Buying the house of your dreams on Mallorca

Several episodes of the recent BBC TV mini-series The Night Manager had viewers rushing to Google looking for more information about this lovely island of Mallorca and the specific locations used in the series.  My post about these locations, on my other blog www.eatdrinksleepmallorca.com, experienced a surge in visitor numbers for several weeks as a result. The TV series has definitely fuelled interest in Mallorca …

You may have to settle for something a little more modest than *La Fortaleza (which was used as the location for arms dealer Richard Roper’s home in the series). There simply aren’t many properties like that one around. Whether you’re in the market for a luxurious seafront villa or, as we were, a rural place in need of some work (and priced accordingly), it pays to do some homework before letting your heart rule your head.

I recently wrote about some new friends who bought a house near Inca that needed quite a bit of renovation. They were fortunate to secure the services of an architect who impressed them so much that they invited me to their new home to meet him.

Development opportunity ... or start of a nightmare?

Development opportunity … or start of a nightmare?

Pedro de Salvador Morell has just been in touch with me about his new website, which may be of interest to any readers of Living in Rural Mallorca who may be seriously thinking about buying a property on Mallorca.  With between 20,000 and 30,000 illegally built residential properties on the island – a staggering number – it pays to be sure that you’re not buying one of them!

You can see the website Survey Mallorca here.

One for the coffee table ...

One for the coffee table …

* La Fortaleza also features in the beautiful coffee table book Living in Style Mallorca, published by teNeues. It’s packed with photos of spectacular properties on Mallorca and includes details of some of the interior designers who worked on them. The lifestyle concept store Rialto Living (which offers an interior design service) was responsible for La Fortaleza. No visit to Palma is complete if you haven’t visited this gorgeous store.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, our humble home in rural Mallorca (interior designer, yours truly) doesn’t appear in the book …

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Advice on doing up/buying a property on Mallorca

Pedro de Salvador Morell (wearing glasses and grey sweater) with Celia and Nod (far right).

Pedro de Salvador Morell (wearing glasses and grey sweater) with Celia and Nod (far right).

Making new friends has been an unexpected aspect of writing about living in rural Mallorca. Back in 2014 an English couple – readers of this blog – wrote to me with some questions about moving with pets to Mallorca. We were soon exchanging emails on a fairly regular basis and, when Celia and Nod visited the island to look for a property, we met for dinner – and hit it off immediately.

They found a rural house to do up, although – unlike previous UK homes they’d completely renovated themselves – this one would be done by local builders. They invited us to see the place in its ‘raw’ state, shortly after they’d bought it and it was clear they knew exactly how they wanted it transformed.

Managing a building project

We have had personal experience of having an outhouse built, for our solar electricity components, at our Mallorcan finca – while we were still living in the UK. Unless you can live close by or on site (to keep an eye on progress) and speak enough Spanish to make your needs understood, it’s important to have someone managing the project for you.

Celia and Nod have been very happy with the people working on their project. So much so that they invited us to meet the architect and two senior members of the building team, on the day they were cracking open a bottle of cava to celebrate the almost-completed project. The property has gone through quite a transformation and this friendly couple is excited that it will soon become their permanent home on Mallorca.

I took the opportunity to find out more about the services offered by Pedro de Salvador Morell of PS Arquitectos, based in Palma. For the record, most of his clients are British, Scandinavian, or German. Pedro speaks excellent English. 

What services do you offer foreigners investing in property on Mallorca?

“Our office spans different aspects related to architecture and urbanism, in order to cover the broad needs of our clients. From our ‘Sale and Purchase Report’ – which is a useful tool to know the current state of the property and be able to negotiate the price – to architectural services, such as design, planning and project management, to achieve our clients’ dream house.

“As architecture has three dimensions, we work with plans and 3D models, making it easier for clients to understand the design and ‘see’ the house even before work starts.

“We work with total transparency with the client, using fluent communication and optimization of their resources. And all our work is conducted in accordance with current legislation.”

What were the particular challenges of Celia and Nod’s house?

“They bought a house from the ’90s, built to not-very-good-quality standards, but on a very nice plot. The main challenge was optimizing resources to achieve the building’s maximum potential. We redesigned the interior, modifying the spaces and light entry points, and reorganizing the interior to create a brand-new home.”

