For years now, I’ve been a huge fan of the UK property programme Location, Location, Location. It’s fascinating to hear people’s stories when they buy their new home, and what influences their decisions. I often think that one day I might work in the property business and become the next Kirstie or Phil (presenters of the UK programme), because there is something about connecting houses with dreams that makes such a job really special. And every story is different, as was ours when we bought Casa Campestre.
Why buy a house in Spain?
About 4 years ago, Hilary and I decided to move to a different part of the UK. We found a house, our offer was accepted, we got a mortgage sorted out and met some architects to help us renovate. And then … slowly but surely I fell out of love with the house. Why? Lots of reasons. Every time we went to visit there was a fierce, biting, easterly, cold wind. There was no phone signal in the village. The commuting distance to London for work turned out to be too long. So, with pain in our hearts, we backed out of the deal. At that same time, the mortgage we had applied for came through. So here we were, mortgage at the ready, no house!
It took some months before Hilary was prepared to look at other properties again. And then, surprisingly, he sent me details of an amazingly beautiful place – in Spain! And so instead of a long weekend that we had planned on the Isle of Wight, we decided on a whim to go to Spain and look at houses there. We had big ideas about holiday lets and swimming pools, but in our first meeting with the estate agent, Marcel, from Sunset Properties, he explained that due to Spanish (Andalucian) regulations it was unlikely that we could let out this particular house or have a swimming pool. Our first introduction to Spanish regulations, many more would follow!
A perfect house, perfect location
But the house was perfect! As was the location. About one hour’s drive from Malaga and Granada, a little longer to Cordoba and just two hours from Sevilla. Overlooking spectacular mountains, and in the far distance the Lake of Iznajar. The nearby village had a thriving bar and a small supermarket, and was only a short drive, or 25-minute walk away. Quiet, no immediate neighbours, but still part of a broader village community. We were smitten – it was a fairy tale property bathed in glorious sunshine.
Having seen a few more houses on the Saturday, our thoughts kept returning to the first property and we walked around it again for a couple of hours. And that was it, we were hooked, and decided to make an offer. Tricky, because asking prices for houses vary enormously and don’t seem to be entirely market driven. As an example, not far from our house in Spain, there is a total wreck on the market for euro 600,000! Whereas a charming village house with three bedrooms and in reasonable condition was on the market for less than euro 100,000. We talked with the estate agent to get a measure of how far below the asking price we could go, which was helpful. But a next time (if there is a next time!) I would definitely want to be better informed about house prices before making an offer. We also hadn’t realised that Spanish properties don’t normally move very quickly, so we could have taken much more time for negotiations.
Important people in the buying process
We asked the estate agent for recommendations for a local architect/surveyor, because we wanted to have a full survey done. This is not a mandatory part of the process, but good for peace of mind. The report was thorough, and pointed out some work that needed to be done, but no show-stoppers. A next (and important) step was to find a lawyer to help us through the buying process. I’ve heard some terrible stories of people buying without professional legal advice, and so the cost of approximately 1% of the house price is definitely worth it. We found an (English-speaking) lawyer through our own networks, who sorted out everything, including NIE numbers, setting up a bank account and writing our Spanish wills (which is part of the process). Our estate agent was very helpful too, providing contacts of local wifi installers and builders. Since then I have discovered the local Lake Iznajar English Speakers group on Facebook, and I will not ever need to worry about finding useful contacts again!
End result? A beautiful Spanish farm house!
We bought at the end of May, got the keys end of August, and overall it was a very smooth process. I cannot begin to describe the total excitement when we first picked up the keys. We had bought the (Ikea) furniture from the current owner and this was included in the overall purchase price. A good wheeze, as this means you pay less tax. And to our great amazement and immense gratitude, the previous owner had left way more than indicated on the official inventory, including basic food stuffs, a huge supply of kitchen roll and loo paper, and an enormous quantity of tonic water, a bottle of gin and bottles of wine. A fantastic welcome!
We have around 9 doors in our property, so the first few hours after arrival were spent fitting and labelling keys. And just walking around in a daze … It was hot, we were in Spain, we were in our new house, and we couldn’t quite believe it.
Four years later
We have done a lot of building works and improvements, we understand a lot more about Spanish regulations (a separate blog will follow on that subject alone!), we know our Spanish and non-Spanish neighbours, and can’t wait to spend a year here and integrate into this different environment and culture. Spanish lessons, here I come!