Friday, November 24, 2006

Fez Medina - the media buzz continues.

Buying property in the Fez Medina used to be a pretty relaxed affair. You wandered the streets, explored Fez, looked at dozens of houses, and had a chat to the few brave souls that had trodden the path before. You also read all the information on the web and arranged to meet David Amster for a detailed discussion. Having been in the Medina for years David was and is something of an inspiration to the first wave of house buyers and restorers.

Now things are changing. These days the typical house hunter is likely to have far less information in advance, arrive on a plane from Luton, spend four or five days and return to Britain owning a house or at least have set the wheels in motion. It all seems so easy. Of course reality will catch up with them as soon as the renovation process begins and they discover that opening up a small hotel is not as easy as they imagined.

As one riad owner observed recently, "This is the year everything changed." - and he is right. The next logical question is "What has changed."

One obvious answer is the media interest. At least two TV shows featuring houses in Fez, dozens of articles on the travel pages and more recently major newspapers, radio and TV, have looked at the property value side of the equation. In the last week alone The View from Fez has been contacted for comment by three newspapers from the US, UK and Australia and each time the focus was "property".

As is always the case, the TV and press will hunt out either the interesting or "beautiful" characters for their stories and in the case of Fez we had a quiet bet on who the "media darling of the Medina" would be - Yes, our mate Louis Mcintosh. (See story here)

Those who read our earlier article (yes, we thought he was a great story too) on Louis will know most of his background, but a recent article the Evening News also includes a video clip of his house, Dar Mernissi that is worth a look. Louis will feature again in a major British daily in the near future.

Here, is an excerpt:

“After three days looking at 50 houses I found myself the ideal one in the heart of the famous medina.”

The extensive property also has a 160 sq m roof terrace with views over the medina and hills beyond.”

Mr McIntosh plans to spend 50,000 euros renovating, sorting out plumbing, electrics and has been told once it is complete it could be worth 200,000 euros. He then plans to open it as a small guest house.

When he first took it over nobody had lived there for 10 years and the locals had taken to keeping sheep in it. Mr McIntosh is renting a place nearby while restoring the house to its former glory.

He said: “I must say it is nice to be mortgage free at last as millions in Britain struggle to pay bills, credit cards, mortgages and the evil council tax to keep their head above water. Here, the main large bill is electricity but to live daily is so cheap it is ridiculous.”

But, will the houses continue to be cheap, or is all this media attention driving prices up? The answer is that it is a contributing factor rather than a definite yes. Property experts expect the prices to continue to rise for four or five years and for a secondary market in renovated houses to emerge. There are signs that this secondary market is in its infancy, but one very tastefully renovated small dar has been on the markets for months and so far failed to sell. However this may be because of a range of factors - the price and the fact that it is a relatively modern house in a market where the greatest interest is in older style dars or riads.

May you live in interesting times - is said to be a Chinese curse. In Fez, it appears to be a blessing.

You will find the Evening News article and video pics on Louis here: Turning my back on England


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