Imagine asking a newly formed estate agency in Britain, managed and run by Spaniards, to give you sound and correct advice on all aspects of purchasing your dream property in the UK. Not on your Nelly! I hear you say.
True enough, credible advice can only be provided by someone who was born and bred in Britain or, at the very least, who has resided there for most of his life and backs his expertise with acceptable British qualifications.
So why is it that so many estate agents, after only just 5 minutes in Spain, pretend to know all about properties, locations and everything else there is to know about buying what is often defined as my dream home in the sun? Is it really surprising that so many people describe their property purchase as their house from hell?
Who is it that gave assurances that buying off plan would result in substantial profits being made before buildings were completed? Who is it that guaranteed at least a rental income to pay for mortgages or indeed to provide an income? Where are those fantastic super estate agents who brought over to sunny Spain flight after flight loads of would be British investors? And those who even took the trouble to fly over to peoples homes in the UK just to take deposits and sign purchase contracts? What have they got to say now?
It would seem that the genetic make up of British people contains an inborn desire, or dream to own a home in the sun and live a life of luxury, to lay back and relax. Well why not? Why spend the rest of your life in a cold and mostly rainy climate or suffer the pressures and boring routines imposed by a fast and constantly moving environment when there is an opportunity to opt out of it? However, to succeed, you must have the real means to do it.
It is this very aspect that has been exploited to the hilt by British estate agents and builders, whose only interest was to make as much money as possible with the greatest haste, using their language and their knowledge of British nature and customs as a basis for trust.
This is not meant to defend the Spanish builders, the local mayors & co, and even the banks on both sides of the fence; they just jumped on the band wagon and went along with what eventually became the equivalent to a gold rush.
But was there any gold to start with? The greater the rush the faster became the building pace; properties got built like there was no tomorrow, all financed by deposits and even full payments taken for properties as yet to be built and by bank loans, with estate agents in the middle collecting anything from 5% commission.
Of course speed was achieved at the expense of quality building; properties were also built on green land with the unauthorised consent of local authorities. Banks accepted Mickey Mouse valuations and income evidence while offering mortgages well over the true value of properties, even to include buying costs and furniture.
Have you seen an abandoned gold mine? Its what happens when the gold runs out; the fever subsides then the cold, ruthless truth shows its ugly side; and this is exactly what has happened in sunny Spain!
Estate agents and builders have gone out of business, houses now have to be demolished for being built without permission or on green land; mortgage loans exceed the true value of properties and a gigantic stock of built and unfinished properties provide an incredibly large surplus to demand. To make things worse, the rate of interest in Spain is well up on what it was and the higher repayments are resulting in repossessions and abandonment of properties.
The cause is not limited to the greed of the estate agents, the builders and the banks. Buyers too have been blinded by greed and sheer stupidity, letting themselves be so easily duped into parting with their money on the sole evidence of some drawings, colourful leaflets and a bit of empty land. You certainly never pay for a house in Britain before completion; not before you are satisfied that it meets all requirements. Even the deposit is subject to contract! So why come to Spain and leave your brain behind? Even the idea of the dream home has been distorted by propaganda. I can assure you that my dream is not to live in a small flat within a block of blocks in a development that resembles Alcatraz. There are thousands of these abortions all over the place; who the hell wants to buy them?
People have sold or remortgaged their homes to come here and pretend they are film stars and better than thou, even though their last home may have been an ex council house. They have themselves to blame before anyone else.
The false sense of security created by mortgages on these imaginary valuations resulted in a heavy influx of people that should have never come to Spain other than on holidays. Due to lack of sufficient income, many raised even more loans on their Mickey Mouse valuations just to maintain an unreal lifestyle; then they have had to take jobs or offer services they are not qualified to do, many even ended up as cleaners, painters or whatever. More of a nightmare than a dream! But in the end they still could not and cannot manage and must give it all up to return whence they came. Hence the great exodus we are seeing.
The press and other UK media are having a field day blaming Spain, the Spanish and everything they can think of but they clearly miss the real point.
I have moved to Spain 17 years ago, I have not had any real problems but then I am not pretending to be what I am not. I took the trouble to learn Spanish and the way things are done, I employ the right qualified professionals and I pay my Social Security and taxes, I even have a Spanish pension to look forward to.
It is high time that the media, especially the British media got things right and put the blame where it really belongs.
What really infuriates me is that whats left of these so called estate agents are at it again, they now coyly offer dream homes at incredibly reduced prices! Are we not talking of properties that have been repossessed, abandoned or force-sold because they were overpriced in the first place? Grossly reduced prices? My foot! Reduced from what? From Mickey Mouse valuations to a more realistic market value? So where is the saving?
They should stop duping more people with more Walt Disney stories and stop dragging us, the real expats, down to their level! After all I left Britain to get away from the type people who have followed on because of the unreal Gold Rush created by the estate agents.
I read your article and you speak a lot of sense I have just returned from my holiday flat yesterday 14th Oct 2009 I think I have followed the correct route, my friends have spanish lawers whom looked after my interests and I have been very happy for the past 6 years but just this recent holiday I have felt a little bit flat on my return I feel were I am in La Cala has lost a little bit of its sparkle and feel I was really being ripped of by taxi drivers for example a 2min cab journey up the hill to my flat 7 euros a bit exspensive I am not jumping on the band wagon of all expats who slate Spain I love it and feel Iam going to have a rest from it now maybe for a year I have a nice flat and have spent money on it and in for the long haul I would like to know your views of were we are now and what do you think the next year holds for people like me as I said you speak a lot of sense and I could go on some more but I think I will run out of space Many thank Joe
Rated: 5/5 (15th October 2009)
Editor's comments: Dear Sir, The whole Costa del Sol has lost a bit of its sparkle. I believe this is due to the financial crisis and the poor rate of exchange with the British Pound which are forcing a number of people and families to return to the UK. The majority of people affected are those whose pension income is not sufficient (after exchanging to Euros) to maintain the desired standard of living and those that have no capital to maintain a business during the crisis. It is practically impossible to get any help from any bank in Spain as they are taking a very hard line, further more the UK government is also taking a hard line with their Social Security support especially in the cases of false claims through invalidity etc. In a way it is not so bad if we can shed those that come to the Costa del Sol re-inventing themselves into something they are not, deceiving consumers, just to try and continue living here when they should not. Anyway I am hoping that we are touching bottom, and that things will start picking up again, I think we may well see the first signs of this in the spring, however it is now up to us to make sure that we no longer get ripped off by co-nationals as well as Spaniards and if we think that we are being charged too much or that the service we are paying for is not good enough, we must complain. Make sure that the service provider is actually qualified and even licensed if need be. Remember, complaining is the only time something gets done. I know that prices have gone up slightly but there are many reductions and offers available at the moment because of the crisis. I do not know how much your taxi should have cost but if you thought they were taking advantage of you should either negotiate the price in advance (advisable) or pay only what you think is the correct price, but you must be sure you are right, otherwise if he is right and pushes it you will be in the wrong. In conclusion I think you should hang on and enjoy your holiday property, values will start going up again in due course as they did before, anyway they have to keep up with inflation on the longer term. Things will go on improving and there is nowhere else in Europe where you can get the quality of life available here at such a short flying distance from the UK. Kindest regards,