Monday, October 31, 2005

McGinley Victorious at Valderrama as Montgomerie Captures Order of Merit

The drama at Valderrama was prolonged until the last rites of a magnificent season on The European Tour as Ireland?s Paul McGinley captured the Volvo Masters in great style and Colin Montgomerie of Scotland claimed a record-breaking eighth Order of Merit crown.

For a man who had led the tournament for two of the previous three days but came up just short, Montgomerie was still wreathed in smiles after fulfilling his season-long ambition, while McGinley savoured the biggest and most important victory of his career.

Montgomerie had led the tournament at one stage by six strokes and McGinley had been four over par early in his second round ? but their fortunes were reversed during a thrilling final day on the Costa del Sol which ended in the Scot landing another money list crown, six years after the last of his seven in a row. New Zealander MichaelCampbell would have needed to finish second as it turned out, but was down in 14th spot.

"I didn't need this, I just wanted it," said Montgomerie on being presented with the Harry Vardon Trophy as European Number One.McGinley's comeback during the week was as brilliant as Montgomerie's this season, the 38 year old recovering from nine behind the Scot at halfway to win by two from Sergio Garcia of Spain, who was destined to be runner-up for the second successive year.

McGinley followed an opening 74 with rounds of 68-65-67 for a total of 274, equalling the record low total for Valderrama set by ? guess who? ? Montgomerie, back in 1993 when he captured the first of that eightsome reel.Garcia?s 73 enabled him to finish two strokes behind with Montgomerie (74) and José Maria Olazábal of Spain sharing third spot on 277, seven under par, along with England?s Luke Donald, whose final round of 64 was the lowest of the week

Friday, October 28, 2005

Spanish Schooling...a complete Guide

When kids reach the grand old age of 5 in Spain, it's time to go to school. But should your parents want to hand you over earlier, you will find nursery schools for children from as young as nine months.

Parents usually need to register their children for the September intake in May, either directly at the school or via the local town hall.

Nursery education (3-6 years)(Educación Infantil, EI)

Children usually receive three years of nursery education to develop their physical and mental skills. From the age of four they learn to read and write and by the time they complete their EI they will know the alphabet. Emphasis is placed on learning about various aspects of different cultures, the environment and road awareness skills

Primary education (6-12 years)(Educación Primaria, EP)

The six years of primary education are split into three two-year periods. If the child has not reached the required standard by the end of any period they may have to repeat the second year of that stage.

Pupils learn Spanish language, maths, Conocimiento del Medio (which includes history, geography and biology), Physical Education, Art and a second language, usually English. Religion is also taught at this stage in most schools, focusing on Catholicism.

There is no streaming in Spain; classes are all mixed ability, and parents can see teachers once a week to discuss their child's progress and problems. Children are introduced to exams from around the third year of primary school, but there are no national level testing exams as is the case in the UK.

Parents need to buy all textbooks and materials, but they save on uniform as few state schools have one. Homework may be given from the first year onwards.

School hours vary depending on the school and are usually from 9am to 4pm with an hour's break for lunch.

Spanish schools have a relaxed atmosphere with less discipline than British schools, for example, and the family is expected to help the child with their studies.Some schools, however, prefer to work through to 1.30pm or 2pm without a break and then the children finish for the day.
If your child's school day continues into the afternoon and you are unable to get home for lunchtime, school dinners are available.

Prepare your child for the fact that they will be sizeable lunches, as it is the main meal of the day for Spaniards, and that they will be encouraged to eat it, along with all the Spanish children. This may be traumatic at first for your child, being made to eat strange food with names they don't understand.

Secondary education (12-16/18 years)(Educacion Secundaria)

The secondary school system in Spain has seen major changes in the past decade. It has moved away from the traditional rote-learning model and is now more akin to the British comprehensive system.
Pupils attend secondary school (instituto) aged 12 to begin their four years of compulsory education. At the end, they receive a certificate and can either leave or go on to study for the 'bachillerato'.

