Retired from working for the government, today’s guest Ernest purchased a villa in Alcoy. He started looking for properties in 2016, and with the help of Carbonell he found the right place. Ernest shares with Beth how he chose the sunny area of Alcoy, the affordability of retired life in Spain, and generosity of locals.
- [1:59] Why Ernest chose Alcoy
- [3:31] How his online research helped the process
- [5:37] His long-term plan with Airbnb letting
- [8:05] Shipping his car to Spain
- [10:57] The re-decoration of his Villa
- [14:15] Expectations from friends and families about Ernest’s move to Spain
- [16:14] His favourite parts about the Spanish culture
- [18:19] Things to consider with taxes
- 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 Ernest, originally from Seoul, in South Korea, who purchased his dream home in Alcoi, in Alicante.
- For him it was about finding a balance between bigger cities and a more rural lifestyle. As a keen gardener, it sounds like his villa was the perfect choice.
- Ernest worked with estate agent Carbonell 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 Transcript
Ernest: My name is Ernest. I am an American retiree now. I worked for the government for most of my life, so, I got to travel. I had worked in Spain in Rota for a couple of years. As a result of exploring the country thought it would be a nice place to retire to. So, I planned accordingly.
I was planning on retiring at the end of 2018, so, I started looking for a property in 2016. I actually found a couple of places that I liked, but they kind of fell out. My offers were accepted but there was negotiations that the owner wanted to continue after we set a price. So, I backed out with that.
I was talking to my realtor and, I must say, she was very, very helpful. So, I bought a villa here in Alcoi and it's a lovely place to stay, and it's right at the foothills and it's in the pine tree area, only about ten minutes from town (downtown Alcoi).
Beth: What was it about that area that really appealed to you? How well did you know it anyway? You mentioned that you worked in Spain, but how much homework had you done on that specific region?
Ernest: I had done absolutely none. The only homework that I did was online of course. I was planning on living in the Valencia and down through Alicante because of the weather. I'm originally from California, USA, and this climate here is absolutely very similar to the climate that I had.
The town is about a hundred thousand people, but at the same time, it's only thirty minutes from Alicante, which is on the coast, and the airport. So, it's only about an hour and fifteen minutes from Valencia. So, I kind of wanted a quieter pace of life and this fit what I was really looking for. So, that helped me decide where I wanted to live. I didn't want to live in a major city. I just wanted to relax in a tranquil place, and I found it. So, I'm very happy.
Beth: Yeah, perfect, it sounds like a really nice combination of lots of different things. There's a quietness, but you're not far from the major cities, if you do want to visit. Did you find that the research you were doing online accurately portrayed what was waiting for you when you got there?
Ernest: Yeah, I would say so. I went ahead, especially after my purchase fell out in 2016, I did a little more research and I decided that this is really the place I wanted to stay in. The people here are very nice. Of course, Spanish people are, inherently, conservative and polite. The place is safe. I have never seen any kind of violence or any kind of reaction where people get frustrated like in big cities in their cars and in traffic and everything like that. There's nothing like that at all. It's really exactly what I had read and felt very comfortable with it.
Beth: Fantastic, and the villa itself, did you already know exactly what you wanted? Had you budgeted for a certain amount of bedrooms? How specific could you be with your agent when you were saying this is what I want?
Ernest: Well, what I wanted was basically a nice home where I could do some gardening. I wanted it in a country setting. I wanted a four bedroom home where I can invite family and friends from the States to come and visit me. The other part was that I could also rent out these rooms in an Air BnB type of thing. So, I was looking at it in two different ways. So, far it has worked out really nice for me.
Beth: And have you done any Air BnBs yet? Have you looked into that, or is that a long term plan?
Ernest: It's kind of a long term plan right now. What I did was, I went back to work with the government in 2017, 2018, and I was living in Seoul, Korea. So, I was renting my home and that worked out pretty good. Then in 2018 I actually arrived in October, but I had delayed because I was going through the permanent residency process and really wasn't going anywhere with my paperwork. So, I had to leave after the ninety days. So, I went back to California.
It was fine. When I went back to California, of course, I was recently retired so was going through all of my pension plans, my banking, my insurance, and health insurance. So, everything turned out, really, pretty good. I spent longer than I wanted to, but, at the same time, at that time I decided to go ahead and rent my home again until I got back.
So, I came back about the first of September. So, I was busy with finalising my permanent residency visa. I had other things, I had shipped a car and I had to go through the taxes, the import taxes and registering it. So, that's done.
