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 …

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the road again: changing our car on Mallorca

There are plenty of things we don’t really need in our rural Mallorcan lifestyle: earplugs to drown out the sound of noisy neighbours (although the wildlife can sometimes assault the ears); designer footwear (except perhaps by Hunter or Dr Martens), or a lawn mower – just to name a few.

But as we live in a rural area untouched by public transport, a set of wheels is essential.  Preferably four of them (and a spare, of course). We had this driven home (pardon the pun) when our overworked Toyota RAV 4 broke down in August while I was on the way to interview the artist Arturo Rhodes  in Deià for abcMallorca magazine.

The Boss had decided to come along for the ride but, as we approached the Sóller tunnel, dark smoke started to belch from the car. Goodbye turbo. The interview was hastily postponed and we had a breakneck-speed ride back to the Toyota garage in Manacor in a grua (tow truck).

Turbo trouble

Long story short, there was no way to tell whether a replacement turbo would be the solution. The mechanic was 90 per cent sure the engine was OK, but obviously couldn’t tell definitely until a new turbo was fitted. A large sum of money was exchanged for a car that worked again – and, for a while, better than it had for some time.

Fast forward a few weeks and a new problem developed: if the engine was cold, it started easily. If the engine was still warm from recent use, it wouldn’t re-start. We experienced this several times – including one rather alarming one when the engine died in the middle lane of Palma’s Via Cintura – the motorway around the city. Amidst blaring horns (it was rush hour), we somehow reached the hard shoulder, where we donned flattering fluorescent waistcoats to stand out of danger. Three-quarters of an hour later, the engine had cooled sufficiently to enable us to restart the car.

Goodbye Toyota

Our garage declared our much-loved car a terminal case. Unless we wanted to invest in a new engine. The car was already of an age (and mileage) that meant we had been contemplating replacing it in the not-too-distant future, so The Boss buried himself in the task of finding a replacement vehicle.  Because we need a 4×4, to tow a trailer-load of logs home regularly in winter, our budget would stretch only to a secondhand vehicle.

Buying a secondhand 4×4 isn’t easy on Mallorca. Unlike in the UK, many car dealers offer few used vehicles. We even looked at what was available for sale in Barcelona, just in case there was something that would make the journey worthwhile. In the end, we were fortunate to find one that fitted the bill in Manacor. A fortnight ago it became ours. Next week a tow bar will be fitted and we’ll be able to collect our first load of logs for autumn. It’s just as well that Mallorca’s been enjoying what our neighbours call el veranillo de San Martín – a little Indian summer . . .

Only one of our cats has so far climbed up to sit on the new cars roof.

Only one of our cats has so far climbed up to sit on the roof of our new car.

Buying a secondhand car on Mallorca?

  • Car hire companies often sell off ex-rental saloon cars at the end of the season; check websites to see what’s on offer.
  • On Facebook, the page Second Hand Cars Mallorca may yield something of interest.
  • If you buy a secondhand car you become liable for any debts relating to it, such as unpaid vehicle tax, outstanding hire purchase payments, or traffic offence fines. Checks can be made (see below).
  • As with many things in Spain, there’s some bureaucratic stuff to wade through related the vehicle purchase, sale, or importation (which we once did and wouldn’t recommend!). If you haven’t the patience/language skills/time/desire to bang your head repeatedly against a brick wall to want to tackle this yourself, you can enlist some help. We can recommend the following:

Zoe Leggett (also specializes in classic car registration).

Mallorca Solutions – offers a host of helpful services, including vehicle related.

We choose the rural life . . . for as long as possible

Fountain in Plaza de la Reina, in Palma de Mallorca

Plaza de la Reina, Palma de Mallorca

Last weekend British broadsheet newspaper ‘The Sunday Times’ named Palma de Mallorca as the world’s best city to live in – an accolade that has since been doing the rounds of social media among those of us who know and love the city.

Although we are very happy country dwellers, on a finca in rural Mallorca, we enjoy visiting the island’s capital on a fairly regular basis. Palma is a city with a lot to offer: a rich history, wonderful architecture, museums and art galleries, theatres, excellent independent restaurants, bars, cafes, beaches, and a year-round programme of cultural and traditional events.

