After having worked in the construction industry for over 30 years, Colin took the plunge to retire aged 53 and permanently move to Spain with his wife and puppy. Having only been to Spain once before, they immediately fell in love with their home within 9 seconds. Hear Colin’s advice about show homes, adjusting to retired life, and how they came across Benijofar.
- [1:19] What drew them first to Spain
- [2:31] The health benefits of sunshine and lifestyle changes
- [5:17] The two pieces of advice from his agent that still stands out to Colin
- [8:09] What to look out for in show homes
- [10:53] Colin’s biggest learning curves, including taxes
- [15:52] Why moving to a new house in Spain is different to England
- [18:00] Adjusting to retirement life
- Welcome to the Kyero.com Spanish property podcast where we interview people who recently purchased their dream 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 Colin originally from Wakefield. He purchased his new dream home in Spain in Benijofar, on the Costa Blanca.
- As a dog lover, Colin’s story really appeals to me, and you’re about to hear how having a canine companion can result in a long road trip to reach your new life!
- Along with his wife Suzanne, Colin worked with estate agent Live Med Coast to find his dream home in Spain.
- Check out the show notes at kyero.com/podcast to find links and resources mentioned in this episode
Body of Transcription
Colin: My name is Colin Dean, and what I did was I was the lead consultant for Epical, one of the largest software houses in the world. And, at the edge of 53, I decided that I'd had enough of working and I was going to move to Spain and get some sun with my wife and my puppy whose birthday it is today!
Beth: Oh, happy birthday to the puppy! That makes sense. So, was it the sun that drew you initially? Was it the weather? How did this conversation start?
Colin: It's much too long a story to bore you with, but it started with that we'd been to America a very large number of times and wanted to move to America. [We] found that it was going to be difficult to move to America, so we went for plan B, and plan B was to come to Spain, having only been here once in our lives. We thought our money would go further, health and happiness, etc. etc. We've got no regrets all-be-it we're only four months in.
Beth: Amazing though. So, to have only been there once, did it feel like a bit of a gamble?
Colin: I don't do gamble. It was an educated guess, shall we say. I have an individual beat that I left before my final job, one of the senior members of staff also sort of moved to Spain in that he lives here for three weeks, then he goes home for three weeks, then he lives here for three weeks, and he's been doing that for years and he only had good things to say. He was always very healthy, and he always looked very tanned.
Beth: There is a part of it that it does just help health. A lot of people have said that. It's just a bit more sun; a change of lifestyle has made all the difference.
Colin: Absolutely. Whilst I'm sure that would be the case, I'm not a sun fan, personally, but my wife is a sun goddess. She will catch the sun anywhere, and health is not really an issue to us. So, we just, after 35 years of working it, it was about time to spend some time with each other rather than passing in the night, as it were: getting up early, going to work, coming in late, so it was something different.
Beth: Yeah, absolutely. Did you think about doing a kind of a split thing like the friend that you mentioned, three weeks here, three weeks there? Or did you always know it was going to be a permanent move?
Colin: No, when we were discussing it as a couple, the problem we had about that was that you would only have half a life in each place. I know that sounds like that's obvious, but it means that you would have to compromise on your home in both places. So, by selling off lock, stock, and smoking barrel, as it were, it meant that we could have the dream home rather than sharing two OK places.
Beth: Yeah, so talk to me about the dream home. What was definitely on your list that you had to find and what did you discover along the way?
Colin: That's an interesting one. So, we came up with a plan. We knew what we were going to get for our own home, plus we had some savings, and we decided that our budget for this momentous move was going to be three hundred thousand pounds. That was the plan, three hundred thousand, which, when I spoke with Anthony, was a bit more than what he normally deals with. He normally does around the two-fifty, but we were looking for three hundred as a total cost.
When we got over here... Well, let's go backward one step, we did a lot of research before we came, a huge amount of research, and everything that we did pointed to one particular house, a specific builder in Villa Martin, and it was the perfect house, and we called it the Two, Eight, Five House and that was because it was two hundred and eighty-five thousand Euros, which fit in kind of nicely, because with the exchange rate at the time that worked out at about two hundred and forty thousand pounds, and we'd have sixty thousand pounds for the stuff to make it nice and furnished and what have you.
