Moving to Alicante – Expat Tips and Advice

THINGS I HAVE LEARNED (THE HARD WAY) ABOUT MOVING TO SPAIN

by Barry Ibbotson

Never ask a Spaniard ‘Do you speak English’

I asked that question frequently and most times got a blunt ‘No’.

For example I had to visit the local town hall (Ayuntiamento) to sort some legal matter and asked the question, ‘No’ was the reply so I struggled for a while with my very limited Spanish and suddenly the person started speaking excellent English.

In the event I was missing a document to complete the business and had to call back the following day, I waited specifically for the same guy who I’d spoken to the day before and said ‘Good morning, I’ve got the papers’ only to be met with a blank stare and a response ‘Que’.

After trying to explain we had spoken English the day before I started stumbling along in Spanish. I think the guy got fed up with this as he suddenly started speaking English again and the business was completed.

From that time on instead of asking ‘Do you speak English’ I say ‘I only speak a little Spanish’ or ’Solo hablo un poco de Espanola’ (Which I learned from a book, nowadays I use Google) and the usual response is that the person will react with ‘That’s OK I speak English’

So the moral is learn a little Spanish to start with and try using it, it doesn’t matter how you come across but the Spanish appreciate your efforts and as most – and certainly the younger ones – speak English I found they are glad to help in your language.

Having said all that we should, of course, learn the language but I find that most Brits (including me) are too lazy to bother and whilst we get away with it in the most part we do have to employ the services of a translator occasionally.

BUYING PROPERTY IN SPAIN

Before you even consider making an offer on a house or property in Spain try to look at as many aspects as you can, consider the drawbacks as well as the advantages. It is easy to convince yourself that the lifestyle would be ideal or disastrous depending on your point of view, when we (my wife and I) moved to Spain over 12 years ago we had not too much going for us in the UK at that time.

I had been made redundant at age 55 and suddenly from a comfortable lifestyle we had to put our house on the market as our income could not sustain the standard to which we were accustomed, we then looked at lesser properties in the UK and villas in Spain, as we had no children or living parents family issues were not a problem.

As we were only in our fifties we sold the UK house and all contents and moved in with my sister for a time, meanwhile we still looked at smaller houses in England and spent two weeks in Spain looking at properties and calculated we could buy a house in Spain using half our assets from the sale of our possessions in the UK and living on the remaining cash until retirement pensions came due.

Having made the decision we moved to Spain in 1997 and all went fine, we made friends with all nationalities but noticed that some British people never settled, most of these were OK for a few months then found that living here isn’t the same as coming on holiday, another reason for repatriating was for family reasons especially missing the grandchildren.

As we had no children and had thought about life here BEFORE we made the decision to move these problems never arose, a big advantage in our favour at the time was the cost of living and property prices both of which have risen faster than UK costs over the 12 years, in my estimation costs twelve years ago averaged little over half of UK costs and now it’s more like 80% which is still better than the UK but you need to know which way the Euro/Pound is going as at the time of writing £1.00 = €1.07 (Exactly 2 years ago it was €1.50) So the moral is do your homework.

HOW MUCH TO PAY FOR A HOUSE

Property has always been a good investment, the UK had a bit of negative equity very recently and in the early nineties though things are reported to be looking up, Spain still has bargains from people who need to sell but you will have choices to make if and when you decide to buy.

There is a practice in Spain which, though not legal, seems to be popular, this involves black money (To use a common term) and reduces the amount of taxes payable by both buyers and sellers.

If a house is marketed at €500,000.00 for example the buyer can agree to the price and allow about 10% on top of that to pay for legal fees, taxes etc. making an outlay of €550.000.00

This comprises of about 7½% duty on the value of the house (i.e. 7½% of €500.000.00 is €37,500.00) and the rest going to the Notary (Official overseeing the legal transaction), Gestor (manager usually involved with preparing paperwork) or Abogado (Solicitor if you feel is necessary, more expensive but more qualified than the Gestor)

Should you decide to take another option and agree to a written deed valuation (Escritura) of say 60% of the asking price you will then have to pay €300,000.00 plus 7½% of €300.000.00 which is €22,500.00 plus legal fees plus on top of all this the BLACK MONEY and this is the remaining 40% of the agreed cost i.e. €200.000.00 leaving a total outlay of €522,500.00.

As you can see there is a saving of about €27,000.00 by this method and as previously stated though not legal is common practice and indeed some sellers will not sell if black money is not involved as they too face similar tax liabilities.

As far as I can see the authorities are aware that this system has always existed in Spain and say it will be stopped especially when interested parties try to ‘Buck’ the system and try to minimise the tax payments by claiming the properties are less than 50% of actual values. The choice is yours.

If, in spite of all your concerns, you are still planning to own a property in Spain you, as buyer, should call the tune. The employment of an Abogado (Solicitor) is not compulsory but advisable to ensure the property has all the necessary papers and permissions (Though this itself is still not 100% foolproof) and hope you get it right.

About the author: Barry and Margaret Ibbotson live on the golf course, Alenda, in Monforte del Cid, about 20 km north west of Alicante.

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