After watching A Place in the Sun for many years and using aplaceinthesun.com to receive expert information, Carole and Steve knew that it was time to buy their own overseas property in Spain. Two years on, they talk to us through their renovation project, and what to expect whilst living in Spain...
"It's early September 2013 and my wife, Carole, and I are taking a quick week's holiday in Alicante, Spain. Whilst laying under the hot sun, gazing across the uncrowded beach toward the azure blue of the Mediterranean, we decide to phone a few property agents.
For as long as I can remember we have talked about not wanting to grow old in the UK and finding somewhere warm and sunny where the life is relaxed and our pensions might just stretch a little further.
Southern Spain was an ideal choice especially as property was now very competitively priced compared to the south of France. Watching A Place in the Sun over many years had shown us that and had also kept prodding us gently towards our dream. And it was a dream and here we were lazing on a beach about to dip our innocent toes into the pool of the overseas property market.
Fast forward eighteen months and you find us on a ferry crossing from Plymouth to Santander and our final destination of the small town of Antas in Almeria, on the edge of the Cabo de Gato and twenty minutes from the coastal towns of Garrucha and Mojacar. In the proceeding time we had been through two aborted purchases and looked at property stretching from near Valencia to Almeria. I think we visited Spain nine times in that period including a day trip!
We have been in our cortijo in the tiny hamlet of Los Chopos for two years now. Set in 3300 square meters, it is an ongoing project and now keeps us busy as we work our way from room to room. During the summer months it is way too hot to work so we have friends and family to stay and travel and treat this period as our holiday. Even locally, we are often finding little hidden gems, places like Agua Amarga which is an old Spanish resort, barely touched by tourism, nestled in a bay of the Cabo de Gato.
At the start of our search, people told us how brave we were to be emigrating. At the time we thought nothing of it but now we realise just what a challenge it has been to embed ourselves in a foreign country. You can read about another country but living in it when you cannot speak the language, throws up problem after problem.
We have been very lucky with the people we have met, and not just fellow Brits, who have helped us negotiate the legal minefield that Spain can be. Our first piece of advice would be to get a good Spanish lawyer who speaks English and who is independent of any property agent that you may be thinking of buying from. Agents often tell you that they can take care of everything but you wouldn't do that in the UK and you certainly shouldn't do it when buying abroad.
There are many illegally built properties in Spain. Our 'abogado' (solicitor) saved us from two properties which would not have been good purchases. We found her through a large group of solicitors and she was recommended as she specialised in old country properties.
Our second piece of advice would be to start learning the language. Many areas offer free classes to foreigners and we have taken full advantage of this over the two years but it's not easy. In this area the locals tend not to pronounce 's' and sometimes 'd' and we struggle to understand but fortunately we have become good friends with our teacher and his wife and socialising with them has helped us a great deal.
Carole has joined the Bedar Art Centre and paints every week and it is another way to make new friends. When the house is finished she wants to join the ceramic classes. We always go to our local market on Mondays for all our fresh fruit and vegetables followed by coffee and breakfast. If we need fresh fish then Garrucha Friday market is the best. Garrucha prawns are famous in the region!
Now with our new puppy, we are out most evenings walking along the promenade in Las Marinas and stopping for tapas and a drink. There are so many great inexpensive restaurants in Garrucha, Mojacar and surrounding areas and quite a few are open all year round which we often frequent with our new circle of friends.
Whilst away I also frequently write a blog (called chilledatsunset.com) on our experiences whilst living out in Spain.
Finally, fiestas - there is always one on somewhere and be it live music, parades, pop up restaurants in plazas, as we have in Antas, they are always great fun.
But, for the moment, forget all of the inevitable hassle that you will go through and peek ahead a year or two and see the life you can have for yourselves – beautiful days relaxing by your pool or on an uncrowded beach, making new friends with like-minded people, developing new interests, speaking another language, having a smile on your face and generally feeling good about life.
This is what we have found and we can sum up our life in Spain in three words – fun, rewarding and challenging!"