How Phil and Vickie embarked on the journey building their dream home from scratch in Pinoso, Alicante, starting with a plot of land amongst the almond groves. Phil gives us invaluable information about the process of buying and building in a foreign country as well as what it’s like to enjoy the fruits of their labours.
- What Phil & Vickie were looking for in a property and how they found it [1:14]
- How Phil dealt with the daunting task of starting the purchasing process [3:42]
- On Phil’s research process [5:02]
- On the process of buying property in a foreign country [8:45]
- About Phil’s relationship with his builder [9:59]
- What Phil found the most challenging about the whole process [12:01]
- What Phil would do differently next time [14:27]
- Advice that Phil would give to family and friends who were considering buying and building property in Spain [15:22]
- A typical day for Phil and Vickie in Spain [16:36]
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 Phil, originally from Redditch, who purchased a Villa in Pinoso, Alicante.
Just wait until you hear about how, along with his wife Vickie, Phil started with just a plot of land amongst the almond groves and embarked on building their dream home from scratch
Phil and Vickie worked with estate agents GR Sunshine Properties 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
Body of Transcript:
Beth: If you wouldn’t mind, just introduce yourselves, who you are, and what you both do, and whether you decided to buy or rent. That would be great.
Phil: OK, hello everybody, my name is Phil. I’m retired managing director. I used to own my own company. Vickie has only recently been retired, but she was a PA with a big organisation.
We just decided to buy a property in… I think it was 2015 we decided. We looked around and basically narrowed it down to the country, which was Spain. I’d had a property and I’d lived in Spain for a while down near Gibraltar. Vickie hadn’t lived in Spain, but had a property in France, but we decided to go somewhere quite warm, to be honest.
So, we looked around Spain, mostly on the east coast where we went down to Almería and Valencia but eventually settled on a property near Alicante, really by… I wouldn’t say by chance because we were looking, but the house property we looked at… We wanted a detached house with four bedrooms, plenty of land, and we saw a house advertised on GR Sunshine Properties website and took it from there, really.
The process was really straight forward.
Beth: Fantastic. So, was that back in 2015?
Phil: Yeah, it was. That’s when we were basically looking around. Then, we actually made a decision to purchase round about September of that year, after seeing a plot, basically, in the province of Alicante. So it was very different to what I had before. It was rural (which I wanted), a real taste of Spanish life, and not too isolated. We managed to secure a plot of about 12,000 square metres. At the time it was just purely an almond grove. It was so idyllic. We’ve got the fantastic view of mountains of three sides.
Phil: On four sides, really, and it’s really countrified, rural, just exactly what we wanted. So we purchased the land in September of that year, and then the building started after really going through what was a fairly easy, painless process, really, thanks to GR Properties and East Company, the builder.
So, we basically saw the house, modified it to what we wanted, and we took it from there, really, and we saw it grow.
Beth: Did it feel quite daunting to start with, because this is a massive undertaking?
Phil: Um, well it was, to be honest, because the whole purchasing process was so different to the English way of doing things. It was a bit daunting to be honest, because we had to buy the land first, ourselves, which is totally alien to people in England - buying the piece of land usually.
Then the builder actually started work, and then we had to pay stage payments. So, there was a great deal of trust involved. But, we did due diligence on the builder, Henry. He was a local builder who lived in Pinoso for 30 years, and everybody knew him, and he had a fantastic reputation.
It was a little daunting, to be honest, because it was a lot of money.
Beth: Of course.
Phil: With all the extras and such, I think it was around about €230,000 at the end of the day, but it was a fantastic property. It was extremely good value for the money and we’ve been very happy, really. To have that sort of property nearer the coast – we’re about 40 minutes away, really. To have that sort of property nearer the coast, we’re talking a couple or three million, at least.
Beth: Yeah. So, you said you did your homework on the builder themselves, but how did you first start researching the area. I know it was different to what you originally expected, but how long did that whole research process take before you took the plunge?
Phil: Probably about six months, really. We were backwards and forwards to Spain, just until we feasibly looked at places, ourselves, really. We didn’t have any guidance or help. We wanted to do it on our own. We used to go and stay at a hotel near the area that we wanted to go in and just looked around to see what was available. We spoke to a few agents – not many, but we spoke to a few.
