Things change slowly in Spain and seasonal shopping is something that has yet to change. Buying a sun lounger in December or a heater in June is nearly impossible. Whilst in the UK the summer clothes hit the shops while we are wearing winter woollies and boots straight after the January sales, you can buy a beautiful knitted hat and scarf set for a friend’s birthday in July or a barbeque for your Dad for Christmas, it just doesn’t happen like that in most of Spain.
In Spain there are distinct seasons – summer starts in May, winter starts in November and never the twain shall meet. Once the summer stocks have sold out they are rarely replaced, so if you want the best choice in outdoor furniture make sure you are looking early summer as by September the one you want may no longer be available.
When a sun umbrella at our house was broken by a renter we set out to buy the replacement when we visited in October, but we were met with blank or confused looks in the stores where we asked – they had sold out and why would they have stocks of sun umbrellas in October? We didn’t bother trying to point out that the sun shines for over 320 days a year in south Costa Blanca! Thinking we would plan ahead we decided to buy a gas heater for winter guests, but it was still September and no-one was stocking them until the last week in October!
Like shops closing for siesta and on Sundays you get used to seasonal shopping if you live in Spain, but when you are there just part-time it can be frustrating if the item you want isn’t available in the weeks you are visiting.
Following the property price crash came the bargain hunters. TV programs told us all how cheap property was and that if you offered 40% below the asking price the vendor would happily accept the offer with a smile. Reality was somewhat different.
The real bargains went early. Vendors that needed to sell up for genuine reasons priced their property to sell quickly and sold. Those that were in negative equity but could no longer afford to keep the property handed keys back to their bank, hopefully negotiating that as being in final settlement of their debt.
There was an assumption by many that cheap bank repossessions were great bargains but remember the old adage … “if it’s cheap then it’s cheap for a reason.”
Many back repossessions were stripped of anything valuable/saleable before the bank took possession. The banks offered all the properties to their list of investors first and those turned down stayed on their books. But banks didn’t pay utility bills or community fees, (or any other bills either!), so services to the properties were disconnected, gardens became overgrown and the properties fell into general disrepair.
Often these properties are in ‘difficult to sell’ area too, hence the reason why the original owner couldn’t sell it themselves. Whatever property you buy the chances are that at some point, probably years into the future, you will want to resell the property so, strange though it may sound, that is a factor that always needs to be considered when buying. If the investors are not interested, the original vendor couldn’t sell cheap and the bank have had it on their books for a few years at a low price with no buyer, then the chances are it will always be a hard property to sell.
There are always, in any market, good value properties and we search those out for our clients. But remember that not all cheap properties are good value
As house prices had started to fall in 2008 and the exchange rate plummet there appeared yet another obstacle to buying in Spain. The Spanish banks all but stopped lending money to anyone, mortgages became at best very difficult to find. This further fuelled the price decline. Desperate sellers were willing to take sensible offers for their property, fearful that they wouldn’t get another for a year or more. So if you were a cash buyer looking for a long-term investment it was a good time to buy because there was no shortage of bargains.
By 2010 the pace of the slide had started to slow down and by 2012 in the south Costa Blanca there were already indications that the end of the property slump was just around the corner. Not so in other parts of Spain however were prices in some areas were still declining at an alarming rate and where rows of new, abandoned, never been occupied apartments stood amongst the cracked deserted roads and weed strewn gardens like a post apocalypse scene from a sci-fi film.
When we began Spanish Dream Property in 2010 we knew it was a difficult time to start a property finding business, after all there were still estate agents closing down through lack of business. However we figured it was actually a good time to start as we were there for the buyers, not the sellers. There has never been a shortage of those looking to buy in Spain, and certainly still isn’t.
Perhaps a little absurdly, it is true to say that the property crisis was actually good for the industry in some ways, with those only out for maximum profit shutting down, big viewing trip businesses scaling back dramatically on their operations and construction stopping. It gave time for the industry to breathe and take stock of what had happened for the past decade or two and actually do a bit of long-term planning.
When rebuilding started the quality was better, apartments bigger, communities smaller and landscaping of the communal areas essential for the new buyers coming to Spain.