In your opinion, what’s the biggest mistake that foreigners make when buying property on Mallorca?

“Believing that it’s not necessary to take advice from local independent professionals (lawyer and architect) during the purchase process. On Mallorca there are professionals specializing in property purchase, and our experience and knowledge of construction and urban legalities allow us to reassure our clients regarding technical issues.

“Our aim is to provide clients with the information needed to help with the purchase decision.”

What would you advise anyone thinking of buying a property to renovate on Mallorca?

“Our recommendation to anyone buying a house here – to renovate or not – is to take advice from local independent professionals. Throughout our years of advising purchasers, we have noticed that no general conclusions can be deduced, as each building has its own history and particularities.

“It is essential to check both the construction status and planning legality of the building, as those determine future building possibilities and, of course, the price itself. For instance, relating to the property’s construction status, there can be structural problems only noticeable by the trained eye of an architect, or construction issues that can affect renovation plans. In this sense, obtaining technical advice prior to the purchase – as Celia and Nod did – can help the purchaser visualize the future results of their purchase.

“There are between 20,000 and 30,000 illegal properties on rural land on Mallorca, as many of them have been built or extended without meeting the legal requirements. Some can be legalized, some can’t, and some can even have a demolition order pending execution.”

And the history of your company?

PS Arquitectos was established in 1980 by Pedro de Salvador, my father. After working some years in Barcelona, developing exclusive villas in Greece, I moved to Mallorca to work with PS Arquitectos. As architects, we guide our clients through all stages of the construction/renovation of a house, from the very beginning (prior to the purchase itself) to the work’s conclusion . . . so that the dream of living on Mallorca does not become a nightmare.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Things that go crash in the night

Our home in rural Mallorca is peaceful. Very peaceful. A few cars and agricultural vehicles pass our place during the day. And the sheep in the field across the road can be very noisy – the old bells around their necks clunking as they bend their heads to rip up something vaguely edible from the ground.

By night though, there’s little to hear bar the occasional stone curlew flying over or the yowling of a minor cat spat (considering that eight of them live on our Mallorcan finca, this is surprisingly quite rare). Any loud noises come as quite a shock.

A rude awakening

This was the case last night. We’d not been in bed long, but The Boss was already asleep. I was still awake, thinking about my brother’s imminent visit, when it happened. A HUGE crash – right outside our bedroom window (our home is just one storey). Exceptionally heavy rain had been pounding on the roof earlier and I voiced my fear that a whole load of tiles had fallen off in the force of the water.

“It wasn’t that loud,” said The Boss, rudely awakened. But then, he had been asleep when it happened. I had experienced the full audio impact. Nothing would have surprised me after that. We peered out of the window with a torch: perhaps it was the old cart, covered in bougainvillea, finally collapsing from old age? No.

Curiosity got the better of us, so we went outside to investigate. The relatively new roof was still intact. But a big section of the old traditional terracotta guttering had fallen off the wall and shattered into numerous pieces. One of the gutter supports had given way – perhaps because of the volume of water or, simply, because it was very old. Anyway, we returned to bed – at least knowing the cause of the noise and that there was a mess to clean up this morning.

The extent of the damage.

The extent of the damage.

Time to clear the mess . . .

Time to clear the mess . . .

Terracotta or zinc?

This won’t be a repair job for The Boss’s list. We’ll be calling in Joan, owner of the construction company we’ve used numerous times (they should be giving us frequent-user discounts really).

What we do to remedy the situation will depend on the cost. Ideally – for aesthetic and traditional reasons – we’d replace the part with more terracotta guttering. But the rest of it is also old and the same thing could happen elsewhere along the front of the house. The alternative would be to replace the whole lot with terracotta, or with zinc. Either way is likely to be quite costly.

Sadly, aesthetics may have to lose out to economics . . .

 

 

 

 

 

 

Life behind bars in Mallorca!

No, The Boss and I are not currently residing at His Majesty’s pleasure in what some people dub ‘the Palma Hilton’. (That nickname for the island’s prison must really annoy Mallorca’s real Hilton hotel, Sa Torre Hilton near Llucmajor). Neither am I pouring foaming pints of beer for British holidaymakers in a lively Magaluf bar. I’m referring to the iron window bars, known in Spanish as rejas.

