Category Archives: overseas Property Finder

Utilities in Spain

We are often asked about the utilities in Spain.  If you buy in a town you will almost certainly have mains water but if you have a villa on the edge of or outside the main town you may not have mains sewage but have a septic tank instead.  This surprises a lot of people but in parts of Spain this is normal.  If you buy a rural property you may not have mains water but use a private well or have water delivered by tanker to fill your huge storage tank.
Generally mains water is of drinkable quality these days, gone are the days when you had to buy it bottled.  To get around shortages of water there are now a number of desalination plants around the coast taking sea water and cleaning it up for local use.  There are also a number of reservoirs now that are also small hydro-electric plants.  Water supply in the Alicante region doesn’t seem to be a problem anymore.
Gas has until recently been bottled only in most areas but towns are slowly having mains gas installed.  Again this surprises many Brits looking to buy in Spain, and of course using bottles of gas for central heating is pretty expensive.  Using portable gas heaters is common practice and fairly economical too.  Modern air conditioning units have settings for cooling or heating and are sufficient for use in a bedroom, although not necessarily that cheap to run.
For many years Iberdrola were the only electricity company but in recent years de-regulation has allowed competition and there are now other options.  Also duel tariffs are available too now, so cheap electricity at night and in the morning with a slightly raised rate for the afternoon and evening means savings can be made.  Solar has come a long way too and with 320 days of sunshine a year in south Costa Blanca developers now include solar in their new build homes.
There are a few ‘anomalies’ that I have come across over the years.  For instance, where our house is located the water company are also responsible for collecting the rubbish so instead of the cost of rubbish collection being included in the local council tax it is added to your water bill instead!
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PART 40 An Ex-pat, not an immigrant

PART 40 An Ex-pat, not an immigrant!

time for thinking

The British way to get yourself understood abroad seems to try first in normal English, when that fails we try speaking very loudly and slowly, but still in English. For reasons beyond normal rationality we figure that will work. Why? Is it because we are rude and arrogant or is it because learning another language in school in the UK is not prioritised or valued enough? The Scandinavians almost grow up bi-lingual, learning English alongside their native tongue from kindergarten age, and many, as a result, seem adept at learning other languages too. My multi-lingual friends and acquaintances all grew up bi-lingual whereas here in the UK it often high school before learning a foreign language is taken seriously in education.

The hypercritical way some Brits abroad defiantly, almost triumphantly, live in Spain for many years without bothering to learn more than café con leche or cerveza, or speak only their own ‘Spanglish’, never ceases to amaze and dismay me. They are the first to criticise the immigrants in the UK who don’t speak English within three weeks of arriving; but an Englishman abroad is not an immigrant, an Englishman abroad is an ex-pat!

However after years in Spain, having lived in their ex-pat (immigrant) community, drinking and eating in bars with only English speaking or ex-pat (immigrant) staff, and dipping into the odd Spanish fiesta or parade only when attending with a group of other ex-pats (immigrants), they can come unstuck. It’s when the difficult things in life happen, like illness, that they realise they are actually living in a foreign country (they are an immigrant!) and the nurses don’t all speak English and you have to pay for an interpreter or rely on ex-pat volunteers who did learn the language (immigrants who have integrated better!) to come to your rescue. One day, if you live in Spain, you will wish you had bothered with Spanish, so why wait? You may even find you enjoy living the dream a lot more through being able to live a fuller and more integrated life in the sun.

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My family abroad:Early Comunications Phone what Phone

Early Comunications

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We were in a time that was pre-internet, pre-mobile phones and there was no landline in the valley at that time.  Our contact was a phone call every Thursday evening at 7pm UK time initially made by Mum and Dad from the international phone box in town.  Later we rang the house phone of friend’s they had made instead, again every Thursday evening at 7pm, as soon as we returned from our children’s swimming lesson.   It is hard to imagine in this day and age of instant contact that this was only 25 years ago.  Today I am in contact with my children and grandchildren most days, we send each other pictures just seconds after the photo was taken and it doesn’t matter if we are not in same country, it is still instant.   We use texts, emails, ‘whats ap’ and facebook; I can even send a message via my phone to the little ones’ cuddly toys to be played to them; sometimes we even talk on the phone!

