Why buyers are going crazy for Madeira Island

On a recent trip, Liz Rowlinson discovered that Madeira Island is an alluring mix of old-fashioned values, natural beauty, and new, state-of-the-art homes.

When you think of sunny spots in winter or a perfect sunny spot for retirement, the island of Madeira may not be the first place that comes to mind. Still, it should definitely be on your list if you’re looking for somewhere relatively easy to get to – it’s less than four hours by plane – as well as a great quality of life and a high level of amenities.

If you decide to go there, chances are you will like it. Many who visit (of which the British are the most prolific, even more so than the mainland Portuguese) will return. The island has the second highest recurring visitor rate for a resort in the world (after Hawaii). It is therefore the highest in Europe – higher than the Canary Islands, Malta and Cyprus, those other popular places for winter sun and retirement.

So why do people go back? Part of the appeal is the subtropical climate of the 35-by-13-mile island, located in the Atlantic off the west coast of Africa; and weather is a big topic on hilly terrain where conditions can change from one side of the mountain to the other.

Lush banana trees line the terraces of the sections of the southern part of the island. However, they only grow at an elevation of around 400 meters – the so-called Banana Row – as the peaks of the island’s many peaks (some higher than Ben Nevis) are often shrouded in clouds. or mist and it’s too cold for the bananas. as well as for some of the expatriate owners. Still, for some locals, the upper levels offer the most spectacular views as well as a respite from the sun.

The mild days of perhaps 17 ° C or 18 ° C in February make it an attractive location as chunks of Britain quiver in single-digit temperatures. The outdoor lifestyle prevails, with the terraces of Funchal’s cafes bustling with visitors and locals, the many tropical gardens full of brightly colored flowers and a few people even on the small beaches of the south coast.

Natural beauty and climate aside, it’s the laid-back and friendly locals, excellent standard of healthcare, and low-key lifestyle that attract potential expats. People are rarely in a rush, there is an amazing selection of fresh fish and tropical fruits and very affordable local drinks such as Madeira.

Suggested read: Why Alex and Jan Green love living on Madeira Island

While properties in working-class neighborhoods are not as cheap as in some parts of southern Europe, the cost of living is very affordable (90 cents for a cup of coffee, for example) and the tax benefits offered. by the Portuguese government since 2009 have become another aspect of the call for those who wish to spend at least half of the year on the island.

“The safety and security offered by the island has also been a factor for foreigners to settle here – particularly in recent years when terrorism has been a concern in other parts of Europe or the United States. ‘North Africa,’ said Nelio Mendes, real estate agent and local developer. which has been selling homes on the south coast for 30 years. “There is very little crime, most people speak good English and the medical care is excellent. People don’t come here for the beaches [there are a few man-made or volcanic rock examples] but they come here to walk along the many levada trails that wind along the steep slopes of the valleys and to enjoy the scenery.

So where to buy a house? There is consistency between the varied weather conditions and the island’s many microclimates, but if you want to soak up the sun, head to the south coast. The cooler north may be popular with walkers and the growing number of trail runners heading to the island, but for many estate hunters, the stretch between Prazeres in the southwest and the southern capital Funchal, at the east, is the ideal place.

Funchal: the heart of Madeira life

Located in the beautiful bay of Funchal, the vibrant capital is truly the only big city on the island. This is where the giant cruise ships dock in the harbor, close to the bustling marina and where the best commercial and commercial buildings are located. It is also close to the island’s airport, where over 20 flights depart per week to the UK, as well as some of the island’s best hotels. These include the elegant and historic Belmond Reid’s Palace and newer boutique hotels, such as the very stylish Castanheiro in the center and the Pestana CR7, a joint venture between local superstar Cristiano Ronaldo and the hotel group Pestana.

Funchal is a popular place to live for locals. In fact, there is a dearth of places to rent long term there due to the appetite for Airbnb among some owners, but it is not cheap and the prices are only lower than in the capital. from Portugal, Lisbon, according to Mendes.