They’re a common sight at the windows of houses in Spain and something that made an impression on me when I  saw them, quite a long time ago, during my first visit to the country that is now my home. At the time I thought it would be horrible to live with bars at the windows, but I’ve now become so used to these things that I now couldn’t imagine not having them. Presumably many others feel the same as these traditional features are still incorporated into many new properties.

Keeping some out . . . others in

They are first and foremost a security feature, enabling windows to be left open for fresh air, with a degree of protection from anyone who may wish to enter the house without an invitation. They also help prevent unsupervised young children from falling out of a window (or teenagers from doing an unauthorised late-night exit through their bedroom window to meet friends!).

At one time, of course, many houses wouldn’t have had windows fitted with glass (which is still quite expensive on the island), so bars in the window space would have been essential as a security measure. We saw an example of this once when we stayed for a night in a townhouse in Pollensa: our bedroom window in this charming old property had shutters, but no glass! Thankfully it was a warm(ish) night . . .

Another maintenance job for the property owner

The downside of these things is that they do need to be painted from time to time to keep them looking good. And it’s a very fiddly job (and one that’s often bumped down the ‘to do’ list in our house as a result).  The upside – apart from the security benefits – is that property insurance companies may give a discount on premiums if bars are fitted.

For our cats too, there seems to be a feeling of safety sleeping behind the bars. Pip certainly seems to take advantage of a ‘protected’ place to snooze away the daylight hours. Her favourite window – the smallest in the house – is in our small guest suite. She’s actually the only one of our cats that can fit into it. No need for a ‘do not disturb’ sign here . . . unless I’m around with my Nikon.These bars are very good for resting one's feet on . . .

These bars are very good for resting one’s feet on . . .

Another job for our Mallorcan plumber

If you’re going to live on Mallorca, it pays to have a good relationship with a plumber. Over the years we have been here we have spent a lot of money at our local plumbers. During our early time here it seemed that almost every problem we had with the house was water-related.

Cito and his team have come to our rescue many times. He’s had a few good plumbers (and electricians – as his company Ca’n Pedro does both) working for him over that time: Miquel Angel – who once found The Boss prone on the dining room floor with blood pouring from his head after his accident with the low lintel over the front door; Pep – who accidentally put a pickaxe through the cold-water pipe while trying to locate a burst hot-water pipe under our tiled shower room floor, and Rubens (also an electrician), who rescued us when a burst of my KitchenAid blender (I was making soup at the time) caused the whole electricity system to go phut.

Cito seems to be winding down his business a bit – perhaps with an eye to his future retirement – and today it’s Cito himself who’s working at the house, aided by his son-in-law. Yes, another water-related problem at the finca!

Who needs hot water?

Our house has two gas-powered acumuladores (water heater/storage units): one serving our shower room and annexe guest room; the other for the kitchen and our main guest bathroom. Naturally, the latter gets the most use; we had to replace it with a new one quite a few years ago.

The other one has quietly done its job over the years but, a week or two ago, after The Boss had attached a new gas bottle, the thing wouldn’t re-light. As it happens, the lack of hot water isn’t a problem at this time of year. Our water supply comes to the house from our water storage tank in overground pipes and the cold water has been arriving hot in our taps for several weeks, as a result of the summer heat. What should have been hot water in the heater unit was cold. Problem temporarily solved: we’d use the cold tap for hot water, and the hot, for cold!

Gas water heater and storage unit

Our acumulador had lost its looks as well as its functionality!

Cito to the rescue

Cito came out to inspect the water heater, and removed a sorry-looking part. He came back to us later with the news that a replacement part would cost a couple of hundred euros. As that water heater is at least 13 years old – we’ve never replaced it since we bought the place in 2002 – it made more economic sense to buy a new water heater.

Today it’s been fitted in the small cubby hole housing the water unit.  There was a slightly worrying moment when Cito announced that the door wasn’t wide enough to remove the old unit (The Boss had modified the entrance to the room and hand-built a new wooden door and frame a while ago).  For a horrible few minutes we imagined having to undo The Boss’s painstaking work, but Cito somehow found a non-destructive solution, and the job has just been completed.

