Relocate to Spain
Over the last few years we have heard an increasing number, perhaps apocryphal tales of UK citizens “not recognising “ the country they grew up in. Feeling alienated in their own country and looking for a way out.
Long before “the Great Flood”, “More Britons flee for a life in the Sun” screamed the headline in the Daily Express. The UK daily was reporting that many highly qualified professionals, numbering at least 100,000 per year, are leaving the UK for Spain.
They are leaving to join the already 1,000,000 plus Brit homeowners who have already relocated to Spain. This sum is estimated to rise dramatically, with predictions that by 2008 over 3.2m Britons will be foreign homeowners. Last year, a Barclays Bank’s survey, suggested that a further 660,000 British people planned to buy in Spain.
Why? What is prompting this exodus? The reasons seem to be many; not least that Spain is a great place to live. The primary causes appear a little grittier, a general disenchantment with the UK’s “crumbling health service”, “soaring council tax and “poor education”.
When you decide that you are nearing the end a busy working life, your family have fled the nest or you simply want a better quality of life for your family, your mind will inevitably wander to questions of whether there is a better quality of life to be found elsewhere.
We’ve all attended those “lifestyle” shows at the NEC or Olympia where the prospect of 330 days a year of sun, a milder climate for arthritic bones, a golf course for every day of the week, international quality schooling and a magnificently diversity of influences are dangled carrot like beneath our noses.
Many of us have said, “Can I have some of that!” yes please…..
Well, nearly four years ago, together with my wife and three kids, we decided that a home in Wandsworth, South West London and a partnership in a Mayfair law practice had passed their sell by dates and we needed a new dream.
My wife, who had been coming to the South of Spain regularly since early childhood is a very accomplished Spanish speaker – exposure – so to speak - to a succession of Spanish au pairs in London had broken me in – so the location of our transition was fairly obvious. We’d move to the Costa del Sol.
Whilst my comments below are drawn from our direct experience and aimed at a Northern European audience we have had significant response to our materials from North America. With certain obvious legal and visa requirements my comments apply equally to our friends on the other side of the Atlantic.
After three fruitless and costly attempts to purchase a house in the Neuva Andalucia area of Marbella, we decided to rent – culture shock number one.
Lesson One - If you are going to relocate and live in Spain all year round– choose a newer property that has either under floor heating, hot and cold air conditioning and/or tiled or wood floors rather than marble in the main reception rooms. Alternatively, buy an extremely ancient Cortijo or Finca with metre thick walls and stone floors.
We rented a five-bedroom villa with a splendid garden and all-important crystal blue swimming pool. It was exceptional for the first months after our arrival in the mid- summer but as the glorious autumn came and went our first winter reminded us that the majority of older properties in the developed South of Spain were constructed primarily for Summer use. That stunning white marble floor had a refrigerating quality in the high summer – it has exactly the same quality in mid winter. And let me tell you when you are used to 35-degree Summers 8-degree Winters feel really cold. Those romantic log fires in October became braziers of necessity in January.
Lesson Two – Live on an urbanisation where you have communal pools, tennis and padel courts.
For the eleven months we lived in the house in Neuva Andalucia we used that beautiful crystal blue swimming pool for no more than four months. In November to