Graham and Sally
Keighley, West Yorkshire
San Javier, Murcia, Spain
Welcome to the Kyero.com Spanish Property Podcast! In our first episode, we chat with Graham and Sally from Keighley, West Yorkshire. They detail the process they went through in order to purchase their finca in Murcia, Spain, and what daily life is like there. From the relationships they’ve made with neighbours, to their experience with their agent HomeEspaña, we learn the ups and downs of finding their dream home and how everything came together. Listen in to learn more about how they decided in which part of Spain to purchase and what advice they would give to anyone looking to buy their own place in Spain.
- How they resolved legal issues with buying their property in Spain [1:50]
- Why they decided to buy a holiday home in Spain [3:00]
- How much time they spend in Murcia and how often they travel there [5:35]
- How they came up with the type of property they wanted [6:13]
- How the property search process progressed for them with HomeEspaña [10:02]
- What advice they would give to anyone who wants to buy a property in Spain [14:07]
- How they spend their days in Spain and live without speaking Spanish very well [15:00]
- What they love most about owning their Spanish dream house [17:30]
Welcome to the Kyero.com Spanish property podcast where we interview real people who recently purchased a home in Spain. They tell us what worked, what didn't, and what they'd do differently next time.
I'm Beth Davison, and today I'm speaking with Graham and Sally, originally from Keighley, West Yorkshire, who purchased a Finca in San Javier, Murcia. They use their dream home as a retreat from the stresses of everyday life in Britain, and just wait until you hear about how they've built relationships with their neighbours, despite only knowing very basic Spanish. Graham and Sally worked with estate agent, HomeEspaña, to find their dream home in Spain.
Check out the show notes at Kyero.com/podcast to find links and resources mentioned in this episode.
Beth: Hello! Excellent! Thank you so much for doing this. It's really nice to kind of hear firsthand accounts of things. It's ace.
Beth: So if we start, would you mind just giving me your full names and what you guys do - if you're retired or if you're still working, what you do, and whereabouts you bought your property in Spain?
Graham: Okay, so it's Sally Anne, and she is retired. She works as a volunteer for the hospital and for the local library.
Graham: And you are 65?
Sally: Yes! I am! (all laugh)
Graham: I am Graham and I am 66, and I'm semi-retired. I'm an International Examiner and Trainer.
Beth: Great stuff! So the property in Spain, do you own it or do you rent it?
Graham: No, we own it. It's about 10 miles inland from San Javier, in a place called Los Saez de Tarquinales. We've had it for 9 months overall.
We actually purchased it in June and then we had a few legal problems. The solicitor, dealing with it in Spain, found that the people who had it before... it was an old farm, and they'd sold the farmland off. They hadn't changed the legal disposition of the contracts, and the land was still attached to it. The legal people out there said, "You're not buying this until it's all been sorted out."
Beth: Oh no! Okay.
Graham: Yeah, so they said, "It will cost the people, who are selling to you, about eight thousand Euros to get it sorted out."
Graham: "And if they don't pay, you're not paying." (laughs)
Beth: Yeah, totally, totally.
Graham: Eventually the people agreed to pay the cost, and agreed that things hadn't been done, and so the house was completely legally changed. So it was the house and the barn and the old farm yard that was still part of the house.
Beth: Right, wow okay! So now it's all sorted?
Graham: It's all sorted, yes. Eventually it went through. They said to us, "Oh, it will only that 4 to 6 weeks in Spain," and eventually... We eventually got through about two weeks before Christmas last year. (laughs)
Beth: Right, okay. It always takes longer than you think doesn't it?
Graham: We got there!
Beth: Yeah, absolutely! That's the important thing. So who's decision was it to kind of start thinking about Spain? Why did you decide on Spain?
Graham: It all came about... My parents took a life insurance policy out for me when I was about 16 years old. It came to fruition last year, and I said, "We've got this money, what do we do with it? It's no use in invested in the UK, the returns aren't very good. What are we going to do with it?"
So we decided that maybe the good thing would be to go and look for a holiday home, or a home overseas.
Graham: We had the money, and we thought well that would be good for us, and also good for the family. We've got a daughter who lives in Scotland.
Beth: Lovely, OK.
Graham: So it would be good for her and the family, and maybe friends could go and use it. When my sister comes over from Australia, she could use it. Things like this.
So it came about simply because we have the money, and we thought, "Well rather than just sticking it in the bank account or stick it where you're going to get no account, where you're actually going to lose money with inflation, it would be good to invest it and have the benefit of doing something like that.
Really, we looked at a couple of places, I worked in Malta with the Maltese government for about 2 1/2 years.
Beth: Oh, interesting. OK.
