The Costa life

Penny Jackson on the appeal of homeowning in Spain

Six years ago, friends of Maureen Hiron thought she was looking jaded, so they thrust the keys of their Spanish flat into her hands with the instructions: "Go to Malaga airport, turn right and you can't miss it." Half-an-hour down the then-notorious coast road of the Costa del Sol Maureen and Alan Hiron turned into the development at Calahonda, between Fuengirola and Marbella. A week later, they owned a flat of their own.

After three years of holiday visits, the Hirons (Alan is The Independent's bridge correspondent) found themselves spending more and more time in Spain. "We decided we could do everything by fax and post, in a climate that is 10 degrees warmer," says Alan.

A one-bedroom flat for a working couple was soon outgrown, and the Hirons needed more space to accommodate their books and Maureen's work as a games inventor. "We now have a three-bedroom, two-office apartment. After a quiet word in the right ear we were able to knock down an internal wall," says Alan.

"You have to get to know the Spanish red tape. For anyone setting up a business here, the appropriate licences are baffling. One man, desperate for the final authorisation, was told by the police to open anyway: 'We will close you down and the judge will tell you what to do.' He did just that and was open within the week. But the Spanish are getting the infrastructure right now," Alan adds. "When we first arrived it took six months to get a telephone, now it takes 48 hours. The bus service is good; the roads have improved."

Even Marbella, whose image was in decline 10 years ago, has been revamped. Alan is impressed with the changes. "The mayor is a forceful personality and has left his mark. The gardens are beautiful. Street crime has been drastically reduced - at ratepayers' expense. But you can't have everything."

As a man who admits to being so absorbed in a bridge hand while in Rome that he failed to notice the Colosseum, Alan is a reluctant tourist. "We have seen very little of Spain and we tend to leave during peak holiday months. I can't say we lead a Spanish life, although we have many Spanish friends."

As for expatriates, there seem to be fewer of the early retired drinking themselves into oblivion, Alan finds. "They spend most of their time playing golf." He suggests that before buying, people should get to know the area. "We know one lady who never even unpacked. She bought before she arrived and hated it on sight."

The Hirons have not seen much of a change in prices since they bought. A three-bedroom flat in their development, with a 25-metre pool in landscaped gardens, would cost about pounds 30,000; a two-bedroom flat pounds 25,000. Russians with suitcases of cash may be pushing up prices of villas, but elsewhere they are stable. "Make sure you get a lawyer who is familiar with Spanish and English law, and that you are handed the title deeds," Alan warns. "Property is chargeable for certain things, not the individual. You don't want end up acquiring debts. In Spanish law a vendor and purchaser can use the same solicitor, which speeds things up. We bought within a week."

Three of the best in Spain

This traditionally designed, seven-year-old, single-storey house sits in 1.6 acres of its own terraces and garden in Alpujarras in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, 16 miles from the coast and 38 miles from the ancient Moorish capital, Granada. The house has two double bedrooms and one single, all en suite, is being sold part-furnished, and comes with its own reservoir and spring. Outside are a bougainvillaea-fringed pool and a workshop. pounds 136,000, through Prestige Properties International (01935 825772)

A three-bedroom villa at Altea on the Costa Blanca, traditionally built, has a 180-degree view of the Mediterranean and the Luis Campomanes Marina. Built on a hillside in Moorish style, with the Sierra de Bernia as a backdrop, it comes with pool and private gardens. Depending on customised extras - such as marble floors - it costs from pounds 175,000, through Ultra Villas (01242 221500). The same company also has detached villas just 100 yards from the golf club house near Alicante, at pounds 133,000, and three-bedroom semis finished in rustic, Moorish style with hand-made tiles and beams, from pounds 79,000.

This detached, three-bedroom, two-bathroom, single-storey villa is one of seven being built on the Costa del Sol. The house has views to a golf course, and a secluded, planted garden, private pool, solarium and covered dining terrace. There is off-road parking in the drive. Prices start at pounds 110,000 through the Fielding Partnership (0181-332 9939).

