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Our House in the Alpujarras

Our Experiences of owning a village house in a small community in The Alpujarras in a village called Yegen.

July 2014
09 August 2014

Well back for our last holiday before the big move in October. I can't believe we are near the end. We were going to organise so much, health insurance at the bank, getting all the diputations on direct debit, getting the phone connected and then of course there was life after dish TV but sadly achieved very little. 

We did for the first time go to the communal pool in between Yegen and Mecina Bombaron. What a lovely spot, surrounded by hills and mountains in the open air, full size crystal clean pool, accompanying small pool for the chidren, a bar where you could also get snacks, shade and plenty of sun if you wanted it although I stayed taking advantage of the former and still burnt. It had a great family atmosphere with many nationalities too. A typical pool scene with the kids having fun, the germans with a ball, the eastern europeans trying various dives at the deep end some to the displeasure of the life guard and the spanish milling around also, tending to arrive later in the day. The dutch keeping themselves to themselves and us brits doing what us brits do, a couple of lengths, stand around and then out till the next foray into the water. 

The coolest July in years they said ranging between 28 to 32, similar to what we'd left in the UK but such a different heat and 1100 metres closer to the sun. Seeking what little breeze we could find.

We did have the builders in though to begin to explore our planned alterations, it was all possible and not too expensive. I've decided to go down the heat excahnging route rather than a boiler for the hot water, a bit priceyer but more economic. Being a big Grand Designs fan where I had seen these things installed I was very keen. My place was going to feature Grand Designs ideas, how exciting if not a little sad. We spoke of the ruin next door which was a bit worse than last time and the garden I so dearly want and the poor retaining wall holding the whole street up. A deal to be done later in the year I hope.  For now the ruin was playing host to a bitch and 2 pups who were sheltering from the afternoon sun and foraging at night for survival. Of course we just had to get involved with this and nothing from our kitchen went to waste. We hope the local dog charity will be able to take up their plight in our absence.

We had the usual guiri get togethers as they've become known to us including one at our place which went on till 4.00am. We sampled the local Gin for the first time. At 6 euro's a litre its easy to see why its the brits favourite tipple.

My wife's sister joined us this time and she liked it so much may well end up joining us and buyind a place in Yegen.

We met some new people some looking to move here and some who have full or part time we had not met before. Yegen is becoming truely multicultural with different europeans and those with african decendents and what a joy it is to see. No animosity just everyone mixing and having a good time. I can't wait for October.

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March 2014
22 April 2014

Well our penultimate visit before retirement. Time has flown by. We seem to be established in the system all bills set up and amounts being paid so far no horror stories. Actually there is one. I am still trying to resolve the situation where the previous occupant failed to tell the authorities that he was permanently exporting his car. Another Diputacion in the post box addressed to him wanting the car tax. I am told he has contacted the DVLA. Like they are going to communicate with the spanish traffico division. 

The house is looking a little tired but that will all be rectified in October when I plough some of my pension into some improvements and maintainance.

I don't know if Ive mentioned this before but the house next door is falling down and was slightly worse than the last time I visited. Endesa have had to realign the mains power supply to a bit of it that has not already caved in. The house comes with a small garden for some green fingered passtimes. My hope is that I can buy it from its current 3 spanish owners after October to knock it down and use the outside space. Whether they will be willing to let it go for the sort of money I want to pay is another matter. IF not I'll probably claim squatters rights on the garden and watch it fall down.

A friend of mine who owns 2 acres of sweet almond trees has asked me to help out with pruning and harvesting etc as he is part time resident only so another task to keep me busy. 2 other friends we have already have cortijo's and a third some land he looks after so I am hopefull that I will be usefully employed.

Whilst out this time I enjoyed the festivities of a friends 60th birthday. It seemed to meander over 5 days and I am aware as a result that when we come to live here I can no longer take that sort of punishment.

I caught up with friends on the coast who have been retired there now for nearly 3 years and are blissfully happy with their move. 

It was the first time without the old british gogglebox, the dish for said system standing lifeless on the wall. I was pleasantly surprised at this not being a big issue.

I certainly found on this trip the coldness of inside the house compared to outside. Maybe I had forgotten the trip out last January and how cold it was. The weather was less kind on this trip being cloudy, wet and or cold for the most part but it did not take the enjoyment of the peace and quiet away.

We have booked the ferry for October 12th arriving in Yegen on 15th to remain. Just one more trip as holiday makers in July awaits before we begin to live the dream.