I guess we were quite lucky because we found GR Sunshine Properties quite early in the day and he looked after us very well I’ve got to say. From our initial meeting and chats, when we first met the agent and the builder, in Pinoso, they took us around for the day and we probably viewed, probably up to ten different plots during that day that we were there – a day and a half.
We had quite a selection to go with. We didn’t have to go with them if we didn’t want them, obviously, but virtually the last plot that they showed us we just fell in love with it and away we went.
Beth: Amazing. It’s so nice when you get to that point and you just see something and you know it’s exactly what you want. That must have felt great.
Phil: Yeah, yeah, yeah, it was. It was tremendous; really. We wanted to make sure we were there… It sounds a bit daft, really. But we wanted to make sure we were there when they started marking the property out, which was important to us, really, because we wanted a really long drive – around about 65 metres long from the road to the house. So, it’s quite a long drive and we wanted that sort of look, so we wanted to make sure it was in the right place. So we were there when the first clod was turned over.
Beth: Ceremonial. I like it. It’s good to be there for the first dig.
Phil: Yeah, it poured rain that particular day. Yeah, it was good fun.
Beth: So, no structure at all. Did you build from the ground up, or did you extend what was already there?
Phil: Yeah, yeah, nothing there at all, so it was really from the foundations upwards - nothing there at all apart for some farmer’s walls which we had removed. Yeah, yeah.
Beth: The budget that you mentioned was that inclusive of the land, or did you have two separate budgets?
Phil: No, that was inclusive of the land. We didn’t really want to go over the top because we knew… well I knew that Vickie’s retirement was pending, so we didn’t want to go overboard. But, like everything, when you start, you think of things as you’re going along. I remember we thought of a lot of things before hand, obviously, but you think, “Isn’t it a good idea to have this and that and the other.” We had quite a lot of extras, to be fair.
Beth: Right. Were you surprised by what you could get for your money? Did you go in thinking…?
Phil: Yeah, in that particular area, yes.
Beth: It sounds like it was an amazing venture and that it didn’t break the bank.
Phil: Yeah, yeah, it was really. The house itself, it’s not typically Spanish, it’s more sort of Georgian, really, to be honest.
We’ve got two massive pillars at the front, which go right away from floor to roof, and it does look quite spectacular, really. It probably looks a lot bigger than it is. It was an 180 square metres build for the house, and then we had a double garage built on the side and a barbeque dining area, etc., massive terracing. All of which was extra, of course, but we just wanted it. It’s just one of those things, really, You do get a little bit carried away.
Beth: No, I bet. It just sounds like you had a lot of help from the right people. So, what was the process of buying in a foreign country like? Did you have to deal with language barriers?
Phil: it’s fairly easy, really. We did have, initially, a solicitor in Alicante to witness on our behalf. To be fair, he was looking out after our interest and demanded deposits from the builder and banker, etc. Which you assume that would be the norm, really.
There was… I wouldn’t say friction, but there was a disagreement between the builder’s solicitor and our solicitor. There were obstacles being put in front. Joe, at GR Sunshine Properties, the agent, he got involved and said, “Well, this isn’t the way we do it here.”
Eventually we actually sourced a local solicitor in Pinoso who was very, very good, I’ve got to say. She got us through the whole process including the stage payments as well. So, at each and every stage there were certain guarantees that the build had got where it was.
It was, I would say, initially it was daunting, but we did keep on top of it. One of the amazing things, really, from the builder’s point of view, was that every single week, without fail, on a Friday night, he would send us at least a minimum of 30 to 50 photographs of what had happened during that week.
Beth: Oh, fantastic.
Phil: So we could actually see it going up and up, so we’ve got all those on file. We used to both sit around the computer on a Friday night waiting for these photos to come. You could actually see the progress and that was really good.
Beth: Yeah, that’s so nice.
How often were you making out to Spain during the building process?
Phil: During the build we probably went about half a dozen times, I would say.
Beth: Across the space of how long?
Phil: It took about ten months, in all.
Phil: We were quoted eight, but due to weather problems and other technical problems, it expanded a little bit, which we weren’t bothered about, so we didn’t push it. We would rather have a really good job done rather than rushing it.
Beth: Yeah, of course.
Phil: So, it really didn’t matter to us. If we’d tried we could have gotten it in eight, I would dare say, but we weren’t that bothered.
Beth: So you were making it about every six weeks (ish) to go and visit. What about now that it’s all finished, how often do you go out there?
