Monthly Archives: January 2016

Our Spanish Dream PART 38 Finally seeing the Imperial Palm

Our Spanish Dream PART 38 Finally seeing the Imperial Palm
Our second attempt at seeing the famous Huerto del Cura was much more successful.  On a beautiful spring day we headed back to Elche and again parked near the hospital as we knew that was close to the gardens.  This time we followed the route the other way round so we got there within a few minutes.  We paid a reasonable entry fee and spent a couple of hours wandering around the beautiful gardens.  Well laid out with information on the plants and their origins it is a place that will interest non-gardeners too.  It’s not a huge area but the way the paths meander between the flower beds, ponds, fountains, sculptures and palms gives the impression that it is a much larger garden.
There are many ancient palms within the gardens, varieties I have seen nowhere else.  Beautiful tropical flowers and a real sense of being away from it all even though it’s in the centre of a bustling city.  The history surrounding the gardens is evident and yet it felt timeless.  The famous Imperial Palm itself is supported by a lot of metalwork.  I’m told that normally this type of palm develops shoots at a young age, so effectively at the base of the tree.  This tree, now around 170 years old, did things a little differently and was a single trunk until about 60 years old so the new shoots sprouted at a height of 2 meters up the trunk.   The seven trucks radiating out from the ‘father’ trunk are themselves now over 100 years old and it is these that are supported to stop them breaking away under their own weight.  The strange arrangement of the trunks looks a little like a giant palm candelabra.
Definitely a place worth a visit, but allow plenty of time to find it!

Our Spanish Dream Part 37 Hunting for the Imperial Palm

Hunting for the Imperial Palm
Spain has some amazing tourist attractions, but finding them isn’t always that easy.  We decided to visit the lovely city of Elche, specifically to walk through the palm gardens and seek out the oldest palm tree, the Imperial Palm.  Stupidly we assumed the famous gardens in which it stands, Huerto del Cura, would be sign-posted.
Elche is a modern metropolis but with a very different feel.  Thousands of palm trees fill the gaps between the buildings and in the centre if the city is a huge date palm grove of over 70,000 trees, although there are thought to be over 200,000 in the city as a whole.  Most of it is open to the public free of charge, but one area has been cultivated into a tropical paradise and contains the Imperial Palm.  The Palm Grove in the city is a World Heritage Site and all palms are protected by Spanish law, you need permission to remove a palm tree even if it is in your garden.
Our first attempt to see the Hueto del Cura was unsuccessful.  Seeing no signs we parked up near the city hospital and started to follow the circular walk marked on the pavement and pathways around the palm grove.  It was a lovely walk and eventually, when almost back to where we started, we found in a small side street a gate with a plague announcing we had reached our intended destination.  But the rain clouds had been gathering during the afternoon and at that moment the heavens opened.  We ran for cover into the small gift shop and there we stayed.  Of all the items we could have purchased we only bought one item, a small Christmas bell which opened to show individually crafted silver nativity figures, so absolutely nothing to do with palm trees!  Next to the gift shop is a beautiful but tiny chapel.  
Eventually the rain eased and we headed the few minutes back to the car, just making it there before the next heavy downpour.  We figured that at least we now knew the location so would come another day.

Part 36 Our Spanish Dream The Launch

Part 36 Our Spanish Dream The Launch


Despite the set-back, with almost everything in place, we still launched in April 2010, although time restraints meant we didn’t really get going until late May.   We planned a slow steady start, feeling our way around how best to develop the service.  We were struck straight away buy the need for what we were doing, and the gratitude by many for actually having someone to talk to about the whole process.

When an enquiry came in we would call (or if no telephone number, we would email) and ask about the property they were seeking.  The request for details about their longed-for new home was often met with surprise, and still is today.  Comments like “well aren’t you just going to send me a load of properties from your books?” and “Just send what you have and we’ll let you know if there is anything we like” were normal.  We had by now around 2000 properties on our site, (we usually run at around 2500 now) so just sending what we had wouldn’t really help anyone – the email would take forever!  Once we were able to explain our service, people opened up about what they wanted and the searches began.

We decided right from the start that our service needed to be FREE to our clients.  Our fees would be paid by the estate agents whose property our client purchased.  So we search for properties from various sources and ensure only those matching requirement are shown to the client.  Once the client has bought their new home the estate agent with whom the property was listed pays us a fee for finding the buyer.  That way we are not asking for any up-front fees or asking our client’s to pay any additional costs for their purchase – buying a Spanish property is expensive enough!

Bev & Dave


info@spanishdreamproperty .com




Our Spanish Dream Part 35 Spanish Dream Property

Our Spanish Dream Part 35 Spanish Dream Property



Dave & Bev Townsend

Our Spanish Dream Part 35 Spanish Dream Property

With all future projects with the development company on indefinite  hold and the loss of Dave’s Dad Bev actually had some time available to dedicate to a new project.  We began seriously looking into the setting up of a property finding business.  But time became a precious commodity again as Dave’s Mum’s Alzheimer’s led to daily care being required by us even with all the paid help she was having three times a day.  At the end of 2009 Mum was admitted to a nursing home so she could have the 24 hour care she needed.