You can get a resale apartment there for around $ 150,000, although you’ll pay close to $ 250,000 for a new one, according to local agent Michael Mendes of First4You.eu. In Sao Martinho, the “noble” district of the city where there are larger properties, you will have to pay around € 500,000 for a three-bedroom villa with swimming pool, or up to € 2 million for a villa. more substantial.

“The Forum area to the west of Funchal is also very sought after, with its own shopping center and just a five-minute drive from the center. It offers properties with great sea views, ”he says. “While German buyers particularly like Caniço and Garajau.”

South coast for sun worshipers

Before Madeira received EU grants to build tunnels through its myriad of peaks, winding and winding mountain roads meant it took a few hours to reach some 10 miles along the coast. But now it is possible to reach the sunniest place on the island – the aptly named Ponta do Sol – in about 35 minutes from the capital, which means that it is possible to enjoy the peace and the tranquility of rural life, but with everything you need at your fingertips. Thus, the hubs of Ribeira Brava, Ponta do Sol and Calheta are, discreetly in Madeira, the hot spots for buyers.

Nestled in the banana-carpeted hills and sugarcane fields, you’ll find a mix of homes, from rustic farmhouses to larger quintas (farmhouses), 20-year-old villas, and surprisingly contemporary new homes. With terraces and swimming pools built on top of retaining walls, these homes aren’t cheap to build, but offer spectacular views of the sea and the valley sides.

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You might find an older property in need of an update for less than $ 300,000 (and not all of them are completely easy to look at); but for the more demanding, older, Madeiran buyer, new built-to-order homes are very appealing.

After years as the head of a family owned real estate agency, Nelio Mendes has seen a growing appetite for high quality properties built to meet the needs of the modern buyer, mainly from abroad. His company, Bespoke Villas, has sold properties to around 20 buyers from the UK, as well as Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Mauritius and Sweden. “We only build in prime locations and we use the best quality materials,” he says, showing me three houses he has built in recent years.

Typically, they offer three bedrooms, terraces on at least two levels, small but stylish pools, and plenty of floor-to-ceiling windows to showcase the great views. There will be a garden, a garage and for this kind of house you should expect around € 400,000. Extras such as adding extra bedrooms, an indoor pool, or a self-catering apartment will push the price up to € 600,000 (or more), but it’s still ‘cheaper than what you might get in the [main] Canary Islands, ”a German owner points out to me.

If you really want to push the boat, you can even get a property designed by Hove-based Riba-registered architect David Challinor, who finds the outdoor lifestyle and island scenery to be a great opportunity. for a cutting-edge ecological environment. friendly designs. He worked with Bespoke Villas to design four three-story properties on a stunning site in Ponta do Sol, atop a spectacular drop to the sea called The Retreat. The three- and four-bedroom villas with living rooftops around interior courtyards, water features, infinity pools and automatic entrance gates are sold off-plan, starting at € 1.3 million (justmadeira .com).

“I came here for vacation and was pleasantly surprised,” he says. “The Canaries attract a younger audience, but I find it much more sophisticated. I hope to build my own house here someday. I love the natural beauty and also the fact that fun events such as carnival here [every February] are so little commercial.

If you are tempted to try the self-build option then it is advisable to find a trustworthy builder (quality can be an issue on the island), a good lawyer who will verify ownership of the land, and ‘will not necessarily buy solely on price. Using a good lawyer (which can cost 1% of the selling price of the property) is essential if you decide to buy a resale property; and if you do that, research the prices carefully. Local agents will freely admit that some sellers have exaggerated opinions about the value of their property and may have chosen numbers in the air. Budget for around € 26,300 closing costs on a € 350,000 property, suggests Paula Meireles, a lawyer based in Lisbon. This includes € 16,964 IMT tax (depending on Madeira region) and € 2,800 stamp duty.

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