Sampling Majorca’s Eco-Friendly Hinterland

25.08.15

Those looking for a change from the sun-soaked beaches of the Spanish mainland should sample Majorca’s eco-friendly hinterland, says James Matthews

Another summer in full swing and a favourite Mediterranean playground is enjoying la vida buena, with a recovering property market leading the way. The largest of the Balearic Islands; the great and the good have long been attracted to the island’s natural beauty. In 1838, Fryderyk Chopin escaped the bitter Polish winter for Mallorca and spent time in the capital Palma and the picturesque town of Valldemossa.

Later, in the 1920s, poet and novelist Robert Graves based himself in Deia, and in 1956 Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier spent their honeymoon sailing and visiting country vineyards in Pollenca.

It’s this rich vein of visitors that has led to many grand residences built dotted among the undulating hills of the island. Now, with the growth of green tourism taking hold on the island, a new facet of property life is also opening up, bringing with it a different investor profile; those happy to forsake Majorca’s crowded coastal pleasures for a slice of rural peace and tranquillity.

Following seven years of recession, the island’s real estate market is widely reported to be finding its level once again with an uptick in sales transactions as much as 40% in popular locations in 2014 compared to 2013.

“Since the economic crisis, vendors have had to adjust their pricing strategy to sell in the difficult market and prices overall have reduced by around 15-30%,” explains property consultant Iris Gruenewald. “This compares to price reductions of between 40% and 70% on the mainland. Recent improvement in the value of the British Pound against the Euro will no doubt encourage further interest from British buyers moving forward.”

The island has also made successful inroads into more mature responsible development in recent years. “Ten years ago, international buyers were few and far between inland,” says Helen Hoole-Bolton of Real Homes Mallorca, “but times have changed, since the government began quietly and systematically upgrading the island’s interior, creating several newly classified ‘eco-tourist’ communities with hotels rurales and a host of nature orientated leisure facilities. Green tourism is really catching on.”

Majorca’s topographically diverse hinterland offers something for everyone; a mosaic of undulating tilled fields, vineyards, hill-hugging olive plantations and innumerable almond groves, all within easy reach of both the coast and the island’s historic capital, Palma. “The mountain range to the northwest combines with much of the surrounding rugged terrain, to offer natural protection from uncontrolled growth,” explains Mauricio Rovira of the island’s Urban Development and Planning Authority, “but stringent planning controls are in place to keep urban development in check. The island has more than its fare share of high-value locations, but the unspoilt central region of El Pla is tipped to be the biggest growth area in the next five years.”

Sprinkled with country estates where the landed gentry once lived, properties are on average 30% cheaper than the coast with a restored finca (farmhouse) with land starting around 500,000 euros while a possesio (manor house) with landscaped gardens can set you back anything from 1.5 million euros. Hectare for hectare, the best value is currently to be found around the serene rural villages of Alaró, Santa Maria del Cami, Binissalem and Santa Eugenia. Similar tranquil retreats such as Algaida, Montuiri and Sineu may be a little further off the beaten track, yet these established communities boast excellent infrastructures, are populated year round, and are unlikely to attract the packaging hordes.

Buying inland however, does carry certain restrictions. Those considering self-build for instance should be aware that building regulations differ from community to community. “Plots with ruins are also increasingly rare,” confirms local agent Jana Von Axleben, “a throw-back to the 2001/2 moratorium on new construction building in rural areas, which caused a stampede to buy up most of the ruins and renovate from scratch. Many of these properties have now resurfaced as secondary sales, and represent exceptional value, with the potential bonus of year round rental income, depending on the location.”

Top Rural Retreats

Santa Maria del Camí

Situated just ten minutes from Palma, this mellow, little-touristed oasis along the Palma-Inca railway is fast becoming one of Majorca’s artistic centres. Steeped in the past, with its pre-20th century architecture and clutch of family owned bodegas, the colourful weekly market held here, draws locals from miles around. Property choice is diverse at the top end, with country estates on the market for 1m euros.

Binissalem

A fifteen-minute drive from Santa Maria brings you to lazy trained vineyard territory stretching some 400 hectares around the residential town of Binissalem. Many of the 5,000 strong population has a hand in this award winning local industry, but the town is also slowly waking up to tourism with a small number of trendy eateries and bars making an appearance. The town centre itself is an architectural delight packed with century-old mansions-conspicuous wealth attributed to its two local industries namely stone masonry and wine. Prices however are on average 20% lower than Santa Maria.

Fornalutx

Perched just above Soller and oozing tranquillity, lies the matchbox size village of Fornalutx, voted ‘one of the most beautiful villages’ in Spain. At 166 metres above sea level, the village itself hosts a quaint gathering of lovingly-restored stone-built cottages with trademark painted tiles on their eaves, many with a Moorish look and boasting unrivalled views over the valley and the Puig Major (the island’s highest peak). The streets are steep and cobbled with narrow paths, with steps in the centre designed to help the mules ascend with their heavy loads of citrus fruits from the nearby orchards. The Plaza Espana, the main square has a sophisticated buzz about it when the sun goes down. Renovated townhouses start from around 795,000 euros.

Bunyola

Bunyola has for the most part avoided tourist ‘honey-trap’ status and remains one of the prettiest authentic Majorcan villages still in existence. Situated just 18km north of Palma in close proximity to the buzzing coastal resort of Puerto Soller and the bohemian village of Deià, most of the village’s trademark stone houses have been updated, giving the village a pristine appearance. Classic finca estates in the immediate surrounds can be picked up for around 1.75m euros.

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The Knowledge

Mallorca is a micro market with its own supply and demand depending on location. Disregard general reports on property in Spain

There is no MLS or central listing system in Mallorca, properties will be spread amongst hundreds of agents and details for the same property often vary

Prices are down by 30% from their peak in primary areas and by as much as 40% inland

Location is key. It’s easy to fall into the trap of buying a “better” property in the wrong place. Ask yourself who will buy your property when you eventually sell in the future

Building regulations are exceptionally well defined in Mallorca, and not open to interpretation by local council planning committees. However, plot availability is shrinking.

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