San José, California
Palma de Mallorca
Mark from USA joins Beth to share how he found his dream penthouse in Palma de Mallorca earlier this year. As a retired lawyer, Mark enjoys living full-time in this part of the world. He uncovers tips on meeting new people, negotiating and remodelling properties.
- [3:02] Experience of remodelling properties in the past
- [5:10] Why he chose Mallorca
- [7:08] Advice on making new friends when moving to a new town
- [8:53] The kind of property that suits Mark
- [11:38] Working with his budget
- [14:27] Learning about Spanish laws and paperwork
- [17:18] A sample of his daily Spanish lifestyle
- 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 Mark, originally from San Jose, California.
- He purchased his new dream home in Spain in Palma de Mallorca, in what he’s calling the encore from his career.
After doing four years of research around Spain, he has certainly done his homework in understanding what it is about Mallorca that really appeals to him. Mark worked with estate agents Synergy Homes 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
Mark: My name is Mark and I’m from the United States, specifically California. I spent twenty-six years as a lawyer in the San Francisco Bay area (San Jose, San Francisco) and took an early retirement a few years ago. What was my second home in Palm Springs, in the Southern California desert, became my primary residence where I retired.
Shortly after that I began travelling to Europe in earnest and the time I spent here became longer and longer. So, the last four years I have been pretty much living and travelling in Europe. Specifically, I spent about eight months, over a period of a few years, in London, and then over a year in Berlin up until the end of last October. But, the bulk of the time of the visits have been in Spain.
I spent a summer, three years ago, in Valencia studying Spanish and acquainted myself with the area. I have friends in Alicante, who are British, that live there part of the year, and I spent a month travelling, pretty much all over Spain: the Canary Islands, Galicia, Cantabria, the Basque Country, Barcelona, and came to Mallorca for the first time about three years ago, almost to the date by maybe four or five days. It was everything I thought it would be.
I decided that, probably, this is the place where I would want to settle. A lot of people have their own ideas about what’s good for you and a lot of times you ask, “Do you really want to live on an island? Do you have to access it by plane or by boat? It’s not as convenient as cities on the mainland. I’m aware of that, but I kept on coming back to this area as far as fulfilling my dream.
I’ve been here pretty much full time since February. I spent five weeks in the States to take care of some business. I purchased my attico which is a penthouse property at the end of March. It’s been undergoing a major remodel since then, so I haven’t really spent any more than maybe a couple of weeks at the property itself.
Beth: Wow, so not just buying, but remodelling. This is a big undertaking. Did it feel big? Has it always felt like this huge deal for you? Or do you think because you’re so well travelled that it just fits with who you are?
Mark: Well, I’ve remodelled properties before, homes in the States, but nothing in another country. So, I’ve kind of wanted to have a project, after being in a profession for so long, I say, “OK, what do I do for an encore now?” I’ve been searching that, trying to find an answer to that question ever since.
So, finding a property... I probably didn’t really need to do much of anything to it, but this is my home, so I really wanted it to be as tasteful and accommodating and as comfortable as it can be for me, and for family, and friends. So, I knew that undertaking a remodel was probably going to be a big project.
The main question was finding a reputable contractor. I had looked at numerous properties, when I was here last October and November, and one property I saw was really tastefully remodelled, and the owner had done it himself, or his company did. I didn’t buy that property, but in trying to find a contractor I contacted the realtor at the time, and asked him if the gentleman actually does contracting work. It turns out that’s the bulk of his business. So, he’s the one who has been doing the work and think I can trust him. He has integrity. I met the people he uses, and I have also hired an architect, technical, to tell me about the state of the property.
So, I feel I’m in good hands and I’m hoping that I can move back into it at the end of September. That’s not definite, but I’m hoping that’s the timeline I can hold them to, but we’ll see.
Beth: Fantastic, and when you first started looking, what was it about Mallorca? I know you said, you have done a lot of research. You know Spain very, very well. So what was it about Mallorca that made you go, “Yeah, this is it?”
Mark: Well, I liked the idea of living on an island. It’s a self-contained, defined area, but it’s not isolated, say, like the island of Hawaii is, which is a five hour flight. This is a short flight to the mainland and I can reach anywhere in Europe within a few hours. It has an international airport.
