Country houses for sale

Become a Costa Commuter

More and more successful young Britons are leading double lives and taking advantage of cheap air-fares and broadband technology to live in Spain while continuing to work in the UK. Lower house prices, good schools and a sunshine lifestyle are other factors which add up to the best of both worlds for this affluent group of commuters.

With this demanding clientele in his sights, 34-year-old Tim Hodges has abandoned a career with Goldman Sachs to set up the Spanish arm of property finders County Homesearch (00 34 952 52 02 43) with his Spanish-born wife, Eva. For now, they are targeting lesser-known, but increasingly accessible, areas of Spain, such as Galicia in the north, and the province of Granada in the south, which ?have a plethora of natural parks and environmental zones, and a good number of beautiful properties, without the sort of mass building?and unsustainable price rises?seen in other parts of the country?.

Key areas include Nerja and Herradura in the south, the Alpujarra region of the Sierra Nevada, and La Toja and Bayona in Galicia.

The pretty coastal town of Nerja, on the borders of the provinces of Malaga and Granada and 40 minutes? drive from Malaga airport, is an excellent starting-point for families in search of ?the real Spain?.

Local agents Team Espana (00 34 952 52 73 00) are asking ?999,000 for the dramatic Villa Jara (Fig 1) in the hills above the charming ?white village? of Frigiliana, 20 minutes inland from Nerja. The main house is built round a cloistered courtyard with breathtaking views through gated archways to the sea. It has a huge living room, a dining room, five bedrooms, four bathrooms, and 5,000sq m of terraced grounds with a swimming pool, outbuildings and a garage. The price quoted also includes most of the furniture.

The hinterland of the coastal town of Denia, on Spain?s northern Costa Blanca, is another tranquil area which offers a number of options to time-pressed buyers in their quest for a Spanish home. Ultra Villas of Cheltenham (00 44 1242 221500) are asking ?1.8 million for La Senia (Fig 3), a beautifully restored 18th-century stone finca with two acres of land on the outskirts of historic Els Poblets (literally, ?the old villages?, three of which were merged to create the present-day town), six miles from Denia.

From the ruins of the original farmhouse, the German owners have created a delightfully rambling, six-bedroom house with two separate apartments. There was no need to install air-conditioning: the 20in stone walls keep the interior cool in the hottest of summers, the agents say. Two private wells provide year-round irrigation for the garden and the adjacent orange orchard which forms part of the property.

Twenty-nine-year-old entrepreneur David Bolton, from Wakefield, North Yorkshire, chose the sunshine island of Mallorca as the Spanish outpost for his fast-growing international car sales operation. Last summer, he bought a family apartment at Residencial Bendinat overlooking the Bay of Palma, through Mallorcan agents Kühn & Partner, and is now devising new software for online stock control so that he can work part-time from his Spanish base.

Kühn & Partner (00 34 971 22 82 61) have a number of coastal developments on their books which may tempt others to follow in Mr Bolton?s footsteps. A budget of ?830,000, for example, will buy a front-line ?triplex? apartment with direct sea access in a secure residential complex with a community pool, gardens and a tennis court, at Nova Santa Ponsa (Fig 2), 12 minutes? drive from Bendinat.

The apartment has a lounge, dining room, kitchen and terrace on the lower floor; two double bedrooms with bathrooms on the second floor; and a huge master bedroom suite with a roof terrace and plunge pool on the upper floor. Just thinking how little the sterling equivalent?£576,000?would buy in fashionable Sandbanks or the South Hams, is enough to send any high-flyer scurrying for the airport.

This article was originally published in Country Life magazine, February 10, 2005. To subscribe click here.