In Madrid last week Premier Zapatero called for "tenacity, hard work and calm." to get Spain back on its feet as he assured his audience of law makers – and the rest of the known World - that "The solvency and solidity of our country is obvious."
You’d not expect anything less from a loyal and motivated leader of Spain, who alongside his European partners is witnessing the worst economic downturn for many, many years – fighting woeful fires on several fronts. I just wish that even the most cautious politician would readily admit that curing the current ills is almost entirely outside their control or that of any national government or international body.
This is a hearts and mind operation. It would be all too easy – in the realms of a Glee Club – to chant that “Things, Can Only Get Better” – they could hardly be worse but what would that achieve. I am not advocating any form of sickly cheeriness but we do need to start celebrating the positives as they arise. Equally, I am no apologist for the corruption and scandal that has dogged Spain’s Costas but I am firmly of the opinion that the doom and gloom merchants, Hell bent of collective flagellation, misery, snow, cold (delete as appropriate) should be stopped in their tracks with a firm “Enough”!
I am not prone to embrace conspiracy theories but I am very interested in the power of a collective consciousness to overcome hardship akin to “the Blitz Spirit”. For those of us who live in Malaga province the time has come to “accentuate the positive”.
This year has already seen the Piers Morgan’s TV show that featured Marbella as sending out very positive vibes about this glorious region which so many
expats consider their home. I am not sure that was the intention as the show billed as an expose but it was more of meander through daily lives of some comfortably off people with all the eccentricities and demands that are extensively satiated by a life in the Spanish sun.
Clearly, in Marbella if you go looking for trouble as in Brixton to Toxteth, Saint Pauls to Wythenshawe you’ll probably find it but that pre-supposes that your psyche has its bells rung by an endless fascination with the murky underworld of crime. You know you don’t have to live in fear to feel safe - it can be an ambition in its own right.
So I hear you sigh with eager anticipation – paraphrasing the great Ian Drury - what are the reasons to be cheerful:
1. Apart from few local Marbella papers, I cannot recall seeing any UK national media – many of whom have spent the last five plus years beating up Marbella – announcing the momentous news, after many years in the misery of limbo, that the new Marbella Town Plan (PGOU) has finally been approved by the COTUA, the Andalucía Territorial Planning Commission, part of the Regional Government in Seville, on Friday 29th January 2010.
Angeles Munoz, a one time doctor and now the lady Mayor of Marbella, has ministered with charm, honesty and tact to the needs of Marbella since her election a couple of years back. A tireless campaigner for those potentially affected by finding their property is outside the legalisation of the previous doubtfully licensed properties.
Around 18,000 homes have been “legalised” which mops up all but around 500 properties that remain outside the new plan - the Courts will be kept busy whilst the owners of these properties – mostly bought in good faith – seek to protect their interests which already have Ms. Munoz’s support.
Certainty and reliability, the Mother and Father of confidence has to the greatest extent restored been restore and perhaps we can now say with more than a little justification that Marbella now really is the safest place in Spain to buy.
2. Reuters announced last week (10th February 2010) the Banco de Espana has advised its member banks to devalue those housing assets currently languishing on their books by 20%. This is excellent news for Spain.
Whilst many commentators believe that Spanish property may be as much as 50% over valued, this is a positive step by a national authority to addresses their perennially frustrating liquidity requirements that have acted as a clear disincentive to the banks from addressing their “morosidad” or bad debts. That said many banks including the second largest, BBVA, have surprised the market by setting a higher than expected accounting provision for bad debts.
It is understood that Spain's banks may hold property assets that exceed €100 billion which have been assumed as the developers who borrowed to finance their construction failed to keep up their payments.
This will have a positive impact upon the price that a bank owned property may be expected to achieve.
3. The Euro Sterling exchange rate has improved and is now nearly 15% away from parity – now there’s some progress! It may be short lived but it’s a darn site better than it was.
For many a property purchase in Spain has proved to be highlighted by exhausted frustration, it's often completely justified and its causes are invariably either illegal or, at minimum, unforgiveable. The property market has been dogged by rip off and the "system" is very alien – which I can assure you doesn’t improve with familiarity. But .... a huge but... I have been here for a while and continue to believe that for my family and I we are still able to enjoy a vibrant and exciting life in Spain; one that offers a wholly viable alternative to the UK.
Yes when it rains - it pours but grey usually gives way to sun even in February! We mustn’t forget that life isn't just about the weather. Coming to Spain is not the answer if you already suffer from the debilitating negativity so prevalent in the UK. It’s not a universal panacea for "all that ails you" but if you are looking for a new direction, where you can allow compromise and flexibility to be present, then think about Spain.
Standing still if often not a great alternative but if the thrill of the new and the undiscovered lights your candle then do it. You'll not replace the UK with Spain - nor vice versa - but if you have the enterprise to come in the first place you'll already know that.
Do you know what – shock - you can even try before you buy! You don't have to buy a property here – you can happily rent short or long term - but I warn you may just fall in love with the place! The sun, the snow, the beaches, the golf, the mountains, the diet, the culture and diversity all make for a complex and beautiful country that is here to enjoyed on its terms.
Go on get a cheap flight to Malaga – there are plenty - and explore.