I wanted something with an urban setting, which Palma offers without being extremely large and overwhelming, for instance like Barcelona might be or Madrid. It’s an easily walkable city, but it offers a lot of the amenities of a larger city. It has a symphony orchestra, music’s important to me. It has opera, it has theatre, dining, shopping, if you want beach and the sea, that’s available. We have mountains here, Sierra de Tramuntana, which actually gets snow in the winter, and whole bunch of little tiny smaller towns a pueblos.
It just ticked all the boxes for me and I can easily hop on a plane and go somewhere else if I want to, but I just feel quite at home here. In the meantime I have been able to make friends. I’d like to maybe do some volunteer work, eventually. So, I have, kind of, a similar routine that I had in other places. This just happens to be on Mallorca. But, it just resonates with me. It offers a cosmopolitan, sophisticated, peaceful lifestyle without being pretentious. There are elements, like anywhere, of pretence and a lot of money, but you don’t have to surround yourself with that.
So, for me it just seems like home. Every day I express gratitude and appreciation. "Wow, I’m living in Europe!" It’s just really special I’m living my dreams and it happens to be here.
Beth: Incredible, that’s such good news. When you say socially it’s been good, and you’ve managed to make friends how did you... I think that's sometimes people’s fear, they are leaving a social network when they move. How did you make these friends?
Beth: How did you go about that?
Mark: [I make these connections] at the various coffee shops that I frequent, I have a list of three or four that I go to, and at some of the restaurants and bars that I have gone to.
There’s a group of folks that meet up, and this one happens to be geared towards classical music. So, I met a gentleman who is actually from York, from England, who spends half the year here, and through him I have met other people. They get together, obviously, for concerts and recitals in Palma and elsewhere on the island.
They have English speaking groups. A lot of the Spaniards, here, want to learn English. I met other folks from Sweden who are expats. So, it has kind of evolved, and then just by word-of-mouth and meeting various folks from other walks of life.
I think once I can find some volunteer work, either teaching conversational English or something, I’ll probably make even more friends. That was a concern. Most of the friends that I have in the Bay Area were either from work or from my little coffee clutch groups. Obviously, I have family out there too. So, at this point in my life I didn’t know how easy it would be to create a social network, but so far (knock on wood) it’s been pretty effortless.
Beth: Amazing, that’s fantastic. Now, let’s talk a little bit about the penthouse, itself. Did you know what you wanted? How clear were your ideas? When you flew out for the first time, you had narrowed it down to Mallorca, did you know the exact type of property you were looking for?
Mark: At this point in my life, with my lifestyle, as far as travelling, I felt that I probably needed an apartment as opposed to a single family home in the countryside. Ideally, lots of land and pets and animals and the whole thing, that would be wonderful, but the reality is it’s a lot of work, it’s a lot of effort to maintain.
If I’m travelling I’d have to have a caretaker, so I just didn’t want to be beholding to that kind of a lifestyle anymore. So, having an apartment was important, having something on the top floor where I don’t have people over me was also important. Not so much in the touristy area where you open your door and you have hordes of tourists [instead] I wanted something a little bit more quiet, in a residential area.
So, I did look in the old part of town. I looked at some fairly expensive properties, but couldn’t justify the cost for a one bedroom apartment for four hundred and fifty thousand Euros. Despite being in a really great location, it just didn’t make any sense.
So, I had looked, in earnest, at properties in October and November. I went back to the States for December and January, and came back here in February and just happened to be walking in Santa Catalina and saw a little advertisement on the window of Synergy Homes, the real estate agency I eventually used. With this particular property, it was a top floor, it had a large terrace, and it had decent views. It needed some updating and the price was far lower than I had budgeted. So, I contacted Jackie Evers, who is the realtor, and saw the property. The owner had dropped the price significantly, and it seemed to tick all the boxes for me. So, I made an offer, and within thirty days... We closed, I think it was March 22.
Yeah, I could have bought a larger property. I could have bought a property that was pretty much complete, completely remodelled, but that’s not really what I wanted. I don’t mind smaller properties. It has about sixty square meters, which might be a little small for a lot of people, two bedrooms one bath. The terrace is about 30 square meters. If I want to access my roof, I can do that and put chairs and tables up there if I want. It has views, not of the sea. I can walk to the port in about five minutes, but it has a view of the Bellver Castle and the mountains, and a city view. It spoke to me, and here I am now waiting for it to be ready.
