Expats Shirley Crago and her husband Len initially searched much of Spain looking to buy a holiday home with a view to eventually moving to Spain permanently.
Below Shirley shares their story of their move to Ontinyent in Spain.
Having read your newsletters for the last few months, I thought I would take up your suggestion of writing a few paragraphs of our own experience of Spain.
We travelled to several areas looking for a suitable place to buy, first as a holiday home and hopefully, in the future, to spend most of our time in Spain, with just visits to the UK.
Our friends had a villa in Calpe where we stayed several times and explored as far north and south as was practical during our holidays there.
We also stayed in Gran Alacant, near Alicante airport and further south near Torrevieja; again we drove from town to town looking at suitable places.
We wanted somewhere peaceful with nice countryside views rather than a typical beach apartment but also didn’t want to be too far from the beaches.
We arranged a trip further north, nearer Valencia, as the property seemed less expensive there than further south, but unfortunately despite months of planning on the internet and contacting several estate agents, we found on arriving there that few of the properties actually existed, or that they had already been sold, but were on websites to attract you over and the agents would then take us to see other properties which they had on their books, in the hope of getting you to buy from them.
I found this particularly frustrating as I am an estate agent myself!
The area close to Valencia airport was a little busy for us, and the beaches were quite difficult to get to from many of the towns we visited in the Cheste, Lliria area, having to drive on busy motorways to get to the beaches.
We found an English agent in Anna, a pretty town inland just north of the Costa Blanca area, Lionel had married a girl from the town and lived there for over 30 years, and spoke fluent Spanish. Lionel although English was working for a Spanish estate agent, Gabinete Inmobiliario.
He showed us a few nice properties in the area but at that time, these properties were selling quite quickly, and after returning to the UK to sort out a mortgage, these were sold before we could buy.
We returned to Spain a few months later and although we couldn’t find what we wanted in the area around Anna, Lionel put us in touch with another agent a little further south and we found our ideal casita in the campo near Ontinyent, which is 40 mins from Valencia airport and just over half an hour to the beaches of Gandia, Oliva.
We are quite close to Albaida, where the lady Letitia lives, who wrote about her experience in your last newsletter.
We wanted a decent sized plot, as some of the properties on the coast were very close together; the problem inland was how big the plots were! Many had 10 thousand metres or more and we couldn’t see how we could manage a plot that size.
Although we have lots of fruit and olive trees and lovely views, the large town of Ontinyent is only 5 mins drive away and has great shops and restaurants and lots of historic buildings too. The best of both worlds!
I enrolled for Spanish classes at night school, as few people in the area speak English; we wanted the ‘real Spain’. We realized that you have to adapt to the lifestyle of the locals, all the shops, except the large supermarkets, close for a siesta from around 2pm until 4.30pm, and restaurants rarely serve food before 8pm to 8.30pm.
We used to have an early lunch, go into town for a walk around the shops, only to find they were all shut! We also found that as the Spanish eat their main meal lunchtime; most restaurants only serve snacks in the evening but offer an excellent 3 course lunch with bread and drinks for 8 to 10 Euros.
We found that having bought from a good local estate agent; we have relied on them for lots of advice with things like getting bills redirected, recommending workmen or advising where to dispose of unwanted items of furniture. Our agents Rafa Gandia have been invaluable to us for their help and patience and are still on hand whenever we need them.
Our neighbours are warm and friendly, with invites round for traditional meals and offers of recipes for paella. They keep an eye on things when we are in the UK, and we count down the days before we can return to Spain before each visit!
With the recession, job losses and pay cuts here, we have something to focus on and look forward to. We often go back to Anna, where there is a lovely lake and outdoor natural pool in summer, with willow trees and ducks, worth a visit if you are in the area.
Shirley Crago. I hope the photos are ok, the first is taken from our balcony, the next two are the lake in Anna and the last one in a natural gorge and local beauty spot in the mountains just outside Ontinyent.
Article resources: The two estate agents mentioned are Gabinete Inmobiliario and Inmobiliaria Rafa Gandía
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