When La Manga Club opened in 1972, it was at the forefront of sports and leisure destinations across Europe.
It took only two years to build the ground-breaking project in Murcia, south-east Spain, but it quickly became a celebrity hangout for sports and showbiz stars alike. Guests included Kenny Dalglish, Gordon Strachan, Juliet Binoche, Salma Hayek, Matt Damon, Liam Neeson, John Malkovich, Rudolph Nureyev and Gloria Estefan.
Shortly after La Manga added eight football pitches, Premiership teams chose it for pre-season training in the sun; the England team stayed there before the 1998 World Cup.
Four decades on, La Manga had started to show its age and faced tough competition from golf resorts like Quinta do Lago on the Algarve and PGA Catalunya in Girona. The golf industry is a key driver of Spanish home sales, achieving nearly 3,000 transactions in 2016 alone – and buyers can benefit from prices that often rise faster than similar homes elsewhere. It is estimated that 160,000 Britons in the country are close to a golf resort, which can add up to 25 per cent to the value of a property compared to a regular home.
Thankfully, La Manga has three golf courses, but the problem lies with the vast majority of La Manga’s villas which are charming Hacienda-style homes with the classic Mediterranean palette of peaches and creams and terracotta-tiled roofs.
But today’s buyers – notably wealthy Scandinavians, Germans and the Chinese – want modern architecture and smart home technology. They prefer open spaces and big windows allowing in plenty of light with views of greenery and the sea.
Now, the latest development at La Manga – Las Acacias Villas and Las Lomas apartments – aims to meet this demand and give the resort a modern facelift.
Las Acacias is a new collection of 29 stark minimalist villas that are available from €565,000 with prices rising to €2.5m for the biggest versions.
The architect is Carlos Gilardi, an Italian/Uruguayan whose futuristic SHA Wellness spa hotel in Alicante is frequented by the likes of Kylie Minogue and Simon Cowell.
Or you can buy a plot from €205,000 and build your own. “For our international clients, this is usually their second or third home and they enjoy a high quality lifestyle,” says sales manager Karima Laamiri.
“They don’t want the hassle of building a house – they choose the plot, the view and the position and we take care of the rest. We’ll even do the interior design if they want and we’ll just hand them the keys on completion,” she adds.
This month La Manga Club also released Las Lomas Panoramic Apartments, a collection of 52 newly refurbished units in the popular Las Lomas village. These are popular with British buyers, who can enjoy year-round sun for bargain prices, with studios starting from €84,000, rising to €301,000 for a three bed flat.
One and two bedroom turnkey apartments are available, too, all designed by local Spaniard Pilar Carcare from La Castea de la Mariato, each with a private balcony and sweeping views over the 1,400 acre resort and beyond to the Mediterranean.
Laamiri notes a trend for “a luxury product to use for a couple of weeks every year which also provides a regular rental return.” Designed with these investors in mind, all properties are automatically entered into the resort’s rental pool and give owners 30 days annual usage, as well as an annual rental yield and full property management.
An additional 6 nights in a studio apartment are also available to proprietors every month, meaning over 100 nights can be spent at the resort each year.
In the long term, it’s reassuring to know that the Spanish property market has been steadily growing, with sales figures at their highest levels since the 2008 global financial crisis.
In May this year, the number of homes sales increased by 23 per cent on the same month last year, and also marks the fourth consecutive month of double-digit annualised increases.
When it comes to the second home market, it pays to be a buyer with contemporary tastes – and a developer willing to cater for them.