The story of Ivar Dahl is the story of a life dedicated to real estate, a story of hard work, expertise, Scandinavian efficiency, and above all, a work ethic that has withstood several economic ups and downs. This week he is celebrating the 50th anniversary of his real estate business on the Costa del Sol, a career that began in Torremolinos in the late 1960s.
Born in Stockholm in 1944, Ivar fell in love with Spain when he was a teenager after visiting Palma de Mallorca with his family. He was intrigued by the Spanish way of life and he loved the rich gastronomy and the Mediterranean fresh air and sunshine.
In December 1966, Ivar obtained a degree in construction engineering at the Tekniska Institute in Stockholm. He soon realised that he wanted to return to Spain and so he headed to Tenerife, where he began working with the first foreign construction company that specialised in building properties for the Swedish market.
"The good climate is the main reason why I chose this destination: the winters were warm and the beaches and outside lifestyle can be enjoyed all the year," Ivar tells SUR in English.
Living on an island was quite appealing at first, but at that time, there were few facilities and transport connections and life was not quite as he imagined, so he decided to move to mainland Spain.
The Costa del Sol
Ivar loved the sun, so he decided to try the Costa del Sol. When he arrived in Marbella in 1968, Puerto Banús was still a small fishing port. General Franco, who moored his yacht in the port, was a personal friend of José Banús, the local property developer who turned the port into a luxury marina and shopping complex in 1970.
The Costa del Sol proved ideal for Ivar, especially as he had a love of skiing. The Sierra Nevada was not far away, although it took five hours to cover the distance between Marbella and Granada by car at that time.
"The Costa del Sol was more interesting than I expected, and not only due to its climate, its unrivalled location or because it was becoming extremely fashionable. The Costa del Sol had all the features to become a world reference and this was truly my best moment," Ivar says.
Ivar began working in the real estate sector in collaboration with Exclusivas La Galería which, at the time, was the longest established real estate agency in Torremolinos.
"When I started to work in Torremolinos in 1968, there was only one more estate agency speaking Scandinavian languages. There was hardly any competition and sales were easy," he says.
Ivar helped famous Swedish actor Hasse Ekman find his dream home in Fuengirola and was involved with the construction of the marina in Benalmádena Costa. He also sold land to the largest construction company in Finland (YIT) to build 1,000 homes in Torrequebrada.
"Life was smiling on me so I decided to open a real estate agency in Calahonda in 1984. There I made another large transaction, selling land for 1,000 apartments to another large Finnish construction company," Ivar explains.
Ivar married his girlfriend, Anna, in 1993, and she became his soul mate and business partner, playing an active role in all his construction projects. Anna shares her husband's passion for Spain and speaks several languages, so she was an asset to the company from the start.
In 1994, their daughter Ivana was born. Ivana studied at Aloha College in Marbella, then went on to the Queen Mary University in London and finally to Georgetown University in Washington DC, where she obtained a Masters in Law. She currently works as a lawyer in London.
In the same year that his daughter was born, Ivar finished his training as a real estate agent at the University of Madrid.
In 1998, Ivar decided to move his office from Calahonda to the heart of Marbella's Golden Mile. He believes it is best only to have one office; that way he can offer a more personal service to all his clients.
In order to stay at the top of his profession, Ivar made sure to keep up with the changes in the construction laws, of which there have been many since he first began back in 1968.
"Over the last 50 years, I have been trained and have updated my knowledge of the laws on the Costa del Sol, especially those related to urban development. This has been a great advantage when it comes to understanding the needs of foreigners considering setting up home in a new country," he points out.
He now focuses on contemporary villas and luxury apartments valued for their location and surroundings. Over the last 50 years, he has been involved with some of the biggest construction projects on the coast.
"Looking back now, I realise that I really was in the right place at the right time. It was relatively easy in those days, because there was very much investment at the start of the boom," Ivar concludes.