Menorca: good-value property prices tempt back British buyers

Cathy Hawker discovers that cheaper property prices are tempting British buyers back to the family-friendly island of Menorca
Menorca is the pretty little Spanish Balearic island less than a fifth the size of mighty Majorca and without Ibiza's megawatt party power. It quietly gets on with charming its residents and visitors. Holidaymakers come to mess about in boats in blissfully uncrowded bays, or just to enjoy the island's understated natural beauty.

Menorca has more beaches than Majorca and Ibiza combined, and the security of knowing that ugly overbuilding will never be allowed. The island is a Unesco-protected Biosphere Reserve, one of only 400 worldwide, and strictly environmentally protected.

Holiday homes in Menorca
© Alamy
The harbour at Willa Carlos near Mahon, Menorca's capital, where the nearby airport brings British tourists for rest and relaxation during the summer

"The three main Balearic islands were once very similar, but while Ibiza discovered clubbing and music, Majorca hoisted the sails and developed its boating industry for year-round activity tourism for the A list," said Colin Guanaria, an affiliate of Hamptons International, who has lived on Menorca since 1988. "Visitors to Menorca come for privacy and peace."

The lack of direct flights in winter and a relative shortage of hotel beds is one reason why it hasn't kept up with its more illustrious neighbours, yet 4,000 Britons live in Menorca year-round, out of a population of 80,000.

EasyJet and Monarch fly throughout the summer season to Menorca's Mahon airport from London, and last summer BA began flights three times a week from London City.

Holiday homes in Menorca
£586,180: a quiet, three-bedroom villa with pool in Cala Llonga, close to Mahon. Through Hamptons International (020 7758 8488)
Island value: reduced property prices
Property prices 30 to 50 per cent below their 2007 highs are tempting buyers back, said Guanaria. Agents Engel & Volkers agree, reporting a 35 per cent increase in sales volume last year in the middle to high end of the market, with French and Russian buyers joining the more usual Spanish and British ones.

"A three-bedroom villa with guesthouse and pool in Cala Llonga that started off at £845,300 is now for sale at £573,400, while a similar-size home that started off just below £849,500 sold recently for £458,750," said Guanaria. "We see an immediate reaction when prices are reduced."

He runs Menorca's largest estate agency and sold 214 properties last year. That's half the number of the prime years, but still a buoyant figure compared with most Spanish regions. Small resale flats on Menorca's only golf course, Son Parc, in the north of the island, start from £59,500 for one bedroom at 450sq ft with annual maintenance of £425.

Detached villas with a pool start from about £254,870, while large, modern villas in prime Cala Llonga, with wide views over Mahon's beautiful natural harbour, cost £1.3 million-plus. Average home prices on the island are £267,600, according to website Kyero, compared with a Spanish average of £202,200.

Holiday homes in Menorca
£401,880: a four-bedroom villa close to the beach on Menorca's south coast, with garden and pool. Through Engel & Volkers (020 7584 1100)
Sunshine holiday home in Menorca
Jim and Sue Pratt, from Huddersfield, paid £271,850 for their 35-year-old three-bedroom house in Trebaluger close to Mahon in 2007. After spending £25,500 on renovations, they have a comfortable home with a good pool and colourful garden. They visit several times each year, often with their large, extended family.

"For us Menorca is more beautiful and green than Majorca, with fewer tourists, less commercialisation and a slower pace," said Jim. "Initially we thought about living in a seaside resort, but were advised that it would be very busy in summer and quiet in winter, so chose a year-round village slightly inland."

Licensed to rent
Owners planning to rent out their home should be aware of stringent new rules. All apartments and terrace houses require a rental licence and only about half of all complexes on Menorca have one.

It is an important issue to check before purchasing if you plan to rent. There are no rental restrictions for detached and semi-detached houses.

"A good rental season is 16 weeks," said Guanaria. "Anything more is a bonus." In Cala Llonga, a three-bedroom villa rents for up to £1,900 a week, while a fabulous five-bedroom villa with expansive gardens and pool, for sale at £2.97 million, currently rents for £5,000 a week in high season.

Holiday homes in Menorca
The Baillies moved from London in 2012 to Alayor, Menorca
A London family are enjoying the growth of Menorca
Landscape gardener Jonathan Baillie, from Banstead, was working in Kensington and Chelsea when he saw an advert for a business in Menorca. That was in 2001 and 12 years on, he lives with his wife Jo and children Tom, nine, Charlotte, 17, and William, 20, in a house in Alayor, central Menorca.

"Since we came, EU money has poured in, improving the airport and roads," said Jonathan, 56. "It used to be quite basic here, but now it is a fairly affluent island. We work on some beautiful houses."

Jo, 48, said the lack of crime and good healthcare and education make it an easy place to raise a family. Tom is at a trilingual state school while Charlotte is at college in Mahon and can speak five languages.

"It's a beautiful island where we regularly enjoy lunch on the beach and still stop to look at the views."

Contacts and fact file
* Hamptons International: 020 7265 6595 (
* Engel & Volkers:
* Buying costs: allow 11-12 per cent buying costs.
* A place to stay while you house hunt: The scent-filled gardens of Biniarroca (, a romantic rural hotel owned by an English artist and ex-fashion designer, is a firm favourite with British visitors.
* Places to eat: the waterside fish and tapas restaurants at Calas Fonts close to Mahon make the perfect lunch stop.

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