Perversely, the events of September 11, 2001, appear to have had a positive effect on the Spanish property market. That at least is the view of Alasdair MacDonald, managing director of fast-growing Ocean Estates (00 34 952 811 750), which last year sold more than 1,000 properties on the Costa del Sol.

Mr MacDonald explains: ‘Spain is perceived as a less vocal supporter of the USA, and therefore less likely to suffer terrorist reprisals. And while Spanish holiday traffic has declined somewhat, this has been offset by fewer travellers going to America. Certainly, we have benefited from potential buyers of Florida property changing their minds and buying in Spain instead.’

The average price of an apartment sold by Ocean Estates in 2001 was about £114,000, with the average price paid for a villa about £3450,000. A two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment overlooking the sea or one of the Costa’s many golfcourses now costs in the region of £132,000.

‘It is impossible to paint a picture of the “average” purchaser’, Mr MacDonald says, adding: ‘This year we have sold to people in their twenties and also in the sixties. Approximately 10% of properties were sold as main home sot people retiring here, trading up, or planning to retire to the area in the next few years. About 60% were sold as second or third homes, and 30% purely for rental investment. Of those buying a second home, a significant proportion intend to let their property for the part of the year.’

According to Mr MacDonald, people are happy to spend more and more money on their home in the sun, with increasing numbers of buyers prepared to spend more than ?250,000 on an apartment. ‘The £1 million villa sale – while always a cause for celebration – is no longer a rarity,’ Mr MacDonald points out.

Recent close scrutiny by the German tax authorities into the purchase of second homes in Mallorca by German nationals has led to a sharp decline in the number of German purchases buying on the island. But it’s an ill wind, as Naomi Greatbanks of Knight Frank points out, and many choice properties which would normallyhave been snapped up by Germans are now available for British buyers.