Pretty natural scenery, less touristy communities and value for money are luring rising numbers of foreign retirees and semi-retirees to inland areas of Spain's Costa Blanca.
Villages in the Orba and Jalon Valleys, in the northern part of the Costa Blanca, are proving especially popular with overseas buyers, including those looking for a permanent home away from the hustle and bustle of the coastal resorts, but still within a short drive of the beach.
Despite its rural setting, access to this area remains easy, thanks to the AP-7 motorway being within 5-10 minutes, and both Alicante and Valencia airports being within an hour's drive.
"We're very much in the countryside here, with views of the hills and orange groves, but we're still just a 15 to 20-minute drive from Denia or Javea on the coast," said retired expat Peter Tyler, who moved from Switzerland to Benidoleig (see his home below) in the Orba Valley earlier this year.
"There are many retired couples here - my partner Jeannette will join me on a permanent basis when she retires next year - but also holiday home-owners. And while there is a definite British influence where I am - with the Union Jack flying over the bowling green at the El Cid restaurant opposite my house! - my neighbours include Germans and a retired American couple.
"The orange groves down in the valley are still owned and managed by the local Spaniards and everybody gets along nicely. An important consideration to add for expats retiring here is that there is an excellent medical clinic in Beniarbeig."
Great Value to be Found in North Costa Blanca
Peter's property purchase typifies the great value on offer in the Orba Valley today - he paid €145,000 for a three-bedroom villa, which was on the market for €165,000, and he also struck a deal for all the furniture. Over two storeys, the property sits on an 800-square-metre plot, and comes with a garage and views that reach as far as the Med.
"Prices here are at least 10 per cent cheaper than the coast," stressed Andrew Walkerdine of local estate agency HomeEspaña. "And there is probably a better selection of three-bedroom villas with pools around €200,000, which is our main market.
"The other reason for buying here is the more stable population with year-round activity, compared to the coast which is more transient and seasonal."
Walkerdine said that his typical clients are professionals, aged 50 to 60 and of mixed nationalities: "We have just sold a house to two Australians who want to live here, and the last British buyers were teachers on the verge of retiring, who bought a house with great views in Alcalali, in the Jalon Valley, for €180,000."
Other popular spots in the Jalon Valley include Senija, Lliber, Benissa and the town of Jalon. Sought-after properties tend to be on small developments or independent plots on the edge of villages.
In Lliber, Chris Garwood of agency Select Villas highlights a stunning four-bedroom, three-bedroom villa as especially good value, having been reduced to €325,000 from €395,000, but stresses such reductions are now rare. The two-storey property includes a large under-build, pool and terrace with sauna, five-car parking, and citrus and almond groves.
Prices in general are deemed to have bottomed out in the Costa Blanca, even more so inland where there is less stock. "Prices in this area have pretty much stayed steady this year and the decline has come to a halt," said Nick Coleman of agency Hamilton's of London.
"In terms of especially good value, look for three-bedroom, two-bathroom villas with a pool, priced between €200,000 and €300,000."
Bargain Property in the South Costa Blanca
Meanwhile, off the coast in the southern half of the Costa Blanca, property is typically more affordable than the north, and built on larger urbanisations or within a golf resort.
Ciudad Quesada is a large urbanisation near the town of Rojales and with its own championship golf course, La Marquesa. Two-bedroom apartments there start for less than £50,000, while townhouses and bungalows are available for under £70,000.
A little further inland is the La Finca Golf Resort, on the edge of the village of Algorfa, also popular with expats. One of Casas Espania's current best buys in Algorfa is a two-bedroom townhouse, with off-road parking, a solarium and access to a communal pool, on the market for €72,000.
A more upmarket option could be a villa at the exclusive Las Colinas Golf and Country Club. Set on a 330-hectare site inland of Dehesa de Campoamor, the resort's phased residential communities are set around the 18-hole Troon managed golf course. Three bed properties start from €700,000.
Other facilities include a tennis and paddle tennis academy, access to beach club, sushi-bar and trails through 200,000 square metres of natural space.
"Campoverde has as all the amenities you could need all year round, including shops, banks, a supermarket, doctor's, hairdresser's, bars, restaurants and golf nearby," said Helen Davy from agency Coast and Country Spain.
"We tend to sell two types of property there, namely detached villas with a pool for around £150,000 or two-bedroom holiday homes for £80,000 to £100,000. Detached properties with a pool are especially good value for money at the moment. Buyers are generally second homeowners or semi-retirees, so spend six months of the year here."
Kieran Byrne, MD of HomeEspaña, adds that "other inland villages not far from Alicante which have a nice mix of British expats and local Spaniards, and affordable property, include Dolores, Aspe, Jacarilla and Crevillente."
As Spain's property market along the Costas comes alive again in 2014, anyone looking for a home in a quieter setting to the busy coast that also offers a more authentic lifestyle, should book a viewing trip to inland Costa Blanca.
But don't delay, as there're less homes to go round than on the coast and buyers come from far and wide!
(Originally published in the A Place in the Sun Magazine - Issue 119)