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Finding Your Perfect Location

"My advice to buyers is don't automatically go for what you already know. Widen your horizons and you may get a big surprise."

I’m sure it’s the case that most people thinking about buying an overseas property base their search area on what they are already familiar with and that’s because they started out being tourists in roughly the same location.  They might make repeat visits over time but even one good holiday can give them the feeling of knowing their way around so that when property searching starts they have the sense of being in something of a ‘comfort zone’.  But what if there is a place that would suit their needs even better but they have never heard of it?  How can a buyer find out about all the options without spending a fortune on multiple trips, never mind the time it would take?  Estate agents aren’t the best source of impartial information because they are only interested in selling property on their ‘patch’ and the last thing they’re going to do is suggest a location in another area.

The solution is to use your own agent, someone who works for you.  They should cover whole regions, not just a small strip of coast or a few inland villages, so they can make comparisons and explain how different places vary one from another.  And it goes without saying that they must have in-depth knowledge of their territory based on years of experience.  

Most important of all they must be a good listener because all property searches start with an in-depth discussion about the buyer’s specific requirements. While an estate agent will want to know how many bedrooms are needed and other generalities, a buyer’s agent goes much wider and deeper.  Rather than just focus on questions about property type they will be looking at the whole family and what they like doing, uncovering clues that will enable them to target the most suitable locations.

A good example of this was a search I carried out for buyers who thought they would be buying an apartment somewhere in the Marbella area mainly because that was the only place they had some knowledge of. However, they were open to other suggestions, as long as the winter climate was the same as their purchase was for long-term winter residence in the future.  The only non-negotiable factor was the need for an uninterrupted, panoramic sea view.  

During our initial discussion about the brief I also discovered that the whole family were skiers and very keen tennis players and that three of them held scuba-diving licences.  Then they told me that for the last 12 years they had rented the same house in Mallorca for their main summer holiday, mainly because it had the most amazing panoramic sea view.  I asked them to show me a photo of the view and I knew immediately that I could duplicate it, but not in the Marbella area. 

So I suggested that as well as looking for what they had assumed they would be buying, i.e. a frontline Marbella apartment, I should target an area 120kms to the east where just one area has the kind of Mediterranean sea views that are normally associated with Mallorca and the Costa Brava; pine tree covered hills coming right down to the coast and the beaches are small, sandy coves.   In addition they would have access to skiing within one hour, year-round scuba diving, a couple of golf courses nearby and a good chance of tennis courts on-site.  I explained that if this location turned out to be perfect for them they would have to be prepared to buy a house, there just aren’t the quality apartment complexes that are the norm on the Marbella coast and they were fine with that as a detached house would be in the same budget as a Marbella apartment.

So that’s what we did; some apartments in Marbella were shortlisted for viewing and then we headed east of Málaga to check out an area that was completely new to them.  And it was no surprise to me that they decided to buy in a location that ticked all their boxes but if I hadn’t suggested it they would never have considered it.  So my advice to buyers is don’t automatically go for what you already know – widen the horizons a bit and you may get a big surprise.  I never talk up an area but if I genuinely believe that my clients will best suited somewhere unknown to them then I will encourage them to take a look.  

This ability to compare and contrast different location over a wide area is one of the things that make what property finders do nothing like what estate agents do. Mention anywhere outside their ‘patch’ and you’re likely to get a big sigh, lots of eye-rolling and negative comments. When I challenge them about this reaction it usually turns out they have never been there.

For more information about the Locations covered by The Property Finders take a look here.

About the author

Barbara Wood

Barbara founded The Property Finders in 2003. More than two decades of experience and her in-depth knowledge of the Spanish property market help buyers get the knowledge they need to find the right property for them.

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