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Retiring types? Not us!

Our trials and tribulations trying to buy a property in Spain - then our adventures in Jumilla, far from the costas, as we start our new life in Spain.

A few setbacks...
17 February 2010

Luckily the move into our new home had gone smoothly, however not many people moved into the building initially, which meant workmen were going in and out while neighbours were having furniture delivered etc.  This didn´t worry us too much, as we go out for coffee several times a week with our new friends in Jumilla so the noise wasn´t much of a problem, however we had an upsetting experience which may have been connected with the constant comings and goings and resulting lack of security. 

John had gone down to our trastero (store-room), which was near the underground parking area, and discovered that we had had a break-in.  He went to the site office to report this and Toñi ,who worked in the office at that time, rang the Guardia Civil on our behalf.  Isabel, one of our new neighbours, then offered to drive us down the road to make a "denuncia" and was willing to wait with us, however we assured her we would be happy to walk back as we expected a long wait.  The actual process didn´t take too long, in spite of our limited Spanish.  The only time we struggled was when the officer asked for what sounded like our "nee - eh".  We gave him a blank look, until he said something about tarjete and we realised that he was referring to our N.I.E numbers! 

Later that day another neighbour, who we only knew by sight, knocked on our door.  José said how sorry he was to hear about the break-in and asked if we would like to move our remaining belongings into his trastero until the door had been replaced.  Such kindness from our neighbours helped to reconcile us to the thefts, and the fact that the insurance company would only cover items where we could produce a receipt.

Our solicitors were also proving a problem.  We were unhappy with the fact that they had never advised us on the legal requirement to have a bank guarantee, which meant we were likely to lose all of the deposit we had paid for our off-plan property at Residential Santa Ana del Monte.  We were also unhappy with the lack of information from them about what was happening in the courts - we were grateful for the forum on Eye on Spain where we received far more updates than we did from our solicitor.  We were even more unhappy when we received a demand from our solicitor for 2,000 euros, in spite of not having been given any estimate in the first place, no updates, and no bill telling us how this amount had been calculated!  We replied to them saying we needed a proper bill and that we held them responsible for the financial problems we were now facing, so were unlikely to be able to pay them until we had our money back!  At the time of writing, with no possibility of any refund in the foreseeable future, especially as Herrada del Tollo are still in administration and still haven´t found financial backing, we are not in a position to make any payment to our solicitor, who seem to be totally ignoring us now!

Anybody else who is contemplating buying a property in Spain, please remember these golden rules:

1.  Don´t use any solicitor that either the developer or your estate agent has recommended.

2.  Don´t part with any money until you have a bank guarantee, and get your solicitor to ensure that the bank guarantee is valid and that your money is paid into a secure account. 



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New year. New home. New challenges!
17 January 2010

In case of any confusion I am writing this a year later, so the new year I am talking about is 2009!  Don't worry: now that I have internet access at home, I will soon catch up.

We discovered a lot of differences between buying a property inland using a local Spanish estate agent and trying to buy a property using British estate agents based on the costas.  There was no sense of urgency, no request for money to secure our property and no pressure to sign a contract.  Manuel told us that the apartment was reserved for "John y Sue", even though we hadn´t parted with any money.  He drove us to Orihuela to talk to Evaristo, the manager responsible for the development and also to talk to the "chica" at the bank who spoke English.  Carmen had approved our mortgage application in principle, however had a few questions for us.  Particularly for me, as I have three pensions as well as the state pension, which clearly was confusing her.  Carmen went through our paperwork and seemed satisfied with my explanations and then she gave us the good news that, due to the state of the economy, our mortgage payments were likely to be less than the original quote, which had been well within our budget anyway.

I had asked Evaristo if we could look round the actual flat that we planned to purchase, as all we had seen so far was the show home plus the outside of the new building.  He agreed, so Manuel drove us there once we had returned to Jumilla.  On the way back, he asked me if I fancied a "cerveza" as we were a bit early for viewing the flat.  Once we were inside the restaurant, Manuel ordered lots of tapas for us, and as I said I would prefer "vino", we also shared a bottle of red wine.  Before we left he bought us a lottery ticket, which sadly wasn´t a winning one. 

