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
New Articles
tvDownton Abbey Christmas special
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
News
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who Christmas special
tvForget the rumours that Clara Oswald would be quitting the Tardis
Arts and Entertainment
Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi showing a small mascot shaped like a vagina
art
News
The Queen delivers her Christmas message
newsTwitter reacts to Her Majesty's Christmas Message
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
fashion
Finacial products from our partners
Property search

Simon Read: The point of having protection insurance? The right cover can help reduce your financial concerns at a time of extreme worry

In May Nicola Groves got a massive shock. The 45-year-old mother of two was told, bluntly, that she had breast cancer. "When I heard the words, 'You do have breast cancer and you are going to lose your breast', I felt as if time stood still," she says.

Mark Dampier: Maybe boom, maybe bust, but we'll probably just muddle along

It's that time again when the media looks back over the past year and forward to the next. I am reminded of an old film, The Day the Earth Caught Fire (1961). Near the end of the film a newspaper prints two headlines – which one it uses will depend on whether the world is saved or doomed.

Sainsbury’s sank 7 per cent to 234p; Tesco fell 3.2 per cent to 180.2p ; and Morrisons dropped 5 per cent to 159.9p

Money Insider: Supermarkets: the real challenger banks

The supermarket banks have always excelled at offering simple, no nonsense products, and savings accounts is another area in which they fare well

Pat and Richard Astbury at their home in Norton Canes, Staffordshire. They have benefitted from the Community Energy Project aimed at helping council tenants with their energy bills. They have had solar panels installed.

Locals in Staffordshire to save hundreds after new council-backed project to install solar panels

The sun is shining on people who struggle to heat their homes and it’s thanks to a sense of community

Gross household debt reached a historic high of around 160 per cent of combined incomes in 2007

Simon Read: Give people struggling with debt some breathing space

Struggling people need help, understanding and forbearance, not ill-thought-out pronouncements

A person walks through the City of London during the early morning rush hour in London

Simon Read: Caught up in the scandal about leaks at the regulator

You won’t find me bashing the banks for the sake of it, but sadly they’ve deserved all the criticism that’s been sent their way in recent years

There were around 750,000 victims of mobile phone theft in England and Wales last year, according to official figures

Money alert: Stolen mobile phones

Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice: 'The injustice of shock bills for crime victims must end. The Government must stand up for consumers and cap bills from lost or stolen phones at £50'

Indian workers boil sugarcane juice to make jaggery, a traditional cane sugar, at a jaggery plant in Muradnagar, Uttar Pradesh's Ghaziabad district

Mark Dampier: A hot investment story is taking shape as India lets the light in

Stirring the pot: the Indian Government’s reforms of labour rules offer hope of a brighter future for businesses 

An AA patrol man helping a woman whose scooter had broken down.

Bargain hunter: Whisk up those leftovers instead of just throwing them in the bin

Knight of the road, look out: you’ve got a new rival 

How to raise money for charity this Christmas

There are so many ways you can raise money - and awareness - for charity. Rob Griffin explains how easy it is to donate and reap financial rewards

Simon Read: The Chancellor has stamped on an unfair tax. But will the delight of homebuyers mean misery for others?

Were you surprised by the sudden reform of the rules for stamp duty on property purchases? I certainly was. I've been calling for ages for a change in the tax to make it more fair – and, at a stroke, George Osborne did just that on Wednesday in his Autumn Statement.

Santander, whose ads have been fronted by the Olympic gold medallist Jessica Ennis-Hill, was among the banks where there were potential pitfalls with shared licences

Best savings rates are not all they might seem

Consumers can sometimes think they are shopping around for a rewarding account when in one important aspect, writes Samantha Downes, they are not
The sunlit uplands: switching out of a final salary pension may seem like madness, but there could be cases where it makes sense

Gold-plated pensions – the key to retirement freedom?

With some people are weighing up whether they will be better off cashing in their final salary pension next spring, Samantha Downes asks the experts

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

    Selby Jennings: Oil Operations

    Highly Competitive: Selby Jennings: Our client, a leading European Oil trading...

    The Jenrick Group: Night Shift Operations Manager

    £43500 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Night Shift Operatio...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - LONDON

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000 + Car + Pension: SThree: SThree are a ...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £35K: SThree: We consistently strive to be the...

    Day In a Page

    A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

    Christmas without hope

    Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
    After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

    The 'Black Museum'

    After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
    Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

    Chilly Christmas

    Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
    Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all