The Global Property Group, Spanish Property Buyers Guide
The Global Property Group - The GPG
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Spanish Property Buyers Guide


The following 50 questions are the most commonly asked questions by clients purchasing property in Spain, together they provide a good guide to buying and owning property in Spain. It is a guide only and is not a replacement for professional legal advice.

1 Spanish Property / Business Debts - Do I Inherit Them?

2 Can I bring my pets to Spain?

3 What about medical care in Spain?

4 What happens about my U.K. Pension?

5 Annual Spanish Property Taxes

6 I'm a builder; can I carry out my own repairs or build my own house?

7 Is property purchase in Spain a safe investment?

8 Horror stories

9 Which Estate Agent/Lawyer/Builder, etc. do I choose?

10 Buying off plans.

11 Do I need a Spanish partner?

12 Buying through an Offshore Company.

13 Can I get my money out of Spain, if I decide to sell in the future?

14 Spanish Banks.

15 Spanish Mortgages and Finance.

16 Coast or Country - which is best?

17 How do I know if a business is viable?

18 I've got a great business idea - will it work in Spain? .

19 Cars in Spain

20 Exchange rate £ sterling to € euro.

21 If I want to sell my business or property in the future what do I do?

22 Spanish or British/International Schools?

23 The Cost of Living in Spain.

24 I'm retiring early, will I be bored? - Have I got enough to live on?

25 Learning the language.

26 I know nothing about bar work; will I be able to do it?

27 A Spanish Will.

28 Telephones.

29 Spain - what will the future bring?

30 Business Partnerships.

31 Do I need to use an Estate Agent?

32 After buying a property in Spain I'll have extra cash, what do I do with it?

33 Planning permission.

34 After I've bought my Spanish apartment or villa what overheads will I have?

35 How much income do I need to live in Spain?

36 Getting a job in Spain.

37 How do the Spanish feel about foreign residents?

38 Paying bills in Spain.

39 The manana syndrome.

40 Shopping.

41 Countryside Businesses - Rural Farming, etc.

42 Crime in Spain.

43 We're a couple but we're going to buy a 4 bed villa/apartment so the family will be able to holiday with us - what do you think?

44 Spanish Escritura and Notary

45 Spanish Land Registry

46 Spanish Community charges explained.

47 Spanish Local Authority rates.

48 Renting/Income from a Spanish property.

49 Moving to Spain

50 What is an Spanish NIE number?

Property / Business Debts - Do I Inherit Them?

The buyer can be held responsible for outstanding payments prior to purchase on any of the following:

  • I.B.I. (local rates)
  • Telephone
  • Water
  • Electricity
  • Community Charges
  • Rent (leasehold business purchase only)
  • Mortgage (if applicable)

Your Lawyer/Gestor should, at the very least, ensure that the vendor provides paid up receipts for all the above. If for any reason the vendor cannot provide proof of payment, then your lawyer/Gestor should withhold money from the purchase price to cover possible future claims.

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Can I bring my pets to Spain?

If you intend to bring your pet to Spain your local vet will be aware of the required paperwork and injections your pet will need before traveling. Further information on transporting your pets to Spain can be obtained from Airpets ( Heathrow Airport) on 0800 371554 or Animal Airlines ( Manchester Airport) on 0161 223 0072. These days there are numerous English speaking Veterinary Surgeons in Spain.

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What about medical care?

The Spanish National Health Service is available free to Senior Citizens from Britain (Ladies over 60 and men over 65). The service is excellent. However, as in the UK, non-emergencies may be placed on a waiting list. Purchasers of businesses in Spain are obliged to join the Spanish N.H.S. Payments for this service are included in their monthly Spanish National Insurance contribution.

If you are under retirement age and do not intend to work in Spain, then it is a condition of residence in Spain that you take out private medical health cover. Some of the larger private medical health providers in the UK offer schemes suitable for British residents in Spain. Alternatively, there are numerous Insurance Brokers in Spain offering a range of healthcare insurance policies.

CHEMISTS - 'Farmacias' as they are called in Spain - abound and can be identified by a prominent (and usually flashing) green cross sign. Most of the medications available in the UK can be purchased in Spain - with many available without prescription. Prices are low and most items cost considerably less than the prescription charges levied in the UK (is there a lesson to be learned here?). Chemists in Spain are trained to diagnose and treat many common illnesses and ailments - thus leaving doctors free to treat more urgent cases (another lesson!). Most staff speak English to some degree and there is always one Chemist open 24 hours in every large town.

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What happens about my U.K. Pension?

British State Pensions can be paid direct to your bank account in Spain - usually monthly. The Benefits Agency can provide the necessary forms and further advice. If you have a private pension you will need to speak to the pension provider as regulations vary.

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Annual Property Taxes

Non-resident British property owners are advised to nominate a legally recognised Fiscal

Representative to prepare the property tax forms. Apart from Local Authority rates there are two

annual property taxes, as follows:

PATRIMONIO or WEALTH TAX - If you are a permanent resident in Spain there is nothing to pay if your property has a declared value of less than 17,000,000 ptas. Above 17,000,000 ptas the tax payable is 0.2% of the value declared in the Escritura.