Beth: Yeah, absolutely.
Colin: So, we came over here with a view that we were buying that house and anything else didn't really matter, and Anthony very kindly picked us up at Mercia Airport, and in amongst the conversation he says many things, but two things that stick in my mind. The first one was, "I'm going to guarantee you the house that you've chosen on the internet will not be the one that you buy, and the house that you do buy you will fall in love with within nine seconds."
Beth: Interesting, OK.
Colin: They were my two takeaways from the pickup from the airport. So, he took us to a variety of places. The Two, Eight, Five House wasn't first on the list. I think it was about fourth. He was bang on the money on both. We saw the Two, Eight, Five House and hated it.
Colin: Pictures are fantastic, but reality is an entirely different animal. We absolutely did not like that house. So, full of disappointment on day one, we got up to day two and Anthony took us to somewhere that we hadn't considered, wasn't on our hit list. He came up... because he read Suzanne really, really, well. Suzanne knows what she wants, and she's very good at specifying. So, he came along with, "I know just the place!" And he brought us to Benijofar, and we went to have a look at a house which is just around the corner from where I'm sitting right now and it didn't even take nine seconds for me to fall in love with it and for Suzanne also, but we didn't buy that. The reason we didn't buy it is because the builder said, "Well if you love that one, you're going to love this one even more." So we went and had a look at the house that I'm now sitting in, and we loved that even more and we bought that one.
Beth: Oh, wow! So it was a real journey. That's a real shift. That's a geographical shift, was it a very different style of house, the one that you went for?
Colin: Well, first of all, yes, you're right, they were totally different. The Two, Eight, Five House was in Villa Martin and what you see is in a picture, and the picture was fantastic. When we got there, I'm going to use a line that has been well used, and we've heard it many times since we got here, "it was a concrete jungle." So, there was house, upon house, upon house, upon house, and you couldn't swing a cat. Even though this was quite a large house at two hundred and eighty-five thousand Euros, it just wasn't for us.
I come from the construction industry and whilst I wasn't looking directly at the big picture, I was looking at the detail and things like door handles and light fittings and... when you do a show home it should be perfect because that's the one that sells the house, and if it's not perfect that's what people will take away. Rarely is the actual house that you buy as good as the show home.
The show home has to be perfect, and the show home wasn't perfect. There were light fittings that didn't fit. There were door handles that were wobbling. There were doors that didn't fit in the kitchen - a variety of different things. It was an upstairs/downstairs, and there was nothing wrong with it what so ever in terms of its layout. It seemed quite small. There were a large number of rooms but totalling the same square footage as the house that we're in, or of square metreage shall I say.
Beth: So, talk to me about that. Does that feel spatially very different?
Colin: It's hugely different. My difficulty, not our difficulty, my difficulty is that we left a very large house. So, we bought a house off-plan in the UK, moved into it, made it our home, spent a lot of money making it our home even though it was brand new and we lived in there for over nineteen years, but it was... in square metres, it was a six hundred square metre plot with an almost two hundred square metre living area, not including garages, of which there were two of them as well. What we moved into is a hundred and twelve square metres with a one hundred square metre solarium, which is the thing that makes it hugely different, but it's got only a small number of rooms. I'm sitting in the lounge right now which is huge, which is the lounge, the dining room, and kitchen which is what makes it big, and then I can see the three bedrooms, one bathroom and one bathroom ensuite, which I can't see, and that's it. So, there's a small number of rooms but, with the high ceilings as well, it feels big.
Beth: Yeah, it sounds like it was exactly what you wanted. As you say, "[It took] less than nine seconds to walk in and just know." Was Suzanne the same?
Colin: Yes, yes, yes, yes, without a doubt. So, nine seconds was for the house that we didn't buy, but this one we just loved even more. It didn't have stairs, so it wasn't upstairs/downstairs, which whilst we're on... well, Suzanne is only in her early fifties, and I'm fifty-four, so it's not an issue to us now, but this is supposed to be our forever home now. So, in the future, climbing up and down stairs may be an issue, so we decided, at the time, wouldn't it be good if we didn't have stairs.