Phil: Now, um, probably about the same, to be honest. For the first time last year we drove over - in August of last year and we stayed until October. We’ll probably stay for about four months this year.
Beth: That sounds so nice.
Phil: It’s a daunting drive, I’ve got to say. It took two and half days, but you’ve got your own transport while you’re there, and it was good, it was good. We had a very relaxing time.
Beth: Yeah, and you get to soak up a bit of the culture if you’re driving for that amount of time.
Phil: Yeah, yeah, yeah. We had friends come to stay and Vickie’s sons came over, so it was good, it was good. We enjoyed it so much and we’re going to do it again because Vickie’s got a small dog so she had to come, unfortunately.
Beth: (laugh) Don’t tell Vickie.
Phil: Yeah, yeah, she’s good though, she’s good.
Beth: Fantastic. So, what did you find the most challenging part of all of it?
Phil: Um, I’ve got to say that we didn’t find anything terribly challenging, to be honest. The whole process was fairly straight forward. I’ve got to say that I can’t think of anything, really, that we found challenging, as such. I suppose the most concerning was when we used to have to hand the money over for the stage payments. I think there were about six or seven stage payments, the last one being a quite chunky one.
Yeah, that was a little bit daunting, but I wouldn’t say it was worrying at all, really. There were no problems at all during the build. You hear so many horrible tales about Spanish builders going bust, so obviously we were concerned. But everything was fine. We kept in regular contact with the builders, who kept sending us these photographs.
He accommodated every single wish that we asked, or change that we asked for. Even to the fact that, in the master bedroom, the standard way of putting the French windows onto our balcony, which overlooks the mountains, was slightly offset, and I’d stipulated that I wanted it in the middle of the bedroom so that we could both see the view when we were lying in the morning. So, it sounds a silly request, really.
Beth: It sounds like a lovely request.
Phil: We sit in the morning, with our cup of tea, and we look out. Henry had actually built the window frame, and we did actually move everything over about eighteen inches – knocked all the wall down and put it back up again and there was no charge for that. So it’s that sort of little attention to detail which we really enjoyed.
Beth: Yeah, absolutely. It sounds like you did your research, so that you got the right guy.
Phil: Yeah, yeah we did. He had a reputation in the town. He’d lived there for thirty years with his family, so he was well known. When we first met the builder with the agent he was actually working with another guy, as a partner, and our particular house he did say to us, afterwards, that during the build he actually split away from his partner and struck off on his own which was a bit worrying, really. He got some new premises, some offices, but the guy was seamless. We didn’t see any conflict there or anything. He just carried on the same as he was.
Beth: Yeah. So, would you do anything differently, if you were going to do it all again?
Phil: Absolutely not.
Beth: It sounds like you had a really stress free time. That’s awesome.
Phil: Yeah, yeah, I didn’t lose too many hairs. It was, it was stress free, I’ve got to say. The other thing is the financial aspect is obviously different, so much different to what it is in England. Being a really conservative English guy, you get worried, really, sometimes. You hear so many tales about Spanish people, and builders, and going bust, and doing a runner, and all that sort of stuff, but, it was such a smallish town. There wasn’t anywhere for him to hide, really.
Beth: Yeah, absolutely.
Phil: But the solicitor was good, as well, I’ve got to say. I’ve found, consequently, that builders don’t like dealing with her because she’s so thorough.
Beth: Oh, that’s a good thing. You want someone thorough on your side.
Phil: Yeah, yeah, yeah, she’s first class, first class.
Beth: So advice if you were giving some to family and friends who were going to do the same things as you, what advice would you give?
Phil: Well, it’s best if you can find a builder… Well, find the place that you want, first of all. There’s so much land available to build, ours was rustic land. Obviously you’ve got to be a little bit careful, as opposed to urban land, but you’ve got to make sure you’ve got the right planning permissions in place, and there won’t be any problems.
I would say, probably, well, it’s just three things, really. Find yourself a good agent, which we did. Find yourself a good builder, which we did. And, probably most of all, find yourself a good lawyer, which we did. Those are the three most important things to us, really, and I would give to anybody who asked.
Beth: I think that maybe people think that if you’re building your property rather than just buying one that’s just there, that is a whole lot scarier, but for you it really doesn’t seem to have been that way.
