Spain Owners Guide
Owning a holiday home in Spain
There is far more to Spain than pubs and karaoke on the costas – though, of course many enjoy and find comfortable this type of home from home in the sun. Long tracts of coastline – along the Costa del Sol , in particular – have been particularly developed, but lovely spots remain even on the big tourist costas. On the Costa Brava the numerous coves between Palamos and Begur are often overlooked, while in the south there are superb windsurfing waters around Tarifa and some undeveloped spots along the Costa de la Luz.
The countryside of Spain is very diverse, from lush green misty mountainsides to sun baked arid landscapes. Spain’s position in southern Europe does mean that its summers range generally from reliably hot to very hot indeed. In the north is the verdant Basque country and the beautiful Atlantic surfing sands of Cantabria or the unspoilt coves and lush estuaries in Galicia, In contrast, inland, there are the dry plains of Castile, or the desert landscapes of Almeria. Spain is also one of the most mountainous countries in Europe, and there is superb walking and wildlife in many of the sierras, such as the Picos de Europa and Pyrenees. Skiing is available in some of the mountains (or in neighbouring Andorra to the north) in the winter months. 70% of Spain’s population lives in cities – hence the wonderful empty spaces of this vast country.
Offshore, the Balearic Islands have some superb sands; Ibiza also offers a wonderful holiday destination, famously for young party animals, but also families. The Balearics enjoy beautiful coastlines and contain many millionaires’ hide-away. The climate of the Spanish Canary islands made possible by their position off western Africa makes them a unique year round beach destination in Europe – though the islands have an abundance of interesting and diverse geography away from the sea and coastal attractions.
For those interested in history and culture, Spain is abundantly endowed. This heritage is particular rich in painting and sculpture and Spain is blessed with many museums, from the majestic Prado in Madrid to Salvador Dali’s truly surreal museum at Figueres. The cities of Spain are fascinating, Barcelona is a great favourite, situated on the Mediterranean, full of Gaudi’s weird and wonderful architecture including the Sagrada Familia cathedral, the city has world class restaurants, museums and sophisticated boulevards, including the lively promenade of Las Ramblas with its various festivals. Madrid offers vibrancy and style, not to mention three of the world’s finest art museums, and Philip the second’s incredible Escorial is a short train journey away.
Historic influence varies from one Spanish region to another, depending on occupation by Romans and or Moors and that region’s role in the “golden age” of Imperial Spain. In Castile and León for example, you have wonderful vast cathedrals and castles, Andalucía is blessed the golden triangle of Moorish cities at Seville, Cordoba and of course Granada with its backdrop of the dramatic Sierra Nevada. In these towns are found beautiful palaces and mosques with fertile gardens, playing fountains and rich decoration. These cultural gems are easily accessed from Malaga airport and are just a stone’s throw from the popular Costa del Sol. As with France or Italy, it really is worth getting to know Spain’s great cities and her regions if you are interested in natural wonders, history and culture.
The Spanish can teach us how to enjoy life, their food and wines are often excellent – their tapas with an after work drink are a wonderful way to unwind and to try out different dishes – before sitting down to a proper dinner around nine in the evening! Spaniards eat and socialise late into the night all, and for most of the year, in pleasant balmy evening air. It is no wonder that so many British people chose to live full time, or have their holiday home in this blessed, vibrant country.
Learning about Spain and getting about:
Take time to explore the country or even just the region that you know you want to be in. Bear in mind that away from the sea, your money will go further, while good roads will still keep you within easy access to where the action is. Try short rents in different places. Such exploration will reveal new things about the country and also help you to focus on what you finally want. You then get a better idea of which characteristics of a holiday home, and its location would be important to you. You will discover compromises you might have to make; the convenience of the town for provisioning and entertainment versus the quiet and privacy of the countryside; or the familiarity/comfort of living amongst plenty of English speakers versus the feeling of being in an idyllic, traditional and unspoilt location.
Service and product providers
Make provision to pay for the essentials of owning property, particularly when you living in a different country most of the time. When planning to take on a holiday home, you must ensure that you budget for any ongoing mortgage payments, buildings’ and contents’ insurance for the holiday home, second home local authority tax and any service charges if your property is in a communal setting. And don’t forget utility bills, TV licence, broadband etc. If there is a pool at your property allow for chemicals, special water rates and on-going maintenance and cleaning. Your insurer will insist that there is someone local to keep an eye on the place – to hold a key and to organise any necessary urgent repairs in your absence. You may well want gardening services to keep the garden from drying out and to give the impression of the property looking neat and lived in. And over time you will need to pay for builders, plumbers, electricians etc. for maintenance and extensions etc.
Things to do when you are there:
Making the most of the area that you have chosen to live in. Get involved in the local community, culture, entertainment, mis- cellaneous activities, and keep fit and healthy. Like many Brits, the Spanish are passionate about their football; perhaps you can start taking an interest in Barca or Real Madrid as well as the Premier League. Unless you are going to completely live your life amongst the English speaking community, the best thing to do, even before finding a property to buy, is to start to learn Spanish, This is a good idea on two levels. Firstly, of course, to help you to get by in everyday life; in shops, reading road signs and understanding utility bills and other official communications. Secondly the process of learning will help you to become involved in local life. People everywhere appreciate it when foreigners living amongst them (even if only part time) learn the local language and will often be very encouraging of your efforts. As you grasp more of the language it will help you to socialise, join sports clubs etc. You will enjoy testing out your language skills and be delighted as you understand more and become more understood. As you get better at Spanish you can help other Britons new to Spain to settle in and enjoy their holiday place.
Renting out your holiday home:
You may plan from the start to rent out your holiday home for holiday use, or you may find this option more attractive at some point in the future. You will need funds to market your holiday home. Your property will then need to be kept in an excellent state of repair and be very well presented, with clean furniture in good condition and pristine crisp linen for each new visitor. The house will have to meet all rental regulations and if there is a pool/ garden areas, these will need to be kept clean and safe. You will probably need to employ the services of a management company to do this. Adequate holiday home insurance will be required which should include liability cover and loss of rent.
If you are going to rent your home for holiday lettings, a freeview TV with DVD player may not be enough for today’s renters. You might wish to invest in providing a full entertainment package, multi-channel television (which receives the home TV stations of the rental market you will be aiming at) and wi-fi. In that case you will be looking at the cost of on-going cable/ satellite packages, broadband. However these added facilities will hopefully enhance the income you could earn from holiday home lets.