Beth: Yeah, it sounds beautiful. So, with your budget, when you were calculating that. do you mind me asking how much you... What was your top end, what sort of thing you thought you’d be able to get for your money?
Mark: Yeah, I kind of had in mind that I didn’t want to go over four fifty, five hundred and, obviously, the lower the better. This was originally listed at two forty, and she lowered it to two twenty-five and I actually, eventually got it for two twenty. Then you need to add about twelve percent closing cost to the purchase price. With the remodel I figure I’ll be all in, at the end, for around three hundred thousand Euros, which is below my budget. And I’ll have a brand new property, hopefully, without any problems.
Beth: It sounds like you’re quite bold with your negotiating. I’m noticing a reduction in cost there, that’s great, and so, did you negotiate that drop?
Mark: Yeah, Jackie when she lowered the price to two twenty-five, would she take two-fifteen, two-twenty? She suggested that the two twenty would be the sweet spot, so I was OK with that. As it turns out there were some issues with the property which I didn’t know about until I went in and opened up ‘techos’ false ceilings. You open the ceilings and you can see what the state of the structure is.
Beth: Ah, OK.
Mark: So, with the help of the architect, who is also a technical engineer, we discovered that the beam, the main beams in the apartment, there are five of them, were rusting, were oxidizing from the salt air, after seventy years.
So, in Spain there’s a concept of defects. So, within certain parameters, the seller has to pay, if it’s within six months, which, fortunately it was, of the discovery of the purchase date, the seller has to pay for whatever my part would be even though they’re in my apartment, they’re a community cost because they impact the structure of the building. So, she had to pay my portion.
As it turns out, my neighbours in their attico, they’re here part of the year and then in Barcelona, they had the same issues with their ‘vigas’ which are beams, and it looks like she’ll have to pay my portion of that too. So, that took two or three weeks to resolve and I just fronted the money to complete it and get on with the remodel.
There are seven neighbours, we’ve received half the funds, and I have been assured that the others will eventually pay, but I just wanted to get moving with this remodel. That was one little hiccup, but otherwise it was a fairly effortless closing. I had a lawfirm, help me through the process and I was pleasantly surprised it was an easy, if not easier, than a lot of transactions that I had been through over in the U.S.
Beth: It seems like you had a lot of information. Did you know already about Spanish laws, and the differences in this and whose responsibility which bit was, or did you learn this as you went, through Jackie’s advice, or the solicitor’s advice?
Mark: Yeah, I was aware of the cost involved in the closing, and I was a little bit ignorant about what documents I needed. I had assumed that I needed to get my NIE, which is an identity number for residents, for foreigners, before I could do anything. That’s true, but just to back up a little bit, I obtained Spanish citizenship. So, I have dual Spanish and American citizenship. It was a long process and I just got it a few months ago.
But, at the time I was looking I didn’t have that in place. I was still a foreigner and thought I really couldn’t buy anything until certain documents were in place and a certain procedure followed. As it turns out, as I found out more about that, in February, you can get an NIE for the sole purpose of buying property. You don’t need it for other purposes. I didn’t know that, but the law firm was able to help me with that. Otherwise I would have purchased earlier.
But it was also, in part, contingent on selling my home in Palm Springs, which closed in October and I sold a property in France. So, everything came to the point where I could actually act when I did. But with the latent defects, that has happened, I happen to be staying in an Air B&B, where I have been during the process, and explained the issue of the beam. The owner, the host, just happened to mention this concept of latent defects. I didn’t know about it. I researched it and spoke further with the law firm, and sure enough, I was protected. But, for that conversation, I would never have known, and was six months would have elapsed and I would have been stuck. So, it was a learning process.
Beth: I suppose this is why it's good to talk to people and be really honest about your situation and people try to... The theme is, throughout these podcasts, is just trusting those people who want to help you and there’s always someone out there for advice.
Mark: Exactly, yeah, yeah, I mean, doing your own research helps so that you can make an informed decision. But so far I have encountered trustworthy, genuine folks who have been very helpful through the process, from the lawyer, the realtor, to the contractor and, so far, I’ve been impressed with the quality and the calibre folks here, professional and otherwise.
