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
FIFA President Sepp Blatter reacts during a news conference in Zurich June 1, 2011
Life and Style
food + drink
peopleKatie Hopkins criticises River Island's 'seize the day' bags for trying to normalise epilepsy
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Nicole Kidman plays Grace Kelly in the film, which was criticised by Monaco’s royal family
film'I survived it, but I’ll never be the same,' says Arash Amel
Life and Style
Retailers should make good any consumer goods problems that occur within two years
tech(and what to do if you receive it)
Life and Style
healthIf one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
Life and Style
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
PPI complaints were down by about a half

Banks face fresh wave of PPI compensation claims after landmark ruling

The PPI scandal has already cost Britain’s banks around £24 billion

Some experts warn that the bond sell-off may continue until the autumn, when the US Federal Reserve is expected to lift interest rates

Is it really that bad in the bond market?

The great sell-off has sparked fears for our pensions as well as bonds. Simon Read asks if you should keep calm or panic
Up and away: rates will rise but your mortgage won't escape its moorings with a long-term fix

Is a 10 year mortgage deal a fix too far?

A cut-price deal for a decade-long home loan - where's the problem? Only, says Simon Read, that circumstances can change and it won't be easy to get out
In a surprise move the Tories have decided against putting a career politician into the job. Instead they’ve handed the responsibility to campaigner Ros Altmann

New pensions minister has massive job on her hands

The Tories have appointed campaigner Ros Altmann to the post

Promises, promises: David Cameron talks to staff at Asda's head office in Leeds today

General Election 2015: How you vote next week could affect your finances

Rival party pledges could shrink your savings or grow your nest egg
Logos for the 'Big Six'; energy companies (top row from left) British Gas, EDF, RWE npower, (bottom row from left) SSE, E.ON and ScottishPower

Winter heating underpayment brings summer pain

One reader’s monthly direct debit charge has been increased by 62 per cent

Almost 15,000 people died last winter through living in cold homes that they couldn’t afford to heat

Social tenants locked into energy tariff for 40 years

Many Londoners who live in social housing estates are not allowed to switch because their landlord has ‘locked’ them in to buying from one supplier

Will your credit card rewards be scrapped following new EU rules on charges?

Providers are unhappy with new EU rules - but ultimately it is customers who will have to foot the bill
There remain more than a million unclaimed Premium Bond prizes worth collectively around £48m

Have you won £1m in the May Premium Bonds draw?

More than £60m was paid out to more than 2 million prizewinners this month

The 0 per cent introductory deals that credit cards offer are one of the most odious tricks

Beware credit card firms’ odious tricks

Why can’t we just have open and honest charges, without all the cross-subsiding?

The pound’s recent strength against the euro could be hit by economic uncertainty under a new government

How planning can make your travel cash go further

With the pound at a high against the euro, it pays to buy now before uncertainty post-election

Put the phone down on the coldcallers who see pension liberation as an opportunity to liberate your pension from you

Pension freedoms: How to deal with cold calls from scammers

Sean O'Grady offers advice on keeping your money safe
Switching to a better bank account is much easier than it used to be

More people are switching current accounts – but what do the figures mean?

Experts disagree about the 7% increase over the past year

The chance of getting what appears to be free money can be hugely attractive, especially to first-time buyers who can be fooled into thinking it’s extra cash to buy the essential new items they need for their dream home.

Beware the boom in cashback mortgage deals

Too many mortgages are being sold with misleading gimmicks

The firm’s revenues slumped by a third to £217 million in a disastrous 2014

Wonga results could get even worse this year, chief admits

The firm’s revenues slumped by a third to £217 million in 2014

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

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 YR1: SThree: At SThree, we like to be dif...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: Did you know? SThree is a mul...

    Guru Careers: C# Project Team Lead

    £55 - 65k (DOE): Guru Careers: A unique opportunity for a permanent C# Develop...

    Guru Careers: Graduate Editor / Editorial Assistant

    £16 - 20k: Guru Careers: A Graduate Editor / Editorial Assistant is needed to ...

    Day In a Page

    Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
    Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

    The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

    In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

    Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
    Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

    How Stephen Mangan got his range

    Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor
    The ZX Spectrum has been crowd-funded back into play - with some 21st-century tweaks

    The ZX Spectrum is back

    The ZX Spectrum was the original - and for some players, still the best. David Crookes meets the fans who've kept the games' flames lit
    Grace of Monaco film panned: even the screenwriter pours scorn on biopic starring Nicole Kidman

    Even the screenwriter pours scorn on Grace of Monaco biopic

    The critics had a field day after last year's premiere, but the savaging goes on
    Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people used to believe about periods

    Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people once had about periods

    If one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
    The best work perks: From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)

    The quirks of work perks

    From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)
    Is bridge the latest twee pastime to get hip?

    Is bridge becoming hip?

    The number of young players has trebled in the past year. Gillian Orr discovers if this old game has new tricks
    Long author-lists on research papers are threatening the academic work system

    The rise of 'hyperauthorship'

    Now that academic papers are written by thousands (yes, thousands) of contributors, it's getting hard to tell workers from shirkers
    The rise of Lego Clubs: How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships

    The rise of Lego Clubs

    How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships
    5 best running glasses

    On your marks: 5 best running glasses

    Whether you’re pounding pavements, parks or hill passes, keep your eyes protected in all weathers
    Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

    Please save my husband

    As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada
    Birthplace of Arab Spring in turmoil as angry Tunisians stage massive sit-in over lack of development

    They shall not be moved: jobless protesters bring Tunisia to a halt

    A former North African boom town is wasting away while its unemployed citizens stick steadfastly to their sit-in
    David Hasselhoff's new show 'Hoff the Record': What's it like working with a superstar?

    Hanging with the Hoff

    Working with David Hasselhoff on his new TV series was an education for Ella Smith