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Off the beaten track in the hills above Marbella

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I was recently charged with the task of finding a couple A Place in the Sun, in Southern Spain. Sound familiar? Of course it does and whilst I enjoy my job I was somewhat relieved to hear that they wanted me to focus my search somewhere a little less known, in the hills above Marbella and beyond. With the exception of a few people who have used me to search around Mijas Pueblo I’ve always wondered why more people aren’t attracted to the mountains and the rural areas that are still within striking distance to the coast.

One of the main drivers behind the purchase was the need for a decent amount of land and plenty of privacy. However the main fly in the ointment was that they would still like to be within a 40 minutes drive from Marbella. Now often, whenever buyers tell me they’d like to be no further away than X from Y it normally means that they’d like to be in Y but either the property doesn’t exist or their budget won’t stretch to the location. This then means the areas we end up travelling to will be completely new to them and it can end up being a pretty tough week. But I like a challenge and it was refreshing to be covering slightly less charted territory.

Of course Marbella itself needs little introduction as a property hot spot of the Costa del Sol and it’s home to some of the most expensiveJonnie Irwin in Marbella residential property in Spain, but if you travel 30 minutes inland you’ll find properties that are up to 75% cheaper and the rewards aren’t just financial. The Marbella population increases by around 30% in the summer months but for those seeking a permanent residence the hills can be a place to escape the crowds.  If this sounds attractive and you have designs on looking at a location slightly off the beaten track then here are a few places to consider.

For those that have hired a car for a few days have ventured more than a couple of miles away from the beach/pool/golf course (which is admittedly what makes it so popular) then there’s a chance you may have seen a little of Coin. It’s a traditional town with the main square, Plaza Alameda in the centre plus restaurants and bars spilling out onto the streets. Every Saturday there’s a market selling locally grown fruit and vegetables but with a large shopping centre on the outskirts of the town, it’s also a popular destination for shoppers looking to avoid the crowds of Marbella & Malaga. Even if you only stop off there for lunch it’s worth stopping by one of the most iconic buildings in the town, San Andres Church that dates back to 18th century. Oh, and whilst your taking pictures, the filming set for the BBC Drama El Dorado, is still in place on the outskirts of town and is occasionally opened for visits, but that’s showing my age!

In terms of real estate, Coin has a range of properties from rustic fincas to town centre apartments and as a result appeals to lots of different types of buyers. Agents will tell you that demand has increased over the past few years with some quoting growth of around 13%.

Unlike coastal areas such as Marbella the population in Coin remains fairly constant throughout the year making it a popular choice with expats of which us Brits make up around 5% of the population. Along with us there are many Dutch, Belgian, Scandinavian and German people residing their full time so it should be on the map for anybody considering a full time move.

Equidistant to Marbella but slightly more remote, you might consider Guaro. This pretty white washed village is situated on the border of the Sierra de las Nieves Natural Park, a 21,000 hectare UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and one of the main attractions to the village. With flowerpots lining the streets, the village genuinely feels Spanish especially during the Festival de la Luna Mora, held over two weeks in September when apparently all the lights are turned off and 25,000 candles illuminate the streets of the village.

As you’d hope, the Village retains its Moorish architecture and with a little over 2000 residents there is a small community so being able to speak Spanish will be a real advantage! Situated at an elevated position, 350 m above sea level, many of the properties benefit from beautiful mountain views and considering the village is fairly small there is a reasonable amount of property for sale here, perhaps due in part to some instructions being on the market for a while, in some cases literally years.

Prices in the village itself tend to be lower as the stock is comprised of townhouses and apartments with some properties starting from as little as 60,000. Moving to the outskirts prices start to rise with the majority of properties being villas or fincas starting at €110,00 for a small two bedroom place.

If this is just a bit small and feels a bit too far off the beaten track then perhaps Monda could be the happy middle ground. Again its another historic white-washed village and as well as The Sierra de la Nieves national park the other big attraction is Castillo de Monda a beautiful Moorish castle now converted into a restaurant and hotel. If you’re nearby, I can personally recommend stopping off there for at least a drink and taking in the stunning views. At the centre of the Monza the Plaza de la Ermita is home to several restaurants and bars. Just next to the square there is an old-fashioned laundry baths and fountains taking advantage of the natural water supply.

As it’s closer to the coast you won’t be surprised to hear that it’s slightly more expensive with the average cost of a 2 bedroom villa around €210,000.

You will find some properties in Monda with a distant sea view but these are few and far between and when they come to market command a premium price tag.

Demand to live here is high, and as a result there aren’t many properties on the market and when they come on you’ll be competing with Scandinavian and Dutch buyers who also appreciate the village for its peace and quiet.

As prices in Marbella continue to rise these outlying areas should become more popular as the nearby town of Ojen will attest.

In the meantime anybody looking to buy in these places will be rewarded with a more authentic way of life and in my opinion better value real estate.

Happy hunting!