If a pupil does not reach the required level of maths or Spanish at the end of each year they can be made to repeat the year, which can cause discipline problems when an older child is placed in a class of younger children. Subjects include the usual range and the ethos is now far more geared towards project work and continuous assessment than the old-style endless fact-learning.

Spanish schools have a relaxed atmosphere with less discipline than British schools, for example, and the family is expected to help the child with their studies.

Pupils who stay on after 16 can study for the two-year 'Bachillerato' academic course (either Arts, Humanities, Sciences or Technology), or enrol on practical training courses called 'modulos'.

Those who have passed the Bachillerato with good marks and who want to go on to university take an entrance exam in June.

International schools

For information about British English-language schools in Spain, contact the British Council, Paseo Martínez Campos, 31, 28010 Madrid.
tel. 91 337 3500,,

or consult ECIS (00 44 1730 268244 or

For information about American schools in Spain, write to the Instituto de Cooperación Ibero-americana, Avenida de los Reyes Católicos 4, 28041 Madrid (91 583 8526).
Information is also available from embassies in Spain.

Enrolling your child

Foreign parents should prepare for a long process of enrolling their child in a Spanish state school. Go to your local town hall in the area you are moving to in order to ask their requirements as the process and paperwork vary quite substantially from region to region.
Generally, enrolment takes place in May and you will need to take the child's birth certificate or passport with an official translation of the parent's passport. You will also need proof of the child's immunisation, proof of residence and two passport photographs.

A teacher gets to grip with her classTo enrol your child in a Spanish state secondary school, you need proof of convalidation - the official record of your child's education. It is best to do this before you move to Spain, having obtained the appropriate forms from the Department of Education at the following address:
Ministerio de Educacion y CienciaC/Alcala,3428014 Madridtel. 91 701 8000

Send the completed form together with your child's school record book and/or examination qualifications, plus his birth certificate.

A child will not be accepted at school until the official papers have been received and stamped by the Department of Education. Expect the process to take between 3 and 6 months although a receipt from the Ministry for the convalidacion documents for your child should be acceptable.


Some primary schools in areas with large expat populations such as the Costa del Sol and Costa Blanca provide extra Spanish classes to bring foreign pupils up to speed and to minimise disruption in classes for the Spanish children. They may also encourage a pairing scheme between Spanish and foreign children to help new pupils settle in.

Choosing A School

Finding the right school for you children will make your time in Spain a much more rewarding experience. Here?s a guide to what to look out for.
The main choice to make is whether you want your child to go to a Spanish school or an international school.

Current figures show that 80 percent of expats send their children to state schools in Spain, an experience that allows the child to integrate fully in local life and (depending on how young they are when they start) be speaking the language fluently within a year. But immersing the child in a foreign language from day one may put pressure on them, beyond all the ordinary strains associated with starting a new school.

An international school will enable your child to ease their way into school in a foreign country yet in familiar surroundings, with smaller classes taught in their language. But their level of Spanish may not be any better than if they had studied it as a second language back home.


Spain's public or state schools are non-fee paying, though parents must pay for school books, school supplies and extra curricular activities such as sport, music and art. Foreign pupils can attend Spanish state schools, but you need a document known as the 'empadronamiento'. For this, you will need to register at the local town hall. Take originals and photocopies of your passport, proof of address and details of your Spanish bank account.

Finding the right school for you children will make your time in Spain a much more rewarding experience.The bureaucracy and paperwork required for enrolling your child in a Spanish school is lengthy and only manageable if you speak at least some Spanish.

Spain's public schools have improved considerably in recent years and the qualifications gained are valid if your child wants to study at a university elsewhere, such as the UK.
However, in areas with large expat communities such as the Costa del Sol, there is a growing problem of foreign pupils flooding schools (in Andalucia, the number of foreign pupils in Spanish schools quadrupled between 1997 and 2001). The result is disrupted classes, inadequate teaching and worse exam results as teachers are unable to deal with so many non-Spanish speaking pupils.

