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Justin's Life

Welcome to my new blog. I plan to write about all sorts of things here, my life in Spain, ineresting things and ideas I've come across, places I've visited and so much more. Hope you enjoy it and please leave comments as your input is always appreciated.

Rent before you buy – Is it such a good idea?
06 April 2012 @ 16:38

Over the years I’ve been one of those advocates about the whole “you must rent before you buy” advice for anyone moving to Spain.

It always seemed to make sense; giving people the flexibility to try different places to live before they decide where to settle down.

But recently I’ve been wondering if that really has been such great advice.

Many people won’t like what I’m about to say, although estate agents will love it!

We’ve been in Spain for nearly 8 years. We rented at the beginning as we were buying off plan and the apartment we were buying wasn’t ready by the time we moved over.

The first house we rented was a disaster. The area was horrible, the house was full of damp and we couldn’t get a phone line there. So we moved to another rented property which although it was much better (and ironically cheaper) we had problems with a DJ neighbour.

Finally we moved into our purchased apartment and although it was small, it was our home and we made it homely.

After a while we felt it was a little too small and moved out to rent a lovely house by the beach.

This didn’t feel like home at all, despite being a nice house in a great location.

We moved back to the apartment and felt at home again.

We recently moved again to try another area and type of property but yet again, it wasn’t “home”. Back we go!

In our experience, renting proved to be very unsettling, particularly in the early days.

Just think about it…

You’re moving to a different country. You’re in a foreign environment. You probably don’t speak the language. You probably don’t have any friends or family nearby. You may even be setting up a business, which is another blog post altogether!

It’s easy to forget but upping sticks and moving to a foreign country is a big brave move, a massive step into the unknown, because no matter how prepared you are, there will be new challenges to face. Guaranteed.

You need a home

There is nothing more important than your home and family. You are trying to establish a new life in a new country that you want to call home, so you need a home as your base. Everything else then branches off from this….your new network of friends, your local bar, your kids’ school, your business contacts and everything else you need to begin to feel settled.

It’s difficult to do this in rented accommodation, especially if it’s furnished. You don’t have your things around you, you may not be able to paint your kids’ room the colour that they want, you cannot be sure that the landlord doesn’t want to sell the property or move back to it himself, etc.

All of this can be very unsettling and it’s not just me that thinks it. From some people I know, it tends to be the women that suffer the most with this as much of the time the decision to move to Spain came from the men.

I think women need a home more than men. Women have different needs at home and in their social circles.

OK, I’m no expert on women by any stretch of the imagination, but I don’t think I’m too far off with what I’m saying here (happy for any women to correct me on this!).

Establishing a home in your new host country is a big part of the whole acclimatisation process, which can take some time.

I know, not everyone can afford to buy, especially as moving abroad can be expensive anyway and even those that can afford it may not be able to get a mortgage. This is particularly true if you are moving to Spain and then don’t have a job, in which case no bank would give you a mortgage anyway. (So if you do want to buy, make sure you do it before you leave your job!)

I’ve seen so many people return to the UK and most of those were renting at the time. They didn’t really feel the bond to stay here; they still called UK “home”.

I really think that those who took the plunge and made a home in Spain, buying a property here, they are more likely to stay for the long term.

I’m not saying don’t rent, it suits many people and rents are quite cheap now. All I’m saying is that I probably won’t be going all out there telling people not to buy and that they must rent first like I used to do.

I think it’s important for people looking to settle permanently in Spain to consider the pros and cons of both options.

What’s your own experience been? I’d be interested to hear about it so please leave a comment below and am I right or wrong about women ;)?


Like 0


Lisa said:
06 April 2012 @ 14:54

Sorry but I totally disagree Justin. Having travelled for years we have lived in rented houses and have owned 3 houses of our own in 3 different countries. The only time we lost a lot of money and were totally miserable was when we did not rent before buying.
I will however add that the mistake we made was buying a house and not a location. I really believe yo need to experience 12 - 18 months in an area before deciding if it is right for you.
Yes there are amazing bargains around but you can lose a lot of money by being to hasty.
People who were renting found it easier to move back to the UK when they were unhappy. There are many "stuck" here because they invested their money in a house which they can now not sell.
Well that 's my totally biased opinion anyway ;)

Justin said:
06 April 2012 @ 15:10

Thanks for your comment Lisa. Your comments also got me thinking about the fact that we moved around the UK a few times with my job and each time we moved we sold our old house and bought a new one.

