The Basque country is the target for Lucas Fox’s latest growth plans following a hugely successful first year of the company’s new Affiliate Programme, which has seen the launch of six new offices around the country.
In the last twelve months the luxury agency has opened new Property Lounges in Andorra, Tarragona, Ciutadella in Menorca and Los Monasterios in Valencia, as well as two further offices near Barcelona (Gavà Mar and Vilanova i la Geltrú).
In the next year or so there are plans to open at least twenty new franchises in Spain including in both San Sebastián and Bilbao, two dynamic Basque cities where, up until recently, homebuyers have traditionally been local.
“In the past the property market in San Sebastián and Bilbao has not been particularly cosmopolitan,“ explains Michael DiCarpio, Director of the Lucas Fox Affiliate Programme. “Buyers in this affluent corner of Spain are invariably Spanish or French given the border is just over 20km away. Yet, over the past few years, these two culturally-diverse cities have seen tourist numbers soar, particularly from Northern Europe. The knock-on effect has been a growing interest in purchasing property, which has generally been regarded as a secure investment in this prosperous region.”
Property sales rise in the Basque Country
According to Spain’s National Institute of Statistics (INE), the number of property sales transactions in the Basque Country in the last four years has increased dramatically – from 6,033 in the first six months of 2014 to 10,166 in the first six months of 2018 – an increase of 69%. Recent data also shows that property prices in Bilbao and San Sebastián are currently 27% and 12% below that of the peak of 2008 at €2,880 per square metre and €4,279 per square metre respectively, according to property portal Idealista. San Sebastián prices have been rising steadily since the end of June 2014 with a compound annual growth rate of 2.7% whilst prices in Bilbao are still stabilising.
Passenger arrivals at the two main airports in the Basque country have also seen their numbers soar, with the number of arrivals at Bilbao airport in the first six months of 2018 increasing by 9% compared to the same period in 2017. When compared to the first six months of 2014 the increase is 37%, from 1,851,516 to 2,543,198. San Sebastián airport showed a rise of 18%, from 120,643 to 141,945, when comparing to the first six months of 2014. Significantly, the number of visitors spending overnight stays on the region’s coastline (Costa Guipuzkoa) is growing exponentially year-on-year – from 2016 to 2017, the increase was 42%.
“Unlike in other parts of Spain the Basque Country was not a focus of rampant construction in the boom years of the early to mid-2000s so excess supply of housing is less of a factor,” explains Stijn Teeuwen, Lucas Fox co-founder. “Prices are still reasonably competitive, especially if you compare them to those of similar cities in the north of Europe. In the Basque Country, you have the added bonus of sampling some of the best gastronomy in the world, a rich cultural heritage, vast swathes of beautiful sandy beaches and truly exceptional scenery.”
The appeal of San Sebastián
As well as its reputation as a foodie capital, San Sebastián’s international image was further enhanced when it became the European Capital of Culture two years ago and its annual film festival is widely regarded as one of the most respected in the world. Bilbao is one of the wealthiest cities in Spain, thanks in part to a spectacular turnaround following the construction of the Guggenheim Museum in 1997. Such was the impact of this unique monument, the “Bilbao Effect” was coined, a term referring to a landmark architectural piece paid for by a city having the power to uplift the economy.
Lucas Fox expansion
In addition to the Basque Country more Lucas Fox franchises are planned for Málaga, the Canary islands, the Costa Blanca. Mallorca and Sotogrande, as well as in the southern part of the Costa Brava and outskirts of Madrid.
“We are focusing on areas where there is currently strong international demand or where we see the potential for demand,” adds DiCarpio. “Markets such as Mallorca are already highly developed and have a certain type of buyer. Others such as Málaga are now beginning to appeal to international buyers, mainly because of its attractive property prices, changing infrastructure, good communications, gastronomy and excellent leisure facilities. The buyers for all our new franchise markets are affluent national and international individuals looking to maintain a high standard of living.”