Bear in mind, too, that if you send your child to a public school in Barcelona, most teaching will be in Catalan, and in the Alicante area a proportion of classes will be in Valencian.


There are many varieties of Spanish private schools, some which teach entirely in Spanish and are subsidised by the State providing they have at least 25 percent Spanish students. Others are bilingual schools which place a strong emphasis on English.
Most are day Catholic schools and co-educational with classes from Monday to Friday. Fees vary greatly, though they are generally lower than private schools in the UK and US. Schools in Madrid and Barcelona are naturally the most expensive. A subsidised Spanish school costs about ?600 a year.


This umbrella term includes schools solely for expats and schools which encourage a mix of Spanish and foreign children.

Classes are smaller and the atmosphere more relaxed than in Spanish schools. There is also a wider choice of academic subjects on offer and examination pass rates are high - as is the number of pupils going on to university.

If you prioritise an easy transition for your child over integration, it is worth considering a foreign school. Also if you are only staying in Spain on a short-term contract, you may feel it is not worth putting your child through the strain of having to learn another language - although the immersion will stand them in good stead in future years.

International schools vary hugely, however, and they are not necessarily ghettoes for foreign pupils. Spain has the largest number of 'foreign' schools of any European country, meaning schools where the majority of pupils are from the host nation, and many Spanish seek the prestige of sending their child to an English-speaking school.

So although lessons may be in English, Spanish may rule in the playground. Fees vary from around ?1,500-6,000 a year, with some schools in Barcelona and Madrid considerably more.
American schools follow the American system and prepare pupils for SATs and college admission in the US. British schools study the British curriculum and learn Spanish as a foreign language.

International schools take pupils from several different countries, including Spain, and prepare them for the internationally-recognised bachillerato for university entrance.

School Holidays

It?s great news for the kids, but maybe not so exciting for parents ? Spain has among the longest school holidays of anywhere in Europe. Be prepared.
The long summer break is a particularly tough test of any parent's mettle as to whether they can keep their child entertained during the hottest months with no school between the end of June and mid-September.
Children moving up from primary to secondary school get an extra two weeks summer holiday, which usually includes an end-of-school trip abroad. The other two main holidays are at Christmas, when schools breaks up for about two weeks, and Easter, with about 10 days holidays.

Half terms do not exist, though there is plenty of compensation in the numerous local festival days and non-teaching days (dias no lectivas, included below under 'Festivals') to give children and teachers more breaks in the school year.

SCHOOL YEAR 2004-2005

Infants 13/9/04-24/6/05
Primary 13/9/04-24/6/05
Secondary 15/9/04-24/6/05

Infants 15/9/04-22/6/05
Primary 15/9/04-22/6/05
Secondary 15/9/04-22/6/05

Valencia I
nfants 9/9/04-24/6/05
Primary 9/9/04-22/6/05
Secondary 17/9/04-24/6/05

Murcia I
nfants 8/9/04-24/6/05
Primary 8/9/04-24/6/05
Secondary 15/9/04-30/6/05

Infants /9/04-21/6/05
Primary 9/9/04-21/6/05
Secondary 13/9/04-21/6/05

Infants 13/9/04-22/6/05
Primary 13/9/04-22/6/05
Secondary 15/9/04-22/6/05


Christmas: 23//12/04-7/1/05Easter: 21/3/05-27/3/05Festivals: 11/10/04, 12/10/04, 1/11/04, 6/12/04, 7/12/04, 8/12/04, 31/1/05, 18/3/05, 28/3/05, 16/3/05
Christmas: 23/12/04-9/1/05Easter: 19/3/05-28/3/05Festivals: 12/10/04, 1/11/04, 6/12/04, 8/12/04 (2005 dates yet to be confirmed. Also two further festival days of school's choosing.)
Christmas: 23/12/04-6/1/05Easter: 24/3/05-4/4/05Festivals: 11/10/04, 12/10/04, 1/11/04, 6/12/04, 7/12/04,8/12/04, 7/1/05
Christmas: 23/12/04-7/1/05Easter: 21/3/05-28/3/05Festivals: 12/10/04, 1/11/04, 6/12/04, 7/12/04, 8/12/04, 19/3/05, 2/5/05, 9/6/05 (plus local Saint's day and other local festival days, and three days determined by regional school advisory board.
Christmas: 24/12/04-7/1/05Easter: 21/3/05-28/3/05Festivals: 12/10/04, 1/11/04, 6/12/04, 7/12/04
Christmas: 24/12/04-7/1/05Easter: 24/3/05-1/4/05Festivals: 12/10/04, 1/11/04, 6/12/04, 7/12/04,8/12/04, 28/2/05, 1/3/05 (plus two local fiestas and one extra day to be decided)