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October 2013
06 November 2013

Well the month of bills with us again. We arrived to find Bassura and Agua bills for the year plus another one for recycling. It would seem that Granada province are now charging 8 euros twice a year for recycling. I can only assume that this covers the process for taking what we are being asked to recycle in glass, plastic and card and processing it from the bin to the recycled article. Not sure where this fits in to the carbon footprint but it is probably a charge included in our council taxes at home. Don't get me wrong I applaud the spanish government for steps towards carbon neutrality and it really is a small amount to have to pay to achieve this. The weather whilst not as hot as our visit October 2012 was pleasantly warm and with the sun out was shorts, t shirts and very nice. On the social scene 2 birthdays and a wedding anniversary so a hectic 6 days with detox in between. Paul and Biata the latest full time addition to the ex pats who arrived 11 weeks ago seem to have settled in well. The improvements they have made to thier house are very good quality. I was amazed to see how wooden an aluminium window could look. It cost a few quid but really the warmth and sophistication it adds far outweigh the costs. We too made a purchase whilst out, a new double mattress for the bed out there. Supplied and delivered from Muebles Cadiar the same day and worth e300. It has a summer and winter side to the mattress and is of substatial quality, a good investment. Muebles Cadiar run by an older couple is a vast emporium on 3 floors. A lot of the spanish mahogany furniture is to a particular taste but you could litterally go in and furnish a house in there. Friends of ours did just that a couple of years ago spending about e12,000 in there. They prefer the cash, who doesn't these days and as such wouldn't accept a credit card. Our friends happy to wait were assured they could deliver the whole amount in days and he could pay when he had the money. So this store owner who had never met our friend till that day was happy to deliver on tick and await payment. Imagine walking into John Lewis is the UK and asking for delivery pending payment without deposit or credit checks !! An example of what a trusting, obliging nation the Spanish are. Amazing but very nice to see.

We now have all mod cons in both lounges with Freesat and DVD. Of course we await the effects of the satellite change in what can be recieved at the house but our friends out there are already streaming TV and catch up through the internet so it would seem with software changes anything is possible and for the amount of TV we will be watching it should adequately suffice. Another trip where the log burner wasn't required.

We have mice in the house, probably encouraged by the ruin next door. Traps had been set by our friends and so we arrived in hope of releasing these fury creatures back into the wild. Now Spanish mice are either clever or very small as each of the traps had bate removed from them without engaging the trapping mechanism. I think on our permanent arrival next October a four legged rat catcher is a must.


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September 2013
06 October 2013

A quick break to the house of just 5 days. On the first full day a Sunday we headed off to Canjayar in Almeria province. It was noticeable on the way that the pueblos from a distance anyway appeared to be more modern than Granada province on a beautiful sunny morning. We met up with another british couple in Canjayar and after a short meeting we became the proud owners of (no not a dog) a german food processor complete with all atachments and instructions, which was on the must have list for my wife when we movw out to create all sorts of culinary delights. It was grape harvest time and our lovely neighbours Carmela and Miguel offered us to pick our own beautiful black grapes from thier tree. Seeds in but utterly delicious. Sitting on the covered terrace one afternoon I had observed two small black beetle type creatures crawling around the floor. About 1/2 long black with white horizontal stripes. They appeared to be looking for something and seemed quite harmless. That was until I accidentally trod on one. It gave me quite a sting and some short lived discomfort. As yet I have not identified the creature. Speaking of creatures all was quiet in the beams, no carpenter bees to be seen. However we did have the unpleasant discovery of mouse droppings in the house, tiny little droppings and so traps have been set. They had eaten a sleeve of one of Anna's jumpers much to her displeasure.

Whilst we were there we celebrated my 49th with the GGT club (Geary Get Together). I should explain Geary is a word used by the spanish to describe expats. A bit like our use of Grockle I imagine. Anyway it was to a local bar on her closed night for a lock in which lasted well into the night. This came on the back of a session the day before whilst watching the Manchester derby and a late flight in the day before. On the Tuesday we went to friends for dinner only to find that I was bushed at 9.30 pm and retired to bed for 13 hours. I cannot keep up the pace anymore and with the altitude whch we don't get long enough to get used to on a visit it is awfully tiring.

We face the threat of losing British TV in the next couple of months and Tim the local boffin has sourced an internet system to access british channels but this is still to be tried and tested. The house is beginning to look tired in places with large cracks appearing in the Yeso (Spanish plaster) which is a regular annoyance so we must get around to sorting that.