Casal Solleric, Palma de Mallorca

Casal Solleric in Palma de Mallorca – one of the city’s many cultural centres

“Like being in a village”

The previous owners of our finca – who have become dear friends – sold this place when its maintenance became too much for them, and now own a charming palacio apartment in the heart of Palma. They describe living there (which they do for various periods of time during the year) as “like being in a village”, because people in the local shops and other businesses always greet them like neighbours – and everything our friends need is within a short walk of their home. Their apartment is easy maintenance and they don’t need to own a car – hiring one when necessary.

Gran Hotel, Palma de Mallorca

The former Gran Hotel in Palma de Mallorca . . . another cultural centre.

These friends are older than us, and we can imagine that, in years to come, we too may wish to lighten our labour load by moving somewhere that’s easier to look after. It’s not a conversation we’ve really had in earnest yet, hoping that we have a good few years before it becomes necessary. But where would we move to?

This is certainly an issue worth bearing in mind if you’re contemplating the purchase of a finca later in life. What would you do if you could no longer physically maintain it (or afford to have someone else do it)?

Selling a rural property to move back to your home country can be an expensive business – and we have known people who have returned to the UK and regretted the move. Reinvesting in another main residence in Spain leads to some relief on the capital gains tax resulting from the original property sale – in itself a good reason to stay in Spain.

Looking ahead

Financial matters aside, we love living on Mallorca and hope that – if and when the time comes – we shall find another home somewhere on the island where we will be as happy as we are here. It could be in Palma de Mallorca – the world’s best city in which to live – but something tells me that property prices in the heart of the capital could be set to soar.

Until then, we’re happy to live in rural Mallorca and visit Palma when we choose to. As much as we love the island’s vibrant and sophisticated capital, we always say that it’s easier to find some buzz and bustle when you live in the country than it is to find some peace and space living in a city . . .

Cat napping in the sun

A nap in perfect peace.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trailer tales

When The Boss announced – prior to our move to rural Mallorca – that we’d need a trailer when we were living on the island, I did wonder whether this wasn’t a case of a desire for a new Man Toy. We certainly hadn’t needed one living in Oxfordshire. However, The Boss’s convincing case for owning a trailer once we were living in the Mallorcan countryside meant that we bought one before we moved, in case we couldn’t find a suitable one on the island. If only we’d known . . .

The Manacor area – in which we live – is largely agricultural and it seems that most country dwellers here have a trailer of some sort; we even regularly see one that has clearly been home-made: an old wooden fruit box that’s been mounted on a set of redundant pram wheels and is towed by an ancient moped ridden by an equally ancient man. There are plenty of more robust ones like ours too, and several places in the area where we could have bought one, as it happens.

Our trailer – manufactured in the Netherlands and bought in Oxfordshire – did, however, serve a useful purpose before we’d moved here. About a month before the Big Move, we drove our car and trailer down through France and Spain to Barcelona, where we caught the ferry to Mallorca. It was an opportunity to do some work on the finca and to bring some of our possessions with us in the trailer, in advance of the removal men bringing everything over. We shared the driving and I was surprised to find that towing the trailer didn’t present any particular problems (although I’m not sure I could have parallel parked the car/trailer combo, had I needed to!).

Bureaucracy rules . . .

But if you’re moving to Mallorca – or indeed the Spanish mainland – I’d recommend buying a trailer when you arrive, to save all the bureaucratic processes involved in importing a vehicle. Yes, although our trailer has no engine, it went through the same processes as our car in order to be registered in Spain, and the task took almost as long as it did for the car to be legalized. Our problem was that we had no ficha técnica, the official document detailing the full technical specifications of the vehicle.  We had all the paperwork provided by the retailer of the trailer – which included a brochure containing all the technical details required. But it wasn’t an official Spanish ficha técnica, and therefore didn’t cut any mustard with officialdom.

Long (and oh-so-boring) story short, we had to contact the trailer manufacturer in the Netherlands to obtain additional details to enable us to meet the legal requirements here. We then had to have our trailer measured and inspected by a local official who, having confirmed that the details provided by the manufacturer were correct, produced the necessary ficha técnica. But this was only one of some nine documents required to complete the registration of the trailer in Spain. With the benefit of hindsight, we would have bought the trailer on Mallorca.

But, despite my initial reservations about the need for a metal box on wheels, our trailer has been very useful. It’s an easy way to transport large unwanted items to the local Ecoparc (where we do our recycling); bring construction materials home with us (saving a delivery charge) and, several times during the winter, to collect logs for our stove from a wood yard. And the cats have found a use for it too . . .