Barcelona´s 1st English Radio station

Radio Free Barcelona, the city's first English-language station, has started. But they promise it will be more than a group of moaning expats taking to the airwaves.
If you flick the dial on your radio in Spain, you should have little problem finding an English-speaking radio station somewhere.

There is already a raft of stations, mostly on the Costa del Sol, the Canary Islands and in the Balearics, where they are gabbling away in ingles.

It has to be said, though, they are mostly filled with the familiar fare of expat preoccupations, Seventies hits, BBC news and a DJ talking inanely.
Now there is a new kid on the block ? and it's promising to do something a little different.

Radio Free Barcelona hit the airwaves last week for two hours with little fanfare.
So far, it only has the unpopular early Saturday morning slot between 9-11am on Radio Gracia 107.7 FM with which to make its mark.

We don't want to have a group of expats moaning about problems with Telefonica. We all know about that and it will not attract people to the station ? John Barrass, presenterBut instead of going down the same road as many other more commercial stations, it will be a station in English for everyone living in the city.
And that means the natives too.

So their 'round table discussions' will focus on things which the average Catalan might get steamed-up about, as well as British, American or Indian expats.
Such as: new parking restrictions in Barcelona, the regional government's latest lunatic scheme to spend your money or those loutish tourists who will insist on visiting the city.

Presenter John Barrass says: "We will have a mixed group of expats and Catalans to make our roundtable discussions address things which everyone here is concerned about.
"We don't want to have a group of expats moaning about problems with Telefonica. We all know about that and it will not attract people to the station."

Monty Takes charge in Spain

Montgomerie and Poulter Take Charge at Valderrama

Reuters ? Scotland?s Colin Montgomerie drew first blood in the race to become Europe's Number One for a record eighth time by grabbing a share of the lead after the first round of the Volvo Masters at Club de Golf Valderrama on Spain?s Costa del Sol.

The 42 year old Montgomerie, in a head to head joust with US Open Champion, Michael Campbell, to finish top of The European Tour Order of Merit, joined Volvo Masters title holder Ian Poulter of England on four under par 67.

New Zealander Campbell, ?153,487 behind Montgomerie going into this week's final counting event, bogeyed the last hole to register a one over par 72.A front nine of 32 gave Montgomerie the upper hand on playing partner Campbell, including an eagle two at the eighth when he holed out with his wedge from 111 yards.

The Scot, who will rack up his eighth Order of Merit crown if he stays ahead of Campbell, is erring on the side of caution despite his good start.Montgomerie was understandably delighted - especially as he admitted to feeling anxious at the start. "That's understandable. Human nature," he said. "I've been playing well, but there was an anxiety and I got rid of that in the first three holes."

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Monty in Valderrama

Colin Montgomerie heads in to the final week (27th October 2005), with his sights set firmly on re-capturing the coveted Order of Merit title at the Volvo Masters.

Montgomerie won the title for 7 consecutive seasons throughout the 1990?s, a feat which is unlikely ever to be repeated. Most sportsmen go through some dip in form, but for Montgomerie his whole life was turned upside down in 2002 following a well-publicised divorce.

But this season has seen the Scot go from strength to strength, and when he is in full flow there are few better golfers to watch.

