Two years ago Debra bought a town house in Olvera with her husband. With their very methodical approach to finding the right home, Debra shares some really useful and practical insights that can help you with your buying process. Hear how to be clear with what you want, what the community is like in Olvera, and what it’s like owning a second home abroad.
- [2:39] What Debra considered from the get-go
- [4:39] How they found their agent
- [7:33] What to bear in mind before you do your viewings
- [10:30] An English expat who gave her a local Spanish tour
- [11:42] How she uses her holiday home
- [12:18] The process of buying a car in Spain
- [15:38] Finding places with zero crime rates
- 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 Debra, originally from the Northeast of England. She purchased her dream home in Spain in Olvera, in Andalucia. Again, this is another story of someone thinking they knew exactly what they wanted but, after doing some research (three years in Debra's case), and visit to Spain, what they wanted turned out to be something completely different.
- Debra worked with estate agent, Olvera Properties, to find her 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
Debra: OK, so my name is Debra and I'm a director for one of the charitable arms of NHS. It's a quite busy role, and I purchased a Spanish house, on a Spanish street, in a little Spanish town.
Beth: That sounds delightful. When did the whole process start for you? How long has this been in the pipeline?
Debra: So, we actually bought the property two years ago, as of now. We started the process many years before that, probably about five years before that, where we started to investigate what it was that we thought that we wanted. We did lots and lots of information gathering over, probably, five years before we finally decided on what it was that we wanted.
Beth: And when you say 'we' who are you having those conversations with?
Debra: My husband, just me and my husband.
Beth: And were you looking for the same types of things?
Debra: No, and I think that's probably a really good point. Right at the beginning of the journey what we thought we wanted, actually, was nothing like what we ended up with.
Debra: Yeah, it was interesting. So, my husband wanted to somewhere that was kind of an urbanization type style, where there was other people, and with a pool. He definitely wanted a pool. I didn't really want that. I wanted a bit more traditional. I didn't want the bother of a pool. So, we started the journey with one thing: he wanted something that we could bring family out to, that kind if thing; no, I wanted a bolt hole that we could just get away too.
So, we started off wanting very, very different things. Actually, as I say, where we got too, we landed with something that, mutually, we both love.
Beth: So, it was and exercise in compromise?
Debra: It was an exercise in compromise, absolutely it was.
Beth: So, did you have a budget in mind? Obviously, when you guys were compromising on this middle ground were you thinking that you knew the amount of bedrooms that you wanted? How much did you know? How much did you tell your agent from the get-go?
Debra: From the get-go we did have a budget in mind, although we didn't divulge that budget, actually, right at the beginning. We said what we wouldn't go over the top end. We said we didn't want less than two bedrooms but we would go up from that. We didn't want something too big and, equally, we wanted southern Spain, we wanted two bedrooms plus, and we knew the kind of budget we didn't want to go over. Other than that we were really open minded.
Beth: Did you find that that was enough for them to go on when they showed you those first couple of properties? How did the process happen?
Debra: No. The first thing that we did was that we actually went out to Spain three times, over, probably, a three year period, once we'd settled and said we definitely want to be in southern Spain. We didn't really care where we wanted to be.
I wanted to be near the coast. My husband really bothered once we had kind of got to the position where we knew whereabouts in Spain we wanted to be. We went on three trips. We spent a week at a time where we just went into a hotel.
So, for example, we parked ourselves in Granada and said, "Today we're going to look at houses with a two hour driving space of here, going south. Then, tomorrow we're going to go two hours west; then two hours east; then two hours north.
So, we were prepared to do a circular motion around Granada. So, that was one example of what we did. We looked at anything from cave houses to places on golf courses, to urbanizations. So, we parked in Granada, we parked in Mercia, and, initially, we parked in Alicante, which was when we knocked northern Spain off, and said we definitely want to be in southern Spain.
Beth: It just sounds like it was very logical, that it was very methodical. How helpful was your agent in this process?
Debra: So, at that point we didn't have an agent. We'd counted on lots of internet searching. What actually happened was we happened upon our agent which was absolutely wonderful. So, the very last trips that we did was to Granada. That was the last trip that we did. The day before we'd done two other trips prior. On the day before we were due to leave (we'd had four days of looking and hadn't found anything that we liked), my husband was really kind of downhearted about it. So, on that night, we had a search of the internet and we came across some houses in little town called Olvera, and I said, "Let's go and have a look at these."
