Episode 24: Hilary who purchased in Iznajar, Córdoba

18th June 2018
Podcast host




Beth Davison

Podcast location

Relocated from



Iznajar, Córdoba

Episode 24: Hilary who purchased in Iznajar, Córdoba

Tune in to today’s show as we’re joined by guest Hilary, a Church of England Vicar and mostly retired, who bought a holiday home with his wife in Iznajar, Córdoba in 2015. Situated one hour north of Malaga, it’s an old farmhouse in a protected area. We learn more about Hilary’s experiences of buying in Spain, and the importance of knowing the exchange rate.

Show Notes

  • [3:00] The first intention of buying (not in Spain)
  • [5:18] How Sunset Country Properties helped the buying process
  • [5:46] Hilary’s experience of property viewings
  • [6:24] How his property was love at first sight
  • [7:08] The pros and cons of living in a protected area
  • [10:08] Buying in the UK vs buying in Spain
  • [11:26] How Hilary budgeted
  • [12:55] Advice on mortgages in UK vs Spain
  • [14:57] The importance of understanding currency when buying abroad
  • [16:26] Why they don’t let out the property
  • [17:44] How often they go out there
  • [18:45] How he finds Spanish living in the countryside





Read Full Transcript


Welcome to the Kyero.com Spanish Property podcast where we interview 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 Hilary from Harpenden who bought a house in Iznájar, Cordoba.

Wanting to be immersed in Spanish life was a top priority for Hilary as was some outdoor space with the property and the hot tub, of course.

Check out the show notes at kyero.com/podcast to find links and resources mentioned in this episode


Body of Transcript

Hilary:  My name is Hilary. I've worked as a commercial manager in a company for the last twenty years. I'm also a Church of England Vicar. I'm largely retired now. My wife and I bought a house in Spain in 2015. It's just south of Iznájar, which means it's about an hour north of Malaga, and an hour west of Granada.

It's an old farm house that's around seventy years old, I'd say. it's quite a large house and the previous owner have converted some of the stables into two guest bedrooms and a very nice guest bathroom. Together with that part and a large store and workshop area and the house itself, it sits on three sides of a courtyard and the fourth side is closed off with a wall.

So, it's a very nice place. It's very private in the courtyard, but at the same time we have garden round the house and the whole plot is standing within a field of olive trees, just alongside a little track which is a kind of earthen and concrete track. We're about a mile and a half from our local village.

Beth:  It sounds beautiful. That is a really lovely description of it, thank you.

Was it always the aim for you to have something with so much outdoor space and so much land, and a little bit more removed from civilization?

Hilary:  Well, you opened a whole lot of questions there, Beth.

First of all, we didn't start out to buy a house in Spain at all. Secondly, my wife, Marijke, is someone who likes to be near to a town, and even better near to a city, and I'm someone who rather likes the country. So, it's a good house for us and it meets a lot of our needs. But, we didn't quite set out to do this, it sort of happened by accident.

Beth:  So, explain more about that. What were you setting out to do, or were you not looking to buy abroad at all?

Hilary:  No, we were setting out to buy... let me tell you this, because of the age that I am (in my early sixties) we were setting out to sell our townhouse north of London. Our children have left so we don't need so much space, and buy a slightly smaller place - a house in the country in the UK.

We found a house and as time went by we progressively didn't like it, or we liked it less and less. My wife found it very cold and, in the end, we pulled out of the deal, which I have never done before and didn't like doing, but it was the right thing to do. Following that bizarre series of events, my wife continued to send me details of other houses that she was interested in, but I'd slightly lost heart, by then, to go through the whole process again.

Then I found the house which we subsequently bought in Spain. I thought it was a beautiful house. In fact we both did. So, instead of going to look at houses in the UK, one weekend, we flew out to Malaga and had a look at this house. Also, as we were there, we looked at some other houses. I think it's worth saying at this point is that one of the problems with the house we would have bought in the country in the UK, was that it was quite an old house and the ceilings were quite low and the windows quite small.

Marijke, my wife, prefers a house with high ceilings, big windows and lots of light. To arrive in Spain and find this marvellous farmhouse - a beautiful looking house it is, with big windows and lots of sunlight was something which hit a huge number of our hot buttons.

Beth:  Yeah, of course.

Hilary:  So, we saw it on a Saturday. We went back on the Sunday without the estate agent to just have another look and then we decided we wanted to buy it.

Beth:  Lovely, so, by this point you'd already been put in touch with this Spanish agent, yes?

Hilary:  We got through to Sunset Country Properties of Archidona. Their manager, Marcel Lohman, met us and took us to the house and showed us around. So yes, we were in touch with an estate agent. I think it's worth saying, actually, having bought the house, then of course you end up there and you don't know anyone and you don't know where to get anything. Marcel Lohman of Sunset Country Properties was superb in introducing us to an architect, to builders, and to people who could look after the property in our absence - just giving us those first footsteps into the local community.

