French tourists become buyers in Menorca’s changing property market
After falling in love with island life while working in Saint-Martin in the Caribbean, Frenchman Franck Marrot and his partner Valérie wanted a place closer to their home in the southwest of France. After envisioning Ibiza, Mallorca and Corsica, they moved to Menorca, one of Spain’s Balearic Islands. “Protected from overdevelopment, it’s a beautifully simple and safe place to live,” explains Franck, 54. “Not all houses belong to a German or a Briton. [like on Mallorca]. “
With low-density venues becoming more popular in the age of Covid, Menorca’s appeal has grown. Declared a biosphere reserve in 1993 by Unesco, a large part of the island’s coastline is characterized by virgin capes, islets and calas, or coves, accessible only on foot or by boat. Quiet alleys lined with dry stone walls crisscross the rural interior dotted with low stone farmhouses.
However, with the resumption of the direct link between the island and Toulon, in the south of France, Corsica Ferries this summer, these routes have become noticeably busier. “It’s like a snowball effect, someone comes on vacation from Paris, buys a house, tells their friends about it, then they come, they buy one”, explains Marrot, whose street food company , Piqniq, take advantage.
French tourists to Menorca have been steadily increasing for several years – between 2014 and 2019 their number tripled, from 19,472 to 60,646, according to figures from the Agencia de Turismo de las Islas Baleares – and are now starting to dominate the luxury home market.
At high-end real estate agency Engel & Völkers, French buyers accounted for half of its sales last year, followed by Spaniards (34%), Austrians and Italians (8% each)
The prices were raised. Between 2015 and 2020, the average property price in Menorca increased by 22% to reach € 189,459, according to the Ministerio de Fomento – still significantly lower than the average of € 303,415 in Mallorca last year.
Due to the pandemic, real estate sales in Menorca fell by 20% in 2020. The latest official figures available show that there were 370 transactions in the first quarter of 2021, still 10% less than in the first quarter of 2019 .
Marrot lives near the ancient Arab capital of Ciutadella, on the west of the island, one of the two largest cities, along with Mahón (the modern capital on the eastern end). Most buyers want a country house with a pool and privacy, but the supply is limited, explains Nicolas Andral of the Menorca Privée buying agency. “Being able to find a quiet beach close to nature is essential for French buyers,” he says.
At the top of the market, luxury homes in Menorca are half the price of what they could be in Ibiza, says Sergio Ogazón of upscale real estate agency Lucas Fox. Few houses in Menorca cost more than 5 million euros.
Engel & Völkers reports that the average price of the properties it sold in Menorca this year is € 1,106,250, a slight increase from € 1.1 million in 2020 but up from € 890,000 in 2019.
While UK buyers dominated the holiday home market in Menorca – in 2018 UK and Irish buyers accounted for 27% of Engel & Völkers sales, overtaking both Spanish and French buyers (23 and 18%) – the numbers have fallen since Brexit, report several agents.
Many British retirees have moved home, says Pimms Chetwynd-Talbot, estate agent at Bonnin Sanso. “We have had 20 UK buyers this year but 27 sellers – those who are getting older are worried about Covid,” she said.
The British have tended to gravitate towards the southeast coast – around Binibeca, Es Castell and Sant Lluís – where quaint two-bedroom fishermen’s houses can cost from € 300,000. The cost of private healthcare for relocating Britons after Brexit has been a deterrent, says Wendy Mitchell, co-founder of lifestyle magazine Menorca Life. “The cost of living has gone up. “
Few French buyers move completely – there are no international schools to begin with – and the freshness of the Menorcan winter is a deterrent, explains Francisco Arnau Lopez, director of Engel & Völkers Menorca. “Also the airport [practically] closes in October, ”he said, referring to the lack of direct flights until spring, apart from those to Barcelona, Madrid or Mallorca.
Strict town planning rules prevent the construction of new rural houses and the modification of many existing houses. Rustic estates can be renovated to fulfill a tourist function, and this status also allows vacation rentals (properties with tourist licenses tend to be limited to coastal areas).
These are farms converted into agrotourism or the rustic-chic whitewashed boutique hotels that have become the face of Menorca’s upscale tourism. The arrival of one of the Hauser & WirthThis summer’s art galleries – in a former hospital on Isla del Rey in Mahón Harbor – helped put the island on the radar of affluent visitors.
Lucy Gemmell – a food and events consultant from Wandsworth, southwest London, who has owned a former five-bedroom farmhouse in Sant Climent since 2008 – says the island has moved upmarket in recent years and restaurants are improving.
“We’ve never seen such a busy summer here, we’ve had a lot of people arriving by yachts and private jets,” she says. Her favorite restaurants include Bambú in Binibeca, Mon in Ciudadela and Torralbenc to Alaior.
Not all locals think the increase in these tourists is a good thing, says Marrot. “They have seen the changes in Ibiza and Mallorca over the past 10 years and don’t want Menorca to follow the same path.”
Menorca is the easternmost Balearic Island, accessible by direct flights from the UK (2.5 hours) and other European countries between March and October. There are also ferries from Ibiza, Mallorca, Barcelona, Valence and Toulon in France.
Purchase costs: 10 percent for properties under € 400,000 (stamp duty is a sliding scale between 8 and 10 percent); or 12% for homes over € 1 million.
What you can buy for. . .
365,000 € A traditional three bedroom villa in Es Castell, on the east coast of the island. On the market with Bonnin Sanso.
€ 650,000 A five bedroom country house in Ciutadella, west of Menorca. For sale with Lucas Renard.
€ 6.8m A contemporary seven bedroom beachfront villa in Cala Llonga, Mahón, with its own mooring. Available via Engel & Volkers.