We never tried living in those areas first, we just automatically sold and bought again in the new location, sometimes losing money in the process.

The only time we weren't so happy was the time we were renting during one of the job moves.

I guess perhaps it also depends on the individual/ couple and how they feel. For us, Susan especially, not having that fixed base here was quite tough in the early days when we were trying to settle down here.

Judy said:
06 April 2012 @ 15:27

Taking the economical situation in account, would it be wiser to rent first? Especially if one would be commuting between 2 countries in the beginning.

Patricia (Campana) said:
06 April 2012 @ 15:37

I have to gree with what Lisa says. I don't thnk the advice is to rent forever, but yes, for a while, until one finds the best buy, the location that ticks all the boxes. . There is a lot of wisdom in the saying: "Make haste slowly".

When renting, like buying, it is a good idea to do your homework as well, and get the best deal you can for the best rent you can.
I have also seen how disastrous it is when the couple/family turn out to be very unhappy with the home/location/environment where they bought the house or apartment in a flush of enthusiasm. Far more cases than you might imagine.

I have experienced living in rented accommodation. Before getting married I lived in rented accommodation, and even after getting married, and until we could buy our first place, we lived in a rented home. We had a good arrangement with the landlord, I did have quite a lot of our own stuff around me, and in fact we spent over four years in that apartment!
Everyone is different, of course. And no two women are the same either LOL. Temperaments and outlook vary a lot.
Some are very home-based, others not so much so. I could live anywhere and make it home (as my husband often tells me).
Then again I came to Spain a long time ago, alone.
And I know exactly what you mean about it often, all too often, being one spouse's decision to move to Spain. I have met couples where the wife had insisted on the move, and others where it was the husband who had instigated to flight to a foreign land....
It can lead to an unhappy life and a pining on the part of one for "home".

So, for my part, I would strongly advise those contemplating a move to Spain, or indeed any other country, to come over and stay a while, in rented accommodation.


Justin said:
06 April 2012 @ 15:46

Judy, not sure what you mean by commuting between two countries? I was just referring to people planning on making a permanent move to Spain.

Patricia, if I remember right you came over many years ago when it was probably quite a different place to today and you're still here. I would assume there probably wasn't even much choice in terms of rentals in those days! Did you struggle to settle down in the early days or did it go ok?

Judy said:
06 April 2012 @ 17:07

A permanent move to Spain is in the pipelines. The government has made decisions that will make me postpone the definitive move. I will have to work a couple of years longer in one of my jobs, luckily I will be able to spend a lot of time in Andalucia. Leaving a house alone over there for a month or a couple of months is not what I counted on.

Patricia (Campana) said:
06 April 2012 @ 17:17

It was indeed a different place, Justin, for all kinds of reasons.

I found it easy to settle down here, but that would have been true, I think, of any country I might have chosen. Truth to tell it was a toss between France and Spain at the time.
My father had travelled the world and lived abroad at a time when it was quite uncommon to do so, and therefore the idea was not seen as unusual in our family.
I had learnt Spanish since I was thirteen (back in Ireland) so I spoke, read and wrote the language before I even got to Spain, and was well aware of the customs and culture of the country. It felt like I had been born here. I worked for and with Spanish people, and in reality I had little contact with expats or tourists, particularly outside work.

There was always a wealth of apartments to let, even way back, and I found that it was a question of getting on a good footing with the landlord/lady. Maybe I/we were lucky, maybe we looked utterly trustworthy, LOL.
When renting we invariably found very pleasant apartments, and visitors/friends from Ireland or the U.K. would remark that we seemed to live a James Bond lifestyle. An exaggeration, I assure you, Justin!!

Sticking my neck out here a bit, I honestly don't think a move to Spain or another country is for everyone. And the financial factor is paramount, no matter what. You are always going to need more money than you think you are going to need, particularly if you want to live in a pleasant location, and in a reasonably sized premises.
Temperament is a big factor too. I truly believe if you are not happy and adaptable in your home country you will not change intrinsically because you move to a different country/location. This is why - I believe anyway - that is more advisable to rent first, for a while, before burning any bridges. And, if it is at all possible, I would advise keeping a small place back home, wherever home is, because, you know, unexpected things happen in life and you may want to return, temporarily or permanently.

Also, the issues you see as perceived problems in your home country are common to all countries. There is no utopia.

