Buying a home in a new country is for many people the most crucial decision they will make during their lifetime. Some may decide to return to their home country at a later stage – perhaps in retirement – but few will move on to a third destination. So ensuring the right decisions are made, especially if a family is involved, is of paramount importance – and there are some key considerations that should be on anyone’s checklist.
Research on the internet is a useful initial step to determine potential destinations but nothing beats a personal visit and well-planned “reconnaissance”. In fact, many expatriates who have settled on the Costa del Sol have previously holidayed in the area, often on various occasions over the years, thus gaining a valuable insight into the lifestyle and property options. It may also be advisable to rent a property before buying, to familiarise yourself with the area, town or urbanisation.
Climate tends to be a common denominator – certainly for people considering a move from the colder northern climes – and this puts the Costa del Sol at the top of most people’s lists. Just bear in mind that the heat in August can become quite stifling… perhaps a good time to return home to visit family and friends!
Once the decision is made about the country and area – and obviously we are assuming it’s the Costa del Sol! – it is time to consider the bottom line. If you still have to sell your property back home, how much is its realistic market value? If you require financing, what mortgage terms do the Spanish or Spain-based European banks offer?
At this stage it is also essential to have a reality check about your potential daily budget. It is true that alcohol and dining out, for example, are cheaper in Spain than most other northern European countries but the respective differences between other staples of family life (groceries, clothes, utilities, council taxes, tradesmen’s services) and furnishings and home accessories have been narrowing in recent years. Again, holidaying in the area first will give you a realistic view of normal prices at the supermarket, restaurant, bar/cafeteria, boutique and furniture store.
All of which brings us to earning a living, unless your income is sufficient from investments or a pension.
In the past, a common cliché was that Andalusians suffered from “mañana syndrome”: effectively, don’t do today what you can put off for tomorrow. The reality – rather than the urban legend – is that Andalusians have the same solid work ethic as other Europeans, particularly so in a prime tourist region such as the Costa del Sol, where efficient and friendly service is so important.
Underestimating the “local competition” for jobs or business is, therefore, unwise. An impressive CV, or business model, may get your foot in the door but gaining a permanent seat at the table will require an understanding and appreciation of the nuances of the Costa employment market, as a salaried staffer, self-employed professional or business owner.
A willingness to integrate into the Spanish community, and be guided by local knowledge rather than try to import practices that don’t travel well, is highly advisable. To that end, signing up for Spanish lessons as soon as you are settled is a sensible priority.
Healthcare in Spain has come under intense scrutiny over the past year so either make sure you still retain cover back home, and a valid reciprocal arrangement with Spain, or seriously consider private health insurance – unless your new employment situation provides state Spanish health cover for you and, most importantly, the whole family.
Choosing the right school is just as important for those with youngsters. Check out our guide to the various educational options available on the Costa del Sol, either private or public (“Education”).
Trans-Europe travel with pets is now conveniently harmonised so bringing “Brandy” along is relatively simple, obviously with all the required veterinary documents in order and an EU pet passport.
If you decide to bundle the children, dog and luggage into the family car and drive to your new home, you will need to look at transferring the registration to Spanish plates if you eventually become an official resident of Spain.
Otherwise, new car prices in Spain remain among the cheapest in Europe, and in recent years the market for second-hand cars has also flourished.
The train service between Málaga city and Fuengirola is excellent, and the bus system covering other areas is adequate, but most new residents will need the convenience of a car.
Finally, with the decision made, a reputable international removal company booked and the Spanish home prepared for occupation, it will be necessary to tie up all the administrative issues: obtain a NIE (Número de Identificación de Extranjero) number if required for work, residential status or a multitude of other official transactions; open a bank account (most have multilingual staff) and, ideally, arrange direct debits with the utility companies (electricity, water, telephone, internet, satellite TV); contract house insurance; and, if necessary, seek out the most favourable money transfer terms. Perhaps even sign on at a gym or tennis club!
Then, once settled in, it will be off to the supermarket for some jamón serrano, cheese and olives and a bottle of Ribera del Duero to celebrate the start of your new life beside the Mediterranean.
After that, any doubts or queries… Obsido Real Estate is on hand to offer advice and support.