As a heterogeneous market, Morocco offers a whole range of opportunities. Notice to fans of palaces, riads and architect-designed houses with sea views.
Green roofs in Fez, ochre in Marrakech, red in Meknes, the whiteness of Casablanca, the blue sky, the golden sun that shines most of the year, just a three-hour flight from Paris. These colourful landscapes, more accustomed to a parasol than an umbrella, are full of features to attract investors. However, the property market has lost the sparkle of its best years, following the European crisis. But Morocco remains the flagship of the countries of the South.
Marrakech: always a safe bet
“There are three prestigious destinations in the world”, states Xavier Attal, director of the Immo Best International estate agency.
“These are Saint Tropez in summer, Megève in winter and Marrakech all year round.” Despite the souks, the medina and the snake charmers of the Jemaa el-Fna square, this city of a thousand and one parties, much frequented by Europeans, is comparable to the stars of the Riviera and snowy slopes. For years, it has rolled out the red carpet under the feet of its distinguished guests, attracting as many Parisian celebrities as Saint-Germain-des-Prés, starting with DSK, Arielle Dombasle and Gérard Lanvin. The best areas are in the old town (medina), the Palmeraie, made famous by the remarkable presence of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé, and the "resorts", close to the golf courses, a developing market. The gem of the medina: the riad with its tree-planted patio and mezzanine upper storeys. In fact, a very modern architectural design for those who appreciate the "loft" style, but tempered by woodwork and earthenware tiles, known as “zelliges”. You can purchase a renovated riad from 400,000 euros, with 100 m² floor space arranged over 2 to 3 floors, i.e. 300 m² living space. If you fancy the idea of an outstanding palace, why not go for an exceptional property that the owners, a major international estate, created by bringing together fifteen riads and carrying out five years of hard work. Although the luxury may be over the top, the price isn’t particularly so: 4.75 million euros. "A palace like this would cost 40 million in France", comments Xavier Attal, who’s marketing it. "In Marrakech, properties is easily ten times cheaper than it would be in Paris."
In the Palmeraie, the budget required to buy a well-built, turnkey property is between 1 and 30 million for the most lavish properties. The average is between 1 and 3 million. "The market in Marrakech has experienced difficult times, with oversupply and lower demand", admits Séverine de Freycinet, director of Emile Garcin Marrakech/Essaouira.
"But frankly, they’re now behind us. Since January 2014, the market has got going again. Prices are trending down, but stable, and we have really seen buyers returning."
Furthermore, and this phenomenon is also being observed in Portugal and Spain, the market for "resorts" is taking off.
The development of "resorts"
These are large hotel and recreation resorts, with all the attributes of an active holiday experience: putting green, fitness centre, swimming pools... as well as plenty of nice ways to regain the pounds lost during hours of sport, such as gourmet restaurants in particular. Around these hubs, new homes with gardens and pools are being built, sold off-plan according to the French practice of Vefa (“Vente en état futur d’achèvement”, or selling prior to completion).
According to Lucile Savattier, international development manager for the Marc Foujols agency, "the clientele consists mainly of golf fans. We currently have more supply from European owner-vendors than demand from their compatriots. Every week, we record an average of one new offer. On the contrary, we are seeing strong demand from Moroccan luxury customers, so much so that prices aren’t falling". In the resort of Al Maaden in Marrakech, you can choose from a diverse range of villas. Prices go from 1.1 to 2.1 million. The range consists of properties from 380 to 700 m² with gardens from 1,500 to 3,500 m². Around fifty villas have been delivered. If construction is completed, the sale is concluded in a month. If construction needs to be carried out, the waiting period is 24 months. The developer, the Alliances group, offers its products either for single sale or for managed rental involving a few weeks of holidays for the owners. A resort has also been built near Agadir, at Taghazout Bay. A 362 m² house costs 1 million euros. Delivery is scheduled for 2017.
The charm of Essaouira and Tangier
Essaouira has its Atlantic coast, its swell and its excellent surfing rollers, miles of beaches, its port and... its seagulls! An atmosphere that’s reminiscent of Saint Malo, particularly since the port was fortified in the middle of the 18th century according to the military principles dear to Vauban. Théodore Cornut, a French engineer, was its architect on behalf of Sultan Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdallah. The medina and its walls have been listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, like the medina in Marrakech. Buyers who pack their bags for Essaouira are not as "jet-set" as those who choose Marrakech.
They particularly appreciate the coast, and the golf courses which are of a very high standard. They are less interested, however, in partying than those who choose Marrakech. "It’s a family clientele, a bit bohemian, often British", comments Séverine de Freycinet, who has just set up an office in the town. "The medina has some beautiful riads", she adds, indicating that the average price is 300,000 euros, and that of a house is 500,000.
Tangier, meanwhile, is a gem that deserves to be better celebrated. Besides, Arielle Dombasle, who owns an architect-designed villa there revisited by Andrée Putman, is full of praise for this city considered the "intellectual" capital of the kingdom. Just 14 kilometres from Spain, it's also a city that historically has greatly felt the influence of its larger neighbour. The best areas? The Kasbah and medina. The houses are not really riads with mezzanines, but are nevertheless provided with a skylight.
At ground level, the rooms are quite dark. Upstairs, where it’s brighter, are the kitchen and reception room. You’ll need a budget of between 200,000 and 600,000 euros.
Another highlight: the Marshan area.
A property overlooking the Strait of Gibraltar can be acquired for 400,000 euros while a traditional house starts at 250,000 euros. The third site to consider: the "old mountain", where properties are often set in 1 or 2 ha grounds. The house of a famous Chilean painter is looking for a lucky buyer who’ll have to pay at least ten million euros. "This is a very closed market in which there’s not a lot on offer", regrets Jérôme Guérin, Director of Emile Garcin Tangier. Those who like Tangier are the French, very often the British and even more so the Spanish. Large projects are on the agenda, such as the development of the Tangier Med port and its marina. This hub of Morocco's economy, home to one of the largest Renault factories, now inspires tourists since King Mohammed VI owns one of his residences there. It’s clear that the recent revolutions in Libya, Tunisia and Egypt have somewhat cooled the ardour of potential European buyers. "As soon as I arrive in France, everyone mentions jihad, with the fear of possible future attacks in Morocco", comments Jérôme Guérin, slightly amazed at these deep-seated fears.
In fact, "when you live there, you have a different perception of Morocco", he continues. ”There’s no greater risk of terrorism than in the Paris Metro. I’ve seen no expression of hostility towards the French, either. The kingdom remains a well-organised state, where the police are powerful and quite able to counter any form of attack." Admittedly, the north of the country remains more religious than the other regions, but it always has been so. Therefore, there’s nothing new there