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Buying In Morocco 

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A decade ago, saying that you were going to buy a property in Morocco would have been met with a puzzled frown. But nowadays growing numbers of British buyers are heading to this fascinating destination – and it’s not just its bazaars that are full of bargains.

It may be just a half-an-hour’s ferry-ride away from the coast of southern Spain, but on arrival you instantly feel the difference, as it is here that Europe ends and Africa begins. In the 1970s, Morocco was firmly on the hippy trail but mainstream tourism is now up by 18 per cent, with visitors from all over Europe – particularly France, Spain and, increasingly, the UK.

Morocco is a large and diverse country, which stretches from the bustling port of Tangier in the north down to the Sahara in the south, encompassing the huge Atlas mountain range in the middle.

Thanks to years of French and Spanish colonial rule, the country has a fascinating history, but the Berbers were the country’s first inhabitants and its Arab population didn’t arrive until the seventh century. Today the country is predominantly Islamic and deeply traditional but it is being led by a young and progressive royal leader who is spearheading enormous changes. King Mohammed VI was crowned in 1999 and soon afterwards unveiled his ambitious development plans. In 2001, the Moroccan government presented Vision 2010 (also known as the ‘Azur programme’) as the country’s national tourism strategy. The main objectives were to attract five times as many visitors in 2010 as in 2002 and to create 600,000 jobs in the tourist industry.

So far, wheels are in motion for six new seaside resorts with luxury hotels and spas, the training of 75,000 young Moroccans in the hospitality sector and a US$3 billion investment into Royal Air Maroc, which will triple the airline’s fleet to cope with the target of ten million tourists by 2010.

Large-scale developers are also moving into the country. Big players EMAAR, renowned for their success
in Dubai, are investing in excess of $6.8 billion into several ambitious resorts across the country. Budget airlines easyJet and Ryanair now fly into Moroccan airports, with plans for several more routes in the pipeline. These are all signs that this country is very firmly on the up.

The signs may be good but it’s hard to ignore the fact that Morocco has always had a slightly mysterious and, to some extent, dangerous image. Moroccan Properties’ Tony Roberts has lived in the country for seven years and owns apartments in both Tangiers and Marrakech. He believes that, at long last, the country is finally shaking off its bad reputation, which he says is totally undeserved: “A few years ago buyers were nervous, but they are now realising that the country is absolutely safe and has great potential. Here, you are in no danger of being attacked in the street, as you are in the UK, and the idea that blonde women are kidnapped and swapped for camels is an urban myth!”

Roberts used to sell in Dubai and sees great parallels between the two countries: “The oil ran out in Dubai so the Sheikh sensibly decided that tourism and property were the way forward.” Likewise, Morocco needs to expand into tourism as a new market, as China has taken over much of its clothes manufacturing industry.

The country certainly has a great deal going for it. Morocco has some wonderful cities, such as Marrakech, Fes and Casablanca, and heading up into the Rif and Atlas mountain ranges will lead you to traditional villages where the Berbers still live today. Most Moroccans trace their origins back to the Berbers but the country’s majority language remains Arabic.

This may be a traditional Islamic country but it is firmly embracing the 21st century. Marrakech is an incredible mix – it would be hard to find a more fascinating meld of traditional and modern. Djemaa el Fna is a square where you can see traditional snake charmers and acrobats. But just around the corner there are wonderfully luxurious hotels such as Hotel La Mamounia, and nightspots such as Paccha, which may trick you into thinking you are in Ibiza rather than Morocco. There are also some amazing palace restaurants around the city.

Another major lure for visitors to Morocco is its golf courses. The sport has become a national passion and certainly has the royal seal of approval. The late King Hassan II was passionate about golf and played to a high standard, and many courses begin with the word ‘Royal’. The Hassan II Golf Trophy is well-known in golfing circles, attracting top players like Nick Faldo, Vijay Singh and Colin Montgomerie.

The total number of Moroccan golf courses currently sits at around 30 and the standard is very high. Course backdrops range from the Atlas Mountains to the beaches of the Atlantic, and course designers include luminaries such as Robert Trent Jones Junior and Senior and Cabell Robinson.

