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Sean Woolley’s 2022 real estate forecast: Fewer Brits in Marbella as wealthy Northern Europeans push the market to new highs

Penthouse in 9 Lions, Nueva Andalucia - 1,015,000 euros


(Editor’s note: As the end of the year approaches, Spanish property expert Sean Woolley from Cloud Nine Spain in Marbella is reflecting on what has been a strange, but very busy year for the Costa del Sol property market. This post was written before the arrival of the Omicron variant.)

This year, it’s been a geographically scattered market and while historically Brits have represented 25 percent of the buyers here, now it’s around 9 percent.

A recent study shows British buyers slowly dropping since the Brexit vote in 2016, and being overtaken by German buyers for the first time in Q3, 2021.

We’re starting to see renewed interest from the Brits, who are watching the (pound/euro) exchange rate edging back up to 1.20 and giving them more bang for their buck. However, they are slightly behind the market and expecting bargains that aren’t there. I believe that until the 90 days in 180 issue is resolved, buyers with less than 500,000 pounds cash will be restricted and there will be caution from British buyers, meaning figures will be lower from that part of the market.

Brexit, COVID reinvent Marbella real estate

However, these last years have taught us that the Costa del Sol property market is not dependent on British buyers. Our biggest markets have been Belgium, Scandinavia, Germany, France and the Netherlands, with buyers coming from all over the world. This has enabled us to see a consistently high enquiry level, with lots of interest, and we expect that to continue.

There are fewer appointments than in previous years, because virtual viewings have become the new normal for overseas buyers. However, with this, the conversion rate from appointments to sales has doubled and sales remain strong. This is particularly the case in the higher end of the market, where successful business owners and entrepreneurs, and high-level executives now have more freedom in terms of where they work and a new mindset. The pandemic has made people think about the importance of family time, space and working from home.

This has made people ask themselves, “Why work in the UK, Scandinavia or Northern Europe when you could do it in Marbella with 300 days of sunshine per year?” We’re seeing movers and shakers in Northern Europe and Scandinavia making the move, performing their business from their Marbella villa and bringing the family with them. COVID has given many of us a shift in perspective and made us realise the importance of a lovely place to live and work in, where it’s safe, a great place to bring up kids or grow old and still misbehave in. This is making people long for the amazing Marbella lifestyle and take the plunge and buy.

Villa in La Fuente, Marbella – 2,525,000 euros

Q1 2022 prediction

I’m expecting the market to remain steady and strong, even with the slight drop-off in December and January, which happens every year due to Christmas. Our serious clients come late January, early February, then the sales season continues until April. There will probably be a dip, because this year’s figures have been skewed because there was so much pent-up demand in the summer. This led to a mini-boom as soon as international travel reopened and then an extended high season continuing all the way through to now. We’re seeing that hotels are fully booked and you can’t even book a game of golf or a hire car until January, which is unusual.

However, this means for 2022, the latent demand has now been exhausted and therefore there will be less sales activity. Following the mini-boom, we move into 2022 with less stock, which will apply upward pressure on the prices, particularly at the top end of the market.

There’s definitely a shortage of stock and so if people really want to be in the best areas they will have to pay more, wait longer, build something themselves, or go for a new build. Alternatively, they’ll have to compromise on the location or size, or wait it out to see if the market will cool.

I predict that the previous “B list” areas for the very wealthy will grow in popularity. Areas such as La Alqueria in Benahavis, Los Flamingos and Monte Mayor, which are beautiful and offer more for your money, will be attracting those people who have been priced out of those so called “top” destinations.

We’re feeling very positive about 2022 and think it will be an excellent year for the Costa del Sol.

About the author:

Sean Woolley is the founder and director of real estate agency Cloud Nine Spain. During lockdown Sean wrote the book “From the Ground Up – The Insider’s Guide to Buying Spanish Property,” sharing his years of experience, real life stories, tips and tricks with buyers interested in investing in Spanish Real Estate, which is now available on Amazon.

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