Why did you decide to leave the UK?
Quality of life, we wanted to live a stress-free life in a pleasant environment. This life is not a rehearsal you only get one go and we want to try and stay around as long as possible. We had always planned that when circumstances permitted we would live abroad. We had run our own business for 25 years in the UK and it was getting more and more demanding and stressful. Our health was beginning to suffer, so we took the first step and disposed of the business. I went to work for Asda for a couple of years as a quality inspector and thoroughly enjoyed it. Carol did a variety of selling and promotional jobs.
Why did you choose Spain?
With the advent of Easy Jet, we had visited France on numerous occasions and this was going to be our first choice. However, France became expensive both to buy a property and the cost of living, when we were ready to move we decided to look at other options.
We didn’t want to go and live in some far off exotic land, we wanted all the usual requirements, good weather, stable currency, good cost of living, property reasonable prices, security, excellent healthcare facilities, easy travelling etc. Spain was a natural choice.
What do you like about this location?
It is still the real Spain, with none of the mass development of the Costa del Sol and Costa Blanca, it used to be quite difficult to get to the Costa de Almeria and Costa Calida. However, this has all changed, the motorway infrastructure now is excellent and with all the budget flights from the UK, and you can be here in just over a couple of hours. Plus, the property is still good value for money
What preparations did you make before you bought your house in Spain?
Hardly any, we did everything that you shouldn’t do. Complete idiots jumped in with both feet. We put a deposit on an off-plan apartment (a property that has still to be built) after only seeing a photograph, had no idea exactly where it was but it seemed like a good idea at the time. We then came back in September and the estate agent showed us a piece of land where the apartments were going to be built. It seemed Ok, It was on this visit that we decided that it was time to move, so we put a deposit on a townhouse. The plan was that we would live in the townhouse and rent the apartment. However, to do this meant we had to sell our home in the UK and that is what we did. We never did get to live in the original properties that we bought, we sold them both and bought our house.
Could you speak the language before you relocated?
Carol was always very good with languages. She had a good knowledge of French and had even studied Greek at night-school. Prior to the move she did have a few lessons from a Spanish teacher.
How have you improved your language skills?
Mainly through practice and having to communicate with the Spanish on a daily basis is a great help. Carol is now fluent Spanish
Are there good travel links in the area?
Excellent motorway links and improving all the time. There are three existing international airports all served by the budget airlines Alicante, Almeria, and a new international airport built at Corvera/Murcia opened 2018
How have you benefited from your move to Spain?
Spain has been very good to us. We have a business that we enjoy, a beautiful house and an easy-going relaxed lifestyle and the Spanish people have made us really welcome
How have you found the cost of living compared to the UK?
Generally, the cost of living is a third cheaper in Spain than in the UK, whilst some items are as much as fifty per cent cheaper. Alcohol, of course, is ridiculously cheap and this possibly makes some people drink a little too often. Ironic really, now that neither of us drinks. We have really taken to eating fish, the selection is enormous, it is fresh and it is cheap. Also, lots of medication which are only available on prescription in the UK are freely available over the counter at sensible prices.
What differences do you see in everyday life?
Change of lifestyle, because of the weather we tend to lead a healthier lifestyle, different diet, no alcohol, more exercise, less stress. Seeing the sun virtually every day does make a huge difference. Life isn’t so hectic, the pace is slower and you soon start to adapt.
Can you tell us about your business?
We never came to Spain to set up a business, we spent the first three months doing nothing but winding down. It was winter in Spain, the weather was glorious, we went for long walks with our dogs, which we brought with us from England, we ate a lot, sometimes drank a lot and generally just relaxed and it was wonderful.
After three months, we were ready to get involved in something. Carol got a part-time job selling advertising for a local free English newspaper, they wanted somebody who could speak Spanish to call on their Spanish clients. Her very first call was an estate agent in Aguilas, he promptly offered the two of us a job selling property to his English clients. We accepted and did a tremendous job, however, the estate agent was only interested in his commission on the sales and couldn’t care less once the sale was completed. This resulted in a series of rows between him and ourselves over the way he was treating his clients, eventually, we parted company. However, we continued to help all our clients with their properties.
As a result of our experiences, we decided to set up our own estate agency business. So we registered as a legitimate Spanish company. We had met quite a number of constructors whilst working for the other company and they were pleased to have us representing them.
Originally we worked from home using our own website and selling exclusively to English clients. However, our lives developed a momentum of their own and opportunities came our way and we took advantage of them. We now represent English, Spanish, German, French, Belgium and Scandinavian buyers and sellers.
What are your business plans for the future?
We don’t really have any, apart from one of continuous improvement. We now have in place English speaking lawyers and we are very happy with their service, we have excellent arrangements with local banks for client’s bank accounts and mortgage. We continually scrutinize the work and the service being offered to our clients by the developers and then looking for the next development that we can recommend. Buying property is one of the biggest financial transactions in a person’s life and not something they will repeat very often. It is something we take very seriously, we guide them through the buying process and help them avoid the numerous pitfalls.