The house next door had deteriorated a bit more hopefully meaning it will be a bargain by next October. The weather was very kind to us sunny every day with some cloud in the afternoons but still very much shorts weather about 23 degrees.

Whilst we were out the annual bills arrived for the house. The Bassura and Agua and the contribuciones.I went to the town hall in Meccina as I had a bill for each house for one and not the other type. It turns out the large bill was the Bassura and Agua for both properties and the two smaller ones were contribuciones one for each house. I was able to speak to Gabriel the clerk ask about the bills and confirm what each was and wether there were any more bills to come which there weren't. The Bassura and Agua is for daily (yes daily) rubbish collections from the street bins and Agua, water supply to both houses. This is 108 euros. The contribuciones one for each house totalling about 37 euros are for the house fronts drains etc. So for about 140 euros this is my council tax for a whole year. I was indeed proud of myself for a) plucking up the courage for going it alone and b) managing to communicate well enough to deal with it. Maybe the spanish is going in after all lol.

We are back out again at the end of October so will post again soon.

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July 2013
25 July 2013

16 days in the heat and very hot it was too. Even my wife who lived in the middle east half her life could not stand to be in the sun. 37 in the shade they said.

We went out this time with a view to buying a car. Always a difficult decission waying up buying and using about 4 times a year against paying hire car fees which are becoming extortionate. The main company we use did a special deal for payment in sterling. Not anymore. The pound is not the bargaining tool it once was.

I'm still fighting the carpenter bees in the beams on my terrace. Despite what i throw at them they seem to come back and back.

We did go part of the way round Yegens famous Gerald Brennan walk. We got to the seat of the Moors and what an awesome view accross to Gador and the contraviessa they had surveying their kingdom.

I was called to the post office in Yegen by a card in the mail addressed to the previous occupants. But the Post Office in Yegen is only open for 15 minutes twice a week and even then I arrived pronto at 1.30 as the english do and the post lady was late. So in we went and in my best Spanish (written down in preparation) into my speil I went explaining that I now owned the house and the previous occupants had gone back to England and handed her the Diputation card that I had. She seemed to understand fully what In had said to her and that we didnt want anymore mail for the previous occupants. She then asked for my NIE which I had with me. Itseems in Spain if you have an NIE you could even get invited for dinner with the king and queen of Spain. Anyway this was followed by my signature. She then handed me the diputation for the previous occupant. Open mouthed I left as I had not prepared translation wise for this eventuality. With the help of a friend she now understands that we don't want anymore mail for the previous owner but she is only covering for the real postman who is sick so im not counting my chickens that the mail will stop.

The house next to us is owned by Spanish friends who bought iy many years ago. Last October I became concerned that it was falling down and with the help of a local man and the local justice of the peace the owners were summoned to the village. A long meeting and much talking later a tape cordon now surrounds the building to stop people walking by and being hit by falling debris. Unfortunately this also stops people from driving down the street and parking at the bottom as I used to do. If all goes well we want to buy the house and revamp it as it has the precious commodity of a garden which would mean I could grow some items.

I cant believe it is almost impossible to get chillies in Spain, so that will be one of the growing projects. The local stores /markets also seem to get second rate peppers/pimientos, the best hive off by the british supermarket giants I have no doubt. We also needed ground corriander. Why would you not use fresh we were asked we onlhy have fresh here. With that and the search for Garam Massala which I had to buy inan english shop much against my principles, curry lovers beware it is not easy to achieve.

Another thing I fing impossible to get here locally is a decent bog standard t-bag. You can have tea for stress, aches and pains, lack of sleep and many more but not a simple tea bag. We did eventually sorce them from Mercadonna. Its not the best cup of tea but you do get used to it.



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April 2013
05 June 2013

 Bathed in Sunshine, warm temperatures. We really have been blessed with the weather on our visits. Another find The Butcher in nearby Cadiar. What beautiful meat and also our first visit to Bar JB to meet the lovely host Jo and Liz White. A lovely beer and tapas which went down well. We met up with friends from the coast and a full Englih Breakfast at El Rincon in Cadiar, swiftly followed by our 2nd visit to JB's to introduce our friends to this lovely little bar. Also The Cadiar market in full swing on Thursday. Most of what other markets have to offer but a good deal more.

Our visit to El Rincon was timed to co-incide with a carboot stall for Lost Paws a wonderfull charity who look after discarded dogs in the region which is a major problem in the area. We got some great bargains and all for a fantastic cause. They have a small band of volunteers who work tirelessly to help these poor animals.

We also had our first Dinner party hosting 6. Another step to becoming part of the local circuit. 