Best to all

stillgoin said:
07 April 2012 @ 03:24

we were going to rent but realised it was a waste of mone so we and bought and never looked back and the missus aka the boss has got the place as she wanted it.
i have always just gone for it and it works its called positive thinking maybe not for all but works for me.

Chris said:
07 April 2012 @ 07:19

There are always pros and cons but renting before buying has definitely more pros over cons. We have lived in many countries and renting before buying saved us a lot unnecessary stress, red tape hassle and last but not least - by our experience it takes minimum 1-2 years to understand foreign environment well enough to make settlement decisions.

Jo said:
07 April 2012 @ 08:51

We went over to the Costa Blanca at least 5 times before we bought and i would have loved to make the move to live there and i believe we could make a go of it and get jobs because we are positive people who can make things work for ourselves. we are really happy with where we have bought and dont regret it one bit as there is a nice mix of spanish/english/other european nationalities in our area. unfortunately my husband is more cautious than me and is reluctant for us to give up our jobs in the UK so for now our home in Spain is for holidays only but i still dream of a permanent move sometime.....

Anita said:
07 April 2012 @ 09:49

For me buying was definitely the right decision. I totally relate to all your comments about home. I was lucky in that I love the place I live in and didn't have any nasty surprises after moving in. Adjusting to a new country, new language and all the challenges is hard enough without the uncertainty of a rented property and possible temporary location and hence friends. I can see all the wonderful pluses of renting first, but for me, yes, as a woman, a home is far more important than the financial angle. Do you homework first on the location and property and you can start settling from day one.

Lizzie said:
07 April 2012 @ 10:31

I don't agree because I think that so many people who are unhappy here are those who own places and can't sell. Those who have rented have the option to return! I'm married to a Spaniard and we have two children but our social circle of British people is getting smaller and smaller. Even those like ourselves with British/Spanish partnerships and children are deciding to leave.

Therefore, with so many retired friends so, so unhappy here and with property worth 80% less than a few years ago I would say RENT, RENT, RENT first. Even in your article you say that the first few rentals were bad, dodgy neighbours etc. If you'd bought the first one you'd have been stuck with the problems rather than move on as you did!

It's so sad to see the real problems so many people have here. Yes, very often a case of one of the couple wanted to move here and the other just went along with it. I've often wonder also if this is a case of lots of 'second marriages' where a couple in or near retirement remarry and want a completely new start, in another country?

Rent and have a really good look at properties on the market, as i said so many want to sell. We have a 100k mortgage so can't sell as recently a bank sold an apartment upstairs for 14,000 euros, YES, 14GRAND!!!!! We are stuck and would say to anyone else to rent first!!

Louise said:
07 April 2012 @ 11:45

Well very mixed responses! My husband and I are planning on moving to Andalucia next year (joint decision I might add!) and the area we are going to which is inland is more Spanish than English but there are brits living quite happily there! We have visited several times during different seasons including high summer (very hot!) and winter. We have made many friends and have found a house which we hope to buy and call 'Home'. By July all of my children will have seen said house and two of them have been with us to the area already so know where we'll be! We didn't even consider the thought of renting as we'll be selling our business and UK house and want our 'things' with us so we can feel we are at home rather than be surrounded with other peoples things. We will be bargaining to get the best deal on the house so that if we did ever need to sell we could have it at a sensible price, but also we are planning on buying a smaller house in the Uk which my eldest daughter will be renting from us so we'll always have a base should we need one! We will have been researching and sorting for three years by the time we move so hopefully we will have most things covered, tho I'm fully prepared for things not to run completely smoothly! We love the area we are going to move to as its a half hour to the coast and airport (once the new road is complete!) and less than two hours to the sierra nevada for skiing! We are also ready to embrace our new life and we're quite happy to shop at local markets and supermarkets rather than heading for Iceland to buy 'English' goods, and maybe thats where some people go wrong? If you want to move to Spain but still live an English life then there are areas that you can do that but if you want to try to intergrate and mix then effort is needed and a bit of broadmindedness! I've taken some spanish lessons and will carry on once over in Spain and to me thats a challenge and one I'm sure I'll find frustrating but rewarding!
Each person is different with individual needs but I think that research and effort is required by all!