Graham: That was quite an opportunity to go to Malta but the prices were going up there. Then we thought, "Well the air fares are more expensive, Spain's nearer, and it's only an hour to two hours journey, maybe we'll go to Spain." So that's what really sold us on Spain. Then we thought well we don't want to go to a commercialized area, and that's when we ended up going to Murcia.
Beth: Lovely, and so I don't know Murcia, so explain it a little bit to me, how rural are we talking?
Graham: You can divide I think... Probably a good way is to divide Murcia into three sections. There's sort of a further western part, and a further eastern part, which are quite commercialised.
If you go too far East you’re into Alicante and then go into Benidorm. If you go further down, if you go past Cartagena and you're down into Malaga and places like that. The place in the middle, it's quite rural - It's agricultural and inland. Some of the coast has been commercialized, but not all of it.
You know you can go inland and still be 20 minutes from the sea, if you want to.
Beth: Yeah, nice.
Graham: It's nice to go to the sea and walk on the beach, and things like that. We can go inland and it's quiet and rural. It's mainly agricultural, it's tomatoes, peppers, you know, all those things that we see in our shops up here. That was one of the reasons we looked to that area. Another thing is we're about half an hour from the airport, and there's jet's there, there are Ryanair flights into the airport for about eight months of the year.
Beth: Great, amazing! So in the nine months that you've had it, how many times have you been out? And kind of how long do you stay when you go?
Graham: We usually go 2 to 3 weeks, and we've been out what?... We're just about to go out in about two weeks time.
Beth: Lovely! You know every one that I've spoken to says that September is clearly a really perfect time.
Graham: Yeah, we were out there in July and it was just getting a bit hot.
Beth: Yes it will. (laughs)
Graham: August was going to be even hotter so we thought well, let's go in September. It might be a bit easier.
Beth: That'll be great! Just as the weather is turning here as well. I think it'll be perfect.
Graham: Yes, yes. Well, we have to find summer here, first. (laughs)
Beth: (laughs) True, true, true. So if we go back to the original buying process. You obviously knew the country. You knew, geographically, the sort of area you wanted to be, but did you know the type of property you were looking for?
Graham: Our house, it's built in 1896, 1846. That's quite old. We didn't want to buy a new house. A lot of the properties that we'd seen just looking over the internet were quite modern, and we thought, "Well, it's not us."
Where we started from was actually going... we bought two books at Haversham about how to buy properties in Spain, and one of the guys used to be an agent, an estate agent, a property agent, so all the pitfalls and things to watch out for, and probably the best seven pound investment we ever made.
Beth: I love that! Start with the books! That's a great way to do it!
Graham: Yes the book! Do you remember what it was called?
Graham: From what I remember it was just a paperback and it was written by a guy who worked in real estate in Spain for about 10 years. He'd written this book about all the pitfalls and to do and what not to do. When we went out there, we went out there for just over... well about 10 days first of all just to look at properties, last June. As usual we started asking around and we found all the companies that we had been told to avoid. (laughs)
Beth: Right, interesting, okay.
Graham: All they wanted to sell you was what you didn't want to look at. We ended up going and talking about a couple of houses that we'd seen with HomeEspaña, and then they allocated us... what was the lady's name?
Graham: A lady called Natasha.
Sally: A very nice lady.
Graham: To take us around and show us houses. We met with her for coffee and we had a chat, and she said, "Well, let's do a couple of days. Let's do no more than three houses a day, and mix it up with the sorts of things you can buy, with the things which are just above your budget and which are on your budget."
Beth: Brilliant! So you were seeing a range so you kind of knew! Did you have a budget in mind then when you met with Natasha?
Graham: We did have a budget in mind. She said, "Well, if you go above the budget you can buy this sort of thing, if you stay on your budget this is the sort of thing you can buy." So we looked at some new property, some older property, we looked at some houses on the coast, a couple houses inland. We looked at a sort of resort type of house. So in four days I think we'd seen about nine or twelve properties and we had a really good idea of what was around.
They advertised this house, the one we actually bought in the end, and they said, "In amongst that can we go back and see that?"
So we saw that I think the first day? Or second day? Second day we saw that...And it was actually just sort of what we like. So we gave it a couple of days or so and then we went back and saw it again, and on the fourth day we sat down over lunch, didn't we, and they said, "Well, you've seen all these houses, which one would you go back to again?" We said, "Well, this one." We went back a third time and saw it and we said, "This is the one we want."
Beth: Yeah, great! Okay, cool. So you did shop around but you kind of knew quite early on what it was.
