Alex Sorrell contacted The Property Finders in February 2008. About to take a gap year from the U.K. and everything, he planned to spend the first several months in Andalucía. A keen kite-surfer, he knew exactly where he wanted to be; within 20 minutes of Tarifa, the wind-surfing & kite-surfing capital of Europe. He planned to leave the U.K. in early July, had planned his travels through S.E. Asia and Australia for later on but hadn’t quite got around to organizing somewhere to live in Spain. So that gave me about five months but Alex needed a mortgage and taking into account the time needed to arrange that once a property had been found I had to find the property no later than the end of April to have a chance of completing in time. So even with everything going smoothly I had 10 weeks at best to actually locate the ideal property.
- A detached house with a large garden
- Swimming pool or space for one
- Quiet location but not isolated
- A good view with no other houses in sight
- At least 3 bedrooms
- Maximum travel time to Tarifa: 20 minutes
- Must be able to mortgage
- Good rental potential
- Budget: approximately £350,000 (equivalent to 500,000 € at the time)
- Tarifa and the surrounding area has very strict planning controls, much of the area is designated as National Park and property of the type Alex was hoping to buy is in very short supply. I warned him at the outset that the short list of recommended properties was likely to be very short indeed.
- This area is probably the worst in Andalucía when it comes to the paperwork; incorrect Title Deeds are almost the norm or even no Title Deed at all. I knew I would see properties that matched the criteria but would have to turn them down for legal reasons.
- The credit crunch was starting to bite and the mortgage market in Spain had all but dried up. Even if I found a property that was mortgageable would we find a bank willing to lend?
- The exchange rate: GBP£ was dropping like a stone against the € and although Alex’s budget would have been fine all through 2007, equating to about 530,000 €, it was worth less with each passing day.
- To find a property and arrange a mortgage in less than three months and this tight schedule meant there was no time to meet Alex first – I had to start work only having spoken to him on the telephone.
After spending a couple of weeks making general enquiries, by early March I knew the most likely areas to throw up suitable properties were around La Peña, about 8kms to the west of Tarifa and El Cuarton, about 8 kms to the east and started to home in on all possibilities.
WHAT I SAW
Up in La Peña, behind the Hurricane Hotel, I thought I had struck gold right at the start with a renovated property which had wonderful views to Africa. The price was right and it ticked all the boxes – bingo! Then I saw the paperwork, about as bad as it gets. The house was not registered and the land was shared between ten owners, local farmers who had done a ‘land-grab’ of their own many years ago. I took legal advice and although it would be possible to rectify I was given an estimate of two years – certainly not in my client’s timeframe of two months so, reluctantly, we walked away. It’s making these kinds of enquiries when we first see a property that makes the services of a buying agent so valuable to a client. It is our job to flag up these issues whereas an estate agent is not going to highlight the fact that a property has problems, it is up to the buyer to find out and if you don’t know the questions to ask you are not going to get the right answers. And that is how the current British owner, who has done a great renovation since purchasing in 2000, has finished up with an unsaleable property. He bought through an estate agent who did a great job of convincing him that everything was fine, which after all, was what she was employed to do, sell at all cost, warts and all.
In El Cuarton I saw a house with another great view but further enquiries brought the news that the current owner was in prison! Then I shortlisted a great little house in El Cuarton but the sellers took a deposit about 2 hours after I had seen it, irritating but still useful for Alex to know. The way the media have been reporting the Spanish property market recently buyers could be forgiven for thinking that everything is for sale and they can stroll around with no competition. While that may be true in the new-build sector of the market it certainly isn’t the case in prime locations like Tarifa and so this example helped to confirm for Alex that when I had told him that well-priced property was selling, and selling quickly, it was true. So my first foray was a bit of a disappointment but I was now certain that the very best location for Alex would be El Cuarton.
A couple of weeks later I heard about a renovated farmhouse at Facinas, very pretty but way over priced and then we got lucky. Another house had just come on the market in El Cuarton, with a very genuine need to sell and the price reflected that. Aware that time was running out if Alex and his family were going to be moving in anywhere on July 4th I went to see the house on April 9th. This time not only did it tick all the boxes but the documentation was fine. I reported back to Alex that the house was charming, it fitted the bill and definitely worth him coming to see it. We viewed it on May 1st and I had to do quite a bit of pre-planning to ensure that even though it was a Public Holiday in Spain the right people were lined up to see Alex in the event that he wanted to proceed. So an English-speaking lawyer, Miguel Ángel Peral Cortés, was on standby to make a 120kms round trip to see us, as was my preferred mortgage broker Rod Younger, so not a minute of a very tight schedule was wasted.
Using The Property Finders guarantees you introductions to the very best independent advisers, people we know well and who will go the extra mile for our clients, always giving a 5* service. Unlike estate agents we never take any form of introductory commission from third parties.
We then had a nervous 4 weeks waiting for the mortgage to be approved but were thrilled when the valuation came in at 15% MORE than we had agreed to pay, confirming for Alex that he had indeed got a very good deal. By now, there were only 4 weeks left until the July deadline and Alex was regularly on the phone, sounding a bit strained at times. My standard reply was: ‘Don’t worry, its all under control’. I think he found it difficult to believe that all he had left to do was to transfer funds on time and not miss the ferry to Santander. What he had not realised that as soon as the purchase was secured I had generated a ‘To Do’ list and I was methodically setting up all the post-completion meetings that would make Alex’s three months in Spain as stress-free as possible. These included the gardeners, swimming pool constructors, an architect and a team of builders, not to mention some friends who live locally and know everyone.
I met them on their arrival at the house on July 7th. We drew up a schedule for all the visits, spent some hours going through the house and garden to establish what Alex wanted done; with this list I was able to brief the contractors in advance, minimising any communication difficulties. A pleasant lunch was followed by a shopping trip for beds but at the end of the day I was confident that everything really was under control. Now Alex could just get on with the kite-surfing lessons and enjoying the summer.
We did it – on time and on budget, just! The house was perfect, the mortgage came through quickly, the house was left absolutely ready to move into and we completed on July 4th. And after a very adventurous gap year, Alex & Michelle found their house irresistable and now live permanently in Tarifa.
That’s my side of the story, this is what Alex says:
“Quite simply, without Barbara, we would not have been able to progress beyond wistfully looking at property websites. Even though we had a clear idea of what we were looking for and where we wanted to buy, I believe we would have wasted many weeks and thousands of pounds trying to pull together a purchase on our own. Not only did Barbara sift deeply to bring us the right property, she carefully and quickly guided us through the entire purchase process. By bringing in a network of trusted professional advisors that she had used in the past, Barbara turned a dream into reality.
What surprised and impressed me much more so, however, was the “after sales service”. Within one week we had gardeners at the property felling trees. Within 10 days a team on builders were constructing an additional bedroom. Barbara was on-site for three days bringing this all together; coordinating, organising and making things happen. She was our “fixer” and introduced us to many valuable contacts that have allowed us to get off to a great start. Barbara removed all the potential stress from the process – she made it fun!”
If you would like The Property Finders to locate your property in Andalucía please contact us on +44 (0)800 622 6745 or fill in the form below and we will get right back to you.Return