A revitalised Montgomerie arrives on the Costa del Sol seeking his eighth Order of Merit title - and his first since 1999 - after a wonderful season that has seen him win the Dunhill links championship, finish second to Tiger Woods in The Open Championship, both at St Andrews, and register ten other finishes inside the top ten.

More Metro Plans in Malaga

The Junta de Andalucia has described yesterday?s meeting with Málaga City Hall on plans for traffic during the two years construction of the new metro as satisfactory.

The regional government technicians have taken away four proposals from the Ayuntamiento and promised to study them. It comes as the latest traffic study in the city reveals that many roads, including the ring road are now at saturation levels.

Construction on the metro is planned to start next month, and the new proposals are expected to come back from the Junta within a week.And more details of the latest thoughts of the regional government on the metro have been revealed. The line will now continue to Rincón de la Victoria, with a stop in La Cala del Moral, and from there a surface tram will run as far as Vélez-Málaga.

There are also plans for some rail link from Torre del Mar on to Nerja, but work on this section along the eastern Costa del Sol is not expected to start until 2010.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Britons Setting Up Home & Business in Spain

SPAIN was once viewed only as a summer holiday destination for those seeking sun, sand and sangria. But, increasingly, Britons are setting up home there, often starting businesses.

Stephen Womack finds out what it takes to become a successful expatriate, whether in Spain, or further afield in Cyprus or the United States.

THROW a beach towel in the air along the seafront at Javea on Spain's Costa Blanca and the chances are it will land on an estate agent's office. More than 20 agencies pack the streets by the beach in this town of 20,000 people halfway between Valencia and Alicante.
And the agencies are thriving, mainly because of the thousands of Britons who are eagerly buying homes along the coast each year. They are joining an estimated million from the UK living in Spain.

More than a third of the population of Javea are British. They have their own network of shops, bars and restaurants. And over the past four years, they have been buying homes as quickly as they are built.

Travel 300 miles south-west and the forest of cranes along the Costa del Sol points to a similar story. The capacity of Malaga airport is being doubled to cope with 24 million passengers a year as people flock to the region. The scale of growth is staggering. More homes were built in Spain last year than in France, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands combined, says the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.
And properties are no longer being sold only to retired Britons who fancy playing golf in the sun. Increasingly, younger people are moving abroad for work. Freedom of travel and residency within the EU means that many Britons living in Spain do not figure in official statistics. Many inhabit a twilight zone where they might spend most of the year abroad, but are still registered in the UK for tax and social security.

David Franks is in an excellent position to gauge the true number of Britons in Spain. He is founder and director of the European Supplies Group, which has been importing food from Britain to Spain for more than a decade.
While some expatriates might not register at town halls, they still want to buy Marmite, PG Tips, Ribena and familiar breakfast cereals. David says: 'Based on what we are selling, we estimate there are now more than onem Britons living in Spain on a permanent or semi-permanent basis.' Such has been the growth that the company has moved to a new warehouse near Javea and has listed on the Aim junior stock market through parent group Lennox Holdings.
David has seen a change in the type of person moving overseas. He says: 'We have seen a demand for bigger packets - for 80 teabags not 40, for example,' he says. 'That suggests we're selling to more families.' Neil Armitage is marketing director for insurer Exeter Friendly Society, which specialises in medical insurance for British expatriates.
'More younger people are making the move,' he says. 'Three years ago, the average age of our new customers was over 50. But that has come down to 42. And we have more than doubled the number of children we're insuring over the same period.'

Elena Ryan of the Norwich & Peterborough Building Society on the Costa Blanca agrees. 'More families and younger people are coming to live in Spain,' she says.
'Some come to work. Others take advantage of cheap flights and commute back to the UK. I know of one psychiatrist who moved out here with his family, but flies back to London on a Monday to work.'
There are now 14 English-language schools on the Costa Blanca, with a high demand for places. A draw for younger Britons to move to Spain is parents who are already living there. One woman who retired to Javea nine years ago says: 'My daughter and son-in-law are moving here to set up a business next summer. Their children are taking Spanish lessons, but don't use my name because they haven't yet told their UK bosses they're quitting.'

