Living in Javea, Costa Blanca, Spain

In today’s expatriate interview, we are doing a follow-up interview with Julie Colcutt of Alta Villas in Javea on the Costa Blanca in Spain.

You can read the previous interview in full here: moving to Javea Spain but just to recap, when I last spoke with Julie two years ago she had lived in Spain for two years having moved from Reading in the United Kingdom.

But Julie and her husband Gary worked in a corporate position for a recruitment company and they moved to Spain with their three teenage children.

Julie-Alta-VillasHaving originally moved to Els Poblets, a small village near Denia on the Costa Blanca, they decided to move to the more vibrant town of Javea which is very much an international town where 50% of the population are expatriates (foreigners).

Julie formed her company Alta Villas, very much as a result of the lack of help in relocating to Spain. She decided to set up a company specialising in long-term rentals and sales of property but with an after-sales commitment to continuing to help her clients settle into the area.

Julie thank you for doing this update and I think the place to start would be following on from the interview we did two years ago and finding out just how much things have changed for you and how you are seeing life in Spain now.

Okay, well as things stand at the moment, my business is busier than ever and has changed enormously. I now have a staff of four people and we have recently moved into new premises in a prime location in the Arenal area of Javea which is where the main beach is located.

I have also changed the company structure to a S.L. which people will understand in terms of a limited company in the United Kingdom as opposed to running my business as an individual. This is providing more credibility and reassurance to the many nationalities that we do business with such as French, Dutch and Germans.

Right, so the business is going well, on the personal front we talked quite a bit last time about how your children were adapting to life in Spain, how is that going?

Mark I have to be honest with you and tell you that did not go as planned. My children were in the Spanish education system and with the critical exams coming up for the last year of secondary education, we realised they were just not going to pass them.

So we took the decision to home educate them and did a combination of using local teachers for homeschooling as well as joining an online website called ICS where we could do distance learning and they could take their GCSE’s online.

Education in Spain is also a big concern of many of our clients. I think in retrospect I would certainly say that it is very hard for a child aged over 10, unless they are very academic, to cope with the Spanish education system, simply because of the language difficulties. It is especially difficult in this region because the children are also taught in the local dialect of Valenciano.

In the Spanish school system, children who are struggling can be put back a year. I think the maximum number of times this can happen is three. So in some cases you can have 17-year-old children being taught with 14-year-old children!

The trouble is that for the children it is very demoralising and this of course can lead to bad behaviour. This experience has certainly helped me in my business. Now when people are relocating to Spain we can advise them on which is the best education choice for their children.

We have very good relationships with the international schools in the area which are the Lady Elizabeth School and the XIC college. We can also help with getting kids into the Spanish school system.

The other big concern of people moving to Spain is how to survive financially and I’m also helping a lot of people get started with setting up businesses by putting them in touch with lawyers and other people who can help them. Many people are coming to Spain with some really interesting business ideas and I think this is a real positive side of Spain.

I think if you are prepared to work hard and you have a sensible business brain there are lots of opportunities. I think people try things here in Spain they would never do ‘at home’ so it does encourage the entrepreneurial spirit.

We recently helped one client who had an idea of a children’s play area on the beach which is now set up in Denia. This is a side of the business I really enjoy and I love getting involved in trying to help people.

I know times are hard and there is a lot of doom and gloom in the press but with Spain you have to remember that it is always going to have the good weather and beaches and therefore there is always going to be tourism. With tourism comes the need to have restaurants, cafes and bars as well as other services.

I’ve also taken over a new business since we last spoke which is also very popular with tourists and the expatriate market. Certainly in this area, with a population of over 50% being expats, there is very much a demand for catering to their needs.

I bought the Natural Fish Spa which has been running for 18 months and has proved to be very popular. We have added the additional services of a beautician and will also have a hairdresser soon, services aimed the at the lady expats who like to have a bit of pampering all under one roof.

Julie, let’s focus on your core business which two years ago was very much your long-term rentals, has that changed at all?

The profile of people coming into the area has very much changed, they are much more cautious than they were a few years ago. These days, people buying holiday homes or investment properties don’t tend to buy unless they are very sure that the property is going to be a sound investment.

property-JaveaPeople who plan to live here initially like to try before they buy, so they rent first, either to try the area or try the house and then may buy after a year or so.

There is a massive demand in the long term rental market to the point where we actually struggle in the summer because of the shortage of properties because many owners like to rent their houses out over the summer months.

However while the long-term rentals is very much our main business, we are increasingly involved in the sale of properties.

That’s quite interesting and something I wasn’t expecting you to say! There is of course a lot of negativity in the press at the moment because of the problems in the Eurozone. Tell me about who is buying and why?

Well there are a lot of people investing in property at the moment because of the almost non-existent returns they are getting in the bank. There are simply some great bargains to be had and prices have come down to a very low level. It is hard to see them going any lower and if they do it won’t be by much, so this is a great time to buy.

We are quite unusual at Alta Villas in that we are one of the few agents who deal in both sales and lettings. Most other agents prefer to deal in one or the other. Many of our clients who are buying properties are people who have rented from us first.

Tell me about the typical profile of a buyer.

If people are coming to Spain and needing to raise a mortgage they are going to generally struggle unless they have a large deposit.

We have a lot of Dutch, Germans, Russian and French who are buying. They typically have a good credit rating, a big deposit or are cash buyers. They are picking up properties at under market value. These need not necessarily be repossessions, which often can be higher-priced with the banks than if you go direct to the owners.

Some owners are still very much unrealistic and are thinking back to five years ago when villa prices used to be much higher. The reality is those days are gone and people who are prepared to be realistic can sell their properties.

Many people are buying these properties to rent them out for holiday rentals. We are selling more villas than apartments. Other buyers are young families who have been renting or retirees who want to spend a good part of the year in Spain.

Tell me about people going back to the UK. I certainly know lots of friends who have moved back or are moving back right now, what’s happening there?

Listening to the radio I am hearing a lot of adverts for Next Online, Argos Online, so there are more and more services aimed at the expats. We now have a regular bus service to Alicante airport so there are lots of changes and lots of positives happening.

From my point of view I’d have to say it’s busier here now than it was two years ago. Yes there are plenty of people who have moved back but equally there are plenty of people moving out.

I think to be honest that’s just part of expat life, it’s very transient and for all sorts of reasons people move, sometimes it is health, sometimes it’s they are missing the grandchildren, sometimes their children’s education or work reasons.

But Spain is definitely a way for people to get out of the rat race and of course a lot of people are working remotely these days so why not work in Spain where you can enjoy a wonderful lifestyle.

Julie Colcutt

Alta Villas Properties SL

CIF B54600630

Property sales, rentals and management.

Javea, Denia, Moraira and the Jalon Valley

Landline: 0034 965 796 311 (Spain and non-UK countries)

01189 076206 (Low cost calls from the UK)

Mobile: 0034 622 354 907 (Spain and non-UK countries)

Email: info@altavillas.com

Website: http://www.altavillas.com

Address: Avda Libertad 19, Local 12 Arenal, Javea, 03730, Alicante, Spain

Related Reading…

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