It was a bit more than two hours from where we were, but I said "Let's do the driving and we can kind of go from the airport." So, we did the drive and as we were going over the valley and it was with Olvera Properties, all of the houses were with one property agent, which was Olvera Properties.
So we went to have a look at five houses on that day. As we went over the valley, and we saw the Andalusian town and the church and the cattle on the top, we kind of went, "Wouldn't it be wonderful if it was there," and it was.
Beth: Yeah, it's a good feeling.
Debra: It was a great feeling. Even though we started out by saying we wanted to be within forty minutes of the airport, we're not, but that was the compromise. We got the Andalusian town, we got the views, we got everything else.
So, we saw five houses at that point. What that did was that made us make the decision of we definitely want to be in Olvera or the surrounding area. So, we came home. We contacted Olvera Properties and that's when things started to get a bit more specific.
So, we dealt predominantly with the Zoe, and she said, "Right, let me send you ten houses, and tell me what you do or don't like about the ten houses." So, I made arrangements to go for a week and just stay in Olvera for a week, making sure that I was there on a weekend so that I could get a feel for a working town and the weekend feel.
She sent me ten properties and I looked at the ten properties online, the details, and chose the ones that I liked. From the ones that I liked, clearly she was fairly experienced, because she then sent us over fifteen and said, "Based on what you've told me, and the ones that you've chosen, here are about fifteen houses that you can see that week. They are similar, similar price and that was how we started.
Beth: Wow, fantastic, so you had loads of options, would you advise viewing as many as you possibly can before you make a choice? I know people sometimes go about this differently, but it sounds like, for you, viewing as a kind of imperative.
Debra: It was absolutely imperative. It's a big investment and it's a lifestyle choice. I think that, if I was going to give anybody a piece of advice it would be to decide what you want it for. So, we wanted it, ultimately, for us. We started off by saying that we wanted it to be able to accommodate family, but where we got to in the end was actually that this isn't about them, this is about us, and this is about us getting away and putting ourselves into the centre.
So, that would be my first piece of advice. If I was going to buy a place that could accommodate my family, although I do have a three bedroom townhouse. I wouldn't want two families in my three bedroom townhouse. I would have bought something bigger. So, I think the first bit is to understand what you want it for and work from there.
So, view as many as you can. So, we looked at, we looked at golf courses, we looked at cave houses, we looked at townhouses, we looked at urbanizations, we viewed a few apartments. From that we were able to knock things off really quickly. We definitely don't want an apartment. We defiantly don't want a golf course. We were just able to really get it to a point where we could make some traces.
Beth: And in the location itself, how much homework did you do? You mentioned on the weekend and on the weekday, I think that's really sensible. Did you get to know any locals? Did you know people who were already there? Did Zoe help out with that?
Debra: Yeah, so, one of the husband's concerns was in these type of little towns they speak very little English. But that was actually a bit of a pull for me. I want traditional spirit and I want to be able to learn a bit of language. I don't want to go to Spain and be English. I want to be with people that are Spanish. So, we settled on that. Zoe was brilliant. The whole team, actually, were brilliant.
So, Zoe introduced us to a local lady. There aren't very many non-Spanish people in Olvera. I think there's about ninety out of about eight and a half thousand people that are in Olvera and the surrounding areas. It's a really small percentage.
She introduced us to a great lady who took us around a couple of the houses, but equally took us to a couple of bars for coffee and we went and had lunch in a different bar. On Sunday we went past the church to see what was going on. We're not religious, either of us, but actually that was great too. She also pointed out a local place for us to go to on a Sunday for some lunch, which was traditional afternoon Spanish foods: Paella, etc. So, it was brilliant having somebody who has been living there, that was English, that could take us around and tell us some of the pitfalls, which was superb.
Interestingly, after a little bit I’ve done that sort of thing because that was important to us.
Beth: Oh, you mean you have showed people around who were kind of thinking about doing what you were doing?
Debra: Now, yes. Because of that lady who showed us around, right at the beginning, that Zoe put us in touch with, was so integral in us making the decision to buy in Olvera. I said to Zoe, "If you ever need anybody to do that for you, I will happily," and I have met people for coffee and I talked to them about my life in Olvera. I haven't done that permanently, but boy, if I could I'd do it tomorrow.