We don’t have any illusions of grandeur, we are not looking to be the biggest, or have spectacular growth. It’s a job we enjoy and more importantly, we derive a great deal of satisfaction out of helping people achieve their dream of owning a property in Spain.
Have you found it easy to become part of the community? Do you know your neighbours and do you feel that they have accepted you?
We have met the local residents’ group and told them about our business and how it will help the community, so there is nothing secretive about what we are doing, it is totally transparent. Obviously, we use all the facilities in the village, shops, banks etc.
We have met all our Spanish neighbours and speak with them whenever we see them. There never appears to be any jealousy or resentment and on the occasion, we have needed help it has been forthcoming.
What do you like about your lifestyle?
It’s our own choice, we are doing what we do because we want to do it, if we didn’t enjoy it we wouldn’t do it. Consequently, we can be more relaxed about it and not get so stressed. In England, it was more of a treadmill and one seemed to be grinding out a living. Just living to go to work.
I’ve always believed that your work should be as close to your hobby as possible, that way you will enjoy it, and more than likely be successful at it. If you can also make some money out of it – then you have cracked it. But too many people are in jobs purely for the money, they don’t like the job, but they have to survive. Carol and I did virtually the same job for twenty-five years, that I believe was a mistake we should have taken time out to do something different, instead, we kept pedalling on that treadmill.
In hindsight, is there anything you would have done differently?
When we first bought a property we were incredibly naïve and we could have lost a serious amount of money. We really did do everything you shouldn’t do, later on, we met other people who also tried to do it alone and they were not quite so lucky.
In hindsight I would have done a lot more homework, at least I would have researched and known the basics of what’s involved in buying property in a foreign country. I would suggest you visit the area as often as possible. If you know anybody who has bought property in Spain, speak with them, see if they recommend an agent or a solicitor. Do your homework, look at all the websites. You’ll recognize the good ones. Don’t pay to much attention to the doom and gloom merchants that seem to proliferate in the forums on websites. If you go looking for disaster, you will find it.
We know we were lucky, but at the time the journey was exhilarating and fun and we wouldn’t have missed it for anything.
What difficulties and hurdles have you had to overcome?
The language is the major hurdle, there are many places in Spain where you will hear very little Spanish, everybody leading their lives exactly the same as in Britain. In fact, that is just what it is Britain with the sun and cheap booze. If that’s what you want, then it’s there waiting for you, otherwise, start learning the language. If you make an attempt everybody appreciates it and most Town Halls offer free Spanish lessons.
There aren’t any major difficulties, plenty of hiccups, but that’s life. Just get on with it and enjoy it.
Have you encountered any peculiarities in everyday Spanish life?
The siesta, to us, is outmoded and belongs to a different time, sure it gets really hot in summer and people want to have lunch and a sleep in the afternoon. But most of the shops and offices have air conditioning so the heat isn’t a problem, plus it makes communicating with the rest of Europe difficult. Spain is recognizing this now and most of the major cities are doing away with the siesta.
Is there anything you miss from the UK?
No, not really, we are hooked up to all TV programs, there is no need to feel isolated. Most of the supermarkets are quite big and carry most items. If there is something particular that you are after, there is usually a British supermarket somewhere close by. The advent of the budget airlines has made a huge difference, if you are really desperate for something and cannot do without it, just jump on a plane.
What did your family and friends think about your decision to buy a house in Spain?
Initially, it had a lot of appeal and novelty value, people saying “how lovely to have a place in Spain” then it changed and everybody thought we were mad, that we were taking a huge gamble and disappearing to the other side of the world. What also happened was that people seemed liked to come to us with horror stories about how bad it was in Spain, all the dirty tricks etc., anything they had seen on TV or in the papers that reflected badly on Spain. At the end with some people, it came down to jealousy and resentment.
Do your family come and visit?
Initially, it’s a novelty and you have to be prepared for the visits, everybody wants to visit at least once and see just what you finished up. Providing it fits in with your routine it’s really nice. Surprisingly, it’s also a great way to really get to know your friends and relatives.
What are your three Top Tips for readers who find themselves in a similar situation to yours?
Are You Certain it’s what you want – For lots of people moving to a foreign country is their dream, but you have to be sure it’s what you want. A lot of people have difficulty in settling in a different country, older women, in particular, miss the family, and grandchildren and get homesick. If you need to find work to survive, then be warned it is difficult and unless you have a special skill or trade, then the only work available tends to be working in bars in the tourist areas. Then there’s the language.
Explore Spain and find a location that really suits you, then start looking for a property. Remember, nothing is forever, so if after living in your accommodation for a little while you fancy a change, well sell it and choose something else and move on with your life.
Always use an English speaking Spanish solicitor, preferably one that is recommended and who is located in the area that you have chosen to buy your home. They will be familiar with all the local laws and practices and will know what is happening in the area.