Sunday, November 12, 2006

Valencia in the Sunday Times

This article appeared in the Sunday Times today and paints Valencia in a particularly favourable light, (Although they are right about the weather last week) There is also another article at the address at the bottom of the piece which has a bit more info and again is quite positive.

To accompany I have attached photos of a couple of flats similar to those mentioned in the article.

Tide turns for Valencia
Prices have soared in Spain’s third city as it prepares to host the world’s most prestigious yacht race, discovers Jane Padgham
Mention Spanish cities, and most people think Barcelona or Madrid. But Valencia, Spain’s third-largest city, is becoming increasingly popular with British visitors, who come to shop in its designer shops, stroll around the historic quarter and visit the architecturally stunning Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias complex (City of Arts and Sciences).

And with the old port and beach area being comprehensively spruced up ahead of next summer’s America’s Cup, the holiday-home market is booming.

Property prices were already on a roll before Valencia was selected in November 2003 as the host city for the extended regatta, ending the year 18% up on 2002. They leapt by 30% in 2004, and many flats near the location of the new marina doubled in price.

Prices are still rising, albeit at a slower rate; last year saw a 15% increase, with prices up about 10% in the first three- quarters of this year.

Yet the city still offers good value for money: you typically pay €1,900 (£1,275) per square metre, compared with £2,345 in Barcelona, £1,540 in Palma and £1,475 in Malaga.

“Property in Valencia is not overpriced compared to other Spanish cities,” says Mark Stucklin, the Sunday Times columnist who also runs the Spanish Property Insight consultancy. “Most of the America’s Cup premium was wrung out of the market in 2004, but it could still bring in a lot of wealth over coming years — property in Valencia city could be one of the best investments in Spain.”

Local and central government investment in the world’s most famous yachting event is estimated at £270m. But while the cup has been the catalyst, the cash injection will benefit the city long after the yachts have sailed away.

The impetus of the cup has hastened the expansion of the metro — which has four lines, serves the city centre well and is currently extending further out into the provinces — to the airport, which is getting a much-needed second runway. New hotels are springing up and a five-lane, one-way road system links the port to the city centre, replacing the previous traffic-clogged artery.

So what is Valencia like? It lacks the cosmopolitan, trendy feel of Barcelona, but is a charming city nonetheless. It is an appealing mix of old and new: baroque buildings juxtaposed with the futuristic work of Santiago Calatrava, the internationally acclaimed local architect who designed most of the Cuidad de las Artes y las Ciencias complex.

The historic heart of the city, El Carmen, is a compact nucleus with a maze of narrow streets and attractive plazas, easily explored on foot, while a 15-minute bus or tram journey will take you to the beach and restaurant areas of Las Arenas and La Malvarrosa, as well as the rejuvenated old port, heart of America’s Cup action.

And then there is the climate: local tourist authorities claim you can sprawl on the beach for nine months of the year. “We don’t do clouds” was a recent tourism slogan, promoting a city that has more than 300 cloudless days each year and more than 3km of broad sand.

Unfortunately, during a two-day visit last week, it did not stop raining, and the beach was deserted and the city’s plaza cafes empty. But it was easy to imagine the city buzzing in better weather. For foodies, it is the home of paella.

It is also cheap and easy to get to. There are eight low-cost flights every day to and from UK airports, in addition to national carriers British Airways and Iberia. It takes about two hours from Heathrow, Gatwick or Stansted, but there are also flights from many regional airports, including Southampton, Birmingham, Manchester and Edinburgh. Valencia’s airport is a 20-minute taxi ride from the city centre.

Alex Crespo, who runs the Valencia Estates agency, says most British buyers are middle-class professionals in their thirties looking for a two-bedroom period apartment in El Carmen for between £130,000 and £170,000.

“When we started the agency five years ago, we thought we were going to get a lot of people who were coming here to retire, looking for old villas outside the city for not much money that they could refurbish. But we’re getting lots of young couples,” he says.

Maria Elena Laguna, who runs her own agency, Maria Elena, says there has also been a surge of interest from American and Japanese buyers. “Four or five years ago, people were buying mainly on the coast, but now a large percentage are buying in the city centre, perhaps with a view not to living in the property, but to renting it out or coming occasionally and having it as a nest egg.”

While El Carmen might be the Brits’ first choice, it is relatively expensive, and Crespo says neighbouring Russafa is a better bet, an area he describes as “the Notting Hill of Valencia”.

“Some years ago, it was very working-class, but now it’s very up-and-coming,” he says. “So you have all these wonderful period buildings in what has become a trendy, bohemian area with lots of bars, restaurants and interesting shops.”

Crespo recommends buying a fourth- or fifth-floor period flat in the area at a knock-down price — less than £135,000 — but in need of some tender love and care. “You can get some old flats that are really horrid; but then it’s not that expensive — about €30,000 £20,000 — to do a good-quality renovation.”

Joanne Clark, from Torquay in Devon, has just bought a 100sq m, fourth-floor period flat on Calle Quart, just north of El Carmen and next to the botanical gardens, for about £170,000. It is open-plan with two bedrooms and a huge dressing room, with enough space to create four bedrooms.

It also has a new kitchen, wood flooring and a brand-new gas central-heating system. As well as a terrace at the top of the building, the apartment has no fewer than six balconies, with fine views of the Jardines del Turia (the park on the former riverbed of the Rio Turia) and the Torres de Serranos (the towers of the old city wall).

“I initially wanted to buy in Barcelona but couldn’t afford to,” says Clark, 43. “Then I read about Valencia, went over for a weekend and really liked it.” Clark uses her flat for weekend breaks and holidays, but hopes to move there permanently soon.

Those wanting to buy nearer the beach and America’s Cup action will be disappointed: much of the area is ugly, run-down or resembles a building site.

“The port and beach area are not ‘wow’,” says Crespo. “It’s more expensive — €300,000-€400,000 £200,000- £270,000) — for anything decent, there are not many period buildings and it was bombed during the civil war, so in the 1950s and 1960s they built a lot that was not very nice. They are currently redoing the area, so buyers will have to wait a bit — but it’s going to be very expensive.”

Further afield, about an hour’s drive away through orange groves, are luxury villas in towns such as Santa Barbara, Rocafort, Campo, Olivar and Los Monasterios, which cost in excess of £650,000.

Out of town, buyers need to check whether Valencia’s notorious land-grab rules apply (the 1994 law allowing developers to compulsorily purchase homes and redesignate land for development). The law was watered down earlier this year, but it can still wreck holiday-home dreams. The European Commission has given Spain until mid-December to change the law further or be taken to the European Court of Justice. Those buying in areas that are already urbanised, including the city itself, are unaffected.

Marta Romero Sobrecueva, a local lawyer, advises would-be buyers to do their homework and use a reputable estate agent who has a good track record and comes highly recommended. “My number one piece of advice would be not to sign anything until you’ve consulted a lawyer who specialises in conveyancing.”,,27889-2319073.html

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