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01 Nov 2011 12:00 AM by meggie Star rating in England. 114 posts Send private message

This is our Spanish story...

In 2000 we decided we wanted a place in Spain. I had become increasingly-disillusioned with teaching (loved the kids and the parents...hated the Government interference and endless, useless paperwork) and my husband, a builder, had had enough of working very hard for many years. We were in the fortunate position of having built up a reasonable amount of equity in our house, a large renovation project that we had worked on in our spare time.  We sold our house, bought a smaller one to live in whilst we carried on working until we were ready to move to Spain.

We had intended to buy on the Costa del Sol, until we saw a programme on TV about a couple (Martin and Maggie) that had bought a run-down farmhouse in Catalunya in a little village near Falset...about half-an-hour from Reus Airport. It looked so beautiful on the TV, in the August of 2002 we decided to take a look at the area. Well, it is even more beautiful in this area than you could imagine...with the River Ebro running through it from the east coast to the west.  We stayed for three weeks, determined to find something before we went home. With less than £40,000 to use, we found what we were looking for in the gorgeous, historic village of Miravet with its castle perched on a hill above the Ebro with the Square below it overlooking a huge bend in the river.

We bought a small, corner house with three storeys and a flat roof.  In fact, very little of the original house remained. A local chap had bought it in a dilapidated state and had started working on up when he was told he couldn't create a fourth floor.  When we bought it, all the place had was its walls, floors, roof and rough concrete stairs to each floor.  There were gaps for the windows but no windows!  We paid 39,000 euros for it (which cost us £26,000 then with such a good exchange rate!) and we spent another £9000 doing it up to create a gorgeous 2-bed house with a shower room and bathroom...keeping the whole of the top floor as our lounge with stairs up to the roof terrace.  We had the best views in the whole village from our roof terrace...almost 360 degrees of glorious countryside, river, castle and sierras.  We loved it. There were absolutely no hitches buying the place.  We bought via a Notary and, as we knew we must (from extensive research beforehand), we had plans drawn up by a local architect for the building work...signed off by the College of Architects. We did everything correctly and we were given our Habitation License when the building was completed and inspected.  We even rendered the place in one of the local colours of choice...much to the delight of the whole village! We had sold our small place in the Uk before we left for Spain.

So, why did we sell and come back to the UK?  Well, our two eldest sons were happy in the UK, both with good jobs, both over 25 years old and settled where they were.  Our youngest son, however, was sixteen at the time, having just left school and not wanting to go to Uni or College in the UK.  We thought it would be relatively easy for him to get a job and, being a very friendly chap, we knew he would make friends quickly.  WRONG!  We were in an area where there were not many Brits and, therefore, no British bars/cafes/builders that required help.  My husband, too, had intended to do some building work to enhance the small income we were then getting from the interest on our savings (from the UK house sale).

After we had completed our own place, with the help of our son, there was nothing for him (John) to do and, to be frank, there was nothing for us to do.  The locals were incredibly friendly and us boxes of grapes, cherries, nectarines, peaches etc from their own trees...inviting us to the local fiestas and dances etc. BUT, we had assumed the locals spoke mostly Castellano (as Franco insisted when he was alive) but they spoke mostly Catalan.  We had spent the past three years trying to learn Castellano and, although the locals spoke Castellano to us directly...they spoke Catalan to each other. We couldn't even evesdrop on their conversations! The few British children that went to the local schools were having to learn both languages...which may be easy for them, but it's not so easy when you're over 50 (or even 16).  PLUS...even at that time, there were very few jobs around and, naturally, any that were available were given to the locals. After a year living full-time in the house (previously, we had only spent a few weeks at a time there whilst we started the work on it) I knew we had to go back to the UK for our youngest son's sake. We were all very sad to go (cried alot) and we almost turned back just as we approached the ferry at Bilbao...but we were certain we would be back in a few years to start again. We had made good friends with the only other British couple in the village at the time and we still go and stay with them at least once a year.  They've had their house in Miravet on the market for over four years!