Shorty, Beamer and, almost hidden, Sweetie - enjoying the trailer life

Shorty, Beamer and, almost hidden, Sweetie – enjoying the trailer life

 

We live a long way from a traditional British fish and chip shop . . .  but not as far as you may think. Visit www.eatdrinksleepmallorca.com to find out about a great chippy in Palma de Mallorca.

 

 

 

 

 

Rip ’em off guys!

Now that’s what I call a leaky roof – thankfully, not ours

At the end of March this year we made an application to the local council to have our roof repaired. This might seem an odd thing to have to do, but we live in an area that’s been designated of special environmental interest, and can barely sneeze here without someone official’s say-so.   We’re merely having the leaks fixed – I hope! – and adding some insulation (of which there is absolutely zippo at the moment). The old tiles will be ripped off (fairly gently, we hope) and put back on after the repairs, and it’s unlikely that the roof will look much different from the outside. But still we need permission . . .

Raindrops keep falling on my head . . .

We’d been looking forward to a cooler summer as a result of the insulation, but summer came and went without us being able to have the work done. We’ve now had the first of the autumn storms and discovered that there are even more leaks than before. Ever sat on a loo with rain dripping on your head through the ceiling? Surreal . . .

Most disappointingly, I had to suggest that my dad and uncle forgo their usual week’s holiday here in September, because we had no idea what state the roof – and house – might be in. As it happened, they could have come for their usual week after all, as we’d still not received the permit. Sorry guys.

Men at work . . . tomorrow

My heart sank at the weekend, when a friend told me about someone who’d had to wait two years for permission to do some work to their property. I became convinced that our roof repair wouldn’t be done this side of Christmas; then, yesterday, out of the blue, we had the good news that the work had been approved!

We’re told that the builders will arrive to start the job tomorrow morning at 8am. It’ll be dusty, noisy and disruptive and, for those reasons, I’m dreading it. But if it means we’ll stay warm and dry this winter . . . bring it on, hombres!

Are you being served?

No paperwork required from this local resident

An official-looking letter, attached to the gate of one’s property, is never good news, is it? That proved to be the case last week, when we found a notice from the Agencia Tributària de les Illes Baleares, wedged into the gate. It was written in Catalan, which meant we didn’t instantly understand it. Like many foreigners who move to Mallorca, we studied Castilian Spanish in  preparation for the move, not realising back then that Catalan – or the local Mallorcan dialect of it – is the official language. Interestingly, 25 per cent of the population in our municipality is foreign and probably more likely to speak Castilian than Catalan. I imagine that the sale of Catalan dictionaries is booming.

Paper, paper everywhere . . .

Luckily, we both speak some French which, with our reasonable Spanish, helps us to understand some written Catalan, but we still needed a session with the Catalan dictionary to work out exactly what this latest piece of paper (oh, there have been others) was all about. It seems that records of rural properties here need some considerable updating and this is an exercise to bring everything up to date (and make sure we’re all paying the correct property taxes). For people who have carried out illegal building works, it’s definitely not good news. Thankfully, our illegal building – a story for another day – was subsequently legalised (at great expense and effort).

Keen to get this all sorted as quickly as possible, we’ve spent quite a few days preparing all the documents that we’ve been requested to present to the local Tributària office within one month of the date of the notice. Photocopies of our deeds, building permits, receipt for local municipal taxes, identification papers etc have all been made. The Boss has been tying himself in knots with his steel industrial measuring tape, working out the dimensions of the rooms and drawing floor plans. And we’ve had to take photographs (size 10 x 15 cms specified) of every external aspect of the house and the small casita that houses our generator and solar power equipment.  It all amounts to quite a bundle of papers, that will join hundreds of others in the system and probably contribute to the loss of another rain forest somewhere.

Unwelcome news

We hadn’t been singled out for this special attention: within half an hour of digesting the contents of our notice, an English neighbour and holiday home owner here was standing on our doorstep, anxiously clutching his piece of paper, with no idea what it was about. It didn’t take long to find out that every property around us had also been served. There were international phone calls and emails to inform friends who own holiday homes here but are not expected to be back on the island in time to meet the compliance deadline.

It’s all taken a surprising amount of time over the past week. And that’s before we arrive at the Tributària office, where there’ll no doubt be a long queue awaiting us . . .