On 4 December leading figures from among Marbella’s real estate sector, property developers, architects, businesspeople and marketing specialists gathered at the iconic Gran Hotel Melía Don Pepe for the Reactivación del Mercado Inmobiliario Foro Ausbanc. Providing a forum for information and discussion that covers issues such as the local property sector, the economy, regional and national legislation, tourism and town planning, the event brings together many of the area’s important thinkers and entrepreneurs on a regular basis.
Today’s event coincided with the filming of a movie on the grounds of the Marbella hotel, which added a sense of glamour to the occasion, but once gathered for the conference thoughts quickly turned to the important points being discussed. The opening speaker, Juan Orbaneja Desvalls, is a longstanding developer who helped give shape to the original resort of Calahonda, on the east side of Marbella. A highly respected figure, he put the latest recession in the context of the booms and busts he has witnessed in the 45 years he has been active on the Costa del Sol.
In doing so he effectively placed us somewhere around 1997, a time when like now Marbella was coming out of recession and heading back into healthy growth. While the resulting upswing is not expected to be quite as fervent as the boom of the 2000s, it is thought that the coming years will return strong growth to a region that, after all, enjoys a rather unique position within Europe. Our own Diana Morales, founder of DM Properties, confirmed this when she took over as speaker, backing up the general consensus of all present with facts and figures both official and from within DM Properties itself. “The general feeling is that things are improving and that the future looks promising”, said Diana.
A return to growth
From this it becomes clear that Marbella has, indeed, returned to growth, a process that started in 2012 and has been gradually gathering pace ever since. The expectations for 2014 are therefore positive, with strong demand meeting attractive market prices and conditions that include low interest rates and a slow but consistent increase in lending. The majority of the people buying properties in and around Marbella now, generally speaking from across Northern Europe and Russia, do not require much financing, but slowly this segment of the market is returning too.
On the issue of the new residency law for non-EU citizens that invest 500.000 euros or more, the speakers were positive about the initiative yet would like to see the process become slicker, as is the case with the planning directives that property developers feel are now too prohibitive and rigid.
Diana had mentioned that the stock of high-end properties unsold in the wake of the financial crisis of 2008, was never large in Marbella, and that it is now running out fast. As a result, many agents are urging developers to begin building now so that there isn’t a shortage of suitable properties in two to three years time. “In the segment of luxury villas, clients today are very demanding and expect excellent modern design, high quality construction, and top of the range installations”, pointed out Diana.
All of this points to a strengthening property sector and economy, backed up by encouraging statistics relating to the national and EU economies, yet another longstanding property developer and speaker, Ricardo Arranz, stressed that this is no reason to be complacent. “We are blessed with a wonderful climate, setting and lifestyle, as well as a good standard of infrastructure and services within two hours of Europe’s main centres,” said he, “but we must learn from past experiences and international case studies to tweak, improve and beautify all of this further.”
Mr. Arranz called for sensible policies from the public sector that protect the environment, stimulate the economy and strengthen the Marbella brand as a recognisable icon of quality and glamour. “The recently proposed 50-storey towers go right against the concept of a place where people from all over come to relax and enjoy a low-density environment. “We need to recognise very clearly what makes Marbella so desired, improve it continuously and build a brand that carries a message of quality well beyond Europe.”
The main message of this edition of the Foro Ausbanc was that our economic prospects are encouraging. However, it also seems clear that development in Marbella is no longer just about constructing luxury properties but also about recognising charm, consolidating it and creating a luxurious resort city with a modern cosmopolitan heart that is in touch with its geographical roots, maintains a sustainable balance with its natural beauty and in so doing lays the foundations for its future success as one of the most desirable spots on the European continent.