Many of the new developments now springing up around the country centre around golf courses. Saffron Villas are selling a range of properties from inexpensive up to luxurious and many are near what will be the country’s newest and finest courses. On the eastern Mediterranean coast, Saidia, with its impressive beach, is being hailed as Morocco’s flagship development. The first of six resorts forming part of the government’s Plan d’Azur, this will be the largest resort in North Africa, ultimately boasting five star hotels, an 800- berth marina as well as three golf courses. Within the resort, Saffron Villas are selling Le Jardin de Fleur, a development near the harbour, beach and shopping areas which will hold 250 apartments and 129 villas, starting from £115,000 for apartments and villas from £188,888. Property Showrooms ais also selling at Jardin de Fleur with townhouses from €279,000 (£188,636) and golf villas from €278,000 (£187,970).

The first apartments will be ready for occupation at the end of 2008, says Gerry Jones of Saffron Villas, who predicts that Le Jardin de Fleur will appeal to investors seeking a rental income and capital growth, as well as purchasers wanting a home in the sun: “Capital appreciation is rocketing, with the prices of new properties at Mediterrania Saidia rising by more than 30 per cent annually. Investors can benefit from exemption from rental income tax for five years, no Capital Gains Tax if the property is sold after ten years, and no inheritance tax.”

Also in the north, but further west near Tétouan, MacAnthony Realty are selling Sania Plage, a development
of 400 apartments which lie just 15 minutes from the challenging 18-hole Cabo Negro Royal Golf Club, near the lovely coastal village of Mdiq. This frontline development is close to Marina Smir and Marina Kaliba and will have restaurants, coffee shops and two large pools. Prices start from €102,200 (£69,000) with completion set for the summer of 2007. The development is proving popular with buyers who like the idea of playing golf for just €40 a round.

The nearest large town is Tétouan which, with its noisy and crowded streets, can be rather overwhelming for the first-time visitor, although it has an undeniably beautiful location high on a hillside. Interestingly, its name means ‘open your eyes’ in Berber and it certainly has some unmissable sights – for instance, the Royal Palace, no less than 20 mosques and plenty of restaurants, shops, banks and cafés serving pastries and juices. Its medina, with its labyrinth of passageways, is a real treasure trove for souvenir-hunters and there is even a palace converted into a restaurant, serving great-value seafood.

But it’s not just the north of the country where the action is taking place – Marrakech in the south is also prime territory for development. Of all Moroccan destinations, Marrakech draws the most sophisticated crowd. Saffron Villas is sole agent for the very upmarket Amanatlas Village, 12 huge bespoke villas in a rural location near Marrakech. Boasting gardens ‘the size of Wembley Stadium’ and five-star pools, the four and five-bedroomed villas will appeal to Marrakech’s often wealthy and glamorous visitors. Villas at Amanatlas Village start at £448,275. There is skiing in the mountains at Oukaimeden, 48 kilometres away, and three golf courses are within 20 minutes’ drive.

Also on Marrakech’s outskirts, Colliers International is selling Domaine De L’Akhda. Set among a magnificent olive and fruit tree plantation, the development was designed by the French architect Charles Boccara. It comprises three-bedroom detached riad-style villas with pools and ‘Alhambra-style’ gardens with fountains; prices start at €280,000 (£189,170). They are fully managed, with resort facilities.

Anyone who enjoys the special atmosphere of Morocco may well be drawn to the idea of buying and renovating an old riad. There are many lovely examples, but renovation can be costly and frustrating, particularly if you don’t have the right contacts and language skills.

Francophiles has a range of riads in Marrakech, Essaouira and Agadir, some of which are already renovated. If you renovate yourself, Francophiles’ Frances McKay advises budgetting for at least half of the purchase price again. “You can’t renovate from a distance,” she says. “You need someone knowledgeable about the country’s customs and architecture who can source local builders and materials.” Francophiles works with a local agent who can project-manage on your behalf, leaving you to enjoy life in the medina when it is finished.


A Place in the Sun Live ’s essential guide to Morocco:
FIVE must-sees
1 Fes , often described as Morocco’s most beautiful city, still teems with medieval buildings, monuments and an unforgettable atmosphere.
2 Essaouira is a lovely relaxed seaside resort on the Atlantic coast around two hours away from Marrakech, which is popular with windsurfers who love the Atlantic waves.
3 Marrakech is a truly incredible city and an absolute must for any visitor who will marvel at its amazing city square, the Djemaa el Fna, which is packed with tea and food stalls, snake charmers, acrobats and musicians.
4 The Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca is impressively enormous; it was inaugurated by the late King Hassan II.
5 The Sahara The Sahara begins on the road to Tan Tan, just south of Agadir, or you can head over the Atlas Mountains from Marrakech.