Michael said:
07 April 2012 @ 12:18

We rented an apartment in Calpe in April 2008. Its fairly small but right there with everything a couple of minutes away, beach, marina, bars, shops and much more. We rented it initially as a tax haven as I work 6 months a year offshore. After a year, the owner asked if we would like to buy the apartment. It was just after the financial crash so a very attractive price. We went for it and have never looked back. In our absence I let family and friends use the apartment and they all love it. Now the pound is looking good against the Euro I think a lot more people will be tempted to buy.

normansands said:
07 April 2012 @ 12:33

distortion is distortion whether personal or not, why would anyone rent if they can afford to buy, especially at E14,000 prices. If however it is a logical discovery process to establish area preferences etc or just to try a selection of areas then it is obviously sensible. renting from someone keen to sell is surely a temporary arrangement but renting off an established landlord can be very long term just like home, isn't most of Europe living on that basis - renting homes.
even here where renting is far more expensive than buying with current mortgage interest rates there are long term renters making homes , changing bathrooms, kitchens etc all at their own expense because they have a home to live in.

Paul said:
07 April 2012 @ 13:24

I worked in Sevilla on temporary contracts for 6 years before retiring and rented. Yes, the first flat seemed great, but after 6 months I had to move: noisy, dark, gloomy. Now I rent near Cómpeta and even took a long time to find the right house - and landlord. Having someone local, who actually bothers to look after his property and has it well-maintained makes a huge difference. He takes care of the pool and garden when I'm not there, security, decorating, etc. He's become a good friend, and I re3ckon I've saved more from depreciation than I pay him. Also, I can go whenever I wish or my circumstances change.

Patricia (Campana) said:
07 April 2012 @ 13:54

Lizzie, I agree entirely with what you say. You make excellent points. And, of course, everyone and every case is different. It is no harm to err on the side of caution though.
Like Lizzie, I also find that quite a few of our longtime friends, some of whom have been here for decades too, are opting to return to the U.K. or their home country, and indeed we too find ourselves going back more and more (having a place back home helps!). That way we have the best of both worlds.
Louise makes an excellent point in the sense that effort and research is needed when contemplating a move to another country, and that all-important broadmindedness.
I have seen as well the sad cases as described by Lizzie, far too many of them, where one spouse wanted to come here and the other didn't.

DEcisions are ultimately a very personal matter, so good luck to everyone who is thinking of taking the plunge.
Take care.

Steve Hall said:
07 April 2012 @ 14:24

I am a HUGE advocate of renting first. I have spent the last 10 or more years advising people on my sites that this is the best way. When I first came to Spain permanently my partner's idea was to buy as the plane's wheels touched the ground. She has since admitted she was wrong. It took me probably 5 or 6 moves to find "paradise" and that is MY paradise and nobody else's....just the way it should be.

I prefer an apartment to a villa. I definitely do NOT want a private pool. I want to be smack in the middle of a town with buses/trains/shops/libraries nearby. I want to be walking distance from a beach. I NEED a landline with high speed broadband. I want La Liga easily accessible. I do NOT want to live on an expat urb, a golf urb or a ghost urb. It took me a long time to work all those out and it took several moves to find my paradise ......which I know would be hell to somebody else!

I have seen far too many people buy on ghost-town urbanisations, or areas which is 99% holiday lets (my personal hell) and/or 99% expat/Spanish. A Spanish friend rues the fact that she cannot get a Spanish newspaper on her expat urbanisation! Then there are people without transport who "think" that one bus a day is fine .....until they run out of sugar. We could consider the weather - I know those who just cannot survive the heat of the summer .... or damp in winter!

From a financial perspective, I have met 100s of people who bluntly have paid way too much for their home. They believed the agent and if they had rented in the area for a few months they would have discovered the REAL cost! Moreover, for MOST people, at the moment I can see no justification in buying. Most people agree that Spanish property prices - especially in expatshire - will continue to tumble and I see few people who buy this year enjoying any type of real- terms gain. I am sure any rental will be a fraction of the depreciation most people will suffer. Once you are happy with the area, facilities etc, THEN is the time to buy.

It's all about opinions and whilst I respect other people's views, the decision to rent is always my preferred route initially.

sam said:
07 April 2012 @ 14:43

We have lived here in Spain for the last 4 years and rent. Our problem is that "long term rental" seems to mean a contract for 9 months. We are very happy in our unfurnished apartment and have no desire to move. Having to renew our lease every 9 months is very unsettling. Any suggestions?

