A decade ago property experts described the burgeoning house prices in this sun-drenched part of the world as ‘unsustainable’ – and for many a good reason. There were those who were also asking ‘who is actually going to live in all of these unsold homes?’ that kept sprouting up along the Costa del Sol. What followed was a further five years of escalating prices, before the inevitable happened. Yes, you guessed it, what goes up, must come down. Suddenly prices had plummeted to their 2003 values, or in some cases even lower.
Looking back on the dozens of articles I’ve written over the years, I’d like to think that I was quite forward thinking when it comes to building economics, values and planning problems. Which begs the question, if I could see the collapse coming and the hopeless interdependent position of the banks, why weren’t the government and its advisors aware of the same problems and trying to pre-empt them?
Regarding building standards, countless properties were still being built with a cavalier attitude to thwarting the dreaded damp that plague Spanish homes. Having surveyed so many buildings over the years, I can tell you it doesn’t take a genius to work out how to stop the damp getting in – it normally takes just an extra day’s work for the average builder.
As for planning and the illegal houses sprouting up like weeds on a perfectly manicured lawn, the damage to the Spanish countryside is radical and permanent. Unfortunately, people who often have no link with the area and are out for a quick buck, leave lasting ‘environmental graffiti’ on this beautiful landscape.
Looking forward, I’m already seeing that the better properties in enviable locations have rising values and their market value bottomed out. For the least desirable properties, it could result in demolition, firstly to remove the eyesores and secondly, for safety reasons as they will never be occupied.
For the remaining tens of thousands of illegal homes, their best hope is to be ‘regularised’ – meaning they are not legalised, but the authorities accept that they are here to stay and the threat of fines and demolition are removed. For what should have happened, one only has to look at the Spanish islands where planning has been controlled over the past few decades to see that their values haven’t dropped and their environmental charm has remained intact. That’s what we are all fighting for, especially with future battlegrounds looming like the Costa de la Luz.
Regardless of all this, go out and enjoy life as you have chosen to live in one of the most seductively beautiful parts of the world. So let’s hope the next ten years will show that now is a turning point for the property industry and that those with influence have learned from their mistakes