Buying abroad?

From the Costa Blanca to the Canaries, Spain is well represented at the International Property Show, taking place at the Cumberland Hotel, Marble Arch, London W1. You may, however, prefer to flirt with the idea of buying next door in Gibraltar - or even find a home as far afield as Florida or the Caribbean. The strength of sterling - which is worth on average one-fifth more now than a year ago - means that prospective buyers can look with confidence at overseas properties. The show takes place from 10.30am to 5pm today and tomorrow. Entrance is free.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Finacial products from our partners
Property search

EU to scrap roaming charges in 2017: European Commission under fire for taking so long to act

UK consumer groups complained that British holidaymakers face another two years of mobile phone misery before the law comes into effect

On the money: Yorkshire building society has demonstrated that it is taking the P2P industry seriously

Is peer-to-peer lending a risk worth taking?

The P2P industry must do more to shake off an unjustified image of being too complex and risky for the everyday saver, says Andrew Hagger

Generating grievances: Scottish Power's Longannet station in Fife

Questions of Cash: Scottish Power says it's sorry - again and again

Six of the energy company's customer have cause to blow a fuse this week

Will Patisserie Valerie be the portfolio's sweet spot?

Derek Pain: 'Patience is a virtue but maybe I should cut and run'

Derek's portfolio is currently suffering because of his failure to be more ruthless

There are now more than three million people in “severe problem debt”

Debt managers are misleading vulnerable people, warns watchdog

One debtor was given a repayment plan that would have taken 125 years to repay

Challengers are smashing the traditional high street banks when it comes to offering decent savings rates

Ignore the new breed of savings institutions and you'll lose interest

NatWest has ripped up its pledge to never be the last bank in town

NatWest pledged five years ago it wouldn't close the last bank in town. Now villagers have been told the branch shuts in September

When the last bank closes, local shops quickly go out of business

Under new state pension rules we will all be much worse off

Why did no one notice? The Government hides behind complexity, says Neasa MacErlean

Bogus Islington landlord scams public for £20,000 in fake deposits

It’s not just Islington... Simon Read warns renters and landlords about a nationwide fraud operation

Questions of Cash: The paperwork wasn't right so I was left high and dry with a broken washing machine

A reader encountered a problem with a Currys washer/dryer care plan

Borrowers should steer clear of established providers to get the best rates

Interest rates have never been cheaper if you want a five-figure personal loan but for lower-value loans it's a very different picture

Personal banking: Banking chiefs at NatWest and RBS insist that they are over the worst of the technical issues but customers are still complaining of payment issues. NatWest has waived overdraft fees and told customers they can withdraw £100 more than their limit over the next few days

People’s bank in crisis again: What should you do about the NatWest/RBS meltdown?

Thousands still waiting for payments to go through

The average UK household is set to hold close to £10,000 in unsecured debt by the end of 2016

If they don't get help, debtors face 30 years of financial hell

There are many people in dangerous debt who don’t seek advice

RBS/NatWest meltdown: some customers may have to wait until Saturday for their cash

Some 600,0000 payments have been delayed many of which could be crucial

Renters' warning: bogus landlords are tricking potential tenants out of thousands

An army of tricksters are using online websites to trap their victims

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: SThree were established in 1986....

    Recruitment Genius: Compliance Manager

    £40000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Compliance Manager is require...

    SThree: Talent Acquisition Consultant

    £22500 - £27000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: Since our inception in 1986, STh...

    Recruitment Genius: Experienced Financial Advisers and Paraplanners

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This extremely successful and well-established...

    Day In a Page

    Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

    Making of a killer

    What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
    UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

    Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

    Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
    Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
    Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

    Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

    Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
    Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

    No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

    Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
    Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

    Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

    The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
    Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

    Something wicked?

    Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
    10 best sun creams for body

    10 best sun creams for body

    Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

    Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
    Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

    There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

    The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
    How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

    How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

    Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
    Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

    One day to find €1.6bn

    Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
    New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

    'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

    Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
    Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

    Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

    The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
    Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

    Historians map out untold LGBT histories

    Public are being asked to help improve the map