Phil: No, no, I wouldn’t say scarier, I’d say probably more exciting than anything else, really, Because of the confidence that they gave us. We’ve never known anything like it, builders being so helpful. You certainly don’t get that level of help in the UK. You could ask for a change here and they’ll say, “What? What? That will be thousands and thousands of pounds!” So no, it was good, it was good.
Beth: So, lastly, just about the lifestyle in Spain when you go over there, what does a typical day look like, for you, once you’re at your house for a couple of months?
Phil: It’s a lot different now to what it was. It’s only now that we’re really starting to enjoy things, to be honest, because there has been so much to do.
Phil: There really has… I thought I’d put my last curtain pole up years ago - climbing up the ladders and doing building work, and doing things in the garden. The garden is challenging. I’ve got to say the garden is challenging. Probably, in hindsight, we probably wouldn’t have a garden that big, to be honest.
Beth: Right, just because of upkeep.
Phil: It’s not even that, really, it’s just big and there’s no grass there at all so it’s all laid to almond trees which we have 170 odd on the plot. But it’s massive, it really is massive.
We do have a local farmer that comes in and takes care of the land for us. He turns it over with his tractor about two or three times a year and keeps the weeds down, but it’s still a massive undertaking, really. In return, you see, he actually gets the fruit of the almonds so it’s quite a good arrangement really as no money changes hands, though, consequently, since we’ve been there, we have employed him to look after the garden as well.
Beth: Yeah, nice. It’s a good relationship to have.
Phil: Yeah, yeah, yeah, he’s a local farmer and I’m learning some more Spanish and he’s good. One of our biggest problems was weeds. Every time we went the weeds were horrendous – I’m talking about three or four foot tall.
Beth: Wow, OK.
Phil: I think he was getting quite depressed and so was I to be honest, because every time we went there all the time we were gardening.
Beth: Yeah, so you need someone else to look after it so you could have a bit more of a relaxing time when you go.
Phil: Yeah, yeah, which we can do now. So we haven’t got any major jobs to do now and we’re just chilling.
Beth: What do you love most about Spanish culture? You said it was in such a lovely part of Spain and you really immersed yourself in the climate and culture, how do you find it?
Phil: Yeah, it’s good, yeah, it’s good you see. It’s relaxed. We’re sort of on the wine trail, as well, so there are loads of little bodegas around, some fantastic restaurants that we’ve found. I would say that the cost of restaurants, there in particular, is quite expensive, surprisingly. Within about a quarter of an hour there are two Michelin star restaurants. So, where we are, where we live, although you wouldn’t think it, Pinoso is suppose to be the fifth richest town in Spain, but you wouldn’t think it to look at it.
Phil: It’s a working town more than a picturesque town, if you know what I mean. Obviously the money’s there because of all of the marble and the granite and almonds and wine.
Beth: Yeah, it’s an incredible part of the world. It must be so lovely. Do family and friends visit you a lot?
Phil: I wouldn’t say a lot because we haven’t really gotten everyone sorted just yet. We have now, so hopefully this year we’re going to see a lot more of them. Vickie’s sister and her husband came over for a couple of weeks and they had a good time. Yeah, it’s very relaxing.
Beth: It just sounds so nice that you can disappear for a couple of weeks at a time.
Phil: Yeah, there’s a lot to see around about as well, really as well. The last time we went… I mean we’ve only been back a week or so. But the last time we took a car trip to Cartagena, which is in the next province, which is very nice with a Roman Amphitheatre. So I mean, there’s loads of things to see, however we’re just scratching the surface, really.
Beth: Brilliant, well I hope you enjoy your next trip. I’m sure it will be great. Thank you so much for chatting to me today. I’m sure they’ll let you know when your podcast episode is going to be up on the website and you’ll be able to have a listen. Cheers Phil, have a lovely day.
Phil: All right, OK, bye now.
Thank you for listening and thanks to Phil for sharing his experience and GR Sunshine Properties for their help to make this episode possible
I particularly liked the sound of those wine trails as well as all the invaluable information about not only buying, but also building
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Tune in next week when I speak with Daniel, originally from Minster on Sea, in Kent
He purchased a three bedroom duplex in Playa Flamenca, Alicante. Inspired by friends, I can’t wait to tell you how straight forward the process was for him, so much so, that Daniel ended up buying the first one he saw.
I’m Beth Davison and you’ve been listening to the Kyero.com Spanish property podcast. I’ll see you next week!