We put our place on the market just before we left Catalunya in June of 2006 and we were very lucky to sell to a young, British, couple three months later.  As with our purchase, the sale went through very smoothly.  The couple that bought it had done their research and they knew they wanted a house with all the licenses in place.  They also used an English Solicitor...which cost them a few bob! We sold it for 147,000 euros (£95,000 then) just as the market was starting to take a slide downwards.  However, I'm very sorry to say, the young couple that bought it have never lived in it for more than a few weeks and it has been on the market for over 2 years.  I do think about them sometimes and worry that buying the place might have caused them financial stress. Probably. I also have to admit...there have been times when we wished we had kept it for ourselves! They have it on the market for 167,500 euros.  It will remain unsold (and we would never buy it back again) at that price. The way the market has should now be much less than we sold it for.

It was always our intention to buy another place in Spain...somewhere where there is only one language to learn...somewhere where the winters are warmer than in Catalunya.  However, although we started looking again a couple of years ago, we have become more and more cautious of buying in Spain and we really don't know whether it's worth it in this present financial climate.  We reckon it's better to carry on renting for the time we're there....particularly since we are now thinking we would like to continue spending our summers in the UK with family and friends ie; the best of both us, anyway.

Well that's our story...what's yours?


This message was last edited by meggie on 01/11/2011.



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01 Nov 2011 6:47 PM by Bri Star rating in North. 591 posts Send private message

 We only have the buying bit, and we decided to buy in Spain as we made an unexpected but very welcome large profit on our property in the USA (and like meggie I do worry about the guy who bought from us, but he was American and wanted the property for his family so hopefully he is happy).  Picked Almeria at random, but fell for Mojacar.  Bought with no real problems, and we are now looking at buying a second place for my sons.  I take a different view and think that if you can get a property cheaply enough, it will be a good deal, though I do recognise that we are talking distress sales.  I am not thinking of selling, and the properties will stay in the family for a very long time.  Like meggie, most decisions are made with kids in mind and we are want a peaceful, very Spanish property on the sea front for my younger son to recuperate from surgery.  We love Spain, and all speak Spanish. 



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01 Nov 2011 7:17 PM by Faro Star rating in London. 1139 posts Send private message


Very good posting and sorry to hear Spain did not work out for you and your family.

How has your son settled back into the UK and did the Spanish experience benefit him?

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01 Nov 2011 7:24 PM by normansands Star rating in Kent. 1281 posts Send private message

Thank you both - great reading and so informative

but what is all this research can you spell out that which is not the obvious?



N. Sands

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03 Nov 2011 12:26 AM by meggie Star rating in England. 114 posts Send private message

Thanks, Faro.

Yes, the time my son spent in Spain was of great benefit to him.  Not wanting to spend all his time with (boring) us..he made a real effort to try and get to know some of the locals that frequented the cafe/bar in the Square...eventually going out in the evening without us!  I'm convinced his new-found confidence ensured he got a job almost straight away in the the fact that employers were impressed with the addition on his CV of his knowledge of a foreign language and culture.

In answer to your question, Norman, I guess we have all read many times on this site (and others) how important it is to research as much as we can about the buying process in Spain before actually making a purchase.  As you mention...most of these are obvious.  We read several books on the subject.  We asked hundreds of questions whenever we met anyone that had already bought a place in Spain and we looked at many, many houses and apartments.  We even worked with a reputable Spanish Building Company (still trading) selling property via exhibitions in the UK before making our decision!  The most important conclusion we came to was Buy a Spanish house in a Spanish Community.

We realised early on that most of the new construction of complexes in Spain was being done with us Brits (and other foreigners) in mind. Not a difficult conclusion to reach, I know!  But we didn't like the fact that the Brits were being 'steered' towards this type of complex, both through advertising in the UK and in Spain itself.  Through the Spanish building company we knew, we learned that property was priced according to what a foreigner would pay rather than being priced according to any costing structure...and it was known that the Brits would pay far and above what the Spaniards would pay.  We realised we could get much better value for our money if we bought an established Spanish dwelling.  We knew there would be permanent Spanish neighbours to keep an eye on our place if ever we weren't there.  And we wanted to learn the language!  We were also worried that so very many new complexes were being built and, when we were told that some of them were being built on land that wasn't supposed to be built on, we took it as a warning.