Spain leads a British exodus that shows no sign of fading. More than 207,000 Britons emigrated last year, a record number leaving for a new life. Also revealing is net migration - the difference between numbers leaving the UK and those returning. Australia, Spain and America are the most popular destinations, while there has been a net inflow of British citizens from Germany and South Africa.


Barclays International, 0845 601 5910 or
Lloyds TSB Own Overseas, 020 7374 6900 or
Norwich & Peterborough Gibraltar, 00 350 45050 or
Leeds Building Society Gibraltar, 00 350 50602 or
Nationwide International, 01624 696000 or
Britannia International, 01624 681100 or
Currencies Direct, 020 7813 0332 or
Foreign Currency Direct, 0800 328 5884 or
Moneycorp, 020 7589 3000 or
Worldwide Currencies, 020 8464 5888 or
Axa-PPP, Healthcare, 01892 612080 or
Bupa International, 01273 208181 or
Exeter Friendly Society, 0808 055 6575 or

Coroner Probes Medical Malpractice in Marbella

There are fears that the Nigerian First Lady, Mrs Stella Obasanjo, may have been a victim of medical malpractice as coroners investigating the possibility performed an autopsy yesterday on her body.
She died Sunday morning at Marbella Hospital in Malaga, Andalucia following complications arising from a cosmetic surgery she underwent to reduce fat from her body. Her remains accompanied by Nigeria's ambassador to Spain, Dr. Kingsley Ebenyi, however, arrived the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja at about 10. 30 pm. yesterday barely 24 hours after she died.

The autopsy lasted two-and-a-half hours and seems to have given clear information on the cause of death, said Antonio Garcia de Galvez, director of the Malaga Institute of Forensic Medicine, where the autopsy was carried out. Garcia de Galvez, in a telephone interview with the Associated Press declined to discuss the results of the autopsy, saying the data will be turned over to a judge investigating the case. He also would not say what kind of cosmetic procedure Stella underwent.

In Spain, autopsies can be requested by relatives or doctors. But they are court-ordered when the death is deemed to be of a suspicious nature - as in this case - or to have been caused by violence, Garcia de Galvez said. In Stella's case coroners are investigating the possibility of medical malpractice, he said. She was admitted practically brain-dead early Sunday to a hospital in Marbella after being rushed there from Molding Clinic, where she had the cosmetic surgery, Garcia de Galvez said.

Molding Clinic, located in Puerto Banus, a posh district of Marbella in Spain's Costa del Sol resort area, issued a statement yesterday saying it has provided judicial authorities with all the information they have requested and that the "fundamental causes" of her death have not been determined.

President Olusegun Obasanjo was said to have desired that his wife's body be brought back home immediately after the news of her death was broken to him. But that could not be achieved as the autopsy had not been done.

Obasanjo was said to have spoken to the Spanish King requesting that the autopsy be conducted without delay to enable her body to be brought home yesterday. The body arrived at the VIP wing of the Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport in Abuja at about 10:30p.m yesterday and was received by the widower himself. The President stood on the dais as the body was being brought down.The coffin, which was drapped in the national flag, was carried down from the plane at 10:45 p.m by soldiers dressed in ceremonial uniforms, while solemn music was provided by the Nigerian Army as it was placed into a waiting ambulance.

Nigerians from all walks of life, including Vice President Atiku Abubakar and wife, Titi, Senate President Ken Nnamani, Governors Bukola Saraki, Olusegun Agagu and Sam Egwu, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, Lt Gen Theophilious Danjuma and Rev Father Matthew Kukah, Senators, members of the House of Representatives, Ministers and aides of the President, were on hand to receive the body.

Council of Europe Conference in Malaga: unaccompanied minors' migration ? acting in the best interests of the child

Government representatives, parliamentarians, independent experts, representatives of various international institutions and NGOs will meet in Malaga (Spain), on 27-28 October, to identify ways of reinforcing the protection of migrant minors.

