Location Feature – Alhaurin el Grande, Malaga, Spain

During Roman times, the settlement was thought to have been blessed by the gods due to its fertility, favourable climate and proximity to precious mineral deposits. This led the Moors to later name the town Alhaurin, literally meaning the Garden of Allah.

The town has undergone many tribulations, including an earthquake in 1680, various plagues, and numerous invasions and occupations by the French, Romans, Moors and others. Today, it’s a prosperous town with a population of 27,000, of which roughly 2,000 are foreigners.

Why buy there?

Only a short drive from Malaga’s famous beaches, and close to the Sierra Nevada ski resorts, Alhaurin el Grande is perfectly situated for those seeking a traditional area untouched by tourism, yet close to all the attractions and amenities of the Costa del Sol. It’s close to Malaga’s major cities, being just south of Coin and north of Mijas, and it’s only 15 kilometres from Malaga airport. It lies in an area of outstanding natural beauty, with a number of lakes and waterfalls in Barranco Blanco, while to the southeast are extensive forests, pock marked with Neolithic remains.

Alhaurin el Grande enjoys an average annual temperature of 17 degrees Celsius, and is a pretty town with whitewashed houses and colourful shutters. There are a number of attractions, including the 12th century Moorish Archway, the old Arabic fort and the Plaza del Ayuntamiento, with its Roman columns and town church. The Churches of La Ermita de San Sebastian and El Convento y las Agonias are also well worth visiting.

The town is famed for its many traditional celebrations, including the Feria de Mayo and El Dia de la Cruz in May, Dia de Jesus in June, and the Dia de la Virgin in August. In addition, the Easter week celebrations attract tourists from across Europe. Improvements are currently being made to the areas infrastructure. However, there are already two golf courses nearby, while the surrounding countryside offers plenty of hiking, cycling and climbing opportunities.

Where to buy

Within Alhaurin el Grande, there are a number of properties to choose from, in fact, one estate agent alone has over 400 properties on his books. For 165,000 Euros, you can find a four bedroom townhouse, while out of town, a semi detached finca can be yours for as little as 184,000 Euros. At the other end of the scale, if your budget allows, you can choose to purchase an exclusive villa, with a swimming pool and 25,000 square metres of land, for 435,000 Euros. Alternatively, 250,000 Euros will get you a two bedroom villa located in one of the town’s urbanisations.

There are also a number of bargains to be had in the surrounding areas. Northwest of Alhaurin is Coin, which has a foreign population of over 1,700. This is a busy commercial town with a number of attractions, including the famous shrine of Nuestra Senora de Fuensanta.

Popular with English buyers, there are many traditional properties for sale, with more modern developments also springing up around the town. Prices start at 58,000 Euros for a plot of land, while a three bedroom apartment can be found for 89,000 Euros. A renovated townhouse costs around 230,000 Euros.

Recently, there has been a boom in developments in Alhaurin de la Torre, which is situated to the east of its namesake, Alhaurin el Grande. With citrus groves and avocado orchards providing a stunning backdrop to the residential areas, around 1,700 foreigners live here, and you can buy a townhouse requiring renovation for around 148,000 Euros.

The small town of Alora, 40 kilometres north of Malaga, is a typical pueblo blanco (whitewashed village). With 1500 foreign residents, this tiny village is set on a hilltop, boasting spectacular views and traditional values.

There are a number of plots of land for sale, all with stunning valley views, and a plot of 3,000 square metres costs as little as 50,000 Euros. A country house can be yours for a mere 70,000 Euros, while a three bedroom village house sells for an average of 300,000 Euros.

The property market

Over the last few years, inland Spain has seen demand for property rise steeply, fuelled by foreign buyers. Some areas have seen appreciation reaching 35 per cent per annum as investors attempt to find a more authentic, rural lifestyle. These high rates of appreciation, coupled with affordable property, make the area an excellent investment.

The increased number of budget flights to the area has also helped to fuel this demand, as has recent investment in infrastructure. Improvements include the arrival of the bullet train, which now travels from Madrid to the city of Bobadilla, and the opening of an international airport in Antequera. Consequently, areas within commuting distance from Malaga, such as Alhaurin and the Guadalhorce Lakes, have seen a huge rise in popularity. Of course, with over 2.6 million foreign residents in Andalucia, it’s also not surprising that many buyers have been forced inland.

