November 27, 2022

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An ‘Oasis of Calm’ in Costa Blanca for $2 Million: House Hunting in Spain

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With Montgó mountain as its backdrop, this six-bedroom, five-bath house sits on 4.9 landscaped acres in the Montgó-Ermita section of Jávea, a former fishing village and now resort town in Spain’s popular Costa Blanca region.

Completed in 2000, the house was designed by its current owner, an architect, with extensive use of natural wood, open spaces and plant-laden terraces. The L-shaped structure frames an in-ground pool, and most of the living takes place on the ground floor.

“It has a colonial feel about it,” said listing agent Natashcha Freitag of Lucas Fox, the Spanish luxury agency in partnership with Savills of England. “You step onto this property and you think, ‘I could be in Bali.’ It’s an oasis of calm.”

The main house has five bedrooms; four line one long passage, ending with the primary bedroom suite, which has sliding doors out to the grassy yard and pool area. The three other guest bedrooms face a corridor, each with sliding doors leading to a boardwalk lined with bamboo and other tropical plantings. A fifth bedroom by the kitchen is en suite.

The traditional eat-in kitchen has an outdoor wood deck. Above the kitchen is a one-bedroom guest apartment with its own entrance.

The open living and dining space has a barrel-beam vaulted ceiling and a two-story travertine marble fireplace, and it’s lined with sliding doors that open to a long covered terrace facing the pool. A curved wood staircase climbs to a lofted area that can serve as a lounge or office.

The south-facing house sits at the base of Montgó Massif, the highest peak in this part of Spain. The Montgó, known locally as “the Elephant,” is a designated nature reserve with hiking trails and hundreds of plant and animal species.

The flat property is unusual for this coastal area, which juts into the Mediterranean Sea, and where many houses are built along the hillsides and rocky cliffs. Along with the tropical plants and palm trees, the property includes an olive grove, a pine forest, and cypress, orange and lemon trees. A 295-foot-deep well and irrigation system provide self-sustained maintenance for the grounds, which are enclosed and include an electric gate and alarm system.

Located at the northern end of Alicante Province’s Costa Blanca, in the Community of Valencia, Jávea offers Mediterranean beaches and a port, and it sits across the Montgó range from Denia, a major port town where one can catch ferries to Ibiza and the other Balearic Islands.

The bustling seaside town of Jávea (known to locals as Xàbia) has become one of Spain’s most desirable destinations for buyers seeking a temperate climate, sunny beaches and comparatively affordable cost of living. The year-round population of about 28,000 balloons to more than 100,000 in the summer.

With a robust culinary scene — the town has two Michelin-starred restaurants — and growing luxury real estate market, some have begun calling Jávea the “Ibiza for mainland Spain,” said Alexandra Halse, co-director of Lucas Fox Jávea, who was quick to point out that the town’s nightlife is much tamer than that of its neighboring island.

“It’s understated wealth,” Ms. Halse said. “People are not very showy. There are no high-rise buildings, and flat roofs are now banned. It’s all about being sustainable and supporting local culture.”

Central Jávea is divided into three main sections. The medieval old town’s narrow streets are lined with buildings trimmed in tosca, a yellow sandstone originally quarried from the Montgó by prehistoric settlers. The port area has whitewashed houses, rocky beaches, plus an active port where visitors can buy fish from returning fishing boats. In the hills above the port are some of Jávea’s most expensive neighborhoods, like La Corona, where multimillion-euro villas with pools offer views of the Mediterranean. The Playa del Arenal section has wide, sandy beaches and a long plaza lined with shops, restaurants and nightclubs.

The average sale price of houses in Jávea in September was 736,208 euros, or 2,845 euros per square meter ($263 per square foot), according to Idealista, Spain’s largest real estate aggregator and consulting firm. That marked a 12 percent year-over-year increase, and a 23 percent increase over the average of 2,320 euros per square meter ($215 per square foot) in March 2020.

It’s also significantly higher than the average sold price of 291,017 euros for homes in Alicante, the province’s eponymous capital city, according to Idealista, but lower than in Marbella, the popular Costa del Sol resort near Málaga, where the average price was 1.21 million euros. (The euro, which has fallen to its lowest level in years, is currently exchanging at roughly an equal rate with the U.S. dollar.)

According to the Swiss-based property valuation company RealAdvisor, average home prices across Alicante province at the end of September were 1,956 euros per square meter ($181 per square foot) for a house and 1,625 euros a square meter ($150 per square foot) for an apartment.

In Jávea, average rental prices were about 1,700 euros a month, according to RealAdvisor data. However, long-term rental properties are scarce in the city, with most homeowners choosing the more lucrative route of renting to vacationers. There are currently no restrictions on such short-term rentals beyond applying for a touristic license, though that could change, said Paul Millward, sales director of Grupo-Garcia in Jalón-Jávea.

“A lot of people buy now with plans to move here in five or six or seven years, and rent it out in the meantime,” Mr. Millward said. “Owners are making so much money on holiday lets that the local working population can’t afford to live here and are being displaced.”

Spain has seen a dramatic leap in foreign home buyers this year, according to the General Counsel of Notaries, which found that a record 20.3 percent of all housing transactions nationwide involved foreigners in the first half of 2022.

Compared with other popular expatriate towns farther south, like Benidorm or Torrevieja, Jávea has a sizable population of native Spaniards buying houses: about 57 percent, according to the National Statistics Institute’s data from 2021, with the remaining 43 percent coming from northern Europe and Britain, North Africa, Russia and Ukraine, Asia and South America. The largest contingent of those buyers, about 17 percent, is British.

Ms. Halse said her office had no American clients before Covid-19, but has seen a small uptick in the last year or two. Chris Hara, sales director of Fine & Country’s Costa Blanca North office, also has begun working with more Americans, who have been spurred by the strength of the dollar and the flexible work options introduced during the pandemic — “whether it be for health, finances, lifestyle, mental well-being or just to enjoy a stress-free environment with the sun on your brow,” he said.

Foreigners who invest more than 500,000 euros in Spanish properties can apply for a residency visa through Spain’s Golden Visa program. One disadvantage for American travelers is that there are no direct flights from the U.S. to the airports in Valencia and Alicante, each of which is about an hour’s drive from Jávea.

There are no restrictions on foreign buyers in Spain, though they are required to obtain an NIE, or national social security number.

After an offer is accepted, Mr. Millward said, the parties enter into a reservation contract whereby the buyer pays a deposit of about 1 percent of the sale price, applied to the purchase, and the seller takes the home off the market for four weeks, pending legal and structural due diligence.

A notary oversees the exchange of funds, deeds and keys, or they can sign a private party purchase contract, establishing a later date for the sale’s completion, and held with a 10 percent down payment. If the seller reneges, he or she must pay the buyer back double down payment.

Hiring a lawyer to help secure a mortgage or serve as power of attorney to complete the closing for absentee buyers can add another 1 percent. Realtor commissions are typically paid by the seller, Mr. Millward said.

Foreign buyers can apply to Spanish banks for a nonresident mortgage of up to 60 percent of the house’s value, Ms. Halse said.

Spanish (Valencian dialect); euro (1 euro = $0.992)

Buyers in the Valencian Community pay a 10 percent government purchase tax, Ms. Halse said, while land registry fees and notary services add about another 5,000 euros to the closing costs.

The annual taxes on this house are 1,312 euros, Ms. Halse said.

Alexandra Halse, Lucas Fox Jávea, 011-34-965-793-363; lucasfox.com

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Jill P. Capuzzo

2022-11-02 12:00:20

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