Tony said:
07 April 2012 @ 15:25

I have read with interest the opposing views for and against renting first. We visited the Costa del Sol with a view to buying about four years ago and when we went back a year later saw some of the same properties for sale at much lower prices. One in particular we really liked but a neighbour told us like Justin's rental place you could not get a landline installed. also as Steve suggested what we first thought was nice turned out to be a ghost urbanisation in Winter. We are still undecided what to do but my major concern at the moment is buying in a development where there are problems through repossessions collecting the service charges and the place falling into disrepair. I have just taken early retirement so it is time to start thinking again but am more tempted by an older established development.

Campbell D Ferguson said:
07 April 2012 @ 15:44

What if you'd bought all these places you stayed in Justin. Renting let you try them out and decide that the bought one was best. Or was it best because you were stuck with it?

ueby said:
07 April 2012 @ 18:06

We were expats for some 40 years and moved every couple of years, we had planned to buy in Spain on retirement. Having seen the problems people have had with 'land-grab', corrupt officials, etc. we decided against it. We will probably rent long term and treat the property as a temporary home in winter and holidy home in summer. If it all goes wrong we can give it up. Also, being of young retirement age, we won't have an unsellable property round our necks if we change our minds at any time.

Ron Nicholson said:
07 April 2012 @ 19:37

OF COURSE one should LOOK at an area before buying in Spain If possible try a few hotels or guest houses in your desired areas

You can of course get disfunctional neighbours when you rent or buy so DON't BUY OFF PLAN Buy a resale after checking out the area each month for at least a year. Don't say or that's too much effort!! Remember it will probably be the most important and expensive decision of your life I have been in Spain for 11 years I bought a resale after CHECKING OUT THE BEST AREA and Just sold up last month without a problem BECAUSE I invested in the BEST area and THIS IS WHAT SOLD THE PROPERTY Buying in the better areas can secure your investment Visa Versa can and will be a DISSASTER Take my word for it.

adam said:
07 April 2012 @ 20:33

We had an option of buying or renting a second floor flat in a lovely secure urbanization with amenities you could wish for.
We knew the area and had some friends there, and nearly bought it, but decided to rent first.
After a few months people moved in upstairs and every morning at approx 5am we were awake with someone piddling into the toilet very loudly and then flushing the toilet a couple of times. We kept quiet but then they would do their spring cleaning hanging out their rugs over the balcony with all the dust falling onto our balcony. Complained to the president, but it was just a pain we could do without.
We were out of that apartment within a month. Had we bought it?
Do not tell me about not renting before buying!

Justin said:
09 April 2012 @ 16:15

Some really interesting points raised and there seems to be quite a mix of opinions.

I suppose the best solution today is probably to go for a rent-to-buy option on a property that way you can kill two birds with one stone. It certainly seems to be increasingly popular at the moment.

Thanks for all the comments.

Carol said:
12 April 2012 @ 19:57

Justin, I think you are quiet right about women needing that security more, I certainly do. We had bought a holiday home which we have lived in whilst looking for our retirement home. We've now secured it and are in the process of making it 'our home', and although we've looked up and down the coast we are lucking enough to have now found one in the area we like and now are so familia with.

All the best, Carol and Terry

normansands said:
12 April 2012 @ 21:23

the nonsense seems to have been condemned, home is what you make it and as many have said on here you make the best of it if you have been shafted by Spain.
I don't understand why I can comment here but not post anywhere else - I rather think that the power has gone to Justin's head

dorisjmay said:
13 April 2012 @ 05:28

We moved to Spain 10 years ago and bought a property in a beautiful place that I fell in love with. I wish we had rented first. I still love the home we once had (and still own) but we could not live with neighbours from hell.
Looking at the problem from the other perspective, that of becoming a landlord because now is not the time to sell, would anyone recommend it? We have seen many examples of rogue tenants who move from apartment to apartment leaving with unpaid bills and rent and often taking items with them or leaving a mess behind!

normansands said:
13 April 2012 @ 12:40

sad story - if you cannot live with the neighbours how could you expect renters to live there?
an awful predicament but not unique to Spain
doesn't sound like a place for anyone to set up home

Dom Browning said:
28 May 2012 @ 09:10

There is no right answer. But Justin, in your previous life you moved round the UK with your job, selling one home and buying another. This is now extremely difficult to do and the costs of buying are now significantly more.
I personally wish I had never bought in Spain.

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