Finally seeing our friend Ken who was struck down by myloid leukemia at the end of last year. Out of hospital and in full remission and full of praise for the local hospital in Granada. It was great to see Ken on the mend.

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Jauary 2013
18 January 2013

My first visit of 2013. The almond blossom is on the trees and sunshine is pleasantly warm. Could this possibly be January ?

The village is quiet having just had its annual fiesta and all are nursing sore heads and holes in their pockets.  And what a fiesta it was by all accounts. As the locals sat there children in front and the older statesmen and women behind. 2 comedians risque but so far so good. By all accounts what happened next was a watershed for sleepy Yegen. A woman comes onto the stage and begins to sing but just as folk are settling in to her melody she does a bucks fizz and rips her clothes of to reveal the briefest of micro bikini's. The hosts did appologise afterwards if they had offended anyone Dohh!! I'm sure there were no complaints from the old men who hadn't seen this much of a woman for many years.

One of our number is sadly taken ill. He is fighting for his life in Granada hospital with myeloid leukaemia which kind of puts a damper of the atmosphere.

On the plus side I have TV to watch with the new 1.2m dish albeit that we have lost Channel 5 and it is said others will follow.

I have also paid my tax bills for the house for the year. At just over e130 for the year I am somewhat surprised with a rye smile of course. There seems to be lots of bills floating around for different houses in the village with different names on them. The postman has kindly rounded up any with an english sounding name on them and shoved them all into 1 ex-pats box. Some of these are known to have been previous inhabitants of the village others never heard of. I also have my neighbour presenting me with a demand for an unknown spaniard at my house. I produce my own demand and explain in my broken spanish that it is just me. This is not helped by the fact that I belatedly note that the ayuntamiento has addressed it to Marx Cavell. My poor neighbour knows not wether the brothers have moved in next door but one or if communism has arrived in Yegen.

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Visits 2012
22 December 2012

Having completed in April I returned in July to baking hot temperatures and beautifull sunshine and spent a glorious week in Yegen. I arrived out the day after the electrician had been to carry out the work identified as essential by the boletin for safety prior to Endesa accepting me as a customer. Replacing 2 fuses in the fuse box which is fairly subjective in terms of its necessity and the completely uneccessary measure of replacing the plastic box with a window which contained my electric meter for a larger cabinet with a metal door which would now require opening to read my meter. The rest of the village appear to be happily managing with the old plastic version so the need for this particular change completely escapes me.

I also had an unexpected job awaiting me when I found that the beams in my covered terrace had been attacked by dreaded carpenter bees, which had borrowed into the beems to lay their eggs leaving sawdust everywhere. A trip to the local fereterria later I returned with a cannister of Martacoma recomended and a trusty can of Raid wasp killer. I sprayed the beams with the Martacoma and when this didn't appear to ahve the desired effect immediately i chased them round the covered terrace trying to drown them in Raid.

OUr first joint visit came in October when we spent 3 weeks in the village. Once again we were treated to glorious weather warm and sunny except for the last 4 days when the rains and mists came but as it was nearly November one can hardly complain. Yegen is 1100 meters above sea level and so it is not unusual to be enveloped in the cloud. It was truely facinating to stand in a bar at the top of the village looking out over the village below with a clear view of all below you but literaly within seconds for everything to disappear in front of you're eyes only to reappear seconds later as if it had never happened. A truely magical experience.

The carpenter bees from the previous visit  seemed to have disappeared thankfully and so we set our sights on the next task, getting a larger satellite dish and new cabling so we could get the BBC when we fancied a bit of UK TV. A local man duely arrived ( the satellite man of Yegen) and set about installing the hardware. Another e 450 later and subsequently he returned to tune everything in. To improve the experience yet further Anna and I set off for the nearest town of size Berja to look for a TV. We could possibly have saved more money with a trip all the way to Almeria or similar large superstore on the coast but then we would incur more cost getting there. The choice of shops for electrical items was relitively slim in Berja but eventually we came away with a nice LED flat screen 32 " LG TV. Another e 350 from the budget .

We also had a day in Berja to take in the shops including a visit to Mercadonna and to discover the dwindling but  well stocked open air market with fresh meat, fish, fruit and vegetables available to purchase a definate must to more permanent life in the area.

And so to look forward to 2013 and more visits to come.

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Update on the Electric
22 December 2012

We now have electricity and have set up the means to pay which we do by direct debit. The process was much as described except the Boletin done by the electrician didn't reach Endesa for 3 months. Aparently the first time he was due to go to Granada where the Endesa office was !! This was my first experience of Spanish Manana. Secondly the total price for Boletin, Inspection, visit to Endesa and set up of Direct Debit was euros 517.