Therefore, declared property value 17,000,000 ptas - tax payable = 34,000 ptas (or £136 per annum @ 250 ptas = £1).

For non-residents (holiday homeowners, for example) 0.2% tax is payable, whatever the value of the property.

I.R.P.F. (NOTIONAL RENTAL TAX) - If you are a permanent resident in Spain and only own one property, this tax does not apply. For non-residents (holiday-home owners, for example) this tax is 0.5% of the rateable value of the property.

The rateable value is likely to be considerably less than the real value of the property.

Therefore, property value £50,000 (rateable value £30,000) the annual tax payable would be £150.

PERSONAL TAXES - RETIRED/NON WORKING

Obviously the tax you pay in Spain will depend on your personal circumstances and we recommend that you speak to a suitably qualified Account in the UK prior to leaving for Spain. Once in Spain, you should contact a Spanish Accountant and discuss your situation. It is important that both Accountants liaise to minimise any liabilities you may have.

PERSONAL TAXES - WORKING

This is a big subject and depends entirely on your personal circumstances. Our recommendation would always be to seek initial advice and assistance from a suitably qualified Spanish Accountancy

Practice, especially if you intend to be self-employed. Most small businesses will use the services of a Gestor (paperwork specialist) who will take care of IVA (vat) returns, income tax, bookkeeping and complete all relevant official forms. His fees are usually a set monthly figure depending on the amount of work involved. It should be noted that IVA (vat) has no minimum threshold in Spain and is payable from the first peseta of turnover.

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I'm a builder; can I carry out my own repairs or build my own house?

Provided that you can follow the Architect's plans and specifications, then there is nothing to stop you building your own property or carrying out repairs. You can do some, or all, of the work yourself.

However, where electrical installations are concerned, it is compulsory that a Spanish qualified electrician carries out the work. Only suitably qualified persons can obtain the 'boletin de enganche' which is required before the Electricity Company will make a connection to the Spanish grid system.

Regarding building materials - virtually everything a builder would require is easily available in Spain. Builder's Merchants abound. Prices are generally much lower than in the UK and many luxury items, such as quality ceramic tiles and marble flooring are available at 'give-away' prices.

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Is property purchase in Spain a safe investment?

A recent survey by the ABBEY NATIONAL BUILDING SOCIETY showed that while UK house prices in many areas have stagnated, had you bought a property in Spain 10 years ago you would have been laughing - Spanish property prices rose by 150% during this time and are still going up rapidly.

Exchange rates are extremely favorable for Britons in Spain at present. Although property prices have escalated dramatically over the last 2 years much of the increase has been off-set (for British buyers with sterling) by the b pound and weak peseta.

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Horror stories

Yes, we have all heard them - usually second or third hand!

Provided that qualified professionals are employed at each appropriate stage of any purchase, then buying a property or business in Spain is no more dangerous than buying in the UK. These days the

system is very similar. As with any purchase, caution should be your watchword and - under no circumstance - try to 'go it alone'. Professional advice and assistance costs money, but the benefits far outweigh the charges.

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Which Estate Agent/Lawyer/Builder, etc. do I choose?

This is very much a question of personal choice combined with common sense. Make sure your chosen Spanish Estate Agent has the necessary Licence's - API, GIPE or similar. His membership number is usually prominently displayed both on his promotional literature and in his office. If the Estate Agent introduces you to a Lawyer, or suggests you choose one from a panel of Lawyers, it is almost certain that the Lawyer will be English speaking and specialise in conveyancing. Although, any Spanish Lawyer will be able to assist you with conveyancing, it is better to choose a specialist - and one with local knowledge.

Recommendations from ex-pats can be useful, especially where builders are concerned. If you are having a house built then ask to see properties your chosen builder has already completed and, if possible, speak to the owners.

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Buying off plans.

This can apply to apartments, town houses and villas - even businesses, if you are having a new installation.

Where apartment and town house developments are concerned, it is almost certain that the builder or promoter will already have a standard contract, together with a memorandum listing the quality and type of such items as construction materials, wall and floor tiles, kitchen fittings and appliances (often not included), sanitary ware, single or double glazing, internal and external doors, fitted wardrobes,etc.

Both parties (buyer and seller) should sign the memorandum to ensure there is no discrepancy as to what will be included. At this stage it may be possible to 'personalise' the property to some extent - your own choice of tiles, rather than those supplied by the builder, air conditioning, extra units in the kitchen and so on. These items will be 'extras' and any charges in excess of the builder's list price should be recorded and signed for by both parties.

All important in the contract is the method of payment and completion date. Usually an initial reservation deposit is required, quickly followed by a more substantial payment. Stage payments are then made up to the time of completion. Often these stage payments are negotiable and you can suggest the amounts and dates that suit your budget.

There should be a clause in the contract that penalises the builder if he goes 'over date' on completion. If the builder agrees to this (some wont) a figure of at least 10,000 ptas per day is usual.