Beth:  Yeah, absolutely, I can imagine that being invaluable. So, was it fairly easy to set up these viewings and sort your first visit? Was that all pain free?

Hilary:  Yeah, when we first went to visit the house, yes, it was extremely easy. I think we phoned them up and organized to go and see the house. Then I also phoned another Spanish estate agent who agreed to come and show us some other houses. So, it was a very straight forward process. We flew into Malaga on a Friday night, stayed overnight in Malaga, and drove the following day up to this area and that's where we met Marcel Lohman.

Beth:  So, you were seeing a handful of properties. Did any of the others appeal as much as the farmhouse that you went for, or was it love at first sight?

Hilary:  It was definitely love at first sight, no question. It's easy to rationalize these things after the event but I think the other houses didn't have as much to offer as this one did. This is a particularly well positioned house. It has a beautiful view. It's a nice looking house, but in comparison to the other two, for instance, it didn't have a swimming pool. So, that was a bit of a concern, but I think we parked that concern because it was just such a lovely house.

Beth:  Yeah, and presumably you could either build a pool or there are shared pools in the area that you can access. I suppose you're deciding on your priorities.

Hilary:  Well, it's rather more complicated than that because where the house is, is a protected area. There's good and bad in this. The good is that no one else can build any property in that area.

So, there's one or two houses nearby where (I say nearby, but there's nobody nearer than about four or five hundred metres) there are some properties where they were halfway through building when this law was brought in, so they were allowed to finish their project. But it's not possible to build anything else. So, it's good because it preserves our view. It preserves the beauty and simplicity of the area and the quietness of the area.

It does mean that we can't build outside of your footprint. That means we can't build a swimming pool. We've got over that problem and we're on the point of buying a hot tub, a Jacuzzi, which of course, you can't swim in it, but what you can do is you can sit in it in the cold water in the summer. In the winter you can sit in it in the hot water.

Beth:  Yeah, lovely.

Hilary:  So, it's got other uses that I guess you could say a swimming pool wouldn't have, but no, you can't swim in it.

Beth:  No, totally, it sounds that when you were going through these slightly limiting land laws and things like that did you have someone helping and explaining all of the way through, or was a lot of this on your own research that you found out about the planning?

Hilary:  No, we were very fortunate to have a good lawyer. Our lawyer was good in two respects. First, he's a local guy, but secondly, he's an Englishman. So, he's been in Spain for maybe twenty years or so, I don't know, but he was very, very familiar with the legal position.

Secondly, he was an Englishman which meant that it was very easy for us to ask, and probe, and dig because he understood where we were coming from and he understood what was the house buying process that we were familiar with. Secondly, our estate agent had introduced us to a very good architect who we asked to do a survey before we bought the house.

The survey wasn't too bad. It pointed out some work that needed to be done, but the architect who did it was a local man from Iznájar, and he was able to fill us in on some of the very local regulations that would have an impact on us.

Beth:  Fantastic, so, you're building up all the right contacts all the way through. So, having been through the painful process in the UK, then, which put you off from buying or looking anymore in the UK. How did you find the Spanish system of buying, comparatively?

Hilary:  When you stand back and look at it I would say that it was pretty straight forward because it was largely based on the same steps as buying a property in the UK. There are some differences, but we already had a property in the Netherlands. So, we'd gone through the Dutch process to buy a property and the process by which you go and sit down with a lawyer and you meet the seller and all of those things which happen also in Spain happen in Holland. So, being familiar with the UK process, and secondly having gone through the process in the Netherlands, it really wasn't very complicated.

Secondly, I think I would say that there is a lot of information on the web. But if you just keep in your mind that it's basically the same process as in the UK, then OK, as long as it's a little tweaky, but it's a little bit different, but it's not like you're buying a property on the moon or something. It's basically the same process to be gone through.

Beth:  Yeah, I think that sounds sensible. When it came to budget and financing, obviously you're working in a different currency, how did you find that? How was your budget? Did you manage to stick to it? Did you get what you wanted for that amount of money?

Hilary:  Well, we were or course in the stupid position, Beth, in that we had set out to buy a house in the UK. In order to buy the house in the UK we would buy it before selling our existing house, so we'd set up a temporary mortgage. By the time the mortgage came through we'd already pulled out of that house in the country in the UK. So, by the time we came looking in Spain we had a UK mortgage in place but no house to buy.

So, in one sense it's quite easy because the UK mortgage was a mortgage on our UK house. So, we were remortgaging our existing home, or remortgaging a percentage of it. The amount that we'd sought in the mortgage was plenty more than enough for what we would need in Spain.

