Valdeluz: Another Icon Of The RE Bubble Shows Signs Of Life

19 September 2016 – El Mundo

The recovery of the real estate market is spreading like an oil slick out from the major cities out to the rest of the country. The strength of the recovery is such that it is even reaching places that were synonymous with the real estate bubble. Just a few months ago, this newspaper reported the resurgence of the PAU de El Quiñón – El Pocero’s city in Seseña. Now, the awakening of the residential market has also reached the reviled PAU of Ciudad Valdeluz, in Yebes (Guadalajara).

The streets of the development, which contain four- and five-storey residential blocks and whose design is reminiscent of the PAUs in Madrid, are exuding life. The area has 2,220 finished homes – with an occupancy rate of 83.1% – and 2,611 registered inhabitants (a figure that the Town Hall says actually reflects 4,380 residents). Although perhaps the best symptom of the health of the housing market could well be the lack of For Sale signs. It is estimated that the stock here amounts to just 100-150 units after the banks placed some of their supply on the market in one go at cheap prices, marketing homes that once cost more than €200,000 in the golden years, for less than €70,000 and family homes that used to cost more than €400,000 for just €120,000.

The limited supply and strong rate of sales has even revived the property development sector. In August, the Town Hall granted its first building permit for 10 years. Moreover, and this is significant, it was to resume a project that had been suspended in 2008 and which was one of the last embers of the real estate bubble. Ibercaja is driving this development. “It is proof that development in Valdeluz is becoming profitable again and we think that it will be the starting point for the new real estate market here”, said Vidal Gaitán, Town Planning and Environment councillor in Yebes.

Gaitán is not at all surprised by Ibercaja’s decision: “A year and a half ago, the bank received around 80 or 90 homes and sold almost all of them in six months. It has seen that there is business here”. The councillor believes that this first building permit will have a “magnetic effect”, which is already being felt at the Town Hall. “Over the last few weeks, several architectural studios have asked about the status of certain plots of land. They have even asked about the licence relating to a shopping centre that has been half built”, he said. The municipal technicians have been instructed to prioritise these calls.

The available product belongs almost in its entirety to the banks and Sareb. For this reason, servicers such as Altamira, Solvia and Servihabitat are the main commercial players in the area. Javier Muro, Regional Director of the Central Region at Altamira Asset Management, describes the current activity at Valdeluz as “a new phase”. His company sold an 80-home building in just a few months. “With updated prices and affordable financing”, he said “sales of these kinds of developments are proving successful once more”.

“Price is critical in Valdeluz” said Muro, who recalled that the PAU has had to overcome the setback of not having a shuttle between the AVE station in Valdeluz and Madrid. Gaitán still dreams about that train, which would link the town with Atocha in 18 minutes. (…).

Nevertheless, Javier Román, Regional Director for Madrid, Castilla and the Northeast at Solvia, highlights Valdeluz’s location. “It is five minutes away from Guadalajara and it is easily accessible from Madrid and the Corredor del Henares by the A-II and R-2”, he said, at the same time as extolling the virtues of its 272,000 sqm of green space. (…).

Original story: El Mundo (by Jorge Salido Cobo)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Banks & RE Firms Sell Affordable Homes In Seseña

10 May 2016 – La Voz de Galicia

Its silhouette – large blocks of toasted brick emerging out of the green fields of Toledo province – attracts attention from the Madrid-Andalucia motorway. The urbanisation of El Quiñón or Residencial Francisco Hernando, as its developer, Paco, el Pocero, named it, is located in the municipality of Seseña (Toledo), which borders Madrid, in an image linked to the real estate bubble whose crash hit it hard, but from which it is striving to break loose.

It wants to show that it is just another neighbourhood in Seseña and that, as such, the ghost town with deserted streets that received its first visitors in the Summer of 2007, when the first half a dozen residents moved in, of the 580 who received the first sets of keys, has gone from being a dormitory town to one where 6,700 people are officially registered, of which 1,600 are under 16 years old.

