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How NOT to buy a House and Move to Spain - Part 2.

By Mr Grumpy - Mon 24th May 2010

Click here to read How NOT to buy a house and move to Spain – Part 1.

When we returned to Spain some weeks later we were actually waiting to sign the purchase contract in the Notary’s office when we were told of an antiquated law – basically, that the details of our purchase would be put in the local town hall to allow any of our neighbours the chance to purchase the plot in order to extend their own land area if they chose. The law stated that any of our neighbours could compulsory purchase the property from the new owner (us) at the price stated on the escritura. The problem that this caused us was that there was a significant amount of money that we had agreed would be ‘Black’, which was not declared on the escritura, and which we stood to lose if this law was invoked. Yes, we fell for the old ‘black money is how all property in Spain changes hands to keep taxes down’ line.

Call it misplaced optimism, but for some reason we decided to chance the sale and fortunately it all went well for us, but we could have managed without the stressful 4 weeks waiting to see if our purchase was challenged.

Our next problem came when we were told that we did not own all of the property as it had been explained to us. There was what I can only describe as an unused goat shed attached to the back of the property that was not listed as being ours on the escritura. It was only a very tiny part of the building as a whole, but it meant that the access road was not exclusively ours, and that our property was not detached, but rather semi-detached.

Nonetheless, we decided to press on with our plans and commence with the reform and build of the property and commissioned a set of architect’s plans. We came back to Spain after a few weeks to view the plans only to be told that our builder was in prison with no date of release given, or in sight. We decided to stick with the current Estate Agent / Builder combo as we had built up a relationship with them and they knew the plans and the property. We didn’t particularly want to begin the process again with somebody else.

It was probably after 12 months that we heard from the Estate Agent that the builder ‘should’ be home in the next few weeks, and so we decided that we had a lot of lost time to make up for, and that we should relocate to Spain to oversee the project ourselves, renting for a couple of weeks, in the original town that we chose, in order to do this.

This we did, but weeks turned into months without any sign of the builder being released. Also – the longer the time we spent in Spain waiting, the more we were eating into our savings and stagnating, and the more we realised that we preferred the original town (where we were now renting) and that our new property was really ‘too isolated’ for what we wanted.

We complicated the issue further as both of us were successful in finding jobs over here (which in itself was amazing, and I’m sure wouldn’t happen today!) - I was by profession a Technical Sales Engineer, and Mrs Grumpy was the owner of a Conference and Event Co-ordinators – neither trades that are particularly in demand in Spain. These jobs were both located close to the town where we had originally intended to live.

We made the decision to put the ruin on the market (the ruin itself had not cost a great deal of money, so we were saving money on the building work that we were no longer going ahead with) and buy a further small property to live in until such a time that we could sell the ruin.

We also hoped that we would have learned from our mistakes, but we were soon to learn that there are many and varied mistakes to be made as far as property is concerned in Spain!

We were lucky in finding a small, rural finca with not too much land, not too far from the town – fully restored and coming in on budget. We made an offer, the offer was accepted and we instructed a Spanish lawyer to act on our behalf for the purchase.

The first problem came in financing the purchase. We had to bring over our sterling from the UK to buy the Finca and as such booked a forward currency trade. I arranged to send the sterling from my Bank in the UK to the currency brokers, but the Bank messed up and the funds were not sent, which meant that I missed the trade and was penalised -loosing an arm and a leg in the process. See Blog "My Currency Exchange Nightmare".

The day of contract signing brought 2 further problems that could have effected the purchase. In Spain, if the purchase is not completed within a certain time frame it can be declared void with the offending party losing their deposit. Because of the problems with my currency exchange we had pushed the date of completion to the very last day of this agreed ‘window’, so there was no room for any error. The day prior to signing Mrs Grumpy went to our bank to collect the ‘black money’ only to be told that such an amount of cash was not kept on the premises and to call back the following morning. Not a problem, we had anticipated this, hence the 24 hours notice – she handed over the request detailing the sum she wanted – written in Spanish. On returning to the bank the next morning she found that the sum had been misread to the tune of a zero being missed off! – Our appointment at the notary was less than two hours away and the only solution was to drive around our banks’ 5 sister branches to collect the money!