My home didn't have heating and I knew that ahead of time but I didn't know when I was going to put it in. So, I just finished doing that last month, I guess it was the end of November. So, it's comfortable now. the weather is nice here. Right now it's about fifty degrees, fifty two, blue skies, beautiful scenery, and just waiting for my antennae man to come over and fix my antennae.
Beth: Well, there we go, that's what you need. But it sounds like there actually were a lot of things for you to think about. You were relocating, shipping the car over is something that I hadn't even thought about. Did you find that you had enough help, enough support? Did you know where to go, or did you know a lot of it already?
Ernest: I worked for the government and so they helped me with my car: the actual cost of the car coming here. They calculated San Diego, California, then they decided, "OK, we'll see how far it is to Spain." So, through the government agencies I was in touch with people who shipped my car for me, kept in touch with me, wrote to Spain and let me know when it would arrive, brought the car here for me, told me about the taxes and the import fees.
I was aware of that, so that took a little time because I wasn't really here when my car arrived. I was in the States. But, after I came back the car was here, everything was fine, I just had to register my car. Now I guess I've got to get a Spanish driver's license but that goes with the territory. Yeah, everything is OK.
Beth: Well, you sound very relaxed, so, I'm thinking that the Spanish lifestyle is agreeing with you. All of this would cause me such stress, but it sounds like you just absolutely took it in your stride.
Ernest: It was stressful, but as long as I'm going forward I'm OK. When I get stuck, that's when the frustration comes up, I guess for anybody. I will say that my real estate lady turned out to be a really nice friend. She really helped me with a lot of contacts and people to talk to, helped me with bankers that I had originally had in another city when I bought the property, but now I transferred my account here to Alcoi.
You need this other identification that's called a DNI. It's kind of like a social security card with a photo on it basically telling everyone that you're registered to live in this country or this town. She helped me a lot. So, I just really can't say enough about her. She's turned out to be a really good friend.
Beth: Fantastic, and the house itself, the villa, did it need any work doing to it? Was that something that you had to think about, or interior decorating and design, or was it ready to go as soon as you arrived?
Ernest: Yes and no, all my furniture was here when I came back because it arrived when I was in California. So, a lot of boxes were in the house, spread out. So, that took a little time.
It's really interesting, when I was looking at all these boxes, of course, I was totally confused. I thought, "Well, I need to hire somebody." But I started thinking to myself that I needed people to actually move the heavy stuff and to move furniture. Margot helped me out to find some help to do that.
Once that was done I had some friends from Korea that were coming in early December. So, that kind of put a little more pressure on myself, so, I just started thinking, "Well, I need to move and get ready for the dining area, get that furniture done, get the boxes out and start putting everything away."
I have a fireplace, a nice fireplace with a nice seating area and I had to fix that up and move my furniture around there. The furniture I bought was for my living room and my seating area for the fireplace area. But the other dining stuff I already had.
So, it was just a combination. I think it was good that my friends were coming to stay with me for two days. I kind of put a bunsen burner right under me to get things rolling. Once it did it was great.
When they came we were comfortable. The heat was in, everything was working well. We were able to go on a road trip down to Granada and Malaga. So, yeah, it's been great.
Right now I'm waiting for my antennae because there was a real big storm that hit just before Christmas and the trees were going crazy. One of them broke and cracked and didn't do any damage but it did do damage to my antennae. So, that's why I'm still waiting now.
If you look at this area and you look at other parts of the country, this is very, very mild in comparison. The air is beautiful, the air is clean, the sky is blue, there's no smog, there's no pollution here. It's just great.
Beth: It sounds lovely. What's the attitude been from the visitors that you have had and the friends and family that you're hoping to have, what has their attitude been, so far, of this big move?
Ernest: I think they expected me, actually, to tell you the truth, to come back to California. I was planning on doing that, but one of the reasons is affordability. Modest homes, I would say, in Southern California, are half a million dollars and up. I got that for half of what I paid there. I've got an acre of land and a three hundred and fifty square foot rambling home and a pool and it's like Gosh! The only thing is that family is not as close, but with video calls and wifi I'm always in touch with my family every week.
Beth: And you've given them this amazing opportunity to come and visit you now.
Ernest: Yes, yes, they're coming in April because there's a big festival going on here. At that time, also, a lot of ferias are happening so many towns are having festivals, kind of like an open fair. So, they'll get a chance to see some of that too.
Beth: I think that that's the great thing is just exploring different cultures. What's great about people who have moved, and the amount of times that they can host visitors, that's one thing that really crops up in these conversations that's really, really common. Is there a favourite part of Spanish life for you? Is there something that really stands out as being very different to California, and something that you really love about the Spanish lifestyle?
