Europe’s Most Tempting Coastline Is Also Its Best Bargain
Portugal’s Algarve and Spain’s Costa del Sol are two of the most tempting regions of warm southern coastline in Europe. The two coasts are similar in many ways. Both have Roman and Moorish patrimony, both are great places to enjoy excellent fresh seafood, and both benefit from loads of sunshine annually. To purchase property and live or retire in either of these locations would be a dream come true for many.
This, though, is where an important difference between these two regions comes into play. Bottom line, the Algarve’s property market is lower priced and a better buy.
The Costa del Sol is the extremely popular southern coastal stretch of Spain’s Andalucía region, bordered by the busy towns of Nerja and Marbella, with Málaga as the centerpiece. As an American expat living in the Algarve for three years now, I have an easy two-hour drive to the Costa del Sol anytime I want to visit.
The scenery in the Costa del Sol is stunning. The mountains rise directly from the sea, and the coastal motorway through the region makes for a scenic drive without equal. The Costa del Sol became popular decades ago, attracting tourists, expats, and property developers in great numbers. A market was created that the developers filled with hundreds of thousands of poorly planned and often illegally built properties. The recent seizure without compensation of many of these properties has contributed to the now infamous Spanish housing crisis.
One could argue that the rapid commercialization of this area has also led to a change in charm and culture for the worse.
By contrast, Portugal’s southern coastal region known as the Algarve has changed little over the last two centuries. The Portuguese are polite, laid-back, and in no particular hurry to fill their Algarve with apartment towers. Unlike on the Costa del Sol, property construction in the Algarve is carefully controlled.
The Algarve is a region of rugged hills and coastal plains. At the heart of every village here is a mother church and a communal fonte, or well. You find all the conveniences of modern living, too, of course, in the larger towns, including Albufeira and Portimão.
In both the Costa del Sol and the Algarve, you find plenty of both new and resale properties available. That is, inventory and supply aren’t the problem. The question is: Which of the two areas is the better value?
Current bank valuations for properties in the Algarve are 1,223 euros (US$1,323) per square meter versus 1,456 euros (US$1,576) per square meter for Spain. Considered very big picture, the Algarve is 17% more affordable than Spain.
Looking more closely and comparing current listings, the average price right now for a house in Málaga on the Costa del Sol is 296,800 euros, while nearly 60% of houses currently listed for sale in the Algarve are priced at less than 200,000 euros, and, in the Algarve, it’s possible to buy a comfortable and well-located property for as little as 100,000 euros.
Hobie van Huson