Beth:  And it didn't change things?  Looking in a different country didn't change the criteria of you remortgaging?

Hilary:  No.

Beth:  They were fine regardless of what you were going to spend that money on. It didn't have to be in the UK?

Hilary:  It didn't make any difference because we were remortgaging an existing property. What we chose to do with the money was not of interest to the bank. So, they saw the existing house as the collateral, which of course it was. So, obviously, if we default on the mortgage they would seize the existing house in the UK.

Beth:  Yes.

Hilary:  The fact that we chose to buy another house in another country, or in the UK, or buy bottles of wine, or diamonds, was neither here nor there. I know other people take out a mortgage in Spain. My concern about that, which in fact has been born out by fact, is of course, if there's a massive currency shift, as there has been between the pound and the Euro.

Had we taken out a mortgage in Euros, and now the pound is up twenty per cent against the Euro, it would have proved pretty expensive. So, we took out the mortgage. It was in pounds. It was on a UK property. We needed considerably less than the amount which secured the mortgage. So when we got the mortgage the first thing that we did was to repay some of it. So, that got us in the good books of the bank.

What we then did was that we then transferred the rest into Euros. I'm going on memory here, but I guess we transferred, probably about forty thousand more Euros than what was required to buy the house. I'm very, very, very, very pleased that we did that because we were buying Euros at about $1.40 at that point. Today it's at $1.12. So, that gave us plenty of money through the building work, or the renovations and so on that we needed to do on the house within the first year.

Beth:   Yeah, which is perfect. So, that all worked out really well. Do you mind me asking what your budget was for your house, for the farmhouse that you've got?

Hilary:  We bought the house for about three hundred and twenty-five thousand Euros which included all the furniture, cups and saucers, and the like.

Beth:  Oh, lovely, ok, so it came furnished.

Hilary:  But we got one forty Euros per pound, so it was a considerably better time than it is now.

Beth:  Yeah, you sound like you were quite savvy and quite aware of the exchange rate and the kind of currency. So, would you say to put some research into the financial side of things before you purchase anywhere?

Hilary:  I would say that you definitely have to understand how the currencies move against each other. Things are very uncertain now, of course, and they will be uncertain certainly until the end of the Brexit transitions period - the end of 2020. I would be surprised if the pound was to improve against the Euro in the next two or three years, which is a shame, of course.

We were fortunate. We hadn't know that the pound would nosedive. We were fortunate that we bought at a good rate. I think that it's also worth saying that we just didn't go to the bank and just change the money. We worked through an organization that changes money for companies. I can give you the name, it's called Money Core and they're on the web. They changed the money for us at a pretty good rate.

Beth:  Right, ok great. So, you were even researching to that level, which I think is very sensible.

Hilary:  Because you can lose or gain so much money when you're moving three hundred thousand pounds or whatever. You can just gain or lose a lot.

Beth:  Yeah, totally. So, I think you got a great deal, but you also got a lot of land. You mentioned the guest rooms - the stable conversion out the back of your house. So, who do you have to visit most commonly? How do you use those? I'm assuming you don't ever let them, that it's all just family and friends coming to see you?

Hilary:  On the subject of letting, we had at one time thought we might let. We don't do that for two reasons. The first is that it appears to be the law in Spain that you can't let unless you've got certain facilities in place, particularly around heating and air-conditioning, and we haven't got those facilities in place.

Secondly, because one of the characteristics of an old farm house in the countryside is that it's not quite a plug-in Villa on the cost. When you get there you've got to check that the water is coming out of the well and that the gas bottles are plugged in correctly. it's not an very easy place just to plug-in and go.

So, in answer to your question, yes, we've had friends and family going out there to stay. When we're in Spain we tend to invite friends and family to come with us. We've had a lot friends over the two or three years that we've been there. it's just a really nice thing to do. It's lovely to spend time with one's friends and one's family and do fun things together. So, it is great and it's very nice having two well converted guest rooms.

Beth:  Yeah, it sounds like it's a lovely set up. What ratio of time do you spend over there at the moment?

Hilary:  Well, it's interesting that you asked that question because I recently calculated this. Last year I spent about twenty-two percent of my time in Spain.

Beth:  OK, then the rest of your time back in the UK or in the Netherlands?

Hilary:  No, I'm in the UK and partly in the Netherlands, but mainly in the UK. My wife is still working largely full time so, we're basically in the UK most of the time.

Beth:  Do you foresee, kind of post retirement, or when work isn't tying you to the UK so much, that you'll spend more and more time in Spain, or will it always be a fifth of your time there?