Ernest: They're very family oriented here. Maybe it's because it's a smaller town, which I'm sure that it is, but the people are really nice. They do a lot of networking. You need to do that to, for instance, find a good mechanic, find a doctor, dentist, all this type.
People are so happy to tell you who their dentist is and how happy or that they're satisfied. They are just letting you know where the best places to eat are, nice place to meet for some drinks or coffee shops or things like that.
So, I was very, very surprised that, here in Spain, they close down from two o'clock to four o'clock in the afternoon and then they come back and work. But, during that time a lot of those people will go home and have their main meal.
After seven o'clock, now, that's really when this place kind of opens up and livens up. It's because people don't go directly home. A lot of them meet at the coffee shops. The coffee shops are just very, very busy, and small eateries, the tapas of course. It's totally different.
You see families walking around all the time in these smaller towns. People go through the towns and they even meet up with their families or they meet up with other friends and they just have coffee or a couple of drinks and it's just a really nice way to connect with people and then they go home and do what everybody else does.
Beth: Lovely, and my final question is, if there's someone out there thinking of doing what you have done, is there some advice? What would your key piece of advice be for those people?
Ernest: There are things here that will kind of shock you, like the VAT. That's 21%, but, when you look at that and think about what property taxes and what taxes you are paying in, say, the United States, it doesn't really compare.
My taxes were like $700 last year. If I had this property in California it would be like $7,000 at least or maybe $10,000. So, that 21%, it isn't really on food items, it's on other items that you buy here. So, I kind of look at it like that, here.
The easiest way to shop, sometimes, for me, especially, is to just go online and use Amazon or another and they'll ship directly. Many of their prices include the VAT. So, I just opened up and Post Office Box in town and it's a lot easier for them to deliver there than it is for them to find me in this urbanisation community, here.
So, yeah, I find that going online is really a great way. Here, in Spain, I haven't joined yet, but they call that Internations. It's a community group of expats that get together in Alicante every month and they do various things. So, I'm planning on doing that. They do anything from dining experiences to the arts, museums, entertainment, and just coffee shops, getting together.
Beth: Yeah, it sounds like built-in socialisation. That sounds absolutely perfect. It sounds like there's a lot of socialising happening anyway and it's fitting with your lifestyle really, really well. So, that's great to hear that you had such positive experiences.
Ernest: Yeah, I joined it but I haven't attended, so, it was mainly because of the holiday season and it was because I had work to do on the house and friends visiting. So, now that I get a little pause here, before my next visits, I'm going to join that little community, Internations is the name of it. Apparently they are worldwide, but here, in Spain, in Alicante, anyway there are many expats working here, living here, visiting here that connect while they're living. For instance, it seems that the prevalent language here, at Internations, is English, so, everybody, no matter where they are from, they use that as their main communication source.
Beth: Fantastic, well, I hope it goes really well and thank you so much for taking the time to chat to us today.
Ernest: Oh, my pleasure, my pleasure.
Beth: And good luck with the antennae. Hopefully it will get fixed.
Ernest: (Laughter) Yeah, you bet.
Beth: Have a good day, thanks, Ernest.
Ernest: Thank you so much.
- Thank you for listening and thanks to Ernest for sharing his experiences and to Carbonell for making this episode possible.
- Retired from what seems like a fascinating job, it's great that Ernest could tell me about the options available to socialise now that he has moved. I hope that Internations works out really well for him.
- Remember, if you like what you have heard you can search this agent's properties and more on Kyero.com and 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
- We love hearing how these podcast episodes have helped you find your dream home in Spain. Please do continue to share your feedback with us, and if you’ve enjoyed this episode we’d really appreciate you taking the time to review and rate our podcast on iTunes or your preferred podcast listening app. Your feedback, reviews and ratings help 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 [email protected]. We’ll try and answer them all in an upcoming Q&A episode
- Get a location guide by emailing [email protected]. We’ll reply with the latest data and information on the areas you are interested in.
- Calculate your budget. Simply visit kyero.com/budget, enter two numbers and you’re done!
- Be our guest. If you’ve already purchased your home in Spain, we would love for you to share your story on the podcast. Just email [email protected] and we’ll take it from there.
- Tune in next time when I catch up with Lyndon and Sheena, a husband and wife, well, sort of. That's a story for the next episode, originally from Lincolnshire, they've bought their dream home in Lorca, in Murcia.
- I’m Beth Davison and you’ve been listening to the Kyero.com Spanish property podcast. I’ll see you next time!