Spotlight on Marrakech: House-Hunting in Morocco’s Ocher City

This historic destination is piquing the interest of increasing numbers of expats drawn to Marrakech for its sublime weather, striking architecture, beautiful gardens, rich mixture of cultures and religions, and high quality of life. A short flight from many major European capitals (about 3 1⁄2 hours from Paris, London, and Rome to international gateway Menara Airport), Marrakech offers an inviting change of scenery, particularly during the winter, when the light in the Atlas Mountains is at its most exquisite. Sometimes dubbed the second St. Tropez, the city boasts a climate not unlike the Mediterranean. The average winter temperature here is a mild 54 degrees Fahrenheit; in the summer, the norm is between 79 and 86.

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Among the many renowned artists, performers, and politicians who have called the Ocher City (so named for the red clay used in architecture here since the 12th century) home are Charlie Chaplin, Winston Churchill, painter Jacques Majorelle, Yves Saint Laurent, YSL co- founder Bill Willis, and Jean Paul Gaultier. Although it has long been a darling of the jet set, today Marrakech is a magnet for expats of all stripes, with demand for homes increasing steadily since the pandemic.

RIGHT AT HOME

When it comes to shopping for a property, buyers will find a fascinating variety of possibilities. The Medina, the historic walled city center filled with narrow streets and spice markets, is famous for its traditional riads— mansions with private courtyards. But there are many other options, from contemporary golf residences to ultra-luxe apartments that rival the finest buildings in European capitals. Demand is on the rise for architecture that exudes a sense of local identity and heritage, although balancing the craving for character is the desire to ensure that one’s home is contemporary in function and feel.

A private courtyard. (Photo: JEAN CAZALS)

Eco-consciousness, too, is high on many home buyers’ priority lists. Buyers want good thermal insulation and durable, high-quality materials that are easy to maintain. Water and electricity are also key points for home buyers to consider. With climate change atop everyone’s mind, properties that are connected to city water rather than dependent on supply from a well are highly desirable.

When it comes to choosing a neighborhood, start by considering your lifestyle. How do you envision your life and your time in Marrakech? What matters most to you? Easy access to the city center or the airport? A stunning view? Availability of high-speed internet so you can work remotely with ease?

If you crave a change of pace from daily life in a busy city center, a villa in the countryside could be a dream solution. However, living in a villa generally involves maintaining a garden and a pool—or having personnel to do so. If you long for a carefree lifestyle, a luxury apartment with a terrace might appeal more. Also, for those with children, a villa in the countryside tends to require longer travel time to and from school, sports practices, and the like. Hence, many families opt for the convenience of neighborhoods like Gueliz and Semlalia.

Meanwhile, a riad in the Medina can be delightful if you want to immerse yourself in local culture and history. A riad works particularly well for anyone considering running a maison d’hôtes (bed and breakfast).

DOING THE MATH

The procedure for expats buying a property in Morocco is straightforward. Any foreign investment is registered by the notary at the Foreign Exchange Office, which guarantees the repatriation of funds to the country of origin in the event of resale. The commissions payable by the buyer are 2.5% excluding tax (3% including tax) calculated on the sale price. Notary fees and transfer/ registration fees are approximately 7%. In general, buyers should add 10% to the asking price to calculate the overall acquisition price.

Another point to consider: Marrakech is a tourist capital, so properties often have strong rental potential, sometimes generating enough income to cover your maintenance costs. So, although real estate prices are edging upward with the surge in demand, you can still find appealing options for about $1–$5 million. You’ll also find lavish palaces for $15–$20 million.

TRY BEFORE YOU BUY

It’s a good idea for potential investors to spend some time in Marrakech before making an offer on a property. In addition to extraordinary luxury hotels such as La Mamounia, the Royal Mansour, and Amanjena, boutique hotels like the El Fenn exude great charm.

For a more immersive experience, you might consider @stellagallerycollection, which offers a handpicked collection of seasonal rentals. Spending a week in one offers a taste of life in Marrakech and an ideal way to decide whether a specific location and type of home is right for you. We also provide advice for artistic outings, restaurants, and shopping personalized to a client’s preferences. Stella de Bagneux, Stella Gallery, Knight Frank’s preferred agent in Marrakech-Essaouira

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