After falling in love with the island home while working on the Saint Martin of the Caribbean, the Frenchman Franck Marrot and his partner Valérie wanted to get closer to their home in southwestern France. After considering Ibiza, Mallorca and Corsica, they move to Menorca, one of the Balearic Islands of Spain. “It is a very simple and safe place to live, protected from overdevelopment,” says Franck (54). ‘Not every house is owned by a German or a British person [like on Mallorca]. ”
As places with lower density became more popular during the Covid era, the demand for properties on Menorca increased. A large part of the coastline of the island, which was declared a biosphere reserve by Unesco in 1993, is characterized by pristine canopies, islets and calasor bays, reached only by foot or boat. Quiet lanes with dry stone walls run throughout the rural interior with low farmhouses.
However, as Corsica Ferries resumed a direct route between the island and Toulon in the south of France this summer, these roads became significantly busier. “It’s like a snowball effect, someone comes on holiday from Paris, buys a house, tells their friends, then they come, they buy one,” says Marrot, whose street food business, Piqniq, makes a profit.
French tourists in Menorca have been increasing for several years – between 2014 and 2019, numbers tripled from 19,472 a year to 60,646, according to figures from the Agencia de Turismo de las Islas Baleares – and are now beginning to dominate the luxury home market.
At the real estate agent Engel & Völkers, French buyers were responsible for half of its sales last year, followed by the Spanish (34 percent), Austrians and Italians (8 percent each)
Prices have risen. Between 2015 and 2020, the average property price in Menorca rose by 22% to € 189,459, according to the Ministerio de Fomento – still significantly lower than the average € 303,415 in Mallorca last year.
As a result of the pandemic, property sales in Menorca fell by 20 percent in 2020. The latest available official figures show that there were 370 transactions in the first quarter of 2021 – still 10 percent lower than in the first quarter of 2019.
Marrot lives near the ancient Arab capital Ciutadella in the west of the island – one of the two largest towns, along with Mahón (the modern capital at the eastern tip). Most buyers want a country house with a pool and privacy, but the supply of this is limited, says Nicolas Andral of the purchasing agency Minorque Privée. “This is the key for French buyers to find a tranquil beach close to nature,” he says.
At the top end of the market, the luxury homes of Menorca are half the price of what it would be on Ibiza, says Sergio Ogazón of the high real estate agency Lucas Fox. Few homes in Menorca cost more than € 5 million.
Engel & Völkers says the average price of the properties it sold on Menorca this year is € 1,106,250, a slight increase from € 1.1 million in 2020, but from € 890,000 in 2019.
While British buyers dominated the market for holiday homes on Menorca — in 2018, British and Irish buyers accounted for 27% of Engel & Völkers’ sales, more than the number of Spanish and French buyers (23 and 18 percent). since Brexit, several agents report.
Many British pensioners are moving home, says Pimms Chetwynd-Talbot, a real estate agent at Bonnin Sanso. “We had 20 UK buyers this year, but 27 sellers – those who are getting older are worried about Covid,” she says.
The British tended to move to the south-east coast — around Binibeca, Es Castell and Sant Lluís — where peculiar two-bedroom fishing houses could cost from € 300,000. The cost of private health care for moving Britons to Brexit was a deterrent, says Wendy Mitchell, co-founder of lifestyle magazine Menorca Life. “The cost of living has risen. ”
Many French buyers are not moving completely – there are no international schools – and the cool Menorcan winter is a deterrent, says Francisco Arnau Lopez, director of Engel & Völkers Menorca. “Also the airport [practically] closes in October, ”he says, referring to the lack of direct flights until spring, apart from those to Barcelona, Madrid or Mallorca.
Strict planning rules prevent the construction of new country houses and alterations to many existing houses. Rustic estates can be renovated to perform a tourist function, and this status also allows holiday rentals (properties with tourist licenses are usually limited to coastal areas).
These are farmhouses that have been redesigned like agro-tourism or whitewashed, rustic-boutique hotels that have become the face of Menorca’s high tourism. The arrival of one of Hauser & Wirth‘s art galleries this summer — in a former hospital on Isla del Rey in the port of Mahón — helped put the island on the radar of well-meaning visitors.
Lucy Gemmell – a food and event consultant from Wandsworth, south-west London, who has owned an old five-bedroom farmhouse in Sant Climent since 2008 – says the island has grown well in recent years and is improving its restaurants.
“We’ve never seen a summer here so busy, and there were a lot of people arriving by yacht and private jet,” she says. Her favorite restaurants include Bamboo in Binibeca, Ma in Ciutadella and Torralbenc in Alaior.
Not all residents think the increase in such tourists is good, says Marrot. “They have seen the changes in Ibiza and Mallorca over the last ten years and do not want Menorca to go the same way.”
Menorca is the easternmost Balearic island, reached in March-October by direct flights from the United Kingdom (2.5 hours) and other European countries. There are also ferries from Ibiza, Mallorca, Barcelona, Valencia and Toulon in France.
Purchase cost: 10 percent for properties under € 400,000 (stamp duty is a sliding scale between 8 and 10 percent); or 12 percent for homes of more than € 1 million.
What can you buy for. . .
€ 365,000 A traditional three-bedroom villa in Es Castell, on the east coast of the island. On the market with Bonnin Sanso.
€ 650,000 A country house with five bedrooms in Ciutadella, Western Menorca. For sale with Lucas Fox.
€ 6.8 million A modern seven bedroom beachfront villa in Cala Llonga, Mahón, with its own seating area. Available by Engel & Völkers.