Amongst those that financed Pocero’s mega project – a PAU containing 13,000 homes of which only 5,096 have been constructed in two phases – at the height of the boom, was the former Galician savings banks. In fact, one of the financing operations, by Caixanova, is now under the spotlight of the National Court, along with the allegedly irregular loans that the FROB sent to the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor at the time. The Town Hall highlights that the neighbourhood currently has an occupancy rate of 80% and that the “reactivation” of the real estate sector has been felt “over the last year or so”, when the banks started to put the stock they holds in Seseña on the market. “The population has grown very fast”, say sources at the Town Hall. And the census confirms this: El Quiñón has more than doubled in terms of the number of inhabitants in five years, from 3,280 residents in 2011 to 6,700 currently, who represent 30% of the municipality’s total population (22,500).

Slow start

But the start – which is now happening – is slow and not free from difficulties. The key factor for Seseña to become an object of desire for potential buyers once again is prices, which have decreased by more than 50%. At the moment, for example, Aliseda has several two bedroom homes for sale for €85,000, although in 2012, other real estate arms of banks such as Santander and Sabadell ended up selling homes off virtually at cost, for less than €60,000 (…).

Original story: La Voz de Galicia (by A.B.)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Spain’s Ghost City Comes To Life

6 March 2016 – El País

Anybody who has passed Seseña, 30 minutes south of Madrid on the A4 highway, and seen the so-called residential city of El Quiñón in the distance will probably have thought it a blot on the landscape, a crazed monument to all that went wrong during two decades of frenzied property speculation. But ask the people who live there what they think and they’ll tell you a different story: they might not exactly be proud of the place, but on the whole they’re happy to be there.

Granted, its wide, car-free streets are mostly void of traffic, even though the local census puts the number of residents here at 6,411, twice the figure of four years ago: that’s because most of them are in Madrid, working. What’s more, they park their cars in the garages underneath their apartment blocks. During weekdays, the only time of day when the streets come alive is during the twice-daily 15-minute school runs. After that, the silence returns.

The majority of people living here are couples in their early thirties who moved here “for the children” – that, and the spacious, surprisingly well-built, and relatively low-priced apartments. It has to be said that there are still few amenities, but for the moment, most families seem happy with the swimming pool and gardens each apartment block is built round. The nearest cinemas require taking the car to nearby Pinto or Getafe, but then Aranjuez, 20 minutes away, has a population of 60,000 and no movie house.

El Quiñón is the brainchild of Francisco Hernando, better known as “Paco el Pocero,” a man who rose from humble beginnings in the hard years of the 1950s to become one of Spain’s most successful, and notorious, property developers.

Unlike many of the thousands of property developments built in Spain during the 1990s and early 2000s, one thing that has to be said is that Hernando didn’t skimp on quality when it came to building El Quiñón (…).

In the aftermath of the crash of 2008, journalists from all over the world made the trek out to Seseña, dubbing it the “ghost town” that symbolized the excesses of the property boom. Residents blame the media for its reputation and are still wary of talking to journalists.

But a real-estate agent based here is prepared to talk, and says that demand for apartments in El Quiñón is growing. The first people to move here, in 2007, paid up to €250,000 for a three-bedroom, 100-square-meter apartment. That was during phase one of the project, where around 3,600 people now live. The average price of the 2,300 apartments in phase two is now less than €100,000, up from the €50,000 they were being offered for in 2011.

It was thanks to the efforts of the Popular Party mayor Carlos Velázquez in 2011 that the licenses required to open phase two of El Quiñón finally came through. “We had to unblock the situation, look to the future; that’s what residents here wanted,” he says. Hernando finally agreed to pay the €6.7 million he owed the local council, and water supplies were provided.

With this, El Quiñón finally became part of the municipality of Seseña, a small community around five kilometers away, and a full range of services became available. Until then, those here were not just living in the middle of nowhere; they were living in legal limbo as well. Much remains to be done, and residents have a long list of requirements: a proper service road to the A4, a health center, another school, a nursery, better transport connections with Madrid…(…).

Original story: El País (by Iñigo Domínguez)

Edited by: Carmel Drake