The participants, coming from countries of origin, transit and destination, will examine the migratory cycle of separated and unaccompanied children, with the aim of identifying ways to protect and promote their interests and to create for them the best life prospects.

The discussions will also centre on ways to improve dialogue and co-operation between countries of origin, transit and destination. The conference will be opened by Maud de Boer-Buquicchio, Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe, and by Consuelo Rumí, Secretary of State to Immigration and Emigration of Spain

(27 October, 9.00 am, Hotel Melia Costa del Sol, Torremolinos, Malaga). The opening session will be open to the press. The closing session (Friday 28 October, 13h15-14h00) will also be open to the press. It will be followed by a press conference.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Leeds Building Society has launched Euro mortgage

Leeds Building Society has launched its first ever Euro mortgage available to UK residents, UK expatriates and Gibraltarians looking to purchase a property on the Costa del Sol. The product is a lifetime Euribor tracker plus 1 per cent and sits very well in the current market.

Sally Butcher, Gibraltar Operations Manager said, "We have a number of highly competitive Sterling mortgages available to purchase properties on the Costa del Sol and this new currency product compliments our range superbly. "The Euribor Lifetime Tracker mortgage is extremely competitive and will start at only 3.13 per cent.

This should suit customers who receive their income in Euros and there is no higher lending charge to pay and no early repayment charges, so the customer has complete control of their mortgage. I am confident we have a product to suit every customer's needs and that this product will prove extremely popular."

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Marbella On The Up...Again!

A combination of its desirable Costa del Sol location and comparatively reasonable house prices has resulted in an influx of British property investors, according to a report on the Easier Property News website, despite the recent popularity other locations such in France, Italy and the US.

For upscale property buyers, £1 million could buy them a two-bedroom first floor flat in Knightsbridge, one of London's most desirable residential areas.

In contrast, £1 million will secure Marbella homebuyers a four bedroom, four-bathroom villa complete with private garden and swimming pool. "Marbella is comparatively expensive when pitching it against less established overseas property markets," Easier comments.

However, compared to premium London house prices, as a location for an investment property, "Marbella suddenly seems, dare we say, cheap".

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Join the club

In the cooling Spanish market, a home on a golf course makes investment sense, finds Karen Robinson of The Sunday Times

Three years ago, when they were planning the development of a swathe of Andalusian hilltop with Mediterranean views, the chaps at Sotogrande did not ?try to reinvent the wheel?, explains sales director Michael Norton. They had ?a simple formula: a golf course?.

Sotogrande, of course, has form for this kind of thing, going back to the very dawn of the transmogrification of the Costa del Sol into the Costa del Golf. There are more than 40 golf courses between Malaga and Gibraltar, where the climate means that a game in the sunshine is a possibility just about year-round, and at least half a dozen more are in the pipeline. Long a byword for upmarket golf and homes, Sotogrande already had the world-class courses of Valderrama and the Real Club de Golf Sotogrande, plus Almenara and La Cañada, when they started work on their latest project, La Reserva.

Norton explains the relationship between the generously irrigated 18 holes ? where the bunkers are filled with dazzlingly bright marble chips instead of sand ? and the property that borders them.
?The trick here was to make sure that the villa plots on the front line were 3,000 to 4,000sq m. The maximum ?buildability? allowed on the plots is 25%, so we won?t end up with big houses on small plots. The golf is not overpowered by the real estate, and the real estate is not dominated by the golf.?

A villa at La Reserva could cost up to ?3m (£2m), once you?ve bought the plot and constructed your house, but you?d be into ?gold taps? at that price level, says David Vaughan, of Sotogrande?s UK office. Although these days the ostentatious signs of wealth are more likely to be a home cinema and a walk-in fridge.

There is a cheaper option: Los Cortijos de la Reserva, an enclave of 30 villas and 46 town houses close to the opulent new clubhouse, where a two-bedder starts at about £340,000 and the priciest four-bed villa is about £930,000. It?s no accident that these properties have all been clustered together rather than dotted around the course: it gives seriously upmarket buyers a sense of space and exclusivity that translates into higher values.