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Do I need a Spanish partner?

Many years ago - before the EEC was formed - then you would have needed a Spanish partner (usually silent) in order to obtain permission to open a business. These days it is no longer a requirement and there are no real bureaucratic barriers to UK citizens opening a business in Spain. The rules and regulations involved are more or less the same for all EEC nationals - including Spaniards.

Buying through an Offshore Company.

Ten years ago this would have been something to consider.

Many property purchases were made through Gibraltar Companies, thereby giving the purchaser anonymity. Another big bonus, which still applies, is that should the property be sold only the shares of the Offshore Company are transferred to the purchaser, thus saving the transfer tax, which would normally apply. This 'loophole' has now been blocked. Nowadays a range of taxes are imposed on Offshore Companies by the Spanish Government and, in most cases, these taxes outweigh the benefits of offshore ownership

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Can I get my money out of Spain , if I decide to sell in the future?

Since Spain's full entry into the Common Market the transfer of funds from Spain to the UK and from the UK to Spain by bank transfer is virtually unrestricted.

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Spanish Banks.

The full range of banking services are available - deposit account, cheque books, cheque guarantee cards, weekly or monthly statements, investment advice, mortgages, etc. etc. Almost certainly at least one member of staff will be English speaking.

Utility accounts such as electricity and water, community charges, local rates, telephone bills, etc. can be paid by direct debit - invoices go direct to the bank for payment. Senior citizens can have their British State Pension paid direct to their Spanish bank account. Amongst others, Barclays Bank have numerous branches in Spain. Many Banks now have cash points - Visa and Switch cards are accepted with the appropriate PIN number.

Many of Spain's mainland resorts and villages are within easy driving distance of the off-shore banking tax haven of Gibraltar. Investors will be pleased to know that interest is paid tax-free on deposits. Most British Banks have branches there - also Abbey National and Norwich and Peterborough Building Societies.

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Loans and finance.

MORTGAGES - Can often be arranged through Spanish Banks or Gibraltar based UK Building Societies (Abbey National and Norwich and Peterborough, for example). These are subject to status and will be at current interest rates. It is unlikely that much more than 50% of the lenders valuation of the property can be mortgaged in Spain.

Where new property is concerned (apartments and town house complexes in the main) the builder may have borrowed money from a Spanish bank to finance the project. If this is the case then he can 'subrogate' (or pass on the loan piecemeal) to each individual purchaser in the complex. In these cases loans of up to 70% are often available.

When mortgages are sought from Spanish Banks most ask for proof of income plus a reference from a UK Bank. Income or status enquiries are likely to be minimal - it is usual for the bank to ask for little more than a copy of your previous year's tax return. The bank will want to survey the property - the survey fee will be to the mortgage applicant's account and based on the value of the property. If the mortgage is of the 'subrogated' type, then the lending bank will almost certainly have already valued the property and are unlikely to require a survey. If the property you wish to buy is isolated or uninhabitable Spanish Banks are unlikely to provide mortgage facilities. If you purchase an existing property which already has a mortgage, it is usually possible to 'assume' or take-over the remaining part of the loan, if required.

British based Banks and Building Societies will not lend on Spanish property. However, if you have sufficient equity in a UK property, it may be possible to 'top-up' your existing loan to facilitate a property purchase in Spain.

FREEHOLD BUSINESS PURCHASE - As with freehold residential property, Spanish Banks will lend around 50% of their bricks and mortar valuation of the property. The profitability of the business is not usually taken into account.

LEASEHOLD BUSINESS PURCHASE - It is virtually impossible to finance a leasehold business purchase through Spanish Banks. However a personal loan from the vendor may be possible.

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Coast or Country - which is best?

This is obviously very much a matter of personal choice, however, the following points can all be considered.

COASTAL PROPERTY

Almost certainly this will be in, or on the edge of, a resort town. Apartments are likely to be high rise in the town and often limited to 2 or 3 stories in the urbanisations (housing developments) in the suburbs. Town house complexes are usually on the edge of town - the high land values close to the sea or in town centers usually make only apartment construction viable. Villas will be located in urbanisations similar to our garden suburbs. Some older villas can still be found in the towns but these days many are being demolished and the sites used for apartment construction.

THE BENEFITS

Certainly, where apartments and town houses are concerned, a big plus is that semi-permanent or holiday homeowners can lock their homes up and return to their own country without worry. Outside maintenance, both of the property and the shared gardens and pools, are taken care of by the community. There is often on-site security in the form of a porter or night watchman - which is paid for by the community. Alternatively there are many private Security Companies in Spain who will fit an alarm system which is connected to their base office - if the alarm goes off then a patrol car will arrive, usually within a few minutes. Simply switch off the gas, water and electricity in your apartment or town house, lock up and leave. Just make sure that the utilities plus your telephone bill, community charge and rates are paid by standing order through your bank and you can return to the UK without concern.

Everything is on the doorstep. This is an important consideration for the elderly or infirm.