Beth: That's really nice. That's such a nice idea to pay it forward and help people out in the way that you were helped. Do you envisage moving out there after retiring, or is that sort of too far down the line to think about?
Debra: Because of my own personal circumstances I can't do that. I have a disabled daughter, so it's just not possible for me to move there as a permanent thing unless she gets married and gets somebody else that can give her some of that support. If that happened I would absolutely consider it.
Beth: So, in the past two years, how have you used it? Do you go out for a week at a time? Do you go out for a little longer? Do you escape winter? How do you use it?
Debra: We go, probably, once every four to five weeks and we go for five to seven days, generally, a bit longer in the summer.
Beth: Lovely, it's such a nice way to use it.
Debra: Yeah, we never rent it out. It's our home from home. I literally pack my handbag up on a Thursday evening, head straight to the airport with my passport in tow, and head off. We just recently bought a car over there, so we've got a car at the airport.
Beth: Oh, fantastic. How is that process? I've not actually spoken to anyone who has mentioned that. Was that easy?
Debra: It was brilliant because, again, Zoe put me in touch with somebody who was English, who lives over there. They were great at giving advice: how I bought the car, what I needed to do, how I got it ensured, what the tax situation was, who I could contact at the airport about keeping it in the airport. One of the real positives about Olvera, I'm sure it's similar in other areas, I know from Olvera is that they have a real community feel amongst the expats that live there. So, everybody helps each other out.
So, Zoe gave me a safebook page of all of the locals that talk about things that are up and coming, talk about changes in laws, talk about if you've got to do something different with your car, talk about new shops that have popped up. It's just a really great way. It's a real community, this feeling. There's lots of Spanish people, on and off, there that can kind of converse while you translate in English, and give us lots of picks too. So, it's wonderful. I can't even begin to tell you how wonderful it is.
Beth: Amazing, well I'm glad that it's gone so well. My question, and I don't know if you'll have an answer for this, but if you were going to do it all again would you do anything differently, or do you think that everything has just kind of panned out exactly as you thought?
Debra: I don't think I'd do anything differently at all. I think that there were things that happened along the way that, at the time, felt a little bit uncomfortable, but looking back, I still wouldn't have changed it. So, one of the things that Zoe and her team did for us and do, which was brilliant, was that we had some changes made to the house that we bought. We were really nervous about the builders going in because we had lots of our stuff in, etc. etc. and I was really nervous. It was a really uncomfortable time for me. My husband was here, in England, you get the builders in and you go back to them and you see the work every day and I wasn't seeing that. But, what Zoe's team do is they go in everyday and they take photographs so you can see the progression.
Beth: Oh, that's nice. That's just a weight off, presumably.
Debra: It was brilliant because they helped to negotiate with the builders and get the good builders in and give you some great tips. So, there were bits that were really uncomfortable when we were sitting in England and it was as if you didn't have any control over it. But, it was vastly alleviated by the service that Zoe gave us. So, I don't think I would change anything. I think we needed to go through the learning process of doing it the way we did it and I would pass that advice on to everybody else.
Beth: It really sounds like you put in the work to learn, though. You did a lot of research yourself. You have really tried to educate yourself, you really jumped in and got involved, which seems to have done you wonders.
Debra: We do, and as I say, the big thing is to decide what it is that you want it for and then decide what your priorities are because our priorities changed. When our priorities started off we wanted to be no longer than forty minutes from the airport. We wanted access to a beach, and that kind of thing. The biggest thing for us, when we sat and logically thought about it was want a low crime rate.
Beth: Ah, interesting, because you're not going to be there do you mean? Because you're going to trust locking it up and heading home?
Debra: Yeah, yeah. So, I almost wanted to leave almost zero crime rate and you get that in Olvera. Where you've got more commercial places, it's not like the crime rate in England, but you are at risk of a bit more crime in those areas.
Beth: What did you do to research that? Who did you talk to?
Debra: I went onto the internet and spoke to lots of people in the areas that we were looking at.
Beth: Yeah, fantastic.
Debra: You can actually pick the crime rates up on the internet. You can research it on the internet. When it's your savings, we paid cash for ours, it wasn't a mortgage. Actually, how you finance it is irrelevant. It's an investment, isn't it?
Beth: Yeah, totally.
