Our blog describes itself as ‘a blog with a view’ for a good reason: Charles Marlow is not just concerned about the issues affecting Deià, we have an informed perspective on what might be done to resolve them for the future.
In January of this year, articles appeared on the UK Guardian and Times websites all telling a version of the same story.
Foreigners buying property in the Balearics are pushing up prices to the point where locals can’t afford to live in certain places. These are becoming ghost towns. The Guardian used Deià as its example.
As a result, according to The Guardian, ‘The regional government is fighting back, with a request for European approval for a law that would ban anyone not resident in the islands from buying property.’
Referencing measures taken in Finland and Canada to limit sales of property to foreigners, The Times reported that ‘Politicians in Palma…have asked the government in Madrid to put pressure on the EU to introduce similar measures in the Balearics – any move that restricts freedom of movement within the bloc has to be sanctioned by Brussels.’
These articles were factually correct, if, in my opinion, somewhat sensationalist. As the co-creator of a company that sells and rents homes to foreigners and exists because of Deià, I wanted to find out the real story and see how we could help.
I met with the Mayor of Deià, Lluís Enric Apesteguia at the village town hall.
Lluis Enric was born in Deià in 1985. He lives in the village, although he can’t afford to buy a home here.
He joined the Deià council in 2011 as leader of Agrupació Deià, an independent progressive party, becoming leader of the opposition in a council led by the People’s Party (PP).
In 2015, he kept this position. That year, he was also elected to the Island Council of Mallorca as the spokesperson for Més per Mallorca (More for Mallorca) a leftwing coalition of smaller parties. In 2018, he became chief of cabinet in the Government of the Balearic Islands Ministry of Tourism.
Lluis Enric became Deià’s first leftwing Mayor in 2019. In 2021, he won the primary to be the leader of Més in the 2023 Balearic regional election.
A modest, friendly man, Lluis Enric is a politician with considerable power.
Deià’s population is declining, partly because people like Lluis Enric who were born in the village can’t afford a house here. But there are empty houses in the village that people could be living in.
The council is trying to do something about this.
They have defined an empty house as somewhere that’s occupied for less than three months — in the rest of Spain it’s six. After checking water usage, they have identified 100 houses as empty and will increase the taxes (IBI) on those houses by 50%. Houses with a tourist license are exempt.
The council is offering to rent houses from owners for the full market cost, subletting these to people in need and paying the difference between the two amounts.
Rates paid by restaurants in Deià that stay open in the winter are being reduced.
The council has also bought a plot of land on which they’re going to build apartments. They have changed the law so that it’s now possible to build a 50 square meter apartment. Before the minimum was 75.
They’re also intending to build a coworking space in the village.
These are all sensible measures, which I support. But, in future, the council also wants to ban non-residents of Spain from buying property. (Although not, as was reported, foreigners who are residents.) I’m not convinced that this is a good idea.
After speaking to Lluis Enric, I wanted to get a different view of the situation.
I spoke to a seasoned politician in Palma who is a senior member of the conservative, Christian Democrat Partido Popular (PP).
First of all, he pointed to the timing of the articles in the UK media. These appeared in January, as the build-up to the four-yearly elections held at the end of May when Mallorca will vote for its regional representatives was intensifying.
As he said, ‘People will listen to anything that’s said by a politician from the November before the election to May so politicians in all parties look at potential vote-winning measures.’
He also told me categorically that non-residents won’t be banned from buying property in the Balearics. It’s simply not financially viable.
Having said that, he agreed with Lluis Enric that the prices of homes for locals is an issue that needs addressing. He believes that we’ll see changes relating to taxing empty houses and increasing purchase costs.
For example, as of January this year the government of the Balearics increased the cost of buying property on the islands. Read the latest buying costs here.
The politician also highlighted the impact of one and two star hotels on the areas around them and imposing stricter controls on renting in general to make way for more housing.
Following the example of Deiá, he agreed that more houses should be made available for local people.
My takeaway from my conversations with Lluis Enric and my source on the other side of the political fence from him was that there will be more regulation of non-resident property owners but it will take some time for this to happen. An outright ban seems highly unlikely.
Charles Marlow clients investing in a dream home in or near Deià have nothing to be concerned about.
But, as I said before, we at Charles Marlow see ourselves as part of the community, in Deià and in Mallorca. We recognise how complex this issue is, and feel strongly that it will take collaboration across the political spectrum to find real, long-term solutions to the challenges Mallorca faces. Whether these are to do with foreign ownership or the impact of mass tourism.
Turning our attention back to Deià, we know it’s important to the people to whom we sell and rent homes that they’re living in or visiting a proper village where they can get to know local people. Most of our clients want to be able to support the village with which they’ve fallen in love.
Just to give one example, after the Guardian piece was published, someone who had bought a home from us emailed us asking how she could do more to support art in Deià.
This is one of the reasons we helped make the online Deià artists’ gallery.
Looking to the future, we call on other businesses and interested parties to get together with us and the Deià council to discuss how we can all work together.
We’re ready to help be a bridge between the foreigners who will continue to buy and rent homes in the village and the community for the good of Deià.
If you’d like to be part of the future of Deià, I’d love to hear from you.