Coastal property - certainly if it is in or near a resort town - will have plenty of shops, nightlife, banks, medical facilities plus friends and neighbours within walking distance.

These days the influx of Brits to Spain will mean that in the large resort towns there are many British owned, or English speaking, service providers in the locality - garages, supermarkets, doctors, dentists, banks, newsagents and so on. There is no real need to speak Spanish although, of course, newcomers will inevitably want to learn the language to some degree.

THE MINUSES

NOISE - This is something that the Spanish Authorities are coming to terms with - at least to some extent. However, for the moment resort areas are noisy, especially in the evenings and particularly in the holiday season. Obviously the suburbs are a lot quieter, all the year round.

EXPENSE - Yes, it will cost you more to live in a coastal location. Property prices are much higher than in the countryside. So is supermarket shopping and the cost of eating out. However, prices still have a long way to go to catch up with the UK. A recent survey showed supermarket shopping to be 25% cheaper in Spain than in the UK and good 3 course meals with wine included are still widely available for little more than £5.

COUNTRY PROPERTY

There are 3 main categories - old farms or cottages to renovate, modern country villas and village houses.

THE BENEFITS

You will certainly get more for your money in terms of property purchase - prices are generally much lower than on the coast. Most rural properties will come with a tract of land. Often fruit trees and kitchen gardens are already established and, apart from the obvious benefits of fresh produce, those trips to the supermarket wont be as expensive! Prices in local shops and markets are geared to Spanish pockets. Average income in Spain (especially in rural areas) is much lower than in the UK. Spanish businessmen in the more populated coastal areas are fortunate to have free spending holidaymaker's and affluent foreign residents as their customers - and pitch their prices accordingly. It must be said, however, that overheads for most businesses in the busier coastal resorts will be considerably higher than for their countryside-based counterparts.

Peace and quite. Rural property owners are unlikely to be disturbed by noisy bars, passing traffic and holidaymakers. Most country areas will have a good selection of 'Ventas' or roadside inns, where you can enjoy anything from a glass of wine to a 3 course meal - they are often the meeting point for the local community.

Unless you really want to 'get away from it all' then most potential purchasers of countryside properties will find a good selection to view, without going too far from the coastal resorts. A 15 minutes drive inland from many of the tourist 'hotspots' often accesses open countryside and white pueblos - the 'real' Spain. In many cases all the facilities, which are on the doorstep for coastal residents, can be quickly reached.

THE MINUSES

You will almost certainly need a car, unless of course you buy a property in a village.

Rural properties with land may deteriorate if left unoccupied for lengthy periods.

Security is probably non-existent. However, in our experience, petty crime is limited to the tourist areas. Remember too that Spaniards are notoriously noisy - your near neighbours will be asking questions if strangers are on your land.

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How do I know if a business is viable?

If the business in which you are interested is a bar, cafe or small shop, then the vendor should be able provide copies of the information he has supplied to Hacienda (the Spanish Inland Revenue) i.e. his tax returns. No doubt he will also have personal records of turnover and expenditure. Be prepared for substantial differences between official and unofficial records - in the majority of cases!

Certainly where bars, cafes, restaurants and catering businesses in general are concerned, past success (or failure) is no guide to future profitability. Businesses of this sort in Spain often reflect the operator's ability, rather than the viability of the business alone. Can you run the business as well as the current owner? One must look at the obvious critical points such as location, size of premises, amount of rent, competition, etc. However, at the end of the day a real professional will fill a back street bar - a poor operator will empty the best bar in town. Remember too, that you will need to put the hours in. A basic cafe/bar licence allows a business to open from 9 am to 2 am the next day (or any part thereof) - 7 days a week - that's 119 hours a week! Nobody would expect to work so many hours - however you can't take money with the door closed - and the longer you are open the more you will take.

The good news is that profit margins in Spain are high and most mixed food and drink businesses work on at least 50% net profit on turnover. Fixed overheads are much lower than in the UK. Town Hall rates are low - £100 per year is typical for a standard British Bar and, where leasehold purchases are concerned, these are usually paid by the freehold owner. Heating bills are minimal. Nearly everything will be delivered to the door - no trips to the wholesalers!

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I've got a great business idea - will it work in Spain ?

Our advice would always be to stick to tried and tested formulae. Let other people (and other people's money) be the innovators! British owners have been successfully operating bars, cafes, discos, pubs, restaurants, car hire, small shops and modest Hotels for many years in Spain. Choose your business from this list - success stories abound. They work because the British holidaymaker comes back to Spain year after year (tourism accounts for 10% of the Spanish economy) and the number of resident British ex-pats is growing all the time. In most cases, a combination of holidaymakers and British residents will be your customers.

Many business concepts with A1 track records in Britain don't catch on in Spain.

If you are still convinced you have that 'winning formula' try to test the market in Spain as inexpensively as possible in order to minimise your financial exposure. Put one toe in the water - not both feet!

