Cloudnine Spain Blog

Spotlight on Belgian Buyers on the Costa del Sol with Michele Wouters & Sean Woolley

Spotlight on Belgian Buyers on the Costa del Sol with Michele Wouters & Sean Woolley

Managing Director Sean Woolley, chats with fellow Cloud Nine Spain director Michele Wouters about the Belgian buyer market here on the Costa del Sol.

Listen to the podcast version here

Link to YouTube video here

Sean: Hello, everybody. I’m Sean Woolley, managing director of Cloud Nine Spain. With me today, I have one of the directors of our business, Michele Wouters, who is very experienced in the Costa del Sol real estate industry. And also, interestingly, she’s very experienced in the Belgian property market, particularly in Knokke, which is one of the high-end markets in Belgium. So welcome along, Michele. Thank you for joining us today. What I wanted to discuss with you is specifically the Belgian buyer market here on the Costa del Sol because obviously, we’re an English-speaking company, and the UK has tended to dominate the buyer market over the last 20 years, but Belgium, particularly over the last 10 years, has kind of always been second or third on the list, hasn’t it? Which amazes me for a country that’s fairly small, fairly small population, what’s going on? Why is the Belgian buyer market so strong here?

Michele: Yeah, Belgians are, the last 10 years, always in the top five of buyers here. And they typically, we always say that everyone loves real estate in Belgium. It’s really like, it’s not a market where people would rent. It’s a market where people always buying properties. So they come over here. They love Costa del Sol because of many reasons. It’s the sun, it’s the climate, it’s the, a stable country, but also, you can drive here because this is very important, especially since COVID. People love to have, they don’t do it, but it’s the option if something happens like in COVID, there is no flights, whatever. They like to come here. The weather’s beautiful. And they like to enjoy life.

Sean: So since COVID, has the market for Belgian buyers improved or has it dipped a little bit? What sort of effect did that have on the market? I’m guessing from what you say, actually, it may have increased things.

Michele: It did. It certainly did. There’s two things. First of all, clients who already had a place here, they want to have a bigger place because they realized, “Oh, I want to spend more time with my friends and family.” And so they go to a bigger place. And the other thing is that people understand, like they’re continent to my life and I want to enjoy it more and more. So COVID really made them realize that this is the way they wanna go. And another thing is that COVID, a very nice thing that happened is that people tend to work from home. And this was in Belgium, it was not in the culture to do that. And home is not necessarily Brussels or Antwerp or Knokke. Home can be Marbella. So why wouldn’t you be here like nine months in the beautiful weather rather than nine months of the year in grey and rain? So…

Sean: Absolutely. And that’s where it’s similar to the UK buyers. They have the same issues. A lot of people, particularly at the higher end of the market, they’re now allowed to work from home. They’ve got the wherewithal to work from home. But as you said, they’d rather work from a home in the sunshine than in the grey. What sort of properties are Belgians buying? Is it any different to the rest of the market? Do they go for a particular style or a particular type of property or does it depend on their demographic really?

Michele: I think like the majority of buyers, they prefer to buy the new builds, Ibiza style. They want to have the security to say like, “The first 10 years, we don’t have to bother about, oh, there is a pipe breaking or electricities.” So they want new build, they want Ibiza style, close to the beach, close to everything. And I don’t think there is a real difference between the rest of the world or the Belgian clients.

Sean: Okay, okay. Have you noticed the difference between the age group of people buying? Because we certainly have. I mean, we’ve been in business here for 20 years. And 20 years ago, it was almost the retired brigade. But now, it’s much different. Same for Belgians?

Michele: Same for Belgians, yes.

Sean: Really?

Michele: In earlier years, it was the 60, 65-year-old who came here, retirement and enjoy life. And now, it’s more the businessman who can afford it to come here and work from home. And so now, it’s like the 40-year-old who have a look at this area. So yeah, interesting market.

Sean: Which is great. And what about moving here permanently? I mean, obviously, it’s easier for Belgians than it is for the Brits now because of Brexit, which we won’t get into. But I’m guessing, has there been more and more people looking to move or would you say it’s still a holiday home type of purchase?

Michele: Yes. Yeah, correct. It’s a holiday type of home. It’s not really relocating. No.

Sean: So Belgian’s that good that people wanna stay, yeah?

Michele: It should be covered with a room that it’s really good.

Sean: And finally, how do you see the Belgian buyer market evolving over the next five to 10 years? Do you think there’ll be any major changes or do you see it progressing as it is?

Michele: I think it’s progressing in the way it is. Belgians realize that with a high inflation, it’s good to invest more in real estate rather than having money on the bank. They don’t trust banks. So it’s really all those factors that help us to get the right property for the Belgians, yeah.

Sean: And if we have any Belgian clients who are listening to this or watching this, I assume you have access. Well, I know you do. You have access to Belgian lawyers, and what about arranging finance? Are there people they can speak to? Is it easy, relatively easy for Belgians to get finance over here on a property?

Michele: In general, we have cash buyers in Belgium. So I never had anyone applying for a mortgage.

Sean: Wow. I need to move to Belgium. This is where all the rich people live. This sounds great. No one needs any mortgages. They all love it so much. This is great.

Michele: But I understand with this high inflation, it would make sense to me that people would go for a mortgage. But unfortunately, they prefer to put their own money down to-

Sean: Okay, that’s great. That makes life easier.

Michele: Yes, it is-

Sean: But in terms of lawyers and stuff like that, there are Belgian lawyers or certainly people who speak the language that can help Belgian clients so they can feel comfortable dealing with people like yourself who speak the language, know the market back in their home country. But in terms of ancillary services, you can introduce them to people who also speak the language and understand the market.

Michele: Yes. I think it’s very important. Buying a property is always an important event in your life. And I think it’s very important that people can talk in their own language especially to a lawyer when it’s about all the money. You always have to talk in your own language, I think.

Sean: Absolutely. Michele, thank you so much for coming along to our office today in the pool, and thank you for your tips there about the Belgian market. And I’ll catch up with you in the next few months, see how it’s all progressing, see if our predictions are gonna come true that it’s keeping on monitoring along. But in the meantime, thank you.

Michele: Thank you so much, Sean.

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