God alone knows how we managed it, but with a carrier bag stuffed full of various banknotes and an envelope stuffed with 4 separate bankers drafts, we sped to our lawyers office, where we parked the car and walked round to the Notary office.

It was only when we were inside the Notary’s waiting room that we found that we didn’t have the envelope!

You can probably appreciate, that with just 30 working minutes to go until the close of our ‘Window’, and without the said cash to make the purchase, to put it mildly we were ‘slightly concerned’.

To our eternal fortune, Spanish honesty and integrity prevailed - somebody found the envelope that we had dropped en route and, guessing that it was for a property purchase, delivered it by hand to the notary’s office (would this have happened in the UK?)

Anybody who has lived in Spain for any time will not be in the least surprised to hear that this was just the beginning of the many, many mistakes that we were to make. Maybe they will laugh that we got away with things ‘so lightly’.

What I do know for sure is that, although stupid, naïve and misinformed, the many, many mistakes that I have made have me much stronger as a person (or should I say ex-pat?) and if somebody can read this blog and avoid making just one of the mistakes, then that’s another pint somebody owes me.

Overall I’m sure that there is a moral to this situation, but for the life in me, I don’t know what it is!

I dare not count up the total number of mistakes that we made in our transition from being a smug ‘DINKY’ professional couple in the UK to (finally) settled expat parents, but I daresay that it runs into double figures. Has anybody else made a right royal cock –up of things aswell ?

Comment on this Blog

I was a woose and a coward, thoroughly reprehensible of me to cheat like that!
Mo - Fri, 6th Jan 2012
Mo : Marrying a Spaniard really is an extreme way of not having to pay for a relocation agent and avoiding making silly mistakes. I did think about it seriously for a while but I don't think my Girlfriend would have been too keen on the idea.
Mr Grumpy - Sat, 1st Oct 2011
What a terrible shame to have to go through all that. Then again I firmly believe the cock-up is a beloved Spanish tradition nobody really wants to scrap. If I´d had to come to Spain like that I wouldn´t come at all. I married the Spaniard prior to coming here (both lost jobs in Scotland) and was lucky that he got a job in the Spanish administration. So for us it was quite smooth even if having the money to buy anything was a struggle on one salary. Wouldl just remind you that the person responsible for these cock-ups was not you but the general Spanish conspiracy against effectiveness and accountability!
Mo - Sat, 1st Oct 2011
Very good story. I found myself cringing at every sentence. Still, at least you sound as though you have emerged wiser. It's a familiar story, the worst case is when bitterness, prejudice and then even racism step in - again far too often. Thanks for sharing your experiences.
Paul Read - Sun, 3rd Jul 2011
I can (finally) laugh about the whole envelope situation. How many people anywhere else would be so honest ? Maybe I just got lucky and found the one honest person in Town ? - I don't know, but I'm glad that I did.
Mr Grumpy - Sat, 2nd Apr 2011
I just SOOOO love your blog! I am so pleased to have found it. We have a place in the Canaries, but are yet to make the final move yet. I loved reading about your black money story (god we are so gullible - do you think the Spanish actually do that as well??). i cannot believe that your envelope got handed in - that is truly incredible!! Will now enjoy reading the rest of your stories :)
Sam - Fri, 1st Apr 2011
Hi, I really liked reading your story of not what to do and I entirely agree with you. It's the mistakes that make you a stronger person. I have a blog that I am trying to help people who want to move to Spain, make a success of and not go home having a bad experience to tell and a hell of a lot worse off financially. Thanks for you time and my blog can be found here. BR Paul
Paul - Tue, 11th Jan 2011

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