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Cars in Spain

You can take your UK registered car to Spain Officially you are allowed to use the vehicle in Spain for 6 months (although this time limit is not particularly enforced). If necessary, it can be sold once in Spain (privately or to a motor trader) or part-exchanged for a Spanish registered car within the 6 months limit. Provided that your British registered vehicle is left hand drive you can change it over to Spanish plates. The cost will depend on the Spanish Authorities valuation of the vehicle. Expect to pay around £1,000 for a vehicle valued at £10,000 - this amount will include professional charges for affecting the transfer.

There is plenty of choice if you want to buy a car in Spain and all the major manufacturers have dealerships - with both new and second hand vehicles for sale. There are good savings to be made on many makes of new cars. Strangely enough, a new British made Range Rover can be purchased in Spain for about £10,000 less than in the UK! Air conditioning is standard in many models, if it's not included, it's the one extra that you should opt for.

Second hand cars can be purchased privately, or from any of the numerous used car showrooms in Spain. Remember that the dealers charge more but, as in the UK, offer guarantees - also the paperwork involved in the transfer of ownership in Spain is expensive, e.g. car value £7,000 - taxes and Gestor's (paperwork specialist) charges are around £400. Most dealers include this in the price and arrange the transfer on your behalf.

If you buy privately you will have to pay the transfer charge yourself plus, of course, no guarantee and the usual worries regarding private purchase of second hand vehicles. Expect to find plenty of low mileage cars. Motorway usage is much less common in Spain than in the UK and there are plenty of 5 years old 'holiday cars' around with less than 15,000 miles on the clock. The temperate climate and lack of salt on the roads ensures that most cars are rust free. Lack of parking spaces, narrow streets and poor driving habits does mean that most cars do have the odd dent!

Non residents can, of course, travel down to Spain in their UK plated cars provided that the duration of their stay is no more than 6 months. Residents do not need to re-take a driving test in Spain; you just swap your British Licence for a Spanish one.

Car insurance costs are equivalent to Britain. Your British 'No Claims Bonus' is valid in Spain - proof will be required.

Petrol and especially diesel are much cheaper than in the UK with savings of up to 40%. A type of Road Fund Licence is in operation - average annual charges depend on the engine capacity of the car. Costs for a small family saloon are around £40 per annum. The MOT test applies when the car is 5 years old.

Hire cars are available from all the major Companies such as Hertz and Avis. These can be pre-booked in the UK and collected at Malaga Airport. Local Spanish Car Hire Companies are generally much cheaper. You will need to take your British Drivers Licence with you to Spain if you want to rent a car.

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Exchange rate £ sterling to € euro.

When is the best time to change your sterling into euros?

There is no real answer to this one as the rate varies every day and is subject to international financial movements. The rate advertised in many Daily Newspapers is the tourist rate. Higher commercial rates are available from the major Banks. If you are close to purchasing in Spain and have sterling immediately available then you don't have to wait until you buy your Spanish property before you change your £s to euros. If you think the rate is favorable British Banks will sell you pesetas on any trading day. Exchange rates vary from Bank to Bank - shop around.

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If I want to sell my business or property in the future what do I do?

No doubt if you buy in Spain you will buy through a Spanish Estate Agency - probably one with an associate office in the UK. If you were happy with the service you received, then place the property or business with them if you decide to sell. If they operate professionally they will photograph your property or business, advertise it both in Spain and in the UK and keep you informed of any progress. Once a buyer is found your chosen Agent will advise you when to be in Spain to receive the proceeds and sign the transfer documents - IT'S AS SIMPLE AS THAT!

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Spanish or British/International Schools?

Many property or business purchasers will have children of school age. In Spain you can choose a traditional British style education or opt for a Spanish School. If your children are close to school leaving age it may be advisable to finish their education in a British style school. Younger children will find it easier to adapt to a new language and teaching style in a Spanish school.

BRITISH/INTERNATIONAL SCHOOLS - All these Schools are fee paying - charges vary and usually depend on the age of the child. Most have their own bus service with convenient pick up points. The syllabus is often the same as in the UK with GCSE "O" and "A" level subjects being taught. Brighter children can go on to University in Britain - as indeed many have. Hours are usually 9 am to 3 pm with a break for lunch. Spanish STATE schools - Spain is home to many nationalities and most Spanish Schools in the larger resort areas have a proportion of non-Spanish pupils. Newcomers only need a slight knowledge of Spanish on entry and most Spanish Schools give new recruits intensive coaching in the Spanish language for the first few weeks. Spanish State Schools are free, although you may have to pay for school books.

In our experience British children attending Spanish Schools have a working knowledge of Spanish within 3 months and are usually fluent within a year. Children will be pleased to know that school hours are 9 am to 2 pm - with plenty of holidays. There are numerous Spanish village schools serving the rural communities.

KINDERGARTENS - 'Guarderias' as they are known in Spain - are plentiful in Spain. Children from the age of 1 to 4 are accepted. There is a mix of nationalities and it is an ideal way to introduce your child to a different culture and language. Most tots can usually chatter away in Spanish within a few weeks. Lunch is provided and prices are astonishingly low.

