I had a call from an old friend from back in the day during the week, with an interesting proposition. He said that he had a bit of spare cash, didn’t fancy gambling it on any investments under current market conditions and thus felt like using it to buy a little holiday getaway property in Spain, just for himself and his significant other, no investment needs whatsoever.
It hasn’t really been a common aspiration for Irish buyers as, in the past, they’ve nearly always had some investment needs, even if they wouldn’t admit it to themselves. That is, they would require income from the property to help paying down loans either in Spain or back home in Ireland. It is, however, becoming a lot more common as people step back after the heady days of the ‘Tiger’ and decide that they really need to take some time out for themselves. Summers in Ireland over the past half decade have also encouraged property buyers to look overseas. Of course, the upside of the recession right across Europe is that this is a time when property prices in a number of popular destinations are very attractive.
If you are looking for a pure lifestyle use property then it frees you up from certain considerations you might have to consider if you were buying purely for investment, but not all of them. You should always remember the mantra that ‘the day you buy is the day you sell’. You should always purchase something that can be resold fairly easily, simply because things don’t always go according to plan. Should you die, divorce or have an unexpected reversal of fortune in your family or business dealings you or your loved ones may need to sell the property, so you don’t want it to end up as a mill-stone around your, or anybody else’s, neck.
Firstly, you should remember that Spain is in an equally difficult, if not worse, economic climate than Ireland at the moment. This makes it very easy to buy property and very difficult to sell it. Be careful, if you are found to be a prospective buyer in Spain you’ll be devoured by agents, sub-agents, Timeshare salespeople, etc. Be a bit clever about it and do a lot of background investigation. Just because property is showing some value at the moment does not mean that it’s all worth buying. In a recession poor quality property loses value a lot more quickly than high quality property so you could find that it’s a lot harder to locate a really cheap ‘gem’ than you might be led to believe. Very much like Ireland, a lot of the property on the market in Spain is quite simply rubbish and it won’t get any better if and when things improve economically.
The following tips will work no matter where you want to buy a property for your own use, they are not just applicable to Spain.
If you don’t know the area that might suit you then you need to do some background work. The cheapest way, if possible, is to take a week or fortnight away on a package holiday. Rent a car and travel the immediate environs, get a feel for areas that might suit you. It may take a few trips, but that’s part of the enjoyment of the whole thing, it doesn’t have to be a big chore. When you find somewhere that you think may be suitable start sourcing some properties that may be worthy of renting, then move on to the next step.
If you know the area you think might be of interest to you then you should rent a property in that area for a minimum of 3 months, but preferrably 6 months or even a year. Whatever happens, make sure the time period in question covers the winter and make sure you are in the area for a substantial amount of this period. Just because a place is rocking in the summer doesn’t mean that it will be as much of an attraction out of season. The things that you really liked about the summer season may not exist in the winter, which would make it a bit dull for most of your stay there. Again, rent a car, move around, do plenty of investigation. If you need to rent a room in a hotel in an area away from the area in which you are staying for a few nights, get out, speak to locals. You’ll be surprised how much information about an area they can impart, and how happy they are to do so. They can also often guide you through the morass of the property market, advising who to consider and who to avoid.
When you’ve found an area that appeals to you and have spent some time there then it is time to start your property hunt. Wait for the initial euphoria to wear off, it’s a terrible time to buy property and estate agent staff in holiday areas are trained specifically to take advantage of this. When you’ve fallen in love with an area be sure to visit it at least two more times to make sure the love lasts and that it’s not unrequited.
At this stage you should be ready. You should have spoken to lots of locals, found out what areas to consider and which to avoid and researched prices so you don’t get taken for a ride. You should have, at this stage, done plenty of searching on Spanish property portals like Kyero. You could also do with signing up for regular updates from Mark Stucklin’s invaluable Spanish Property Insight forum.
After that it’s up to you.
Best of luck, and most of all, enjoy.