Beth: Great, let’s talk a little bit about lifestyle. What’s your day like? I know, at the moment, it’s slightly different for you because you’re not quite back in the property after the remodel, but Spanish life, what does that look like for you?
Mark: For me, I’m up early in the morning. I walk and pick up the local newspaper, work on my Spanish, do my sudoku and I go to my first coffee stop, and I get a flat white, or a matcha latte, and sometimes I get breakfast. Then I’ll go get second newspaper, and go to my second coffee shop, and maybe that’s not terribly engaging, but it’s just kind of my lifestyle now.
Beth: It sounds lovely.
Mark: Yeah, I’ll go to the gym and if I have errands to run, bureaucrat business to make, which I’ve had a lot of lately, take care of those. Sometimes I’ll have lunch when I come back, sometimes I skip that, sometimes I take a nap.
During the season there are concerts in the evening. There are recitals at some of the cultural centres and churches. Then visiting my property, daily, to see what the progress is. Once I have a place to call home I’ll probably be eating out less and cooking more in the home and entertaining more, and having friends over ,and preparing meals like I used to do when I had a home.
So, right now it’s just kind of enjoying my leisure but yet I’m having what's left of my possessions shipped out from California, they should arrive here in October. I like to take up violin lessons again. A lot if it is very kind of self absorbed all about me, languages, travelling, music, and that’s fine, but I kind of feel the need to do some kind of volunteer work to be giving and helping other folks.
I think that will fall into place. I have a number of potential contacts that I can pursue, once I’m ready to do that. So, my daily life may change a little bit where I have some commitments during the week. But I'm not looking, necessarily, to have a job again, to work, but to do something in a voluntary context would be beneficial and I'd enjoy it.
Beth: Amazing, and how many Americans are there back in Palm Springs who are itching to come and visit?
Mark: There are quite a few. I'll have one extra bedroom with a bed, and, unfortunately, not more accommodations. But yeah, I met up with some friends, a few weeks ago, who were visiting Valencia. So, I went there for just a quick little weekend. So, they'll be coming to visit me, and my aunt, and cousins on the east coast in the States. So, once I have a place where I can accommodate people, I'm sure I'll have a steady inflow, which will be fun, I think, something to look forward to.
Beth: Yeah, definitely. Well, I'm glad it's all going so well. The last question is, if someone is thinking about taking the leap, and buying somewhere in Spain, what would your main pieces of advice be? You have been a wealth of information already, but if there was one thing, what would you say?
Mark: Thank you.
Listen to your heart. I know that's kind of trite, but answer for yourself what's important to you in a geographic setting. Do you want the sea? Do you want the Mediterranean Sea? Do you want the Atlantic? Do you want inland? Do you want an urban setting? Figure out what is important to you as far as the physical setting, the city or the town.
Then decide the type of property: if you want an apartment, or single family home, a place with land. Do you want something that needs to be remodelled, or that's turnkey and ready to go? Is golf important to you (it's not to me, but it is to a lot of folks)?
Then, obviously, figure out what your budget is, and then ask questions. Don't be afraid to ask questions. Assemble your support group the contractors, realtors, lawyers and whatever else you might need for your comfort level. Then take the plunge, and go from there. I don't think there will be any looking back if you go into it with your eyes open.
Beth: Fantastic, well I'm glad it has been such a good journey for you and a very exciting year. I'm sure it will be great, in September, when you finally get back in and can see the remodel. It sounds perfect.
Mark: Yeah, I hope so.
Beth: Thank you so much for chatting to me, Mark.
Mark: Thank you, my pleasure. Once again, thank you for your time.
Beth: Have a lovely day, bye.
Mark: You too, bye bye.
- Thank you for listening and thanks to Mark for sharing his experiences, and to Synergy Homes for making this episode possible.
- It’s great that Mark has managed to an urban setting that caters to his interests but also has the seclusion of island life. It sounds like the perfect hybrid for him.
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- Tune in next time when I speak with Carrie, a school teacher from Belfast, who worked with estate agent Galician Country Homes to find her dream home in Spain.
- Find out how Carrie’s Camino adventure ended up inspiring a big life change.
- I’m Beth Davison and you’ve been listening to the Kyero.com Spanish property podcast. I’ll see you next time!