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In The Beginning
22 December 2012

As I said in the introduction we began thinking that we'd like to own a second home in Spain when we visited my in-laws 12 years ago for the first time and we tasted spanish life in a traditional setting in a place called Competa. But it was only in September 2010 that we actually doubled the size of our mortgage in England and approached a spanish lender to apply for a mortgage. 

1. You are told to buy in Spain you should allow 10% for all you're fees. NOT if you need a mortgage and want the services of a good solicitor. Our total expenses came to 16% of the purchase price. So be under no illusion it's going to cost you more than you think.

Having got a spanish mortgage agreed in principle it was time to find a property that we liked. The first property that we saw and fell in love with was not to be.

2. Since the spanish lenders got their fingers burnt they have tightened up their lending criteria, not a foreigners thing but to Spaniards too. So initial enquries on property one revealed that the property was built on RUSTICO. There are two types of land in Spain. URBANA (Urban) land where houses are built and most buildings in and immediately around a village,town or city will almost certainly be on Urbana. RUSTICO (agricultural) land is for farming and apart from Naves, Almacens and other farm buildings, nothing else should be built on Rustico. The consequences are if a house is built on Rustico look long and hard as to wether it is legal and if you want a mortgage forget it ! Because lenders will not lend on such a building. 

Having learned from this we began looking at property that would be allowed by the lender.

3. If you use an estate agent in Spain the usual fee is 3% of purchase price. Some although not all agents regard it as perfectly common place for this to be paid by the buyer and not the seller as in England. So make sure you check first. Some agents will have property on their books that they know to be illegal and built without permission and it is only if you ask the right things will they volunteer this information. After all it is not illegal to sell it and you will only find out when they serve a notice on you to pull it down.

So we found eventually the house in Yegen (or rather 2 houses as it is). It was built on Urbana so we should be OK. But NO

4. Intial searches showed this property was built on Urban land but both houses were detailed on the deeds (escritura) as being about 20 sq metres. It was obvious that what was there in reality was considerably larger.

So the bank insisted that the deeds had to be updated properly to reflect that the houses were bigger and contained more rooms etc. The seller then had to have an architect out to draw up plans and an up to date description of the property. As well as this the increase in size meant that it was likely that the property had gone over the boundaries set onto neighbours land. Therefore all those who may object to this had to be written to to give them the opportunity to object to the larger property encroaching. Thankfully all those who lived around the property made no such objections. Therefore this could at any stage have stopped the lending process for us and put the whole deal off. It also cost the seller a considerable sum of money to put right. They will thank me not to be too specific on the figure.

After 9 months the day came to go to the Notary's office with our solicitor, the bank lending and representatives of the selling party. An interpreter was hired (yep another 236 euros) to make sure we understood each and every part of the process. 

5. The appearance before the notary was probably no more than 20 minutes but we were there for nearly 3 hours in total so be prepared for half you're day to disappear.

We got the keys at last and the property was ours. We already had a bank account fortunately with the bank lending us the mortgage so that was set up. We decided to take the life insurance and house insurance required for the mortgage with the bank for ease.

6. Days after signing the bank too over 500 euros from the account which was actually more than was left in it. It was for the house insurance "You did want to pay a whole year for both house in one payment didn't you ?" They don't do it monthly as a matter of course and the best we could have had was quarterly.

Fortunately my solicitor had taken care of the whole process and had also sorted out our Wills

7. English wills count for nothing in Spain. If you have not made a spanish will don't expect you're loved one's to benefit automatically when you die.

Having moved in the bills had to be changed into our name. So my solicitor contacted the electricity company. Ah a new owner time for red tape.

8. If you buy a house to get connected to the electricity you will have to get a recognised electrician to go to you're house and make a stamped report that you're electrics (fuse board etc) are modern and comply with regulations. This can cost up to 300 euros (At the time of writing I await my bill). This buleton or report will be sent to the electricity company. Then they will connect you !! NO Then they will send their own guy to make sure you're electrician is telling the truth and knows what he's doing before they will connect you to the supply.

Well the purpose of writing the above was to guide you through the minefield that is buying a property in Spain and hopefully you will be wiser to these things than we were. But what ever else you do.

GET A GOOD INDEPENDANT BI-LINGUAL SOLICITOR. (Not the one the agent suggests or the bloke at the town hall who will do it on the cheap)


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