News: Murcia vs. Aquitaine

Despite competition from emerging markets in Eastern Europe and beyond, recent reports show that demand for property in Spain and France continues to be high, thanks to their proximity, stability, idyllic climates and lifestyles...

Murcia and Aquitaine in particular stand out as desirable areas, offering cheaper and less built-up alternatives to the Costa del Sol and Cote d'Azur. The number of properties listed in Murcia and Aquitaine on leading holiday home rental website, Holiday-Rentals.co.uk, increased 85% and 59% respectively in the last 12 months alone. Here, the company reveals the results of a survey of owners on buying to rent in each area.

Investors are being attracted to Murcia due to relatively low levels of urbanisation, the great climate and the fact that it is the golfing capital of Europe. According to the Barclays-IESE Barometer, there was a 46% rise in Murcia's British population last year and over the next decade it is predicted that the region's population will grow by 35%. The Spanish daily 'ABC' also recently reported that 200,000 new properties are planned for the Mar Menor area.

In France, recent statistics released by the FNAIM (Fédération Nationale de l'Immobilier) revealed that property prices in almost every region increased by over 10% in the last 12 months, with Aquitaine among the top three performers, making it an attractive option as property prices are still considerably cheaper than those further south, along the Mediterranean coast.

Murcia and Aquitaine compared

Interestingly, a large number of owners in both regions have a total household income of less than £50,000 per year, reinforcing the fact that foreign property ownership is now accessible to more people than ever before. The most common purchase price in each country was also relatively low, at £100,000 to £150,000, although there is a wider price range in Aquitaine than in Murcia. In both areas, most owners had spent less than 11% of purchase price on fees, with around a third spending between 9 to 11%.

Nearly all properties in both areas are near an airport served by a low cost airline, but this had a stronger influence over the purchase decision in Murcia. The strongest influence for owners in both cases was love of the area, followed by ease of access from the UK and the presence of low-costs in Murcia and cost of the property in Aquitaine.

Rental potential was the next most important factor in both areas, while re-sale potential and the economic performance of the region were considerably less influential in Murcia and mostly not at all in Aquitaine. Most people in Murcia own two bedroom apartments by the sea, or on a resort, while the most common property type in Aquitaine is a farmhouse and the number of bedrooms per property, four.

The Mar Menor area and golf resorts are considered the prime spots for investment in Murcia, while the highest concentration of properties in Aquitaine is in the Dordogne. However, the department of Gironde is gaining in popularity thanks to the abundance of unspoilt, picturesque villages around the river estuary that offer plenty for potential renters: the sandy beaches of the Atlantic coast, the up-and-coming city of Bordeaux, and beautiful vineyards and lakes.

Vibrant and trendy towns

Pyrénées Atlantiques is also an attractive option, as rentals here extend to the ski season, plus this department is home to the vibrant and trendy towns of Biarritz and Pau, which according to the FNAIM (Fédération Nationale de l'Immobilier), experienced one of the highest property price increases in the country - 17.7% - between March 2005 and March 2006.

In terms of rentals, the season in Murcia is longer - 16 to 20 weeks per year on average - while in Aquitaine, the average is 11 to 15 weeks per year. However, at £400 per week or less, average rental rates in Murcia are lower than Aquitaine, where the average rate is £1,000 to £2,000 per week.

Owners also revealed that the majority of their bookings now come from the Internet, in most cases via Holiday-Rentals.co.uk, which has the benefit of providing a large number of properties and comprehensive adverts in one place, with a powerful search tool built in for renters' convenience.

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