Using My Pension to Buy in Spain | Case Study

Using My Pension to Buy in Spain | Case Study

"I used my pension pot to buy a home holiday home on the Costa Dorada"

Billy Couper, 56 from Paisley in Glasgow, has just bought a four-bedroom villa near L'Ametila de Mar on the Costa Dorada. Here he tells us how he will rent out his holiday in peak season to provide an income to fund his early retirement.

"Our search for a holiday home started in vain 4.5 years ago. I had been working as the director of a commercial gallery but when the pensions legislation changed in April 2015 (allowing the over-55s to withdraw lump sums) I decided to withdraw some money to buy a Spanish property. I wanted it to be part holiday home for me and my partner, Tom, but also an investment property that we would rent out for the peak season.

I was a kind of test-case for the financial advisors of Glasgow! If you want to draw down more than £30,000 it gets complicated, and I had to provide a business plan to demonstrate that the rental income I would earn from the house would be more than the amount I would have generated from an annuity. I was successful and was able to cover the cost of the €195,000 home in cash.

But back to the beginning, I had always loved the Costa Brava since regular family holidays there as a child. We used to drive down all the way from Glasgow - and so the northern part of Spain has always appealed to me for access but also nostalgic reasons. We have a family holiday home on the Mull of Kintyre - great when the sun shines - but I always said to my parents 'why can't you retire to someone normal like Spain?'! So I am doing that very thing.

I love the unspoilt coastline and the proximity of Barcelona {90 mins by train). But when we set out to look for a property we covered quite a large area of southern Catalonia, and we looked inland as the cost of properties on the coast - in Sitges etc - is comparatively high. We wanted a larger property - to accommodate at least 8 people easily - not an apartment, with some land and plenty of outside entertaining space.

villa in costa dorada

On the back of a trip through the Ebro valley, we ended up focusing on a triangle shaped area: El Perello (inland), L'Ametila de Mar and L'Ampolla. After looking at 72 properties we knew when we found the right one - it had the perfect outside and inside areas, is a five-minute drive from the sea, and - the dream thing for me - I could see the sea from my kitchen door!

The property was an old finca that had been rebuilt in 1989 and offers four bedrooms - sleeping 10 comfortably. There's a big terrace for outside dining too. The master suite offers a dressing area and ensuite.

On a plot of 3,000 metres it sits in olive and carob trees, has a pool, and a lovely table in a shady spot for long, lazy lunches. There is an outbuilding that is a games pavilion - with pool table and darts etc, ideal for rentals. It has been well renovated and we are just going to give it a paint job and add some of our artwork and furniture before renting it out via

The property has been a successful holiday rental - renting for €1,450 a week in high season - and so we will make it available between April and October, and then use it ourselves at Christmas etc outside that. I think it will suit both a couple of families or a group of friends - the PortAventura theme park (at Salou) is only half an hour away and hugely popular - and the airport, Reus, is 35 mins away.

We love this area as it has so much to offer, from beaches, mountains and national park to lively resorts and Barcelona just up the main east coast train line. The Via Verde ('green way' or hiking/cycling paths) is a bit like Scotland's West Highland Way - but with better weather!

The area is also full of paddy fields - it's where 80 per cent of Spain's rice is grown, and there are flamingoes and all sorts of birdlife. Compared to the southern costas, it remains off the beaten track for most British buyers.

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Liz Rowlinson


Originally published in the A Place in the Sun magazine - Issue 124