House Hunter: 'Sun makes everything feel better'

Joy and Robert Woolley want to buy a second home in Spain where they will spend a lot of time. Their budget is £150,000
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The Independent Online

THE PROBLEM

"I am a retired community nurse but lately I've been feeling that England is really going downhill. In my line of work I met many pensioners and I could see that, despite paying into the system for years, many of them were getting very little in return in their later stages of life. It's made me think about the quality of life I'll have when I'm older.

"So Robert and I are thinking about buying somewhere in Spain - after all, the sunshine always makes everything feel better. I've also been learning Spanish for the last two years so I'd like to put that to use. I'd like to find somewhere we can be happy to grow old in.

"We like the idea of the Costa Brava as it's near Barcelona. We're from Hampton Court, which is on the periphery of London, and would like somewhere similar in Spain. It's also near to the Pyrenees and my husband likes to ski so that would be ideal.

"We intend keeping a property here in England so we'd like an apartment in Spain that we could lock up and leave. We have a lot of equity in our UK home and may decide to sell it and buy somewhere else in the UK later.

"We have friends on the Costa Blanca who have been burgled three times so we've decided an apartment may suit us. We are about to go on an inspection trip, but hope that we aren't going to be pressurised into buying something we're not sure of."

THREE PROPERTIES FOR JOY AND ROBERT TO VIEW

Property one: Muntanya del Pastor.

Price: Townhouses from £132,637.

Agent: Parador Properties, 0800 0838658.

Agent's details: These three-bedroom properties are in the seaside town of L'Escala, just 40 minutes' drive from France. The design is carefully thought-out to create a Spanish-style home with built-in wardrobes, private garden and shared pool.

Property two: Sa Guilla.

Price: Four-bedroom duplexes from £165,517.

Agent: Parador Properties, 0800 0838658.

Agent's details: These sought-after duplex apartments are near to Pals beach and Pals golf course in a quiet residential area. The top-floor apartments have four bedrooms, three bathrooms, solarium and terrace. All properties have fitted kitchens and share a communal garden, and pool and outside car park.

Property three: Villa Aries.

Price: Three-bedroom villas from £212,766.

Agent: Parador Properties, 0800 0838658.

Agent's details: A small development of luxury semi-detached villas with stunning sea views, located near a sandy cove. These villas are in a spectacular position and have fitted kitchen, built-in wardrobes, two bathrooms, private gardens and communal pool.

ELAINE'S ADVICE

"Parador Properties has six branches in Spain and we cover an area of more than 1,000km. Our branch on the Costa Brava is the newest and it opened after we were getting so many enquiries about the area at our exhibitions. Since then there has been a huge amount of interest.

"In my opinion, the Costa del Sol is now overcrowded and even the small villages in the hills have become a market for buyers. In the Costa Brava it is still possible to get off the beaten track, although the coast has been a tourist destination since the Sixties when the first British tourists arrived by bus! Here the people are particularly welcoming of foreigners, and there is the infrastructure that people expect. It's wonderful that Joy is learning Spanish, but if you can learn to speak Catalan you will be accepted so much quicker as the locals here are Catalans and the culture and traditions are different.

"One thing to consider is that this area does get winters so it may not suit people with rheumatism or arthritis and you can't throw away your woollies! You will also need central heating in any property you buy. But it's a fantastic area and so close to the Pyrenees for skiing.

"I think Joy and Robert can have a better quality of life here. The health service is very good and as for everything seeming better in the sun, they are right - that's why I moved here! For their budget they'll get an apartment, duplex or townhouse, probably not with sea views, but a lock-up-and-leave would probably suit them, particularly if they want the security of being in a gated development. Prices have risen around 20 per cent in the last year, so who knows what will happen?

"I'm glad that they didn't feel pressurised and they would certainly be welcome to come back out with us and have another look around. It's not in anybody's interests to pressurise clients, we are merely guides to help them decide what is best for them."

Parador Properties, 0800 0838658

THE VERDICT

"We were sceptical about going on an inspection visit - we were worried about getting the 'hard sell', but this wasn't the case. Our rep took us around and, while we didn't see the exact property we wanted to buy as the one we liked, Villa Aries, was over our budget, we now definitely have the hots for the Costa Brava!

"We are seriously thinking of putting our UK home on the market and plan to go back to Spain in the autumn to see what it's like out of season, look around a bit more, and hopefully find something."

Interviews by Ginetta Vedrickas

If you would like House Hunter's help, write to House Hunter, The Independent, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS, or e-mail househunter@independent.co.uk

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