STAFF REPORTER HOUSE sales were up in the Balearics by 17.7 percent at the end of last year, the official Property Register reported yesterday in Madrid. According to the register, the Balearics was the region of Spain with the third highest increase in the number of transactions (9'868) during the final quarter of the year. The Islands were superseded only by the Basque Country and Catalonia during this period.

The trend is a clear turnaround from figures for the last quarter of 2009 when there had been a downturn of 32.56 percent in the property market in the Balearics - just 8'379 transactions.

In the case of the Islands, the sector of the property market faring the best is in second hand housing where an upturn of 30.4 percent was recorded at the end of last year. Sales of second hand housing were greater than those of new property which were up by just 7.4 percent in comparison with figures for the final quarter of 2009. At a national level, property sales were up by 5.38 percent at the end of last year in comparison with the final quarter of 2009. The upturn was the first since the steady decline in the market which began in 2006.

Other coastal areas of Spain apart from the Balearics have been noticing how the spiralling downward trend has stopped, appearing to herald a recovery in the market. However, a spokesman for the official Property Register said yesterday that caution should be exercised in making any assumptions about the improvement of the housing market whether at a national or regional level.

He explained that “positive perspectives” may in fact have more to do with tax changes introduced last year, including the VAT hike at the beginning of July and the removal of tax relief on property purchase for incomes over 24'000 euros a year which came into play at the start of this year. “The testing time will be when we see how the market evolves over the next few months,” the spokesman said.