Now we have hot water from the hot taps again. And, while the summer continues, also from the cold taps . . .

An unusual tree on Mallorca?

The Boss and I went to visit a finca last week that some new English friends (made as a result of this blog), have bought for their future move to the Mallorcan countryside.

They have a lot of work to be done first: the property is a ‘doer-upper’ and as we walked through the house with them, they told us the plans for each room. It will be amazing when it’s finished. This couple has apparently done up several properties during their married life, and we could tell they really enjoy doing projects like this. Not everyone relishes such an undertaking – and you can probably put The Boss and me in that category.

No hard-hat home for us!

When we came out to look at properties on Mallorca – which we did in a 4-day breathless, whirlwind tour of the island with various estate agents – we were quite specific about our requirements. We didn’t want to live on a construction site, but were prepared to do some cosmetic stuff to our new home (although it turned out to be a bit more than that).

Despite having emphasised that we didn’t want to have to do a lot of renovation work, several estate agents took us to see quite a few properties that were in need of serious labour. One German real estate agent came accompanied by a builder and a finance-arranger (travelling in a separate beefy 4-wheel drive vehicle), just in case we suddenly succumbed to one of these long-neglected properties they were clearly having trouble selling. No chance – despite what turned out to be intimidation tactics.

Identi-tree?

I’ve digressed slightly. Our friends’ new home-to-be is blessed with a garden full of trees – one of which neither they nor we could identify.

Knowing that some of you are quite knowledgeable about matters horticultural, I’m posting a picture of this full-size tree, with its unusual blooms.

Any idea what it is please?

Can anyone identify this tree?

Can anyone identify this tree?

 

 

 

Patience is a necessity when living on Mallorca

I’m not the world’s most patient person but, since we moved to Mallorca, we’ve realized that some things just don’t happen quickly here. We waited eight months to have an electricity supply; 18 months for planning permission for an outhouse in which to store our generator, invertor, and solar batteries, and seven months for permission to re-roof our ‘casita’ to stop the leaks every time it rained. It’s a good thing that I’ve never been one to chew my fingernails . . . I’d have been down to my knuckles by now.

This summer we decided to replace our old south-facing wooden front doors. They’d always been painted dark brown and it didn’t take long for the sun to do its work: fading the colour and burning off the sheen from the gloss paint. We decided to invest in new wooden doors that wouldn’t have to be painted, and would be stronger and more secure than the originals. We also considered replacing the inner front doors – also the worse for wear as a result of the sun’s fierce rays.

We found a company that seemed to offer just what we were looking for and a man came out to look at the job, discuss our requirements, and measure up. This was in July. In due course we received the quotation and, after a sharp intake of breath, decided to replace only the external doors. There was a visit to the factory to view and choose door furniture (handles etc, to you and me), and a 50 per cent deposit was paid.

“Gone to the beach”

But August got in the way. Not a lot happens on Mallorca in August that doesn’t involve beaches, swimming pools, and holidays. The factory closed for the month and we were told that our new doors would be delivered in September. In about the middle of September the man came back to the house to ‘check his measurements’. Our hearts sank.

On October 24th two helpful young men arrived with the new doors. They weren’t finished – they still had to have the special protective treatment applied – but this visit was to check the fit. All seemed fine. Until we realized that the holes for the handle and lock were on the wrong door. Oh dear.

Desperately seeking a solution

We visited the company to discuss the problem. The man who’d been out to our property didn’t remember what had been agreed as he’d “been on a month’s holiday” since then! It seemed that all the clipboard notes he’d scribbled during his visit to us had also gone on holiday – and not returned. We left him contemplating a possible solution.

Finally our doors were delivered and fitted last week. They look great and we’re really pleased that the company found a way to resolve the problem, without The Boss having to puff out his chest and get stroppy in Spanish.

But the story isn’t over yet. The new doors have been fitted with a modern brushed chrome handle, rather than the rustic-style door handle and keyhole that the (same) man had suggested at the factory. The very same rustic door furniture that we’d asked him to fit to our new doors. At least the bolts look rustic.

Patience. I just can’t get a handle on it . . .

 

The inner face of one of our smart new front doors.

The inner face of one of our smart new front doors.