Sunday, January 04, 2004


Described as ‘The English Mansion’ this house seemed to be the one we were looking for, it was set in 72,000 m2 of established Orange grove. Rock embankments formed the garden boundaries giving a wilder aspect to the fertile plains of fruit orchards down below.

Just 6kms outside the city walls, the property was self contained and connected to all the essential services. The villa offered several possibilities, for business. The fruit tree planting could be extended to give a useful income. A second small store-house could be converted into accommodation for use by paying guests. This is also good bird watching country and has excellent fishing both based on and around the river Ebro.

The house was in obvious need of a lot of modernization but had the potential for business that was one of our considerations. It was worthy of a second look.

Friday, January 02, 2004

House hunting in the sun.

Deciding to buy a home is one of the biggest and most stressful events in most peoples lives, buying abroad amplifies the problems of the process. In 1990 when we announced that was what we were going to do, our friends and families were more than a little alarmed. Spain was considered volatile just fifteen years after Franco’s death; ‘what about the risk of war?’ they asked.

In later years those same alarmists thought that, our earlier ‘brave decision’ had been a wise one; and one that they wished they had themselves emulated. Price rises over those years meant a bigger capital outlay for anyone entering the market today, and this put those same people off once more. It did not though stop them following the many re-location programmes shown on television or scouring the newspaper for the elusive bargain property.

We had 14 enjoyable years as owners of an apartment in Los Cristianos, Tenerife. The property consisted of one bedroom, bathroom, lounge with American style kitchen and large sun lit terraces. At 55m2 it was a good size for a beach holiday. The visualisation of that apartment size was a valuable measure that we held against the descriptions of other properties we encountered on our search.

Situated only a short stroll from the shore-line and a similar distance from the village centre; the apartment had been recently renovated and was in first class condition, but it was too certainly too small for anything other than a vacation home. Selling a ground floor poolside apartment close to the beach and the village was not going to be a problem.

Over the years we had made a lot of friends on the Island, amongst both the residents and frequent tourists. Now though we were looking for something more substantial.

We had often discussed the possibility of moving to the Spanish peninsular and making it our permanent home. Property on the mainland seemed better value when compared to those on the Canary Isles.

When, we were finally in a position to seriously consider the possibility of such a move, we began to draw up a list of our requirements in a building. Some were classified as essentials such as, 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a formal dinning area and lounge, off road car parking. Whilst others were merely desirable a pool for example.

We were careful not to become too rigid in our demands, and reflected on the change to an outdoor life style; from the more familiar northern European lifestyle of our home in the U.K.

Financial considerations included having enough money to live on in retirement without cutting back on the quality of life we were used to. A budget was agreed between us and the search for a property began in earnest.

Tenerife was familiar and comfortable to us and we began to look for a villa there. Agents showed us a variety of luxury villas, rustic fincas and building plots. A particular plot in the town of Granadillar looked promising. The plot was within the village boundary with outline permission for the construction of a house of 200 m2; it came with good land of over one acre and the bonus of views towards both the sea and mountains. The original casa was tiny but had a tap and a toilet. Carol decided that was all I needed and that I could live in here whilst project managing the build.

Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately for me, the land owner changed her mind and rejected our offer, withdrawing the property from sale.

The finished properties we saw, at least those which satisfied our requirements, were beyond our initial budget. The mainland was now a major consideration.

At the same time we wondered if the shorter flight time to the Spanish peninsular, more flights, cheaper fares allowing us to travel backwards and forwards between the two countries; might ease the strain of re-locating. The accessibility of European cities might also make for a more culturally enriched experience.

We were certain though that we should sell the apartment and posted a notice in the reception area. Within ten minutes a queue had formed at the garden gate. The sale was agreed at the asking price and the transaction scheduled for Easter. There were a number of other interested people who tried to gazump the purchaser, but we felt bound to honour the deal. Onlookers to the sale process advised that we should have invited bids for the apartment; perhaps we are not hard headed enough for the property market.