During the many years we have lived and worked in Javea, we have met very few people who have regretted their decision to move to the area. In fact, I can only remember one person who genuinely did not like living in Spain, as opposed to those who regretted moving because they missed their families and friends back in the UK. However, anybody who lives in the town or visits Javea cannot fail to see it is a lovely part of the world, with an ideal climate, so it is not surprising that most people who buy a Javea property and move to the town never regret their decision. See Javea house listings here.
However, on travelling to other parts of Spain I realise that this is not always the case and many expats moved to Spain thinking that they are about to begin a dream life, only to find the dream becomes a bit of a nightmare. Most often this is down to lack of research beforehand -if you’re planning to move to Spain you really need to do your homework before making the big decision.
On a visit to the Costa Brava a few years ago, I met a couple from York who had moved to Spain a few years previously. They had fallen in love with Llafranc, the village they relocated to, two summers before, during a driving holiday from the UK.
Needless to say, in July the weather was balmy, the village was bustling, and it appeared to be the perfect location. They visited the following summer, this time flying out, and staying for two weeks in a hotel overlooking the sea. From this perfect location, they decided there and then that they would sell up in the UK and buy a property in the village.
They actually found a small house on the outskirts of Llafranc before their two-week vacation was up. They put a deposit on the property there and then, thinking they had found their dream retirement home.
Now, the mistake this couple made was they viewed the property and the town during the time of year when everything appears at its best. The sun was shining, the weather was warm, the property looked amazing with the blooming garden and there was even a small pool that was so inviting they instantly wanted to dive in, when viewing the house under the hot summer sun.
Needless to say, in November when they moved to Spain, things were not quite so rosy. The weather was cool; this town is located near the French border, and while temperatures are not as low as the UK, snow in the winter in this area is not unusual.
The property was not prepared for the cold weather, and it cost a fortune for the couple to heat it to a minimal acceptable temperature. There was no central heating in the house, and the draughty windows meant they were spending a fortune on electricity bills and Butano gas in an attempt to keep only halfway warm.
When they purchased, flights to and from the UK were very frequent from the nearby Girona airport. However, soon after buying the house, Ryanair had issues with paying Girona airport taxes and dropped many flights to the UK including those to our luckless couples’ UK airports that were closest to their friends and family, meaning it was now much more difficult for them to travel to the UK, or for their family to visit them.
In addition, they were to learn just about all the businesses in the town closed between October and April. This meant a car drive into the village to purchase supplies from one of the very few local small shops that remained open. It also meant the nearest bars and restaurants that did remain open during the winter time were not within walking distance, and if they wanted to go out for a drink in the evening there was no other choice but to take a taxi – which would cost them more than €30 for the round trip. With limited income from their pensions, nights out were few and far between for this unfortunate couple.
Needless to say, they had put the house back on the market when I met them, but due to the demand in property being so low, there was very little chance of them selling – and if they had sold they would be lucky to get 40% of what they paid for the house, as they purchased just before the bottom fell out of the Spanish property market in 2008.
As you can see from this story, it is extremely important that you visit the area you plan to live in during the winter time as well as the summer, and if possible during spring or autumn to really get a feel for how resort towns change at different times of the year. If possible rent for a while before you buy – at least then you can walk away if life in your new town does not turn out how you expected.