The Property Hunt
Many visitors to Formentera decide that they would like to purchase their own corner of paradise, but it is not easy. There is a very low stock of available housing, and the local population of around 7,000 are reluctant to sell. With strict restrictions on development and limited supply those that want to buy must set their criteria and play a waiting game for the right property to come onto the market. These conditions make the island expensive relative to the other Balearics, and the entry level price for a studio is around €250,000. For an extra €50,000 you might get a rural shack, but it is not until you have €800,000 or more to spend that you can expect a decent bit of land with some sea views. €4 million is the highest recorded sale on the island. There are houses worth more than that, however, they are not on the market. People build them to live in, not to sell. The Formentera real estate market can be a challenge.
Traditional farm houses usually have one main rectangular room and a double sloping roof, known as es portxo, or sometimes a flat roof. Smaller rooms were added as needed so they can be ramshackle affairs.
A lot of the houses on the island are quite old so when you do get a place it might need a lot of work before it is your dream house. One thing that’s quite common is for people to give the keys to an architect in September and then get them back in May along with a fully refurbished house. If you are going for a refurbishment then you may be interested to know that as of January 2010 there are only two heated swimming pools on the island. A heated pool that costs around €40,000 to install could put €100,000 of value onto the property and be a selling point.
When it comes to landscaping you need permission to cut trees, and the slow growing Sabina plant is protected. You can trim, and redirect their growth though. The best things for planting are succulent plants, geraniums, and tropical plants.
If you decide to build from scratch on the island then the local builders are best equipped to deal with simple designs. There are no strict design restrictions once you have the permission to build as long as you can demonstrate that the property will be environmentally friendly. From time to time you will see very modern designs in the midst of farmland.
One of the more distinctive architectural influences on the island was Henri Quilles who designed under the influence of Moroccan designs.
When evaluating properties it is important to consider access and utilities supply. You will notice that most of the roads are bumpy and the island wants to preserve them in this natural state so you are not permitted to tarmac roads. You can repair them with sand but this just washes away anyway. A lot of residents like the fact that it is hard to get to their place because it stops tourists driving past to take a look, but you should bear in mind the type of car you will own/hire, and your willingness to navigate a narrow bumpy road.
Some areas of the island do not have electricity and the properties run on generators and solar power. This can be fine in the summer, but if you are planning to stay year-round then this is not advisable. Also, if you are installing a swimming pool you will need to secure a certain capacity of electricity to have it heated. With regards to water, many houses run on cisterns which provide plenty of water, but not for drinking. If the water runs out you can easily get a delivery of water within hours to top you up.
The best thing to do if you are interested in buying a property is contact one of the local brokers such as Astbury. They will be able to provide advice on all aspects of a purchase, from financing through to refurbishments. They are also letting agents so can help you get a yield on your property when you are not there.