For married couple Steve and Ailsa, the idea of owning a holiday home in Spain had always been something they’d dreamed of. Ailsa loved learning new languages – having studied linguistics at university – and had recently taken up Spanish lessons. But, with two young children and little knowledge of the overseas buying process, they were unsure where to even start.
Nonetheless, in 2003 they took the plunge and went on a viewing trip to Mazarrón, Spain. Now, they enjoy annual family holidays to Spain. Even the kids – who are now 21 and 18! – still love the villa and willingly go on holiday with mum and dad, so it must be a great place!
Here is how they bought their perfect Spanish holiday home…
Why did you decide to buy a property in Spain?
We wanted an overseas property as an investment and as somewhere for family holidays. Spain was top of our list because of the climate, culture and accessibility from the UK. We felt that with a young family, school and work commitments our ability to travel to our holiday home was limited enough without adding in excessive travel time.
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Why did you decide to buy a property in Mazarrón?
We looked at a number of towns on our trip, but we had seen the Mazarrón Country Club at the property exhibition in the UK and we really wanted to see it. It was the last stop on the property tour and we loved everything about it. Mazarrón itself appealed because it was a small town, with an authentic Spanish culture and had lots of history. It also had the Puerto and its own micro-climate. The area just felt welcoming.
How was the property buying process?
This was relatively straightforward. You just need to do due diligence on the builders and the agents. Our villa was still being built so we worked with a good law firm and the property agent was on hand to answer questions along the way. We had to wait about 18 months for our property to be completed and to be able to move in.
Why would you recommend buying a property in Spain?
It is nice to have a home from home in a different country. You can make your own memories there. The weather and the culture are different, and the people are very friendly. The whole way of life is more relaxed. With young children, it’s nice to know that toys/equipment such as high chairs, etc, are already there and don’t need to be packed each time you go on holiday.
What type of property did you buy?
We bought a two-bed single storey villa with a driveway for €137,000 plus furnishing costs. We went for a south facing garden because our UK home is north facing. With hindsight maybe some shade would have been welcome!
In the current lockdown, many buyers are choosing to place an offer without viewing, subject to viewing when flights restart. Our surveyor partner can also check the property over for you. Click here for an introduction.
Where did you find useful contacts and information?
At the time there were a lot of exhibitions being run in local hotels. We searched online for these and attended one in our home town. We booked a viewing trip.. which was quite ambitious as we had to take a four-year-old and a one-year-old with us. I even remember our one-year-old son being sick in the agent’s car!
How did you deal with setting up utilities, taxes etc once you moved in?
One of the advantages of buying a property through a sales agency, particularly one that is targeting UK buyers of Spanish properties, is that they will put you in touch with all the utilities companies and set you up with a solicitor who can represent you in relation to your taxes. Urbanisations often have owners’ groups and this can be a very useful source of information and advice in your own language when dealing with official matters or even changing your utilities supplier.
At times, the system can be decidedly un-user friendly to the newcomer. Even recently, now my Spanish is much better, I asked the local council representative to speak a little slower so I could follow his instructions, only to be met with a curt ‘no’ (note to self, don’t make these kind of requests right before the siesta in the summer!). My advice is to take all the help you can, particularly, if your Spanish is limited.
How do you like to spend your time when you’re there?
After so many years we feel we know the area really well. We do not feel an urge to rush around like tourists on every trip. We get to enjoy more of the things the locals enjoy, such as restaurants and walks off the beaten track. We are lucky that there are lovely beaches and lovely parks and woodland not too far from us. It never gets boring going back there each year!
We are planning to buy a couple of bicycles to tour the area: the local Government has been investing in cycle tracks which will make the countryside much more accessible. It is our intention to spend a few more months there every year from now on and get to know the local community more!
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What changes have you seen over the past 18 years?
There has been significant investment in the transport infrastructure, including the opening of a new international airport just 40 minutes from our villa. The roads have also improved significantly, which has transformed access to alternative airports and to other parts of the country. Murcia remains highly agricultural and the Spanish economy has had a number of ongoing challenges during the past decade or so, so we have not seen a lot of touristification.
Have you made friends at the country club, over the years?
Yes, we are on good terms with our neighbours and the people who manage our property. There are plenty of clubs/associations/voluntary groups in or around the urbanisation, so once we are able to spend longer periods there, we expect to widen our social circle.
What do you love about Spain?
Each area of Spain is so different, with its own culture, language and spirit. People are very generous with their time and support, which has been really helpful as we have been learning Spanish. We’ve started flying into different areas of Spain and taking a road trip on the way back to our villa to explore the country a bit more. There’s always something new to see.
So, Steve and Ailsa bought their perfect Spanish holiday home and they haven’t looked back. You can start your Spanish property search with Spain Property Guides. In Mazarrón, you can find a two-bedroom villa on the Mazarrón Country club for just €90,000. A budget of €150,000 would get you a lovely two-bedroom town house or semi-detached villa in Alicante.