Beth: I think that's really sensible because if your envisaging life is in Spain now, you want to be comfortable for however many decades. I think it's really good to... not everyone that I speak to thinks in those kinds of terms. It sounds like you're quite educated in buying property anyway. How much of this was a learning curve, and how much did you think, "No, you know what? I've done this in the UK; it's going to be similar."
Colin: Massive, I got it all completely wrong over here. Today's budget here for us, so, we've done a budget for the house, which we got completely wrong because I didn't understand or appreciate that when you see the price on a house, number one it doesn't include IVA tax, is it IVA tax?
Beth: The tax, yeah, yeah.
Colin: So, that was a big shock to me. Number two (I should know this because I've always been a car buyer; I'm a huge car fan, and the list price of the car is never what you pay), so, the house that we bought we had a budget of three hundred thousand Euros, it ended up costing us three hundred and seventy-nine thousand Euros and then we put another twenty-odd thousand in extras.
Beth: Right, OK, so you were quite far over budget in the end. Yeah, that's a bit.
Colin: Way over budget.
Beth: Yeah, that's almost a third, that's a third over budget, isn't it?
Colin: Well yeah, the tax alone, so the house ended up being three hundred and forty-nine [thousand], and then we had to put on another thirty-five thousand in tax that I wasn't expecting. Because when we sold our house, it went on the market for two weeks for two hundred and eighty thousand, and two hundred and eighty thousand was the number. You didn't then put on another twenty-eight thousand for tax.
Beth: Yeah, totally.
Colin: It was two hundred and eighty thousand. So, that was a shock that I didn't know about.
Beth: Did you have help? Did you feel your agent was helpful and along the way you became aware of these additional numbers, or would you have liked a bit more guidance?
Colin: No, it would be unfair for me to be critical, and I won't be because Anthony was absolutely superb, absolutely superb and turned into a friend rather than an employee if you like. He was brilliant... he understood the area really, really well. I've got no complaints about all of the work that Anthony had done. But he never mentioned the fact that, "Oh, by the way, you've got to add on VAT to that." It's just one of those things.
You know, I'm sitting... where we are there is lots of development going on. There's a house across the way which says, "Buy this house for three hundred and forty-nine thousand", and I just knew that it would be three hundred and forty-nine thousand plus VAT, plus you'll have to pay for the pool, plus you'll have to pay for any extras that you want. So, it will be nothing like three hundred and forty-nine thousand. It will be near upward of fifty.
Beth: Yeah, totally. It's a good thing to bear in mind so that you know that now, and anyone listening to this can take that away from the experience. And I always find that once you're in, once you're settled, the memory of overspending, if it's viable, does tend to just always be worth it and kind of fade from memory.
Colin: But only if you can afford it, I suppose. If it was going to put us into difficulty, then that memory would linger, but it hasn't put us into difficulty. It's changed a little bit the way we were because we were sitting thinking we were going to have a hundred thousand pounds because I can't claim my pension yet. I'm not old enough. We were going to be living on that hundred thousand pounds. I know a hundred thousand pounds in a year should be more than enough to live on, but it just meant, you know what, I'm not buying that boat that I was going to buy, and I'm not going to buy a new car that I was thinking of because that money is not there anymore.
Beth: Communication, planning, you guys seem to be across it. You've put a lot of thought into budgets which, again, isn't always a given.
Colin: Oh yeah, yeah. I've got no complaints, and of course, the other thing was that we then had to furnish because we came over empty-handed effectively, so we have to and furnish the house, and I would say that, definitely, furnishings in Spain are considerably more expensive than they are in the UK and certainly ??? very expensive.
Beth: Interesting, so you've had to do everything from scratch, you brought nothing over?
Colin: Yeah, no.
Beth: And that's quite an adventure. Did you find that quite... that's a big undertaking, did that feel intimidating?
Colin: It was. It was more than just an adventure. So, we travelled because we had Arby, our puppy, we couldn't just jump on a plane. So, we actually sold everything that we owned except for a handful of personal possessions that were important rather than... they were nostalgic rather than central if you know what I mean. And we kept one car, and we rented an RV, and we drove the entire journey from Leeds to Southern Spain which was 1,500 miles. That was a journey in itself, which took us three very long days.
