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A View from La Concha

A "Legal Eagle's" views on family life, the property market, the locals and expats, the beauty of the Costas and the diversity and warmth of a life lived under the Spanish sun.

The Russians are Coming!
01 June 2008 @ 11:00

Last Saturday, the Eurovision Song Contest saw a Russian pop demigod and his mate, an ice skater – do you remember Howard Jones in the 1980’s whose performance involved a bloke dipped in oil and wrapped in chains - take poll position in the latest round of humiliation for Britain talent on an international stage. 
Democracy is a strange beast and the tactical voting of the former Eastern Bloc is really quite curious. Threats from the UK's "Mr Eurovision" Terry Wogan to throw in the towel and accept that the success of “Boom Bang a Bang” will never reoccur are greeted by the UK's redtops with howls of concern.
By Tuesday, I have heard for the third time this week that the majority of sales of “higher end” property on the Costa del Sol are being made to Russians. Various developers are reporting that their properties that were “sticking” are being snapped up by Russians seeking their slice of the Sun.
This has a potentially interesting impact on the thinking of Northern European buyers who have been sitting on their hands awaiting the much heralded Spanish property crash – which seems not to have happened. Yes there has definitely been some what of a correction due to general World economics and over supply issues on the Costas but the fire sale reality hasn’t been evidenced by the facts.
This means that there are bargains – at all levels of stock – but the better quality properties on high end urbanizations are proving to be a magnet for “new purchasers” such as the Russians.
A month ago one of our clients seeking a sale for her beautiful property on one of Marbella new “country estate” type developments was impressed by our ability to attract a potential purchaser who hailed from Moscow. 
The local agent based in Moscow had told us that his client was coming to Marbella at the end of April to look at a handful of properties including that of our client. He arrived on 23.04 and we received a call from the Agent saying that within 48 hours of arrival his client had seen three properties and had snapped up the second! 
On Wednesday, I attended a signing at the Notary’s in Central Marbella. Out of one of the small offices came the familiar guttural sound of Russian being spoken. The tone of language – interspersed with some clearly spoken English - precedes a group of six signing their purchase paperwork. Three Versace clad guys and three, one more beautiful than the last, long limb and tanned girls dripping with designer clothes and white diamond bling.
There are hints of similar stories as the Saudi’s in London in the 1970’s starting to emerge.
On Thursday, a friend, Bill, a local estate agent specialising in providing services to investment orientated purchasers, tells me that the an English small scale developer of bespoke houses was visiting one of his recent sites when an E55 Mercedes pulled up and the driver’s window lowered. The developer was asked if he spoke English by the eastern European accented driver: Was the property for sale? After a brief inspection, the developer had chanced his arm and suggested a purchase price €1.5m over his anticipated price. After some negotiation he happily accepted a figure inflated by €1m. Three days later the 10% non refundable deposit hit the developer’s bank account.
On Friday evening with my wife I am invited to the Nikki Beach White Party – the signature event that signifies – for the non-Spanish - the start of the Season in Marbella.
We are lucky to be invited to the VIP area on the upper floor of the rush roofed Polynesian building. The sushi is served and the Champagne poured amongst several hundred beautiful people all dressed head to toe in white.
On the main terrace, outside the ultra VIP room, is a large Grey Goose Vodka Bar, the spiritual home to our Russian friends. Several of whom are getting a taste for the excellent cocktails being shaken and stirred. 
My football team of choice has for many decades been the famous Chelsea FC. I cannot be negative of the over half a billion Pounds that owner Roman Abramovich has lavished on the club over the last nearly five years. Cup, Premiership and UEFA honours have eluded us this year but Roman’s position in London life has brought a new and somewhat demystifying vanguard for his fellow Russians. 
We had a Cold War mass media driven concern about the Russians. We didn’t really understand them and forever they have been regarded with suspicion. Equally, there was a concern about the creation Russian only areas which would act to repel other non Russians. 
So how has the UK coped with the influx of many such new purchasers – what can Marbella learn from the UK experience? On Saturday, I was talking to a friend who’s involved in the London and the Home Counties property market. The typical high end Russian purchasers are buying in South Kensington/Chelsea and the Surrey “Stockbroker Belt” around Cobham, Weybridge and Virginia Water. It seems that local integration has not proved to be a particular problem. These areas are already very cosmopolitan with many nationalities and many tongues already happily living side by side. Err… a bit like Marbella!
Copyright © 2008 Mark FR Wilkins All Rights Reserved
 
 


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3 Comments


Jon said:
01 June 2008 @ 09:53

"awaiting the much heralded Spanish property crash – which seems not to have happened"

Mark, how can you say that there has been no crash when property prices are plummeting?


Mark@TRG said:
01 June 2008 @ 10:53

Hi Jon,

Plummeting? I am based on the Costa del Sol and there are distresed sales for a variety of reasons including overvaluation, defaults and supply issues - but generally "plumeting" is not the word I'd use.

Where are you referring to?

Regards,

Mark


Sean Peters said:
01 June 2008 @ 15:06

Prices are coming down all over the place. If this isn't a crash I don't know what is.


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