We met the supervisor at the site office where we donned fetching hard hats (luckily no photos exist to disprove this) and walked around our soon-to-be new home.  Our apartment has plenty of light, great views of Sierra de Santa Ana and Sierra del Carche, and more than enough room for two people to live in.  We both said that we would be happy to live there and were keen to go ahead and sign the contract.  Having lived here for nearly nine months now, I can safely say that we made the right choice.  In many ways we are better off living on the edge of town rather than several miles outside it, especially as we don´t have a car.  All we need now is to get the money back from our first disastrous venture into buying a property in Spain, but that isn´t proving to be an easy process.

Good news on the book front though, as I eventually sent the revised manuscript to my patient editor Debs, and "Retiring the Olé Way" was published in May 2009.  John and I decided to celebrate moving into our new Spanish home and my book being published by throwing a party, to which we invited Spanish friends and neighbours as well as two couples who appear as case studies in my book, telling their own stories about retiring in Spain. 

Having heard horror stories about Spanish punctuality, and having experienced it first-hand living in Jumilla, we were amazed when the door-bell rang five minutes before the party was due to start and we found our Spanish friend Toñi standing there!  Our Spanish neighbours weren´t far behind her and they were all bearing bottles of wine or contributions to the meal, which was also a pleasant surprise.  Hours later, after our English friends had long since departed for their homes near the coast, two of our Spanish neighbours invited everybody to their flat for coffee and liqueurs.  As my daughter observed on one of her visits here: Jumillanos certainly know how to party!



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While we were waiting......
19 December 2009

We waited for news about the development at Santa Ana del Monte, and it was to be a long wait: over a year later and nothing has been decided!  My editor Debs was also waiting for the revised manuscript, although her wait wasn´t to be quite as long, and I sent her the completed chapters to check as and when they were ready, so she could see that I was doing something.  Unfortunately we couldn´t say the same about the builder at Santa Ana del Monte!

One day we happened to be passing Habitacasa, the estate agency who had found us the flat we were renting, and looked in the window to see if there were any properties within our price range.  Manuel came out to chat to us, and persuaded us to look at a new flat on the edge of town rather than the older properties we were considering.  He explained that we would have to add IVA to the prices shown in his window and that the reason some of the older flats were so cheap was that they were either in a less desirable part of town or were in a building without lifts.

We had a few misgivings when we realised that the flat he had in mind was in an unfinished development - after all we had been there before and were 38000 euros poorer as a result of it!  However he promised us that we weren´t being asked to part with any money at this stage, so we agreed to have a look.  Our budget for buying a new home was less than it had  been, as we had no idea when we would get our original deposit back - if at all!

We liked what we saw, and were told that the first properties would be ready early in 2009, so we made the important decision.  We would try again to buy our dream home in Spain, and this time at least we would be aware of the pitfalls, having experienced them all buying at Santa Ana del Monte!

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How many fiestas are there in Jumilla during August?
09 July 2009

John's son and daughter-in-law Katy showed a total lack of consideration by deciding to hold the naming ceremony for their new daugher on Saturday 9th August - right in the middle of Jumilla's Fiesta de Vendimia!  We had been looking forward to experiencing the Vendimia for the first time, however Abigail is John's first grand-daughter so of course we wanted to be there, even though the cost of our flights was extortionate.

During the Vendimia, wine flows from the fountain in the town centre, they hold a mini wine fair in the gardens, you can watch the treading of the grapes and there are processions through the town where wine is handed out from the floats to the watching crowds lining the streets.  What's not to like about that?  During the Gran Cabalgata on the last Saturday however the wine is more likely to be squirted at you, so it's not advisable to wear your best clothes!

We were back in time for the final parade and we also managed to see some of the Festival Nacional de Folklore and the Fiesta de Moros y Cristianos, which take place at the same time.  Not forgetting the Fiesta to celebrate the day of Nuestra Senora de Asuncion, the patron saint of Jumilla - our Spanish neighbour brought us some cake, as it was her birthday too.

