Buying a home in the Spanish sun?

If you’re thinking of retiring to Spain, following six simple steps could make all the difference between dream-come-true and nightmare, says Graham Norwood

It may not be the best time to live in Spain if you’re Spanish, given its perilous economic state. On the other hand, if you have ever contemplated moving there, now could be the best time for years.

Prices of villas in some popular retirement spots have fallen up to 50 per cent since the dizzy heights of 2007 when every man and his perro boasted a second home on the Costas. More falls may follow, of course, but you will almost certainly get more property for your money than you expected if you’re looking to purchase now.

Place in the sun: learn the lingo and do your research

The Institute of Public Policy Research says 760,000 Britons live permanently in Spain, so you will be in good company. Most are middle-aged or retired, their favoured locations being Mallorca, Marbella, villages within an hour of Malaga airport, and the region of Valencia.

Experts say there are six golden rules to a successful retirement in Spain. First, choose a location and home near like-minded people. “Buying a finca or farmhouse sounds idyllic, but you’ll be lonely and cut off unless you’re fluent in Spanish,” says Chris Mercer of Murcia-based Mercers estate agency, which reports that 75 per cent of its clients are retirees on the move. “As 99 per cent of British retirees aren’t fluent in Spanish, I wouldn’t recommend it.”

Next, check on medical facilities. Think twice before buying a home in a remote location – what if the ambulance cannot find you, for example? Many experts suggest taking out private insurance to guarantee quick access to more specialists than are available solely on the country’s national health system.

The third rule is learn the language. The more fluent you are, the less isolated you will be. Take lessons before you leave the UK and make sure you do not spend all your time with other expats, as you will miss out on so much local culture, cuisine and company.

Buying a finca or farmhouse sounds idyllic, but you’ll be lonely and cut off unless you’re fluent in Spanish” – Mercer

People considering moving abroad should also take impartial expert advice when buying a home. “Have the title of your property checked by a well-established and recognised attorney,” says Christian de Meillac of Knight Frank estate agency. “If buying new, always check the track record of the developer and management company. Large international firms usually have the most experience.”

Don’t burn your British property bridges, either. A growing number of expats move back, especially if they need specialist healthcare in later years, so keeping a small base in Britain means you have somewhere to stay and an investment in an economy that is much stronger than Spain’s.

Finally, you should check tax and pensions with an independent financial adviser. If retiring permanently to Spain, visit www.hmrc.gov.uk or write to HM Revenue & Customs (Residency), Room BP1301, Benton Park View, Newcastle-upon-Tyne NE98 1ZZ, or call 0191 203 7010. You don’t want to count the cost of not being prepared.

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