With time to develop the project again we moved forward with a view to starting in March 2010.   We flew to Spain to sign contracts with various reputable agents to be able to show their properties, making sure none were exclusive so we were not tied to any one agent.   To do our work properly we needed to be able to select properties from various sources.  We decided that we would cover only the areas we knew well, starting with the south Costa Blanca, going about 20 minutes inland plus areas around Moraira, Javea and into the Jalon and Orba valleys in the northern Costa Blanca.  We also wanted to add towns and villages close to the Mar Menor so would spend time in those areas during our next few visits.

Yet again our plans had to be postponed as just after our return from Spain in mid-February our daughter was in an accident and suffered a very serious injury to her right leg.  Three operations in the first 24 hours, plus a fourth three days later, saved her leg but recovery was going to be very slow and never complete.  Our grandchildren were 1 and 2 years old so it was all hands on deck to help out during her weeks in hospital and the five months it took for her to take her first steps again.  Life on crutches for the next year (plus) was not easy with two lively toddlers and support from family was essential.


Our Spanish Dream Part 34 Can we do this?

Our Spanish Dream Part 34 Can we do this

Can we do this?

It’s fine to have an idea to help people find their dream home in Spain and another to actually do something about it.  Our lives were incredibly busy with work, family and caring for Dave’s elderly parents, both with serious health issues.  I ran a part-time business around family and in-laws’ needs.  I also worked free-lance finding projects for a property development company that worked with the current owners, architects and planners to see how the property/land could be developed in the future, getting plans passed, buying the owner out at a premium and selling the project onto developers.   Property had always been a huge interest of mine and I had project managed two major renovations of our own.  It was far more interesting to me than accountancy, the field in which I had qualified years ago but family had cut short any career.

By now we had talked to so many people about what they needed to know, what to avoid and where to find accurate information.  We were even being asked to speak to friends of friends!  We heard a few stories of people having been ripped off or sold properties from the big ‘viewing trip’ companies only to discover they felt they hadn’t really been given fair information.

The more we thought about it, the more it made sense.  Use our experiences, my property finding training, and our knowledge to help people avoid the pitfalls and find the right property for them. As we have said before, buying in Spain is an expensive business, you have to get it right first time. People need to be able to step back from the hype of the brochures and sales talk to see the reality of what is right for them.  More and more we could see a need for someone to work on behalf of the buyer rather than the seller.  There was just this major obstacle called time.


Our Spanish Dream Part 33 First thoughts of property finding


PART 33 First thoughts of property finding

Over the years that we had considered buying in Spain, seen various family members and friends make the move and watched the market change, we had learned a lot.  It became obvious to us that we seemed to know more about how things work and more about thinking through and considering options than many of the self-appointed ‘professionals’.  It also became glaringly apparent over time spent with agents and at shows that agents were only interested in selling you property on their books, not helping you in finding the right place for you; after all their client is the vendor, (not you, the buyer), and the only way they make money is by selling you one of their client’s properties.

There were some large company’s around before the 2008 happened, that are unfortunately now re-emerging, offering cheap four day viewing trips.  They would fly you out, put you up in a hotel, assign a person to you as your ‘guide’ who basically met you for breakfast and never left you alone until late evening.  You would be driven round new developments and shown show houses, sold the dream and on the final day asked which property you would like to buy.  They were very successful.  The fact that you could have bought the same property cheaper from another source or that there were hundreds of re-sales that would offer you a better match to your requirements for less was irrelevant to these companies.  Once you moved into your new home you were often offered a job as one of their ‘guides’.  It was a lucrative business and resulted in some bad press for the Spanish property market.

So we saw a need for property finding rather than property selling.  A service that works for the buyer, not the seller.  The idea of Spanish Dream Property was beginning to form.

Find us at

Bev & Dave Townsend

Our Spanish Dream – Part 32: So, where were we left after 2008?

Our Spanish Dream – Part 32: So, where were we left after 2008?
When we bought our house we did lots of calculations to ensure we could afford the house. We built in a contingency for both our own income declining (although we didn’t expect it to) and for the exchange rate dropping by 10%. “Why?” asked people we knew, “it’s not as if the exchange rate is likely to drop to 1.30€/£1, it’s never been that low.”
In the latter part of 2008 and whole of 2009 the pound struggled to stay above 1.10/£1, spending more time below it than above it. Dave’s work hours were cut to 4 days a week, the development company Bev did work for cancelled all outstanding projects, meaning commissions expected totalling thousands of pounds in the next few weeks were not going to arrive, many months of work for which she would now never be paid, and the part-time business needed more hours but still produced less income than before.
Our good news was grandchild number 1 had arrived safe and sound in December 2007 and grandchild number 2 was now on the way. On a sad family note, Dave’s Dad lost his long fight with illness in the summer of 2008 and his Mum was needing more care as dementia took an ever greater hold.
We kept our heads above water, but it was not the financial place we had expected to find ourselves in at all. The cost of running our Spanish house was now much higher due to the rock bottom exchange rate and rising running costs, it needed around 35-40% extra in sterling just to stay on an even keel. But despite all the doom and gloom it seemed people were determined to still have their holidays in the sun and bookings for 2008 and 2009 were good and both seasons full.
Dave and Bev Spanish Dream Properties
Dave and Bev Townsend have two homes, their main one in Norwich and a second home in Playa Flamenca in south Costa Blanca, Spain which they also let as a holiday rental They run a property finding business offering a free service for those seeking to buy a property in the Costa Blanca (Alicante) or the Mar Menor area of the Costa Calida (Murcia) Bev has family in Spain and they intend to move there full-time in a couple of years.