Thousands of people every year dream of going to live in Spain and a small percentage of them do it, what is the reason for the dream, and how does the reality live up to it?
I came to Spain in 1991, 14 years ago at the time of writing, with my husband and three young children then aged 4,7 and 8. To be honest we had initially intended to go to France, having been tempted by the promise of beautiful rural property going for a song, but we went the wrong way when we got off the ferry in Santander and have been here ever since!
Our reasons for leaving England, Lincolnshire to be exact, were not much different I imagine from anyone elses, better climate, cheaper property prices, less stressful way of life, lower crime rate, cheaper cost of living lower taxation and bureaucracy, less traffic and pollution and generally a better environment for our growing children. In all respects I should say the move has lived up to our expectations.
Of course it wasn't all plain sailing. For a start none of us spoke a word of Spanish, we had been busy learning French! We fell in love with Northern Spain as the scenary is so beautiful but it was impossible to find any property to buy as there were no such things as estate agents then, those halcyon days! but for all we curse them they do a least provide a meeting point between buyer and seller. So against all our original intentions we hitched up the caravan and headed south, having been told by some English people we met on a campsite that it would be alot easier down there. Which indeed it was.
We didn't want to follow the sun, sea and sangria route as we were looking for isolation and seclusion and after responding to an advert for a house for sale in the English paper " SUR in English" we were introduced to a Spainard who after much painstaking searching managed to find us the place of our dreams in the mountains of Casares, just inland from Estepona. However we still weren't home and dry as all we actually bought was 10,000 sq. metres of complete isolation and a ruin without water or electricity! So now the fun had just begun.
In any event we soon discovered that we had escaped bureaucracy as all we had to do was present a simple plan drawn by my husband and pay 200 pesetas and we had planning permission to more or less do as we wished. However that was easier said than done as we still barely spoke the lingo and didn't even know the word for brick. Still with the aid of Hugo's Spanish in 3 months,( 3 years more like) we plodded on and built our own piece of paradise on the sunny slopes of an Andalucian mountain. The children enrolled in the village school and within a few months were virtually bi-lingual. The local people were very friendly and trusting and adored the children arguing amongst themselves as to whose turn it was to invite them for merienda after school.
So 14 years down the line we are still here and have no desire to return. Most of our hopes and expectations have ben realized. Certainly the climate is better, the property, at the time was cheaper, the Spanish don't know the meaning of the word stress, although sometimes this can be a bit stressful in itself! The crime rate in our area is virtually nil, we don't even have a lock on the door, the cost of living was lower but with the advent of the euro is steadily rising, taxation on the essentials in life such as alcohol, fuel and even tobacco is less and certainly even today the Spanish do try to keep bureaucracy to a minimum. Pollution is pretty minimal as there is no heavy industry in this area and although the traffic has increased it obviously has done so in the U.K. as well. I certainly think the children had a better enviornment to grow up in as they were able to have the freedom to roam and explore that you certainly could not afford children in the U.K. these days. One other great benefit that I had not considered before is the much healthier lifestyle. The Mediterranean diet is considered to be one of the healthiest in the world, the sunshine is good for body and soul, the air is fresher, the longer winter days are much less depressing and if you like out door pursuits such as golf, swimming, walking etc. then it is definitely the right place to be. It is little wonder that the local population have a longer life span and comparitively lower rates of cancer and heart disease than in other western countries.
Most of the above still holds true for today. Of course there is alot of development and a much larger foriegn population but that has it's benefits. The infrastructure has been greatly improved, in particular the roads and airports and accesibility to all parts of Andalucia from Britain has never been easier. It is now easy to take out a mortgage to buy a Spanish property either at home in Gibraltar or with a Spanish bank. There is certainly a far greater choice of properties for sale and of course plenty of Estate agents!
If you are thinking of moving over here then don't rush into buying the first brand new villa or apartment you see, shop around. You will probably get better value for money if you buy a second hand property and at least you don't have to worry about dead lines not being met and being left high and dry with all your baggage packed and no place to go. Also all teething problems will have already been ironed out and water, electricity and possibly even phone connections will be up and running.
It is very quick to buy in Spain, it is just a matter of going to the Notary with the money, signing the papers and you can move in- no need to exchange contracts and wait for completion dates etc. You don't even really need a solicitor but if this is your first time it is probably advisable.
Buying a ruin, as we did, and building is now more or less out of the question as the Junta de Andalucia have put a ban on rural development. The only exception is if you can prove that you have a working Finca and that you need to live on the premises to tend to your livestock.
If you are serious about settling here then do make an attempt to Learn Spanish as you will get so much more out of your time here. The Spanish people are very kind hearted and friendly and very patient with all us mad foriegners, so many of whom don't speak the lingo, but they really appreciate you making the effort.
So if your dream is to go and live in Spain then do it! You will find it a wonderful life enriching experience.
About the author:
Article submitted by Ruth Polak, the owner of http://www.costadelsol-vacationrentals.com a site specializing in holiday apartments and villas on the Costa del Sol and in Rural Andalucia. You will also find lots of information about Spain and Andalalucia in particular.