The joys of owning a home in Soller

Published in the Majorca Daily Bulletin 
on Sunday 30th July 2017
By Shirley Roberts
Photographs by Gary Lloyd-Rees

For me it all began 18 years ago when our family realised an ambition to have a holiday home in the sun.  We researched the places that we had grown to love and it was a stand off between Begur in the Costa Brava and the Repic Beach of the Port of Soller. We rented a house for a year in Begur and then put the idea on hold because Majorca still called us. The money was almost in the bank when we finally got down to serious apartment hunting in the Soller Valley. I mention that because it really is the key to everything.  In those days’ mortgages were easy for some but not really for the baby boomer retirement lot.  Even Spanish banks in their most generous mode wanted you to have some job or sizeable regular income. At that time the Soller Valley was riding high and Estate Agents were opening weekly. The change had come here when the Soller Tunnel opened and allowed easy access to the Valley.  The idea of driving over the Coll mountain with its 52 hairpin bends had put many prospective purchasers off the idea. People were queuing up to buy property here

The purchase we made was of a beachside apartment on the Repic Beach of the Port of Soller.  The Montemar buildings were built ready for the influx expected after the tunnel.  Unfortunately, the builders went bust and the apartments took years more than their projected completion date. By the time we got there they were having a sale of all these unfinished properties in a derelict bit of land.  With vision for the future and an unbelievable sense of pleasure we acquired our beachside home.  The views from Montemar are outstanding and every time we climbed the many stairs that led to the flat we knew the pleasure that awaited us when we arrived.

The mechanics of buying a home here in 2017 as in the days I am talking about all depend on the agent you choose to work with.  The Soller Estate Agents are a mixture of high end corporate agencies with branches in Soller to local agents who have always lived and worked here.  Websites are as good as the people administering them and sometimes this is a struggle for the one-man band.  Local relationships and exclusive knowledge of properties available is their strength.  The corporate agents with their worldwide presence are often the ones that introduce a whole new group of clients.  Their influence in defining an area as ‘up and coming’ can bring unlikely new investors to the area.

Montemar led to a family house purchase in the L’horta area of Soller when we moved here full time.  We used the most local of estate agents for this purchase and dispensed with a solicitor.  For the first property we had an English Solicitor working in conjunction with a Palma solicitor and the costs were mega. Once we relaxed into the process we could see that, in our case, the Agent could do all the legals for us with the Notary.  That is the route we took for this and another purchase that we later made.  I am not recommending this course of action for everyone but it certainly worked for us.
In our choice of L’horta for our house we chose to live in a Majorcan community and were, at that time, the only English people around.  This gave us a novelty value and we learnt so much about the great attributes of a community that really looked out for one another and their elderly families.  Life centred around the shop and the bar (just 2 doors away from us) and local gossip was the life blood of the whole place.  I loved living there and it was only my husband’s ill health that took us to a modern, purpose built in the centre of Soller.

When we moved to Soller I was part of a three generational move which included my daughter, son in law and grandchildren.  They had their own house in Soller which they renovated. Renovation is the key to so much here in this place.  There are hundreds of derelict townhouses for sale which all need renovation and a lot of tender loving care. Many of these houses have complicated deeds and some have never even been registered with the relevant authorities.  This is a by product of years of migration when people left here because they couldn’t afford to stay.  Often their paperwork for their properties was not in order and it has been up to their descendants to try and sort this out. This is a big issue with all old properties and the Estate Agents are more than aware of this and are very helpful.  Purchasers often can’t believe what they are being told when it is mentioned that the owners are living in a care home in Puerto Rico and it may take a little time to sort the deeds. New purchasers have to sort this out and my advice is do not be daunted by this it is just one of the unusual paths on this journey for you.

These days my daughter and her family bought our house in L’horta and they are still the minority English but as the years have passed all three granddaughters speak Majorcan, Spanish and English and they are more than capable of keeping up with the gossip.
The Soller Valley is bracing itself for the next influx of people who will come and join us here this year. In September the biggest barrier to housing choices is being removed.  There will no longer be a Soller tunnel payment to be made.  The Soller Tunnel will be free to all and many people are considering moving here because of the 30-minute proximity to Palma. Local people making these choices join the the crowds that have discovered the Soller Valley and want to come and live here.  Families are moving here by the dozen from the UK and Sweden in particular.

Owning a property in the Soller Valley is all about relationships. Firstly, with your neighbours and then with with all the bureaucrats that are involved. The Town Hall has the answers to so many questions but they are the ones that require a piece of paper stamped in three places before you even cross the threshold.  Relationships with the Estate Agent that you trust is the key to all the bureaucracy – they can help and advise on the process and they are still there when you have questions after your purchase. Take time to choose the agent that is best for you, this is the most important relationship of all.
As for our me in 2017 a new build, purpose built apartment was our latest purchase.  All done very easily with our local agent. Wooden floors and double glazing have taken the place of stone entrada floors and gaps around the window panes.  The circle of life gave us property opportunities and each one of them for me have brought fun, new neighbours and a great quality of life.  What more can I say…

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