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Spanish Eyes, English Words

A blended blog - Spanish life and culture meets English freelancer who often gets mistaken for Spanish senora. It's the eyes that do it, rather than the command of the language. Anything can and probably will happen here.

Maintaining an affordable UK base
02 March 2013 @ 21:29

When we bought our apartment in Spain five years ago, we kept our holiday chalet in North Cornwall as a UK base. We intended to divide our time between Spain and the UK, as we have a number of family members and friends who are not in a position to come to Spain, and we didn't want to lose touch.

However, our 20' x 16' shed in a field - which is all it was, although it was a very comfortable shed in a field - cost us £900 a year in Council Tax. And Cornwall has the most expensive water rates in the country. On top of that, the site was sold, and the new owner doubled the service charges. Add in electric, insurance and Calor gas, and our well-appointed shed was costing us £5,000 a year, whether we used it or not.

In 2009, which was our first full year as half-and-half expats, we spent 15 weeks in the chalet. We have friends and family scattered all over the UK, and we also have a motor home, which we like to take advantage of in the UK and Europe, so in real terms, it cost us almost £350 a week to stay in our own property. We could have stayed in a B & B for that, and had one meal a day included.

Much as we loved the chalet - which we'd owned for more than 20 years - we just couldn't afford to keep it going. On the other hand, we needed a UK base, because it's unfair rely on the hospitality of friends and family, and we weren't prepared to use somebody else's address as our own, because it's not playing the game. We spend half the year in the UK, and therefore we are still classed as UK residents, and we have to have a permanent UK address.

We had an offer for the chalet, and at the same time, our daughter and son-in-law told us that there was a static caravan for sale in Bigbury Bay, Devon, where they were based. The big advantage is that static caravans are not liable for Council Tax. On top of that, the site management fees include water and electric, so we know that once we've paid our site fees, all we have to pay for is the occasional bottle of Calor gas for the cooker and the water heater.

When we're in Devon, we have what our son-in-law calls a 'Million pound view,' without the hassle and expense of maintaining a property. When we're in Spain, we know that our caravan is looked after, and that we can take advantage of the occasional let to help out with expenses.

If you're wondering whether you can afford to keep a home in two countries, maybe a static caravan is the answer to your problem. It's more like a real home than a touring caravan, as the utilities are connected directly to your unit, and you have security of tenure. As long as you comply with the site rules, your pitch is your own for as long as you want it. You need to budget for replacing the caravan after 10 or 15 years, depending on the policy on your site, but it's a much cheaper option than maintaining a bricks and mortar property. It may be worth your while to check out the options in your area of the UK.


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