Occupying the north-western corner of Africa, Morocco has coastlines on both the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, and is almost the size of France. It has a varied climate with distinct seasonal differences between the coastal belt (with its typically Mediterranean climate), the interior (with its high mountains and plateaux) and its southern fringes which border the western Sahara. In summer months, the south becomes extremely hot, particularly inland, while the coast can be very pleasant. In July, Tangier has temperatures of around 27°C (80°F) while Marrakech is around ten degrees hotter at 38°C (100°F). Winter can be fine in the south although nights are often chilly. Tangier has temperatures of around 16°C (60°F) in January with around ten days of rain while Marrakech is around 18°C (64°F) with seven days of rain on average. Springtime everywhere is the best time to visit, with pleasantly warm weather everywhere.

Authentic Moroccan cuisine is a delightful mix of Arabic and French. A typical meal will usually involve starting with salad or soup (eg, harira – a thick soup made from beans). Main courses are often roast meats such as delicious kebabs, or stews (known as tajine ) which are cooked in earthenware dishes with lids. Many of the dishes are meat-based so vegetarians may find it a little bit tricky, although in coastal areas fresh fish is in plentiful supply.

Couscous is probably Morocco’s most famous dish; it is often made with lamb, chicken or vegetables, and sometimes with fish. Mint tea is a Moroccan ritual which accompanies most meals, a nd during prolonged bargaining sessions while buying, and is drunk very sweet.

Alcohol was once difficult to find in this Islamic nation but, as tourism has increased, it has now become more common and is sold in all tourist hotels and restaurants.

Getting there
Getting to Morocco is becoming easier and cheaper as more airlines fly there. Many airlines operate scheduled flights – for example, British Airways fly to Casablanca, Marrakech, Tangier and Agadir. In summer months there are many charter flights, and several budget airlines have recently begun flying to Morocco. Marrakech is now an easyJet destination and Ryanair have announced flights to Oujda, Fes and Marrakech with plans for more Moroccan destinations in the next couple of years.

It is also possible to fly to Malaga in Spain, which has a huge choice of flights, and Gibraltar where you have a range of further travel options. From Algeciras, you could take a ferry over to Ceuta or Tangier and boats also sail across to Melilla.

The Property Market 2006

A change in government policy and an influx of developers has brought a new range of properties onto the market

The property market in Morocco is on the brink of a boom. While once it was restricted to a few casual buyers seeking riads to renovate, increasingly scores of investors are being attracted to the many smart new developments which are springing up all over the country, and prices are rising.

Particular hotspots include the Mediterranean coast near the Algerian border, where the largest development is being built at Saidia. Development is also happening around the town of Tetouan, accessible from the Costa del Sol and also the western Atlantic coast near Larache and Asilah.

Marrakech has always attracted visitors but some seriously upmarket developments currently being built to tempt the more sophisticated property buyer, both in and near the city and at its nearest beach resort Essaouira.

Francophiles’ Frances McKay sells in all of these areas but she advises anyone wanting to get a foothold on the Moroccan property ladder to consider buying into a new development rather than face costly and time-consuming renovation projects: “They really are affordable. You get a great base to use yourself, you have a rental income and a long-term investment. Prices can only go up.”

Saffron Villas’ Paul Staines agrees that this country offers great investment potential: “Typically, a buyer who paid £40,000 for a two-bedroom apartment near Tangier six months ago now owns a property worth around £65,000 – and its value will keep rising.” Staines points out that not only are prices much lower than on the Costa del Sol but you also benefit from exemption from rental income tax for five years, no Capital Gains Tax if the property is sold after ten years, and no inheritance tax.

The buying process in Morocco is straightforward, based on the French system. A ‘ compromis ’ (sales agreement) is signed, a ten per cent deposit paid to secure the property and the sales process is conducted by a notaire .

This was offered by property in morocco.

Date Added: 15/11/2006 12:41:56
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