So, there was that, and then, of course, there was moving into a brand new house in Spain is nothing like moving into a brand new house in the UK, which is what we've done several times. Their idea of finished and our idea of finished are not the same. So, there were things that were still to be done, and here we are three months down the road, and this packing list is not complete.
Beth: Yeah, yeah. I've heard that before that it's...
Colin: Yeah, the builder thinks he's finished because the structure is up, but that doesn't mean that all the fixtures and fittings are complete. That doesn't mean that the taps are running. It doesn't mean the electricity is working. That doesn't mean that the pool is sorted. Then we had some tough times with the... we went to an interior design company for the furniture, and they just sat... we sat for eight hours, and we went through everything and put forward proposals which we accepted. Then, when we got here on the day that we were moving in, the furniture was, A, wasn't here, B wasn't right, or C it didn't work - didn't fit. So, that was difficult. So, we've been in this house now for, I don't know, about three months and it's only in the last couple of weeks that we've been in a position where the stress levels have come down, and we can genuinely say, "You know what, it's almost paradise."
Beth: Oh, well, well done. It sounds like you've worked really hard for it and it's all coming together. Is it going to be something that you share with other people? Are you going to have guests over? What is your plan for the future?
Colin: Oh, we've already had them. We've had three lots of guests already, and we've got more in two week time. And I'm sure that people will come. You know what it is - sun, and free holiday. Why would somebody not come?
Beth: But it's amazing that you can share that with your friends as well, that that's such a lovely kind of gift you can give.
Colin: Yeah, yeah, absolutely.
Beth: And I say this, having experienced quite a bad summer so far here in England, do you miss it at all?
Colin: Ummm, it was a big change for me because I have worked, non-stop, without a break, for such a long time, and then turning the tap off completely, that was a big deal. And having got a house which is effectively half the size: I don't have a study, I don't have a garage, I don't have anywhere where even if I wanted to work I could, which is kind of good in a way because it means I can't.
Beth: Yeah, it stops you.
Colin: Yeah, it was cold turkey. One minute I'm working, on the twenty-second of February I'm not working, on the twenty-fifth of February I jumped in an RV and drove to Spain.
Beth: Wow! It's an amazing adjustment.
Colin: Ummm, yeah. Have I got any regrets? Not a one, no.
Beth: That's so great. And, the final question is, what is your favourite things about Spain, Spanish life, living there, have you got any standout favourites?
Colin: The house is a standout. The house is absolutely wonderful, really, really, really good. Suzanne made it ours, that's great. The sun doesn't bother me. The swimming pool doesn't bother me. I've only been in it once in three months because I can't swim. The house is absolutely the one.
Beth: Amazing, well, this can be your new challenge now. Now that the tap is off and you've got this free time you can learn to swim.
Colin: Possibly, possibly.
Beth: Well, I'm glad that it seems to go so well. Well done, you've really worked for it. I'm really pleased that you have really positive things to say about your agent and that it has all gone brilliantly. Thank you so much.
Colin: Anthony was fantastic, really, really great. I cannot praise him enough. It would have been impossible without him.
Beth: Fantastic. Well, thank you so much for talking to me today and keep enjoying your lovely Spanish life. Cheers, Colin.
Colin: Thank you for your time.
- Thank you for listening and thanks to Colin for sharing his experiences, and to Live Med Coast for making this episode possible.
- I loved Colin’s description of Suzanne as a sun goddess! And it sounds like the Costa Blanca is a pretty perfect place for that. And interesting that Colin’s opinion is that you rarely buy the house you see on the internet – it sounds like, for them, viewings were very important.
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- Tune in next time when I speak with Alma from London, who worked with Spanish Property Expert to find her dream home in Spain.
- Alma’s goal was to skip winter and spend the colder months of the UK in sunny Spain. Having previously owned in Malta, find out exactly what it was that enticed her to the region of Murcia.
- I’m Beth Davison and you’ve been listening to the Kyero.com Spanish property podcast. I’ll see you next time!