» A whim win situation

A whim win situation

A last minute purchase in Palma has proved a big hit, says Susan MacDonald.

FOR YEARS Jim and Sandie Furze owned a holiday home on Minorca, one of the Balearic islands off the Spanish mainland. “We loved going there because the island is ideal for small children — and we had three under the age of five. Our needs didn’t stretch much further than a safe environment with sandy beaches, calm seas and beautiful scenery,” Jim says. “And best of all, having our own holiday place meant that we could travel light, open our front door and find everything we needed for the children.”

But children grow up and priorities change. Rachel is now 21 and studying architecture, Linda, 19, is fashion crazy, and Harriet, 17, is keen on sports. Obviously the holiday home needed to change as well. The Furzes knew that they wanted to stay in the area, but also that they had outgrown Minorca. Friends with a home on neighbouring Majorca suggested that they looked at what it had to offer.

They flew there for a ten-day holiday in July last year — but before leaving took the advice of an estate agent on Minorca and got in touch with Andy and Jan Pratt, who own Shortcuts, a property search company on Majorca. “We told them what we needed and they told us where we should look to satisfy our needs,” Jim says.

To start, they wanted somewhere that the family could go for long or short breaks at any time of year — together or separately — taking advantage of the fact that they live near Stansted, with year-round cheap flights to Majorca. Second, they wanted a fairly spacious apartment in the £350,000 to £450,000 price range. It needed to be near the beach, with sports facilities to hand and not too far from a town. Jim Furze says: “We were not interested in a villa — looking after one is like running a business. When you are there you are caught up in getting the pool cleaned, the grass mown and repairs done. And when you are back home you worry about what might be happening to it. We wanted somewhere we could lock up and leave knowing that people around would keep an eye on it.”

When they arrived Andy Pratt had made a list of properties in the southwest of the island, not far from Palma, the capital. “However, we never imagined that during that short break we would have looked at several properties, found one we wanted and bought it,” Jim says. Day 1 was spent viewing areas and apartments, Days 2 and 3 devoted to adjusting their sights and narrowing the possibilities, and by Day 4 they had made their choice.

“We couldn’t have done it without the Pratts. We got on well and their knowledge of the island and its housing market made it possible. We had thought we were going just to get a feel of the place, but on the final day I got out my credit card and put down a deposit.”

Jan and Andy Pratt had arrived in Majorca in 1998. Their decision was prompted by a buyout of the advertising firm where Andy was a partner. He took the chance to realise his assets, Jan sold her public relations consultancy, and they began afresh. “I had just turned 40 and our daughter had just started university. I decided I was young enough to start again,” Jan says.

“We chose Majorca because Palma had a lot to offer and we would be near enough to England to see our daughter regularly. We wanted to investigate the business possibilities but first needed to find somewhere to live. We didn’t realise how time-consuming and expensive this would be. Agents pushed the properties on their books rather than listening to what we wanted. We were sent all over the island to view properties, while renting a house, before we found what we wanted. We wondered how prospective buyers on a two-week holiday had time to find a home. Soon we were being inundated with requests for property advice by English friends thinking of buying here and, having gained our experience the hard way, we set up Shortcuts.”

The Furzes’ choice was a three-bed apartment bought off-plan in a complex overlooking the Bay of Palma. “We are ten minutes from the beach, a 15-minute taxi ride from Palma and we can see the golf course from our bedroom window,” Jim says. They were promised the apartment would be finished and the keys handed over in one year — and it was.

During that time Jim had been busier than usual in his job as commercial director of a wine importer, and he and Sandie had had their hands full rebuilding an old Essex farmhouse they had just bought. So they did not go back to Majorca between buying an empty shell and moving in, but the sales manager kept them informed. Sandie says that when they finally arrived in July this year they were shocked.

“The shell had become an apartment but because it was empty it seemed to lack character and we didn’t have quite the view we had expected. But that feeling was temporary, and now that it is furnished it feels cosy and we enjoy the view of the complex’s swimming pool and gardens from our balcony. We decided not to use the heavy wood furniture we saw in the show flat but to give it a contemporary Mediterranean feel, using whites, beiges and creams.

“Again we were lucky. We found a local interior designer who was very efficient and understood exactly what we wanted. We worked with her mainly over the internet — she sent us pictures of furniture she thought would look good and we made our choice. It certainly worked much better than the three interior designers we tried for our farmhouse in Essex. When the third told us we should build a wall straight across the middle of our bedroom, we gave up and did the designing ourselves.”

Last month Jim and Sandie flew out for their first proper holiday in the new apartment. Their daughters had commandeered the place for the previous couple of months, so this was their first chance to relax on their own. “With temperatures high enough to sunbathe, swim and eat outdoors, we loved the first of what will hopefully be many holidays in our Majorcan home.”

Shortcuts: 00 34 971 434595

www.shortcutspropertysearch.com

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