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The Cost of Living.

Obviously, as elsewhere in Europe, the cost of living in Spain has increased in recent years. Compared to the UK, however, a good lifestyle can still be maintained for considerably less outlay. In the UK the average income is currently just under £18,000 per annum. Official European Union statistics show that in Spain average income is under £9,000 per annum. The Spanish own houses, pay mortgages, have large families, own cars, etc - just as we do. This simple observation clearly shows that a good standard of living can be maintained in Spain for considerably less than in the UK.

A good 3 course meal with wine included still costs under £5 and for those preferring to cater for themselves the local markets have an abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables at a fraction of UK prices. Purchasers of country properties can of course grow their own - 1,000 square meters of land will produce an amazing amount of fruit and vegetables if carefully tended. Compared to the UK, there are substantial savings on all of the following: Local rates, heating, supermarket shopping, petrol and diesel, wines, spirits, tobacco, etc.

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I'm retiring early, will I be bored? - Have I got enough to live on?

Early retirement, either through redundancy or the maturing of personal/Company pension plans is becoming much more common. Most early retirees' problems are twofold:

a) What will I do with all my free time now that I'm not working?

b) Will I be able to maintain a good lifestyle on a reduced income?

As far as (a) is concerned, early retirees will have time on their hands but I think it safe to say that if you are bored in Spain then you will be bored anywhere. Every kind of sport is available, usually with the weather to enjoy it. Fishing (sea and freshwater), lawn bowls, golf, boating, water-sports, tennis, beautiful walks, darts, pool or you could join a gym (much cheaper than in the UK and catering for all age groups).

If you are not the active type then there are lots of Clubs to join - Chess, bridge, choral societies, painting classes, book exchanges - or why not learn to cook the Spanish way! Of course, learning the language whether for fun or seriously takes up a lot of time and you will meet lots of people who are new to Spain.

There are the usual Charities both helping animals and people - they are always looking for helpers with time on their hands to run the shops or help raise money and assist in any way possible. Every religious denomination is represented in Spain, together with all the associated activities.

In fact everything that you wanted to do in the UK - but didn't have time to do - is available in Spain and it's never too late to learn a new skill. People have much more time to socialise in Spain and the outdoor lifestyle means most newcomers have a large circle of friends in no time. For the more sedentary - yes - you can get Sky digital in most areas of Spain!

Certainly, as far as (b) is concerned your money will go much further in Spain than in the UK.

Pre-supposing that your Spanish property and car are paid for - then a couple can live well enough on £10,000 per year. Many British retired folk manage quite well in Spain on their State Pension, which is considerably less than £10,000 per year!

There are considerable savings on all of the following:

SUPERMARKET SHOPPING - a recent survey showed this to be 25% cheaper in Spain than in the UK.

HEATING BILLS - Minimal. RATES - Local rates for a typical 2 bed apartment or country villa are likely to be no more than £200 to £400 per year.

WATER - Metered, but typically only 50% of UK annual charges.

WINE, SPIRITS, BEER and TOBACCO - Up to 50% savings on most items.

FUEL - Petrol and diesel are much cheaper in Spain - often as much as 40% less.

EATING OUT - It is possible to eat out in Spain every day, even on a limited budget. There are lots of 'menu del dia' (menu of the day) restaurants offering 3 course meals with wine, for between £3 and £5 per head.

CLOTHING - The generally temperate climate ensures that outlay on clothing is much less than in the UK. In fact, shorts and tee shirts are 'de riguer' for almost 6 months of the year in many areas of Spain.

MARKETS - All the towns and larger villages will have a weekly open market. Prices are geared to Spanish pockets. Plenty of bargains to be had here - especially locally grown fruit and vegetables - which are often offered for sale by the farmer who has grown them (no middleman!). Melons, grapes, oranges, lemons, pomegranates, apples, pears, plums, cherries, peaches - and every kind of vegetable. Buy them when in season and fill the boot of your car for £10!

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Learning the language.

If you buy a property in one of the major resort towns then only a rudimentary knowledge of the Spanish language is necessary. There will be many British owned shops and service providers catering to the resident ex-pat population. Many Spanish shopkeepers have mastered English to tap into this rich new supply of customers.

Country property purchasers will, almost certainly, need a better command of Spanish. Neighbours will be Spaniards rather than Brits and local shops and businesses will be geared to the local Spanish market.

If you have the time you can take a 'crash course' in Spain - usually lasting a couple of months - attending a Language College every day. Alternatively, take it easy and have a few hours' lessons each week. It's a good way to meet other British people who are new to Spain. Don't be afraid to practice - Spaniards are used to foreign tourists 'mangling' their language and rarely laugh at even the most ridiculous mistakes.

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I know nothing about bar work; will I be able to do it?

Obviously if you have previous experience in the pub or restaurant trade, it is going to stand you in good stead. If not, then there is nothing to stop you taking a course before you go to Spain. Many UK companies offer this service to newcomers to the Licensed Trade. Bar work in Spain is not the same as in the UK - but any experience you can gain before taking over your Spanish bar or catering business will be to your advantage.