There are many nationalities purchasing property in Alhaurin, and demand from foreign buyers is high, especially within urbanisations such as the Alhaurin Golf and Country Club development. With strict building regulations in place, fincas to renovate and traditional whitewashed townhouses and extremely popular, and this has caused prices to increase significantly in recent years. Nevertheless, property in this area remains significantly cheaper than on the coast.

Prices have been going up by between 17 and 20 per cent annually, yet compared with the coastal resorts, the cost of a property is a staggering 30 per cent lower inland.

For example, a two bedroom apartment in Marbella will set you back by an average
of 378,936 Euros, while in Alhaurin, you can buy a similar property for 153,000 Euros.

Typical properties

There’s a healthy mix of the old and new in Alhaurin. Property in the area includes newly built apartments in the centre of town, while there are a number of villas available in the urbanisations on Alhaurin’s outskirts. Look outside of Alhaurin’s boundaries and there’s a plethora of cortijos and fincas to be found in the surrounding countryside.

Most buyers are looking to purchase a traditional country home, complete with two acres of land and some fruit trees. Wherever you buy, given the geographical situation of Alhaurin, property is virtually guaranteed stunning views of the surrounding mountains and valley.

Lettings

Inland Spain is a popular holiday destination, especially inland Malaga. It’s important to recognise that the lettings market inland is different to the coast, though. Long term lets are more infrequent and the short term rentals market is limited by the longer winter season. However, with a significant increase in the number of eco tourists, 7.2 per cent in the Andalucia area alone, inland regions, with their numerous activities, have reaped the benefits.

The income you can generate varies drastically, but a three bedroom country house can provide between 1,200 Euros to 1,500 Euros a month, while a townhouse can earn you up to 800 Euros a month.

If you live in the Guadalhorce valley, you’ll find that you’re never more than 25 minutes from the coast, which makes this area hugely popular among tourists. Consequently, it can be very profitable in terms of rental income As well as offering a healthy short term market, there’s also a strong long term rentals market, as many potential buyers arrive in Alhaurin with the intention of renting for between six months to a year before they buy. However, most owners will only allow long term rental contracts over the winter period to avoid eating into the more lucrative summer months.

Living there

An area of outstanding natural beauty, life is lived in a traditional Spanish vein in the Alhaurin area, with centuries of culture and tradition evident. In fact, values reflect those seen 30 years ago in the UK. Even though the town of Alhaurin has become very cosmopolitan, and there are a large number of foreign residents living there, life maintains a Spanish feel. This is enriched by the local cuisine, such as migas (breadcrumbs fried with garlic) and gachas cachorrenas (porridge with spices).

The local population refer to Alhaurin as ‘inland Marbella’ due to its thriving economy and beauty, and the local government is currently undertaking a project to develop the town, with plans for many new facilities. It already boasts a great selection of bars, clubs and restaurants, which makes the area great as a family holiday or rental destination.

Fans of outdoor activities will find that there are many leisure activities to pursue, while the beach is only 15 kilometres away. There are local and international schools in the region and both private and state healthcare are available.

Despite there being a cosmopolitan mix of nationalities, it’s still important to learn the language and make a real effort to integrate yourself into the local community. That way, you can make the most of living in a traditional and welcoming environment.

John and Lynda Laver decided to leave their Bedfordshire home for warmer climes and a more relaxed way of life. Both had stressful jobs in the UK but neither of them felt ready for early retirement they just wanted to work fewer hours and spend more time together, and with their family. They settled on Spain, but from there it was important to ensure the area they chose was accessible, as they had a daughter with young children who needed to be able to reach them easily. John and Lynda had visited the Costa del Sol many times but didn’t want to live in the busy coastal area, instead seeking a location that offered a more Spanish lifestyle.

“A friend recommended that we look inland from Malaga Airport, and suggested towns such as Alhaurin el Grande, Coin and Monda. What we found was the Guadalhorce Valley, an area largely untouched by tourism, with stunning villages and countryside,” says Lynda. They knew it was exactly what they were looking for, and had soon purchased a brand new, four bedroom house in the countryside surrounding Alhaurin el Grande.

It came complete with an acre of land, fruit trees and a working well. John enthuses: “We’ve spent many hours working on the landscaping and have now created a beautiful home where many of our family friends have spent happy holidays with us.”

Since moving to the area, both have found work, with John servicing swimming pools and offering his services as a maintenance man, while Lynda organises the rental of their second property in the Alhaurin Golf and Country Club. “The daily cost of living in Spain is a fraction of that in the UK,” says John, “so we can now afford to spend more time doing the things we want to do, like spending our lunch times enjoying a three course meal in the local taverna!”