Owning our own Spanish property has opened up a new, wonderful life for us that we had no idea existed. It is nothing at all like being on holiday; it is a hundred times more rewarding.
We live in Spain for about five or six months of the year on and off and during this time have become part of a community. We now have lovely friends of many nationalities and our experience of their cultures has enriched our lives at the same time.
After all what could be better than enjoying time in a country with a wonderfully benign climate, tolerant and friendly people, plus an al fresco life that lasts all year round. We were sat outside last night until gone eight o’clock – it was warm enough.
In previous ‘Letters from Spain’ I’ve given you my honest experience of renting or buying a property in Spain and at the end of this article I’ve written a short list of do’s and don’t’s for those who really are considering this.
But for now I want to put you into the fiesta (party) spirit. Spain has so many fiestas that I couldn’t possibly count them all. In every single city, town and village will be frequent festivals of some kind that gets all the townsfolk out on the streets partying with their neighbours.
They range from fiestas of flamenco, music, wine, seafood, bull running, tomatoes, carnivals, and that’s apart from all the religious festivals …I could go on and on. I’d put money on a bet that as you read this, somewhere right now a fiesta is in full swing (and it’s one o’clock midday as I write)
I’m going to tell you about a little fiesta that takes place locally every Christmas morning. Remember that it is very likely that the weather will be good.
The Spanish traditionally celebrate Christmas when the Three Kings arrive on January 6th. There’s an article about this here if you are interested. So they only have Christmas Day itself off from work and Christmas is not such a big deal for them.
The Northern Europeans who are here at Christmastime are of course used to celebrating Christmas Day itself so this is what happens.
During Christmas morning hundreds of people (only a few of whom are Spanish) congregate at a small bay within walking distance of my home. They take bubbly and tapas and ad hoc music is played for some talented locals will have brought their guitar or accordion.
Everyone is very friendly and often people will have brought enough food and drink to share with whoever is near them. People sing carols in English, German and French, some people dance and everyone dresses up in something ‘Christmassy’. Even the dogs will have tinsel tied to their collars.
This is the bay mid morning. By mid-day these numbers will have tripled.
Around mid-day most of those dressed in Father Christmas costume will go for a swim whilst the rest of us cheer them on. The fiesta gradually winds down at about two-ish as people will then mosey on home to prepare or eat their Christmas dinner.
Just a few of the many Father Christmases on their way back to the beach after their swim
It’s a great day and it shows you how how when the Spanish don’t have a fiesta organised then someone from a different culture else takes over.
If the thought of the lifestyle and the fiestas haven’t enthralled you then maybe the cost of living will. Spain is one of the least expensive countries in Western Europe and in many Spanish areas you can find nice, furnished apartments for under 500 euros a month – it might be worth a month’s trial one winter?
For those who are really interested in the possibility of spending time in Spain and thinking of buying rather than renting this would be my checklist of things you must consider:
As in any country it’s a case of buyer beware and the biggest thing that you can arm yourself with is knowledge.
The fiscal fraud trap awaits the unwary - There’s a fiscal fraud that exists in Spain and although it is very much on the decline it is still out there and waiting for the unwary. Try to avoid it if possible but if you really must have that dream house that you have found you might be asked to pay cash ‘under the table’ part of the asking price (perhaps around 5 to 10%) without it being declared in the house deeds. It is a fraud that mainly benefits the vendor whilst the potential liabilities, mainly tax, accrue to the buyer.
The purchaser’s liability for unpaid debts on a property - In Spain unfortunately any debts made by the current owner relating to a property are transferred to the buyer when it is sold. So the buyer could be facing an unknown payment of debt that they did not personally incur.
Take care with finances!
You need to to make sure that your solicitor checks whether there are any debts outstanding on the property and withholds from the purchase price an amount of money that would be enough to cover possible debts.
Check things out for yourself - We quickly learned that the best way to test whether the estate agent was telling us the truth was if possible to check it out for ourselves. Return to the property without the estate agent, ask people living nearby the burning issues that bother you.
For example you might want to know whether the local ‘pub’ is noisy well into the wee small hours — actually that would be an easy and maybe pleasant one to find out.
Typical budget priced Spanish town houses