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Case Study

A Home For Winter

Our clients wanted a new, nearly new or well-renovated detached house with contemporary architecture and interiors, white inside and out. They gave us a 50 kms stretch of coast to target, anywhere between Estepona and Calahonda. This is the part of the Costa del Sol with Marbella at the mid-point, real prime territory. they knew Estepona slightly but not the rest of the area. As regards most of the criteria there would be no problem but there was one item that was unlikely to be achieved.  They wanted a panoramic, unobstructed view of the Mediterranean and the icing on the cake would be Gibraltar in that view. One of the most important things The Property Finders do when they first discuss the criteria with clients is to explain what might not be possible and why. If they know from the start then it doesn’t come as a shock later on and they can adjust their expectations accordingly.

the brief

  • Contemporary style, new or renovated
  • Panoramic sea view
  • Minimum 3 beds & 3 baths
  • Open-plan living  & kitchen
  • Good size garden, not overlooked
  • Heated pool
  • Good dog walking nearby
  • Shops & a few bars within walking distance
  • Anywhere between Estepona & Calahonda

The challenges

After email exchanges and Zoom meetings we agreed the brief. I wasn’t confident about the panoramic sea view. For that kind of view you need some height and on the stretch of coast our clients were focusing on that means being back from the coast which in turns means it will be too far and/or too steep to be walking distance to shops and other amenities.  Apart from that one item I thought the other criteria were achievable and our clients decided to proceed with the search. Apart from Estepona, they didn’t know much about the rest of the search area which stretches for nearly 50kms along the I was hoping to find some interesting properties to help them compare and contrast locations. Because, as ever, it is always about location, that must come first.

The search area covered a 50kms stretch of the Costa del Sol, between Estepona & Calahonda

And in this search not only was the location the priority but also the orientation of a property within that location. From our earlier conversations it became clear that our clients intended mainly winter use for themselves. Their plan was to spend time at their property between October and May, coming for longish stays of a month or more several times during the winter, leaving summer stays to family and friends. Therefore, I would be targeting only south and south-west facing houses with gardens, terraces and the pool in full sun from mid-morning to late afternoon.  The reality is most of Spain’s Mediterranean coasts face east, the only south facing coasts are in Andalucía. Even so, buyers should always check if they don’t want to lose that all important sun in early afternoon. Losing the sun can mean a sudden drop in temperature of around 10ºC in just 30 minutes. West of Estepona and east of Calahonda the coast turns much more easterly. In contrast, there are two micro-climate areas on the Andalucían coasts; one centred on Marbella and the other at La Herradura on the Costa Tropical. These zones face south on sheltered bays with mountains behind and winter daytime temperatures are noticeably warmer than elsewhere, in my opinion by as much as 5ºC - 7ºC warmer.

Over the next eight weeks I viewed and reported on nine houses, of which I recommended six for the shortlist. In addition, I assessed another four houses from the outside but didn’t think they were worth an internal inspection due to external blights such as high-tension electric pylons or mobile masts close by, high-rise apartments in front blocking winter sun and road noise. So, with six houses matching all or most of the clients’ criteria it was time to get viewing.

The roof terrace which turned an east-facing property into a year-round sun trap

We viewed all six properties. Two failed on the locations; both were beachside east of Marbella, very good houses, renovated to the highest standard.  However, there was relatively little in the way of amenities within walking distance apart from a small supermarket and a couple of bars.  Having had a look at San Pedro de Alcántara they knew that wouldn't be good enough. A third house, also beachside, halfway between Estepona and San Pedro, lost out because of a change in wind direction. After locating it I had walked around for a while and concluded that there was no road noise from the motorway which wasn’t that far away but it couldn’t be seen or heard. The day I viewed it there was no road noise. Our clients had also checked it out when they first arrived and came to the same conclusion. However, the day we viewed there was a big change in the wind, blowing really strongly from the west and it was bringing road noise with it, so that was a no. Of the remaining three, two were chosen for second viewings but by then it was clear which was ‘the one’.

In a wonderful frontline position on Guadalmina’s south course, this was the oldest house, a small, three bedroom house dating from 1975. However, the seller renovated and extended the property in 2018, resulting in four bedroom suites plus a fifth suite with its own living room and kitchen, a study, a garden with direct access to the golf course, a swimming pool ready to be heated and covered. The main kitchen wasn’t open plan but easy to do by removing a couple of partition walls. Well over budget but already reduced once in price we negotiated hard and got it.  It’s a six minute walk to the very good shopping area in Guadalmina, with a pharmacy, banks, great bread shop, a Carrefour supermarket and lots of bars and restaurants. And it’s a 1km flat walk to the start of the San Pedro boulevard.

From my perspective there are two particularly interesting points about this result. First of all, the house would not have made the shortlist at all if the seller hadn’t made a big change during the renovation - she took the roof off. This turned an east facing house which would have been cold and as dark as a dungeon in winter into a house with guaranteed all day winter and summer sun, if it’s out and it usually is. Secondly, our clients bought somewhere they had never been to before. It surprised me, given that they had spent time in Estepona over the years, then I realised why. In 2012, the tunnel that buried the N340 coast road was opened. The 90,000 cars a day that used to bisect San Pedro disappeared, never to be seen again. Now, the tunnel is covered by a landscaped boulevard for strolling up and down and getting down to the beach and the promenade is 10-minute stroll. So, as our clients drove straight from the airport to Estepona, they went through that tunnel and didn’t even know San Pedro was there. They had missed out on one of the most prime locations on the coast, a small town with an authentic Spanish atmosphere, to which they can walk in 10 minutes. And from the roof terrace there’s even a sea view, not panoramic but very pleasant nonetheless.

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