'Concrete cemeteries' for sale on Spanish coast
Empty villas, half-built houses and weeds overtaking lawns continue to fill the once much sought-after Mediterranean coast neighbourhoods.
"Your home at the beach", proclaims a billboard on the motorway outside Alicante on the Mediterranean, advertising the Montecid residential development.
Once there, you can just see the sea -- some 14 kilometres (about eight miles) from the hilltop development of mostly unsold or half-built homes.
The sales office is temporarily closed and a shop selling telephone, internet and television services has gone bankrupt.
"It is going very badly, they've built 450 to 500 villas of the 2,000 planned," said Nacho, manager of a local restaurant-bar, The Oasis of Montecid.
The development is not unique along much of Spain's Mediterranean coast, which has been defaced by frenetic construction of holiday and retirement homes that once attracted foreign buyers eager for a low-cost "place in sun".
Cranes and dumper trucks stand idle amid half-built buildings and villas overgrown by vegetation in some areas.
Empty villas are pictured at the Montecid
residential development area in Alicante.
"An enormous concrete cemetery," was how the newspaper El Pais recently described the coastline.
The first line of beachfront tower blocks on the coast went up decades ago. The developers then began constructing villas on the hills further inland.
That is until the demand and their credit ran out last year.
And the crisis in the sector is far from reaching its lowest point. At the end of 2008, Spain had 997,000 empty properties, half of them on the Mediterranean coast.
A study published in June by the BBVA bank said this had risen to 1.2 million, in a country of 46 million, and had yet to reach its peak.
It forecast house prices in Spain, Europe's fifth-largest economy, will fall by nearly 30 percent between 2008 and 2011 before they start to recover from the collapse of the decade-long property boom in 2008.
"Customers are not buying, believing that prices have not yet hit bottom, which prolongs the crisis," said Ramon Martin of the Grupo Masa real estate firm in the town of Santa Pola.
Some promoters, who have borrowed from banks, are selling off cheaply, he said. "They don't make any profit, they just stop paying interest."
Others have gone bust.
At the end of 2008, Spain had 997,000 empty properties,
half of them on the Mediterranean coast.
"We have promotions offering reductions of 20 to 25 percent," thanks to lost deposits by buyers who had reserved villas but were later unable to obtain financing, said Martin.
"The contract stipulates that the customer must pay 30 percent of the value to reserve it. If they can't pay the rest, we keep half of that."
Luc Michelon, a Frenchman in his fifties, took possession of his small villa, two kilometres from the sea, in March.
Opposite him stands an entire street of unfinished villas.
He bought the house in 2006 to spend his retirement in the sun at a cost of EUR 193,000.
Now he regrets his choice.
"I could have bought something cheaper," he said.
17 August 2009
AFP / Pierre Ausseill / Expatica