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Despite there being a telegraph pole positioned right outside their house, it would be nearly two years before Mum and Dad had their own landline phone.  One day workmen turned up, erected new poles in the valley, one just a few yards down the road from the villa.  A few days later the phone lines were hung on the poles, missing out the original pole outside the villa.  When shown the old pole the workman shrugged and as the lower part was encircled by the front wall they just cut the pole down at wall height and carried it away, leaving the bottom meter still in the wall.  To my knowledge it is still there.

Mum later described those early days as seeming like a great adventure into the unknown.  It was exciting and brave heading off to a foreign country with a different language, different culture and different food.  She says that today’s technology has robbed the younger generation of the chance to experience that feeling, that today it is so normal to move around and so easy to keep in touch and the cultural differences with our continental neighbours have blurred and merged as we eat the same foods and drink the same wines and the world is smaller.  Maybe she is right.

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What is the difference between a Property Finder and an Estate Agent?

What is the difference between a Property Finder and an Estate Agent?

An Estate Agent is a business or company that lists properties to sell, taking a commission from the owners at the point of sale for the process of facilitating the sale through advertising and finding the buyer. We are all familiar with their role. There are various professional bodies who oversee and regulate the industry, in the UK that is the NAEA (National Association of Estate Agents).

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So what is a Property Finder?

An estate agent works FOR the vendor (seller) so their job is to sell the house. The interests of the buyer are therefore secondary by definition. A Property Finder is someone working for the buyer, not a business interested in selling what is on their books (because they don’t actually list anything and are not answerable to a vendor), but in FINDING the right property at the right price in the right location for the client – the buyer.
As Property Finders based in the UK for Spanish property we are regulated by the AIPP, Association of International Property Finders, which in turn in the UK is also part of NAEA, so you get all the protection of NAEA plus additional protections from the AIPP.

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What do we do?

By working with the buyer we, as Property Finders, establish the criteria. In some cases the budget and criteria will not match the chosen location, so by working with the client a Property Finder can establish which points cannot be compromised and in which areas there may be an alternative or a compromise to bring the right property in on budget. We establish together a list of priorities, absolute must haves, definite don’t likes and desirable extras.
Every buyer has a different list of priorities so every client receives personal attention. We look in a wide area but actually know all the areas where we search. For instance, a client buying a holiday home or holiday rental investment is not particularly effected by how sort after the local primary school will be, but a family relocating will need to know school options.
A property finder is not limited to one list of properties so can assess the suitability of properties listed by a range of reputable agents as well as other sources, giving a far wider choice. The client also benefits from working closely with one person rather than constantly having to tell different agents what they want and trying to remember to whom they gave what information, especially as the criteria may evolve over time as certain considerations come to the fore.
Generally a Property Finder will also arrange viewings. In Spain it is common for vendors to use multiple agencies so if you view with four agencies you may actually be taken to see the same property several times, but if it wasn’t right the first time it won’t be right on subsequent visits either, so a complete waste of your time. When you are searching for a property in another country time is in limited supply and needs to be used wisely. You will want to view only the most suitable properties, not the ones the estate agent needs to sell regardless. ‘Viewing trips’ to see new developments can be frustrating times for buyers as they are shown what is being built regardless of whether it fits their criteria! A property finder is not interested in wasting your time or leaving you frustrated by seeing properties that would never be of consideration and don’t match your ‘wish list’.
A property Finder won’t pressure you into buying the wrong property. Our reputation relies on matching the client to the right property and making the process of buying that property as smooth as possible. In that respect we have built up good relationships with various reputable estate agents and other local professionals.

So why can’t you look for a house by yourself?

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You can. But if you live in the UK and want to buy in Spain do you have enough detailed first-hand knowledge of the area, the time to check out thousands of possibilities and the patience to deal with 20 estate agents all claiming they have the best properties for you? Or would you rather let someone take you through the process of buying, checking you are aware of the actual costs involved, (buying in Spain is very different and more costly than buying in the UK), have someone talk through your requirements and priorities, asking questions about your needs and how they may change over the next few years, so that when you visit everyone has clear understanding of your preferences on styles, locations, surroundings, size, age, distance to the beach, amenities, airport etc.? Many clients find we ask questions about subjects they have not yet considered that may (and often do) influence the final choice of property.

What will it cost you?