All buyers at La Reserva have a guaranteed right to apply for golf club membership: up to ?60,000 (about £41,000) for the one-off debenture and £1,700 a year in fees. The club allows the equivalent of two hours? green fees a day for non-members (there?s a large non-members area of the clubhouse), which means anyone buying to let in Los Cortijos can offer golf on the doorstep, along with the Sotogrande central reservation system that can book slots at its other courses.
?Now that southern Spain is seeing a cooling in the market, the worst-hit will be unplanned developments with no facilities,? says Tim Hodges, of property finder County Homesearch International Spain. ?Spanish property is still a good long-term investment, but you have to stick with quality. Golf is an investment bonus because it gives you winter rentals as well as summer.?

The La Cala Resort, three miles inland from Mijas Costa, has two golf courses and is building a third, along with surrounding properties ? ?That?s the downside,? says Hodges. ?There?ll be building for a few years? ? but the upside is that it?s an established venture with its infrastructure in place, and none of its 1,000 acres have been sold off to other developers. ?It?s not a speculation,? says Hodges.

James Reid, a retired financial director with an enviably deep toffee-coloured tan, lives full-time at La Cala in a semi-detached four-bedroom villa with pool on the development?s south course. He paid £660,000 for the house ? which came fully furnished, as it was the show home. ?I never get tired of the scenery,? he says. ?It?s like having your lawn mowed every day.? And he has found that his golf, for which he pays annual club fees of £1,250, has improved since he moved to La Cala.

Reid already owned a three-bedroom penthouse on the development, which cost him about £250,000 two years ago, and he plans to rent it out through a golfing holiday company in Britain.

Hodges and I inspect the show home of Real Altavista apartments, one of the latest developments in the La Cala master plan for an eventual 2,000 properties, where the cheapest three-bed apartment sells for about £280,000. Hodges is impressed: ?This is the middle market, but the middle market is moving up in standards and quality. It?s like a hotel fit-out? ? he indicates the marble floors and well-crafted wardrobes ? ?and if you?re buying with rental in mind, that?s what you want. And there is stuff to do: golf, riding, tennis. A spa is being built. This will hold its value.?

Occupying a similar niche in the market to La Cala is La Quinta, established for 17 years, with three or more years of construction to go to complete the building programme before it moves on to the next-door tract of scrubby hillside overlooking Puerto Banus. It has 27 golf holes, a five-star hotel and services to suit residents and holiday renters ? and five other golf courses are within five minutes? drive. The resort markets golf holiday packages using owners? apartments for accommodation.

As well as the resale market, new apartments are available in La Quinta Suites, 42 two-bedders scheduled for completion in November 2006, and in Buenavista, 52 two- and three-bedders that should be ready a few months earlier. Prices start at £254,000 at the Suites and £375,000 at the larger, more lavishly specced Buenavista (underfloor heat, ?intelligent? wiring, a laundry room that sends a ?flood alert? to your mobile phone).

Although the Costa del Sol?s golfing bonanza has been driven by northern Europeans? apparently insatiable appetite for the game, the sport is popular with the local people, too. Compared with the subdued atmosphere of some palatial Costa clubhouses, the 19th hole at Antequera Golf has the hallmarks of ?real Spain?: garrulous members comparing scorecards in an atmosphere thick with tobacco smoke and the smell of good, strong coffee.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Euro school signs World Cup star

An international player who appeared in the 1998 World Cup finals is the latest player to join the Charlton Athletic European Soccer School.
Former Jamaica midfielder Fitzroy Simpson, who appeared in three World Cup matches for the Reggae Boyz, will help the Addicks' operation in South-East Spain.

And dozens of Spanish teams will kick off the new season in Charlton's colours following a shipment of kit out to the Costa Blanca.

Alongside providing fantastic football training for young Brits living in Spain, the school holds successful summer soccer training camps for young holidaymakers, with centres stretching from Gibraltar, through the Costa del Sol, and right up to the Costa Blanca.