In this article we interview expatriate Neil McLeland who runs a bed and breakfast in Montichelvo on Spain’s Costa Blanca coast.
A bed and breakfast, commonly known also as a B&B, is a property in which the owners live and provide accommodation and lodging through the letting and renting of rooms. Sometimes the bedrooms are en-suite, sometimes guests have to share a communal bathrooms. In the morning breakfast is served which is included in the price.
Typically staying at a bed and breakfast in Spain is inexpensive and usually guests stay for a fairly short time, usually using the B&B as a place to stay en-route as they tour around Spain.
A B&B offers a very different experience compared to staying at a hotel. A bed and breakfast is much more personal, you are staying in someone’s house as a paying guest.
Apart from being much cheaper than a hotel it is a chance to get more in touch with the real Spain by finding out from the B&B owner about the local area, they are bound to be able to tell you the best places to visit and see in the local area. You are likely to find out much more about life in Spain.
What is a Casa Rural?
In Spain B&Bs are known as Casa Rural. Often bed and breakfasts in Spain are situated away from the busy coasts in slightly inland and rural locations which means you get to explore the real Spain away from the busy tourist resorts.
In some regions and provinces of Spain B&Bs are controlled and inspected but in other areas they are not.
Opening and starting a bed and breakfast business in Spain could be an excellent way to move to Spain and earn an income because most people will move to Spain and buy a house anyway. In this case you are buying a property in Spain but using it to earn an additional income – possibly a full-time income if you have enough rooms and can get your occupancy levels up.
The growth of the Internet means you can easily and cheaply market and advertise your bed and breakfast to people from all around the world. There are also many websites advertising B&Bs for sale so you could easily buy an existing bed and breakfast business with established profits and possible repeat visitors. In fact that is how we met with Neil – because he had his B&B for sale.
Neil what made you move to Spain?
“It was originally my wife’s idea; she had wanted to retire to Spain eventually. I had France in mind, for no better reason than I knew a little French from school days! A few visits to Spain and the general area where we have settled soon had me sold on her idea too.”
Did you move over with starting a B&B in Spain in mind or did you move and that happened later?
“We were ‘early retirees’ having finally had enough of how things were going in the UK and as such only had our savings to rely on as pensions were still a fair way off. Being unsure whether our savings would be enough when we settled here we looked at some possibilities to earn some money should it not be the case. To us a B&B seemed a good business to run from home!”
Did you buy an established bed and breakfast business or did you start from scratch?
“We started from scratch because of the property we bought. It was newly reformed and laid out with enough bedrooms and bathrooms for the job, the location really swung it though, as its in the centre church square in a very small traditional Spanish village, we had not wanted to do the big expat community thing, we wanted to mix and blend in with the locals and their way of life. The ‘Real Spain’ aspect of this location gave us the potential to offer guests a different kind of holiday in Spain to the usual resort type.”
Why did you choose to run a B&B in Montichelvo compared to other areas of Spain?
“Again because of the house. We hadn’t heard of Montichelvo before we viewed it. We were quite familiar with the Costa Blanca and the Costa Azahar but not the small just-inland villages. It ticked pretty well all the boxes for us, as I said we wanted to live in a traditional Spanish location. We are lucky though that Montichelvo is only 20 minutes from the superb coastline and the new CV60 was completed shortly after our arrival making access very easy.”
Was it easy setting up a B&B business in Spain I’m thinking local laws and regulations?
“We looked long and hard into this and got advice from our Gestor. Registered self employment in Spain is expensive but fortunately we are able to come into a different category. Basically, because we are only letting rooms in our own house that we actually live in ourselves, the only financial requirement is to declare any income from these activities on our normal tax return and do not need to register as self employed.
This does, however, mean that we are responsible for our own healthcare etc. We have discussed our situation with our local Town Hall and they have been very encouraging – they have even included a reference to our establishment in the latest tourist guide they’ve produced. Obviously anyone considering this for themselves should take their own legal advice as local rules may vary.”
Neil, I could be wrong, but there doesn’t seem to be that many B&Bs in Spain compared to say France and I would have thought it an ideal expat business – am I right and if so why?
“I think you are right and that is quite surprising. A B&B is ideal as an expat business, even if only because of the language situation. We are far from fluent in Spanish (even less so in Valenciano) but it doesn’t stop us accepting guests from many other English speaking countries. Through our website marketing we have had guests from many European countries and even as far afield as Australia!”
Do you have any advice for people looking to buy a property and set up a B&B in Spain?
“Yes, decide on your location carefully it’s where you will be living full time yourself. We wanted the type of village that we are in, not everyone would. Some may prefer more expats around them. Secondly, look at what your location will offer guests. As examples – we have a range of mountains behind our village that offer wonderful walking and photography possibilities straight from the house, we are surrounded by an agricultural landscape with olives, oranges and numerous other fruit crops.
If guests don’t want to actually do anything – then we have enough roof terraces and spacious rooms that they can just relax in. As is the case with many Spanish villages Montichelvo has a superb swimming pool which guests can use during the summer months although if you choose a location with enough interest it won’t just be summer that guests will want to book, the ‘season’ could actually be all year.”
Your own B&B is for sale – obvious question, why and what do you intend to do next?
“We have settled in enough to know how stable our finances are and feel that we can fully retire. This means that we want to downsize our property considerably (hopefully in the same area) and also we want more time for our own travelling.”
Do you have any advice for people looking to move to Spain?
“Subject to finances – just do it! Spain is a wonderful country, the people, certainly from our experience, could not be more welcoming. The old adages ‘this is not a rehearsal’ and ‘you only get one life’ could not apply more. Family ties can be quite difficult but ‘home’ is not far away by plane or even car. If you choose a large enough property to accommodate them, friends and family will soon be coming out to visit you anyway.”
Do you have any advice on earning a earning a living in spain?
“That’s probably the toughest question! Times are not at their best now. If you need to rely on your savings then be realistic about how much you will need to live. Getting a job, even if you have the language skills, has probably never been tougher. As already said self employment can be expensive and if applicable needs to be factored into your budgets. As in the answer to your previous question – it’s all subject to finances.”
This Spanish ex-pat interview above was recorded on the 3rd of November 2009. Thank you to Neil for providing this interesting information about moving to Spain and starting a bed and breakfast business.
To stay at Neil’s B&B or find out more about buying his bed and breakfast visit his Casa Rural website.
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