Operating a British Bar - in its simplest form - i.e. serving drinks and light snacks doesn't need a University education. In our experience the usual parameters for service industries apply - a willingness to work, the ability to be 'customer friendly', cleanliness, efficiency and so on. In most cases, the vendor of the business will stay on for a while to introduce the purchaser to both his regular customers and his suppliers. Training in the operation of the business can also be built in to the purchase contract, if required.

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A Spanish Will.

When purchasing freehold property in Spain it is advisable to make a Spanish Will. This is registered at the Notaries Office. Your Solicitor will provide the form; personal details can then be inserted. You will be given a number of copies to distribute to your family, UK Lawyers, etc. Costs are between £50 and £100 for a straightforward will. Spanish inheritance laws are complex and a Spanish Will enables a property to pass directly to an inheritor without becoming too involved in the cumbersome Spanish bureaucratic system.

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Telephones.

There are ample public telephones - both in the street and in cafes and shops. If the property or business purchased does not have a telephone your installation costs will be about the same as the UK. Telefonica (the Spanish Telephone Company) guarantee to install your telephone within 14 days - if not then the telephone is connected free of charge. Call charges are equivalent to the UK. Telefonica are obliged to provide a telephone service if requested - should a property be isolated and without the possibility of connection to a land line then Telefonica install a radio-telephone.

Mobile telephones are available everywhere on the Costa del Sol - prices and charges are similar to the UK. You can connect to a service provider such as Airtel or Movistar (similar to Vodaphone et al) or just buy a 'phone in a box' complete with pre-paid card. Most British GSM mobile telephones will work in Spain, although if connected to a UK service provider all calls (even local Spanish ones) are routed via the UK - with international call charges applicable.

As in the UK, the telephone service in Spain has now been de-monopolised and there are numerous service providers to choose from - call charges (especially international) have decreased dramatically in this new competitive market.

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Spain - what will the future bring?

As far as property investment goes, the future looks rosy. There may be dips in the market from time to time but the longterm investment outlook is good. Nice properties in good locations of Spain will always be in demand. As Northern Europeans retire earlier and earlier - often with substantial private or company pensions - they are looking to live in a safe environment with good infrastructure, temperate climate and a relatively low cost of living. Spain can satisfy all these requirements.

Frequent and inexpensive air travel makes journeys between northern European countries and Spain quick and affordable - an important consideration when choosing to live abroad. The EEC has ensured that movement of people and money within member states is de-regulated and many of the barriers that once stood in the way of property and business purchasers have now been removed. This non-stop influx of foreign money into the Spanish property market will ensure stability (and likely future increases) in property prices.

Let's not forget the Spanish. The impending introduction of the Euro has forced many Spanish 'black money' holders to clean up their act. Property purchase has been the answer for many. Wealthy Spaniards from the big industrial cities have been investing massively in coastal and country property steadily forcing prices higher.

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Business Partnerships.

Some work and some don't - think long and hard before you make any commitment. Good friends and close relatives are likely to be most people's choice as business partners - typically to operate cafe/bar or similar catering type businesses. Have these friends and relatives anything solid to contribute to your proposed venture? Experience, capital, business acumen and so on - or do they just want to hang on to your coat tails?

In our experience it is vital that both partners invest equal capital in the business. The 'I'll put the money and you put the work/experience' type of agreement is usually the rocky road to ruin. If things don't work out and the non-contributor leaves then the investor is left with a business he may not know how to run or want to run. It's important too to get the paperwork right. Both partners will need to sign the Lease (for leasehold purchase) or Escritura (for freehold purchases). Don't forget - if things don't go according to plan and the business is put up for sale, then BOTH parties need to sign the transfer documents, or the sale cannot be effected. A very noticeable and often repeated success story is the family business - Mum, Dad plus a couple of teenage children to help out. There's no obvious reason why it works - but it does!

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Do I need to use an Estate Agent?

The obvious answer is no. However, it must be clearly understood that Spain isn't Britain - no matter how anglicised the tourist areas of Spain appear. The laws are not the same, neither are the business practices. Experience and local knowledge are all important.

Yes, your chosen Estate Agent will make some commission if you buy, but he will earn it! Don't' forget that he has done much of his work before you arrive in Spain. Visiting properties, making valuations, taking details and photographs, preparing brochures and videos - and most importantly rejecting the overpriced or problematical properties or businesses.

Not to mention his associate in the UK who has advertised the inventory, often arranged property Exhibitions and inspection visits, answered clients questions and liaised daily with his opposite number in Spain. Quite a bit of work isn't it - and you haven't arrived in Spain yet! When you finally do decide to visit, your viewing will usually be accompanied and on a one to one basis. You will be shown a range of properties or businesses and given impartial opinions on each one. Why impartial? Your Estate Agent will earn his fees WHATEVER YOU BUY so its better for all concerned if he can steer you towards what he thinks is right for you - and more importantly steer you away from a bad decision.