We are absolutely convinced that the reason we had no problems buying, renovating and selling our place in Spain is because we bought an established Spanish dwelling.  It was legal. It had been standing for over 100 years (albeit requiring renovation) ie it had its own plot number registered at the Town Hall.  It was already supplied with electric and water.  What was interesting (and amusing) to us was the fact that the place had no Habitation License when we bought it.  Hardly any of the properties in the village had them!  But, we knew we would have to get one for our place when it was renovated as we would more-than-likely sell to another Brit if we ever wanted to sell. The locals all had a house (many of them owned more than one), so why would any of them want ours? So, we did everything we had to do to ensure we got that license.  We did our own plumbing, but we had to get a local certified electrician to do the electrics as only he could provide us with the Bulletin to say it was safe.  We asked the Town Hall to get the water meter fitted that we were supposed to have in order to pay the true price for our water (and not the few euros a year it had been billed for). Very kindly, they didn't fit that meter for months!  As mentioned previously, we had a local architect draw up plans for the renovation work, signed by the Architects College as insisted.  It cost us over 2000 euros! The architect came around regularly to see how the work was developing and to make sure it was to plan.  When completed, he inspected the work and arranged for our Habitation License to be drawn up.  The fact that we were told a place 'cannot be sold without one' didn't seem to bother the locals, but we weren't locals and we had to do things right! That was fine with us.

Ah, writing about all this really makes me miss the place.  Perhaps we should have stayed and learnt Catalan, after all.  Sigh......


This message was last edited by meggie on 03/11/2011.



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03 Nov 2011 12:57 AM by normansands Star rating in Kent. 1281 posts Send private message

Thank you Meggie,

unfortunately "Buy a Spanish house in a Spanish Community"

 is not actual possible if you want only a unit on a holiday complex yet to be built.

the confusion seems to be that so many are seeking holiday "homes" and these homes are really only ordinary urbanisation dwellings with nothing holiday about them unless you count the obligatory communal pool play area.

The brochure and all connected lied I am afraid.




N. Sands

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03 Nov 2011 11:14 AM by mariadecastro Star rating in Algeciras (Cadiz). 9388 posts Send private message

mariadecastro´s avatar

 Great stories. We are working with great Property Professionals on a publication that will help you to make your mind up before/when buying in Spain


Maria L. de Castro, JD, MA



El blog de Maria

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03 Nov 2011 4:17 PM by meggie Star rating in England. 114 posts Send private message

You're absolutely right, Norman, unfortunately.  We are such a trusting lot in the UK...born out of the fact that we CAN (almost-always) trust those involved when buying over here and, if something goes wrong, we have a great system in place to help us resolve problems.

I do feel for folks that have lost money, properties, dreams through the corrupt Spanish legal system that didn't help them when things went wrong with their proposed buys and the loss must be felt so much more acutely when there are fewer years left to try and recoup the loss somehow.  I'm afraid I have little faith in the Spanish system to sort out much of this 'mess' within the next few years.  I wish there was something that us more fortunate folks could do to help.  I'm wondering, would anyone be offended if a fund was set up to help?

Maria, it's great to know you are working with Property Professionals in an effort to get buyers back to Spain.  My real concern here is pricing.  It was overpricing that helped to bring greedy builders and professionals into a system where alot of money could be made from unsuspecting, trusting Brits (by far the largest foreign buying group). Whilst working for the Building Company I mentioned earlier, we found out just how little it costs to build in Spain in comparison to the way property is built in the UK. Our friends bought a good-sized piece of land for £16,000 (24,000 euros then) and had a 3-bed detached bungalow built complete with 1-bed annex for a little over £50,000 (74,000 euros then).  They sold it a year later for 350,000 euros (£250,000 then)...the same price as similar properties in the area (except the profit for these went to the builder). 

By the way, I read today on that the average offer made by those seeking a Spanish property is now 22% below the asking price....and we all know the prices are already way down.  However, I'm sure you're bringing fair pricing into the equasion in your new endeavour, Maria.  We're looking forward to seeing what you have on offer.....

Still looking forward to reading others' Spanish stories concerning successful purchases/sales.  Where are you all? 


This message was last edited by meggie on 03/11/2011.



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03 Nov 2011 4:28 PM by Bri Star rating in North. 591 posts Send private message

 The harsh reality is that houses are only ever worth what someone will pay for them.  And I have to be honest, we are certainly going in much lower than the asking price at the moment!!   In fact 20% is about the right amount as far as I can see to take off the already low asking price.  Your comments re building costs are interesting and I am sure you are correct.  



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