The rich and famous are what comes to mind when you conjur up a mental image of Marbella. And then, there are the really rich, for whom the epitome of luxury living in the anonymity that allows them to stroll through Puerto Banus in jogging bottoms and a flat cap, during their break from the pressures of Market crashes, the board of directors or the stock swings.
It therefore comes as no surprise, that when asked which are the foundations on which La Zagaleta has managed to build a reputation for being the best urbanization in Europe- confidentiality arises as the first quality and the most valued. “In 26 years an employee of La Zagaleta has never spoken about a single customer.” Assures a Spokesman from the famous country club. Remarkable, given that Zagaleta has more than 500 employees.
The company owning the development, which stands on 900 hectares of a wild landscape in the municipality of Benahavis and accessed by two heavily guarded entrances from the road between San Pedro Alcantara and Ronda, has broken it’s habit of keeping quiet, to announce a multi million euro operation, confirming they are buying the company that owns the world famous golf course, Valderrama,The same company also owns land in Cadiz, where there are plans to build 150 homes.
The concept of this 240 million euro operation follows the same principle as La Zagaleta- confidentiality, safety and excellence. Confidentiality is an obligation imposed upon employees; security is guaranteed by the only two rules- if you don’t own a property at Zagaleta, or you are not a guest of someone who does- you do not come in. Excellence, has multiple expressions- One is in the exquisite care of the natural environment and quality always prevails over quantity. “The license for Zagaleta, gave us permission to build 4,000 homes, but only 400 are currently built” says the spokesman.
The question is whether this is an exportable model. Especially since it will be in a very different geographical location, compared to the rugged mountain setting of Benahavis, overlooking the Strait and Africa, where an army of gardeners maintains a forest with specimens of 300 years.
In La Zagaleta, there are more than 230 homes, with plot sizes ranging from 3,000 to 10,000 square meters and a price ranging from 5 to 25 million euros. Each of these properties pay an IBI tax to the municipality of Benahavis, a maximum of 31,528 euros per year, according to the type that applies under the municipality.
According to data from the DOM3 association, which brings together entrepreneurs specialized in high-quality homes, the 90 luxury units that were built in 2014 in Marbella, Benahavis and Estepona, represented an investment of more than 250 million euros (an average of 2 7 million per unit cost), which involved the creation of 2,500 direct jobs and 7,000 indirect jobs. While there is currently no data for the past year, the president of the association, Laura Pou, estimated figures for 2015 will not be very different.
But perhaps the greatest contribution of this sector to wealth creation, lies in stable employment demanded by Luxury home owners, once their houses have been built. It is estimated that every home, with more than a two million euro cost, generates the same as an SME: two to five jobs per property for maintenance, gardening or cooking.
It is no wonder that the expansion plans of La Zagaleta have been followed with great interest by other European countries and municipalities. Greece, the South of France and Central America, were some of the locations that the executives of the company explored before settling on the environment Sotogrande- the natural expansion area of the Marbella property market. Now it remains to be seen if the formula can be applied again with the same success.