Hilary:  I would think it would grow a bit. I don't think that we'll move there permanently, but I think that it will grow, so yeah - maybe thirty, forty per cent - something like that.

Beth:  Yeah, lovely, it's great to have those options. I just want to talk about the lifestyle, lastly. What is it about the lifestyle in Spain that appeals to you?

Hilary:  Where to start? Well, first of all, Beth, I have to say this, we're living an hour north of Malaga. It's a very different place from living by the coast.

I've learned Spanish, on and off, for the last thirty years, one way or another. I now realize why, because compared to a restaurant in Iznájar or Malaga, or somewhere, I can do it all in English. If I open up in Spanish they look at my blond hair and respond to me in English anyway.

Where we are, an hour north of Malaga, it's completely different. If I open in English they look at me thoroughly confused. So, everything is in Spanish. All of my contact with the builder has been in Spanish, All of my contacts with local restaurants, shops, the place you buy tiles for the patio, every time I order sand or cement, it's all in Spanish.

So, what appeals to me is that I like very much the Spanish culture. I like the language. I like the written culture. I like the stories and I like to talk to people. So, for me that's a huge buzz. I think something that I hadn't quite anticipated was if you buy a farmhouse in the country, then all of your neighbours are going to be farmers. It's logical, but I hadn't thought that through.

We are surrounded by six, seven, eight farms. We know very well four or five of the farming families. They are such nice people. They are thoroughly decent, good, honest, and very friendly people. I'm hugely blessed to have come across people like that. The fact that we can communicate directly with them is very enriching because they're very keen to engage with us. So, I think the quality of the people locally has been excellent.

I like the landscape. it's very beautiful. we look out on the Subbeticas National Park. There's mountains and lakes and it's beautiful. I like the music, I like the shops, and I like the history. I find it very, very enriching.

I should say that we've been to Andalucía on and off for our holidays over the last twenty years or so. So, we've gotten to know the area quite well, but I think it's lovely. I like it. You can drive on the motorway without huge crowds of other cars.

Beth:  Yeah, totally.

Hilary:  So, I feel it's got a lot to offer. I think the public life in Spain, the municipal spaces, municipal parks and so on are beautiful. considering the economy is not so brilliant in Spain, I think they really do something very, very good with it.

Beth:  Yeah, absolutely. Well, I'm glad that you love it. I can hear in your voice how much you love it. There are so many things that you could list for me.

My last question is just about giving advice to anyone thinking about doing what you've done, what would your top pieces of advice be for people wanting to buy in Spain?

Hilary:  Well, right, I suppose first of all, the exchange rate - just understand about the money and the Euro. You can gain a lot or lose a lot.

Secondly, think about how you're going to use it ahead of time. We didn't do that really, and actually it's all worked out fine, but it might not have done. It was a shock for us to suddenly wake up and say we've actually got a house in Spain now, but how does that change our life? It has changed our life.

Thirdly, if you're going to be away from the coast, I think it's really important to get at least some Spanish. We've got neighbours who didn't have any Spanish and bought building works off a local supplier through Google Translate and they had a lot of problems with that. Not because there was any ill intent on either side, but just because they weren't able to have the direct communication. Spanish is a very, very straightforward language. There is lots of provision for English people to learn it. I just think it's worth taking that step quite seriously.

The other thing is to utilize your estate agent, because for us that was a big step in making the contacts with people, plumbers, electricians, architects, whatever, that we needed.

Beth:  Yeah, fantastic, well that's all great advice. Thank you so much. I feel that there's a wealth of information there that we've been diving into. I'm glad it's gone so well and I'm glad you're really enjoying owning a property over there and it seems to have worked out  really great for both of you. Thank you for talking to me about it. That was perfect.

Hilary:  Ok, bye, bye.


Thank you for listening and thanks to Hilary for sharing his experiences.

I love the sound of that hot tub - an excellent alternative if the property doesn't have the option of a swimming pool.

Don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast so you never miss an episode.

This podcast is produced by Kyero.com and our mission is to connect you with estate agents and properties throughout Spain.

Whether your dream home is a rustic farmhouse surrounded by olive groves or a lock-up-and-leave apartment on the seafront, you’ll find everything you need at Kyero.com

If you’ve enjoyed this episode, we’d really appreciate your 5 star rating on iTunes.  It helps us reach and connect more people with their dream home in Spain.

And, whenever you’re ready, here are four ways we can help you:

  • Ask a question by emailing Beth@kyero.com. We’ll try and answer them all in an upcoming Q&A episode
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Next week is the last in the season and we have a special guest for you. Tune it to hear top tips from Mark, Sales and Marketing Director at Taylor Wimpey España.

I’m Beth Davison and you’ve been listening to the Kyero.com Spanish property podcast. I’ll see you next week!


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