Graham: Yeah, yeah, and I think talking to the other agents we felt that they weren't going to look after us, they were going to look after themselves. They weren't about our ideas, what we wanted. They had this property that had been on sale for two years, could we sell it to you? Or this isn't what you want but we're trying to sell it to you. Let's take you there, and we said well no, this is what we're looking for. (laughs)
Beth: Yeah, totally, and actually you found the more personal approach. You found the person who kind of cared more about what you wanted.
Graham: It's personal and it wasn't pushy. That was the other thing. Some of these places would say, "We'll pick you up at the airport and we'll show you six or eight houses a day and I'm thinking, "Well, after four I'm going to be forgetting the first one."
Beth: Yeah, no totally, I think it sounds like a much nicer way to do it. So would you have said that the whole process was easy or difficult? Did anything crop up that you didn't expect?
Graham: No, it was all explained, that was the good thing. Once we've made a decision to buy, we went back to HomeEspaña offices and they explained, have we got a solicitor, and they had a solicitor, and they could try to arrange for us to see them. We ended up with their solicitor who was part of a group. It was a Germans lady and we've used them, subsequently, for other things and they've been amazing. They've been very quick, honest, reasonable, etc., and things like that. They allocated us a lady in the HomeEspaña office who could take us around to the bank and that sort of thing, so you know the whole thing, within a day we were ready to go.
Beth: Which is incredible. That's so fast! And there must have been a massive level of trust for you guys and the people that you were meeting?
Graham: We felt that from the first point of contact, just going around. Then when we met the staff at the office and they said well let's go and look at the other things, and they allocated us someone who could explain Spanish law to us as well.
Beth: I was going to say, is there a kind of international challenge? So you've got not only the language, but things like the laws and the tax and things like that. How is that all explained to you?
Graham: Absolutely. We had somebody who did it regularly, and could speak about 5 languages, as well as we had this member of staff... because the salesperson went away, Natasha went away, we were left with a lady called Laura I think who subsequently left HomeEspaña to work for the bank I think. She came with us and took us through all the details, came to the bank with an interpreter and also went to the notary as well.
Beth: Oh wow, so they do everything.
Graham: She introduced us to the notary and explained all that through to us and the process and what would happen and why we had the notary and what they did, and also introduced us to the lawyers out there who then said we'll go allocate this German lady as your lawyer and contact. They've just contacted us and communicated in English with us.
Beth: Great! Okay fine, so it hasn't been kind of too challenging? Well I was going to ask would you do anything differently? But it actually sounds like your experience was pretty pain free.
Graham: Probably. We wouldn't... they even advised us on monetary issues and gave us some contacts and we came back to the UK we made those contacts within London in terms of money exchanges and things like that and saved us a phenomenal amount of effort and money in terms of dealing with the banks.
Beth: So those legal issues that were happening right at the beginning with the kind of land problems you had with it, that was all then sorted by lawyers that you'd already been...
Graham: The lawyers in Spain kept us totally in contact with what was going on. They kept coming back and saying, "This is a problem, you're not going to buy this out, this is the problem, leave it with us and we'll talk to the people who are trying to sell the house."
Beth: Yeah, which is great! That just lowers the drama for you really doesn't it?
Graham: Well it took a lot of pressure off. We thought well what if the people don't agree to pay the fees then it’s going to be difficult. We were aware, I think, when we made the offer for the house, they were keen to sell, and the agent just said, "Look, if you make a sensible offer, I think they'll take the offer." We made an offer and we went to up about a thousand Euros, so we agreed very easily, without any other discussion…
Beth: Yeah, haggling or anything, yeah.
Graham: Then when it came to legal things, oh this is all going to fall apart now, and now back to the drawing board.
Beth: Yeah, no and that would have been so disappointing, but because you'd met the right people along the way and people are kind of, yeah, doing great jobs it sounds like.
Graham: You read horror stories as well, you know about that people wanting half the money in cash, and this much behind the back door, and all these sorts of things. We found the whole process very upfront and transparent.
Beth: Perfect, so what advice would you give to family or friends looking to do the same thing that you're doing?
Sally: Look for agents that have been in business a long time.
Graham: Yeah, look for agents who have a reputation who have been in business a long time.
Sally: Who have several branches.
Sally: And also aren't necessarily Spanish.
Graham: Yes, and that aren't necessarily Spanish.
Beth: Oh, okay fine. I hadn't thought about that but yeah, that's great advice.
Graham: Because we found lots of people who were just acting as agents out there, they didn't have a business themselves. All they are one man bands, and all they are doing is basically what you would do with the agents and taking the commission for selling the house here.
Beth: Right, okay, so look for the right people.
Graham: When you came to actually buy anything it'd have been a minefield.
Beth: Yeah no absolutely, that makes perfect sense. So now if we just to life in Spain just a little bit, what does a classic day look like for you when you're out at your house?
Graham: Get up and have breakfast.