August is definitely a good time to be in Jumilla as there is so much happening, though I have to admit that not a lot was happening on the writing front, apart from a few apologetic emails to my editor Debbie.  Even less was happening on the San Jose front, as the courts were closed down for the whole of August, so there would be no news available for the purchasers at Santa Ana del Monte who were hoping to get their money back.

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Good news, more or less.
29 June 2009

Our Spanish friend likes to use the phrase "more or less"  (sometimes "mas or menos") and in July 2008 I had some good news, more or less.  This made a pleasant change from receiving bad news about our property at Santa Ana del Monte and our chances (almost nil!) of getting our money back.  I had entered a writing contest run by NativeSpain website, and they were offering me a publishing contract.   No need to tell you that I was very excited!

Well as I said it wasn't entirely good news: I had written my book with separate chapters covering different topics, such as viewing trips, contractual issues (especially bank guarantees!), food and drink, fiestas etc.  My editor Debs wanted the book written in chronological order, telling my personal story of retiring to Spain with John, so almost a total rewrite was required and we were expecting our first visitors to arrive in a week's time.  We also had to find a new home before our rental contract ran out at the end of the year and one thing we had already learnt since moving to Spain was that everything takes time - usually twice as long as you would expect it to take.  Luckily I am a dab hand at using "cut and paste", and there were lots of anecdotes in my original book that could be incorporated into the new one, but it was still a daunting task.  I thanked my lucky stars though for the flexibility nowadays when using a PC rather than an old-fashioned typewriter.

I didn't have much time to worry about my book, as John's daughter Sarah arrived with her husbnd Jerry and their four sons Simon, Joshua, Adam and Elliott.  We took advantage of their stay by visiting Murcia, Alicante, Cieza and Calasparra with them.  It would have been rude to have stayed at home writing, wouldn't it?  I would have plenty of time after they returned to the UK.

Before they left, we asked the boys what they thought of Spain.  Simon announced that he liked everything, apart from the strawberry jam.  Hey, Simon, who chose the strawberry jam?  Josh summed it up for the rest of them: "Spain is wicked!".

Now I had time to continue the rewrite: if Debs is reading this, I immediately got down to work! (I won't mention that August had arrived and we had lots of fiestas in town).  Of course I can put it down to the need to research the next book.....


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And the good news is?
16 June 2009

John and I have been living in Jumilla for just over a year, and have had some amazing experiences during the last twelve months.  Where to start?  I suppose the beginning would be the best idea!

When we signed a rental contract in April 2008, it was in the expectation that we would move permanently to Jumilla after John retired two months' later, and that by the end of December we would be living in our new house on a golf development at Residencial Santa Ana del Monte, a few miles outside Jumilla.  We should have been living there since January 2008, however the builders were behind schedule although our agents told us there was nothing to worry about........!  Looking back we were a bit naive - no doubt many of you are now nodding your heads at that statement.

In May 2008 I received a text from Heather, a fellow buyer, saying that the developer San Jose had gone into voluntary administration.  We were on holiday in Spain at the time, so we looked for an internet cafe and logged onto the Eye on Spain community forum to try and get more information.  Unfortunately the bad news was true - and to make it worse, we didn't have a bank guarantee to protect our 38,000 euro deposit - so it looked like Plan A was going out of the window.

In June 2008, after a champagne send-off with my three children at St Pancras International Station, John and I travelled by train from London to Murcia, with two large bulging suitcases each, ready to start our new life in Spain in the apartment we were renting.  We knew that we needed to start thinking about Plan B.

We looked into the implications of the administration process, which we were aware could take a very long time (we are talking about Spain, after all!) and realised that we had an important decision to make: should we stay in Spain or should we give notice to our landlord that we were cancelling the rental contract and return to London?    It took us a long time to reach a decision (all of 2 seconds) so all we had to do now was find somewhere else to buy, preferably somewhere with a roof on. 

We cursed San Jose, we cursed our agents who had recommended the development and we cursed our solicitor who had let us pay the money for the deposit without mentioning that we should by law have a bank guarantee to protect our deposit in the unlikely event of things going wrong.  The unlikely event had happened and we were now looking for a new home in Spain with a restricted budget.  The only things we didn't curse were the sunshine, the friendly local people and the good wine.

So what was the good news?

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