We work for clients with all budgets and therefore will not exclude those on limited budgets. In our case we do not charge our clients anything for our service because we receive a payment from the estate agent for finding the buyer for a property they have listed. Remember for you that simply means that if we don’t find the right property for you it hasn’t cost you anything. When we do find the right property you will pay no more for that property than you would have done anyway, so it still hasn’t cost you anything but will have saved you time, frustration and probably the cost of several extra visits. Plus as we negotiate hard for a good price on the right property you may actually get it for less than you would have done if you hadn’t used our service. Plus you have a Property Finder working in the background to check on the progress of your purchase, act as a sounding board at all stages, someone who has personally been through the buying process themselves and has helped many others too – a person who is not compromised in their service to you by needing to act in the interests of a vendor. Plus, once you have purchased the property we are still around to help with questions and helping with finding professionals like electricians, plumbers, keyholders and with holiday rentals if you need such services.

REMEMBER: An Estate Agent works for the vendor. A Property Finder works only for the buyer. So who will hold YOUR interests higher?

 

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My family abroad: Costa Blanca

My family abroad:  Costa Blanca

In the 80’s my parents begun looking around Spain for the area they considered most suitable for their own retirement.  Dad had always said he would like to retire somewhere warm, Mum was less sure about the idea but agreed to look – the extra holidays were a bonus and she had always loved looking around show houses anyway!  Having holidayed in various locations in Spain and other Mediterranean countries and islands they first considered the Balearics, but soon decided that mainland Spain would be their best option.  They checked out the Costa del Sol market but settled on North Costa Blanca as they both loved the dramatic scenery.960x640_bestfit-copy-126

The A7 motorway from Alicante airport going north had yet to be built but was planned, so each trip they had to travel through Alicante city, along the coast road (the N332) through Villajoyosa, Benidorm, Altea, Calpe, then either head slightly inland before reaching Javea and Denia or turn off to follow the minor windy coast road to Moraira.  Dad loved Moraira on the first visit.  Back in the early/mid 80’s it wasn’t the slick up-market resort it was later to brand itself – sometimes referred to as the jewel in the crown of the Costa Blanca by estate agents in the early 2000’s.  The town centre was small, old, and typically Spanish, a little tired and quiet.   In fact, Dad once described it as ‘a bit like being in the wild west’!

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They recalled the tale of how they stayed in a rather shabby hotel in town and Dad announced this was where he wanted to live.  Mum was not enamoured at all!   However she agreed that IF they could find the right house she would be prepared to ‘give it 5 years’.  Dad was still five years off retirement (which he would take at 60) so there was plenty of time, Mum figured, to change his mind!  Several trips later they concluded that the only way to get the house they wanted was to have one built so they started to hunt for a plot of land in Moraira.

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My family abroad: The beginning

My family abroad:  The beginning

My aunt and uncle were the first people in the family to buy a property in Spain.  In the mid 80’s they bought an apartment on the Costa del Sol, a small Spanish fishing town called Fuengirola near Malaga.  I didn’t visit there until 2012 and by then it had grown to a huge and very busy town busting with people.  Initially they bought the apartment as a holiday home, about 10 minutes’ walk to the marina/port area in a small apartment block overlooking a park.  Their neighbours were all Spanish, they had deliberately avoided an ex-pat community.

My aunt and uncle worked hard on learning Spanish as they intended to integrate as much as possible into the local community when they moved there in their retirement.  They had a neighbour in the UK whose sister had moved to the town in the 60’s with her daughters and the lady, Doreen, agreed to look after the apartment while they were in England.  They had several years of visiting the apartment before their retirement and it was on one such trip that they took my widowed Grandad with them.  I was told that when he and Doreen met it was love at first sight!  There cannot be many who emigrate at the age of 86 years old but before my aunt and uncle retired my Grandfather packed his bags and moved to Fuengirola to be with Doreen, who was only a couple of years older than my Dad.

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Not that long after my aunt and uncle moved permanently to Spain.  Grandad stayed after Doreen passed away, spending his last few weeks in a Spanish nursing home at almost 95 years old.  My uncle passed away a few years later but my aunt has stayed, still in the same apartment, and now in her early 80‘s is still active and leads a busy life in her adopted country.

Also in the 80’s my parents were visiting various parts of Spain, searching for a place they felt they wanted to call home.  And so my family abroad had begun.

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Memories of a young Traveller – Don’t drink the water!