Sally: The sun's there.
Graham: And the sun's there, every day.
Graham: Open the house up, we usually go in the kitchen and have breakfast, shower, sometimes spend a little time tidying around the house, and then we usually decide what we're going to do. Some day's it's a trip in to do some shopping, sometimes it's a trip out. Sometimes walking on the beach sometimes. Sometimes we go inland and find places that we haven't tried. Each time we go, we try to go to new places so that we extend our horizons each time and learn a little bit more about the area.
Beth: Yeah, nice! I bet you're the envy of all of your friends aren't you?
Graham: A few yes I think now. (all laugh)
Graham: It was an interesting experience because the village we live in has only got six houses and they're all Spanish speaking people.
Graham: And we don't speak Spanish very well.
Beth: How have you found that? Has your Spanish improved or do you think it will improve?
Graham: It's crawling rather than improving (all laugh) But to give an example, we arrived last visit after they'd had all the heat and we found out a lot of our locks on our security gate had jammed. All the oil and grease had gone solid and we couldn't get locks open, and within ten minutes the whole village was there with lights because it's getting dark, and oil and grease to get the gate doors open for us.
Beth: Oh that's nice! So there is a sense of community...
Graham: There is a very sense of community, and we live opposite a farm, and each day the farmer's wife comes across and does a bit of cleaning for us and she brings a big box of vegetables from the farm across, because they grow peppers and squash and things like that, tomatoes and things. So it very much is a community village.
Beth: Yeah, it sounds like you've got a whole host of Spanish friends now. (all laugh)
Graham: Last time I wanted to say thank you, so I wrote it down in Spanish and gave them a couple of boxes of wine to say thank you for the help.
Beth: There we go! The perfect British custom, always hand over alcohol. That's great! You mentioned your daughter in, you said, Scotland?
Beth: So has she been over yet? Have you had visitors? Do you take people out there?
Graham: She hoped to go up this year but then she found she's expecting her first child in January. She is going to go over next year. She wants to go for next year.
Beth: Ah bless! With a newborn, brave woman!
Graham: Newborn! That's right, yes.
Beth: (laughs) It will be fantastic and so my last question is, what do you love most about owning your Spanish dream house?
Graham: I think it's just somewhere to go and just chill out, you know it gets you right away from all the pressures. We had a bit of a year. My father died suddenly last November.
Beth: Oh, I'm sorry.
Graham: I'm still trying to sell his house. We had an eight month inquest into his death.
Beth: Oh gosh! Okay, so that's been dragging on.
Graham: Just before that happened, my mother's foster brother died in Cambridge. So I suddenly found I had that estate to sort out as well, so it's been a bit of a year. It's nice to go away from everything to an entirely different environment, and entirely different house. It takes you away from the pressures of your own house. You know there's always things to do in your own house, things to do at home. Take a break for two or three weeks.
Beth: Brilliant, yeah it sounds like it's a real escape so that's perfect.
Graham: You've got the sunshine, we found cost of living reasonable even with the state of the pound, and we found also that you know, just living life generally has been very easy to get use to.
Graham: Yeah, perfect, well it sounds amazing!
Beth: It’s typically European, there's always tomorrow. (laughs) But the other thing is, I think it's very chilled and very relaxed in a lot of ways. We feel very comfortable with what we've got now, we think it's us. There's things we can do to it, there's a barn on the end which we eventually hope to convert and things like that. So it's a bit of room and space to do things, but lots and lots to do.
Beth: And do you think long term you'll move permanently out there?
Graham: I don't think so. I think we've always said that we would have... at the moment I think that maybe we would maybe move out there for a couple of months and then come back. Maybe go out in the winter and then come back in the summer. You're quite committed to doing half and half rather than doing the whole thing.
Sally: Yes, yes.
Beth: Well you're going to have a grandchild as well I suppose, you've got to factor that in. You're going to have to be on duty!
Graham: Living in Spain (laughs)
Beth: No, well that is perfect. Listen, thank you so much for chatting to me.
Graham: That's great, I'm very pleased to help and we're happy to support in every way. Thanks so much indeed.
Beth: Cheers guys have a lovely day!
Graham: Thank you have a lovely weekend! Bye!
Ending: Thank you for listening and thanks to Graham and Sally for sharing their experiences and HomeEspaña for their help to make this episode possible. I particularly like how Graham and Sally have overcome the language barriers and built great relationships with their handful of neighbours.
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Tune in next week when I speak with John, also from the UK. Who purchased an apartment in Barcelona. I can't wait to tell you about how his purchase was largely inspired by his health, along with his love of Catalonian wine.
I'm Beth Davison and you've been listening to the Kyero.com Spanish Property Podcast. I'll see you next week!