sell for multi-millions. But for someone who wants to be in the thick of it, ISIR are marketing the ultimate trophy property in Ibiza Town: Palacio Bardaji, an 18th-century palace restored to the height of 21st-century luxury in the ancient Unesco-protected Dalt Vila, on sale for €9.8m.
Many agents – and property owners – are now comparing Ibiza to the Cote d’Azur in terms of its glamour and lifestyle appeal to the rich. “Someone commented to me last summer that they’d never seen so many super-yachts on the island,” says Knight Frank’s Edward de Mallet Morgan. And this summer looks set to lure even bigger crowds who love their fast boats and cars as Ibiza is hosting the Gumball 3000 car rally and Class 1 World Powerboat Championship – ideal opportunities for villa owners to capitalise on sky-high summer rental demand.
Gleaming white, modern mansions on gated estates such as Vista Alegre in San Jose, or the new Calaconta development on the quiet west coast rent out for up to €100,000 a month, while the eight-bedroom Blue Bay villa in Cala Mastella puts even that figure in the shade, fetching €125,000 a week in August. “It’s practically fully-booked,” says Amanda Marti from Lucas Fox in Ibiza. “Prices of this level of property have risen by about five per cent in the last year as there’s simply not enough of these properties around.”
It’s odd to think that anywhere in Spain – one of the European countries hit hardest by the global crisis – could offer a perceived “safe haven” for rich global investors, but that’s what the Balearics have become, according to Kevin Reeves from Mallorca Property Partners. “Demand in Mallorca is no longer reliant on buyers from Britain or Germany, as it has been historically. There are now wealthy buyers from the rest of Europe, Russia, US and other parts of the world seeking a lifestyle investment in bricks and mortar and they are identifying Mallorca as a key target location.”