Smile! You are in Spain, runs the Spanish tourist board's advertising slogan. But some Britons who bought property there in the boom time have been doing anything but that.
Allegations of corruption and illegal building have dogged the Spanish property market, which peaked in 2007 and then collapsed in the global recession.
British buyers have been squeezed further by the rise of the euro against the pound.
But is the British love affair with Spain really over or are we gingerly dipping a toe back in the water?
Property website figures indicate that Spain remains a firm favourite, accounting for 20 per cent of all international searches on Rightmove (rightmove.co.uk), for example.
On Primelocation (primelocation.com) the figure was 26 per cent for September, an increase on the same period in 2008.
'We did record a drop in search interest during the first six months of 2009,' says Rob Wilson, of Rightmove. 'But it has been returning.
'Our advertisers tell us that while there has been a lot of interest in distressed property sales and a perception of "bargains" in Spain, buyers are taking time to commit and are more diligent with what and where they're buying.'
This rings true for Barbara Wood, director of The Property Finders (0800 6226745, theproperty finders.com), a search specialist and buying agent.
'Spain has had some bad press, but most of it is about one sector of the market,' she says, referring to overdevelopment.
In this, Wood includes Murcia, Torrevieja near Alicante and parts of Almeria. Price drops, she adds, have been in the region of 30-35 per cent and the majority of purchases have been in cash.
'Buyers are buying but it's no longer possible to get an 80 per cent mortgage,' says Wood.
'The banks are lending, but they are incredibly careful about whom they give money to.'
According to Wood, buyers should be looking at the best they can afford in the established areas of Spain where 'people have been going for the last 40 years'.
'In my view, steer clear of all the peripheral areas that have grown up in the last five to seven years of the building boom,' she says. 'Some of these places are going to be years in recovery.'
If you go with a budget to somewhere like Javea on the Costa Blanca or the nicest parts of the Costa del Sol, you will find that prices are at 2004 levels.
It is possible to buy a prime location apartment for £180,000. One example is a two-bedroom apartment in Javea just 500m from the beach and opposite a tennis club, priced at £176,000 (0034 965790862, crown-property.com).
Other examples of prime locations, according to Wood, include 'established, stable markets' such as San Pedro, near Puerto Banus in Marbella, and Nerja, on the Costa del Sol.
'As I advise buyers, now is not the moment to go looking for up-and-coming areas,' warns Wood.
Mallorca is holding its own. relatively speaking. According to Georgina Richards, of Knight Frank, prices have dropped between five and 20 per cent.
'The apartment market has been hit hardest in the slightly more developed areas of the island, at the lower end of the price spectrum,' says Richards.
'By comparison, villas in the more luxury areas have been substantially less affected.'
But does a prime location always come with a hefty price tag?
'It doesn't have to be big and glitzy,' says Wood. 'Quality doesn't necessarily require a lot of money. You can buy a well-finished apartment close to Puerto Banus or one of the golf courses for £180,000.'
A two-bedroom apartment in Los Pinos on the Los Arqueros Golf Course, just ten minutes from Marbella, is priced at £178,000 (0034 952764067, losarquerosestates.com).
Perhaps deals such as these will make the British buyer smile again.