Debra: So, I absolutely wanted to make sure that my investments were safe and the worst thing in the world would be for me to land in a house in Olvera to have been ransacked and everything being taken from it. I would be horrified. So, that was a really important factor. So, we started off with that it had to be forty minutes from the airport, it had to have a pool, and we've got no pool, and it's an hour and twenty minutes from the airport.
Beth: But, it sounds like it suites you absolutely perfectly. Did you leave room in your budget for those renovations then? How much work was it that the builders were doing when then went in?
Debra: So, the house that we bought, interestingly, didn't need renovating. This was purely a choice thing. So, we had a terrace and the terrace was not a huge terrace, but big enough for a small table and four chairs, but there was the outhouse with a shower. It's typically Spanish thing for them to have an outside shower, outside toilet, and an outside place where they keep the washer. So, in a typical English way, I said, "Right, can I have the washer put into the pantry please, and can we just take all of that stuff down?" So, that was a big piece of work that we were nervous about because it was disturbing plumbing etc. But, I don't regret it at all. So, until you find somewhere you don't know that that is what you might do.
Debra: So, did we have the budget? We didn't spend, because we went to Olvera, as opposed to going to somewhere at the coast or a bit more expensive, so, I didn't physically think, "I'm going to need fifteen thousand to do X, Y, and Z." But, in my head, we'd paid a little bit less for the property than we were going to in the first instance, so I could raise the cash if that makes sense.
Beth: Yeah, totally. And it just sounds like that you have the confidence to be a little bit flexible, which I think is really important as well. You're kind of going with the flow.
Debra: Yes, yes, and I don't think it's as easy for a lot of people.
Beth: No, I think that's true, and I think it's all dependent on personality and what works for which person.
Debra: It is. You probably can get a sense of me. I'm a director, so, I have to make decisions for a living every single day of my life. So, it comes relatively easy to me. Interestingly, I'm also a bit of a process person, so, I do tend to stick everything into a process. But if somebody was to ask me a piece of advice on buying a place anywhere actually, it wouldn't have to be Spain, I would probably go through exactly the same process and say, "You need to go out there three of four times, and do your homework. The big thing is to decide what it is that you want but to be flexible enough to change your mind if, when you get there, you see something different, because that's what we did.
Beth: Yeah, totally, well, it sounds like it is going amazingly well, and anyone who gets to meet you and be shown around Olvera is very lucky, in my opinion. It sounds like you really know what you're talking about.
Debra: Thank you very much. But honestly, I cannot sing the praises of Olvera Properties enough, particularly Zoe, who was outstanding. It's very difficult, one of the things that I was really scared of was sending the money. Bear in mind I wasn't getting mortgage, I was literally sending my money, via the internet, into what felt like a black hole.
Debra: I was saying, "Oh my goodness."
Beth: But that's why you need the trust. That's why they did their jobs and they built that up with you, and I'm so pleased that it all went very well. I hope you keep enjoying the property for many years.
Debra: So do I, I don't plan on selling it and I don't plan on moving away from Olvera. They were outstanding. Zoe, particularly, was absolutely outstanding. I think because she's a woman. I think it's because she knew what she was doing and she had obviously been experienced of people being nervous about things previously.
Beth: Yeah, of course.
Debra: I'm a quite a strong individual, so, she was answering my questions before I even got to them.
Beth: Yeah, brilliant, well that's exactly what you want. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me today. I think it's going to be really valuable for people. Yeah, brilliant, thanks so much, Debra.
Debra: No problem.
Beth: Cheers, have a great day.
Debra: Alright, thanks Beth, and you too.
- Thank you for listening and thanks to Debra for sharing her experiences, and to Olvera Properties for making this episode possible.
- I really like that idea of paying it forward that Debra mentioned, and, of course, that's exactly what she's done in this episode..
- I hope you found her advice helpful. Remember, if you like what you heard you can search this agent's properties and more on Kyero.com.
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- Tune in next time when I speak with Bob, from Worthing, who worked with estate agent Property Directors to find his dream home in Spain.
- After undergoing open heart surgery, and suffering with pneumonia, Bob was looking for a warmer climate to benefit his health. He'll tell you how he found his dream penthouse apartment, and now has lemon trees on his roof garden. Sounds good to me.
- I’m Beth Davison and you’ve been listening to the Kyero.com Spanish property podcast. I’ll see you next time!