Another misconception is thinking that money can be saved by going direct to overseas estate agents or direct to the developers. This is not usually the case, the commission on the property is the same, it just gets split between those involved in the sale. Obviously developers will be very enthusiastic and helpful when people go directly to them but these people will not be getting impartial advice and the developers will not be recommending they look at rival developments that may also be suitable!

To see the largest range of property that meets your requirements it will probably pay to select an independent UK agent with offices across a wide area of Spain. This way you can be relatively sure they are not recommending only the developments they built themselves or property that is in a relatively small geographic area where they operate. On the other hand, if you know the exact development you want to purchase (perhaps your friends have purchased property on it) you may just as easily fly yourself to Spain and talk to the developer directly. However, if you have previously used an estate agent to provide details of the development you may be surprised to find that the estate agent has registered your details with the developer and therefore still gets paid a commission! We recommend you make the estate agent earn the commission.

Once you have made your selection your estate agent should introduce you to an English speaking Lawyer specialising in conveyancing in the area. After purchase, the responsible Estate Agent will have available the full range of ancillary services - assistance with relocation and furnishings, help with water, electricity and gas contracts, advise on schooling, banking, insurance, health cover, car purchase, etc. All the million and one things that a newcomer in a foreign country needs help with.

NO YOU DON'T HAVE TO USE AN ESTATE AGENT - BUT IT CERTAINLY HELPS!

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After buying a property in Spain I'll have extra cash, what do I do with it?

Relatively high property prices in the UK (especially in the south of England) compared to Spain, redundancy payments, inheritances and so on, make this quite a common question in these affluent times. As always with money matters we recommend professional and impartial advice. Speak to a Chartered Accountant in the UK before moving to Spain. Speak to a qualified Accountant once you arrive in Spain. All the major financial institutions have offices in Gibraltar - all offer free advice. Listen to them all before you make your decision. Always invest with the major players - remember B.C.I. and Barlow Clowes - now long gone? Millions of pounds were invested with these financial 'minnows' simply because they offered a tiny percentage more interest than the big names.

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Planning permission.

Worries about planning permission will almost always concern plots of land on which a purchaser would like to build a detached property. How does one know what - if anything - can be built on the land? Your chosen Estate Agent should already have done his homework regarding the plots of land he has on his books and know in advance what type and size of property will be allowable.

COASTAL PLOTS

These will almost certainly be on an urbanisation (housing development). If this is the case, then Outline Planning Permission is almost certainly already given. In other words the Local authority have given permission for the construction of one detached property. They will also have stated the maximum square meters of construction they will allow plus the number of floors.

Your Lawyer can obtain this information (if he doesn't already know) easily and quickly from the local Town Hall. There are also urbanisations in some countryside areas - similar regulations apply.

On urbanisations (Housing Developments) the utilities - water and electricity - will usually be connected to the plot. The cost of taking the utilities from their existing plot-side location to the property plus the cost of the meters will be for the account of the purchaser of the land. Some urbanisations will have mains sewerage. The cost of connecting the property to the mains will be for the account of the purchaser. Where there are no main sewers, the property will usually have a

septic tank. Urbanisations will almost always have street lighting (electricity is usually paid by the community) and tarmaced roads.

COUNTRYSIDE PLOTS

This is a bit more complicated, but once again your Estate Agent should know in advance what kind of construction will be permitted. Your lawyer will be able to confirm this information at the local Town Hall. In order to preserve the rural aspect of the countryside, the Authorities in many areas of Spain have wisely decided to limit over-building by applying minimum plot size regulations. This varies enormously from area to area and it is impossible to generalise. Roughly speaking, where an area is 'secano' or dry and un-irrigated, the authorities will require larger plot sizes - possibly as much as 5 acres - before allowing construction.

In 'regadio' or irrigated areas, plot size requirements will be lower - often 1 or 2 acres. In either event, there may also be regulations regarding the size of the property that can be constructed. As an example, we know of one relatively small market town with 25 different 'zones' - all of which have different rules and regulations regarding what can and what cannot be built.

All the necessary information is available prior to purchase, from the local Town Hall. A competent Lawyer will guide you through this maze before you lay out any of your hard earned cash.

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After I've bought my apartment or villa what overheads will I have?

COMMUNITY CHARGES - Most apartment and town house complexes are subject to a Community Charge. This payment covers such items as cleaning and maintenance of communal gardens and swimming pools, lighting to corridors and public areas, lift maintenance, building insurance (often but not always), maintenance of communal satellite TV antenna and cleaning of public areas. Regular meetings are held by the property owners to discuss the efficiency and costs of the services. The amount of the community charge is set by the property owners themselves. Every owner in each complex has a vote. Non-residents can give a proxy vote to another owner, or to the president of the community. It is a simple democratic system that works extremely well and, unlike in the UK, is not dependent on outside agencies. Charges vary depending on the level of service, but average around £30/£50 per month for a typical apartment or town house. Detached villas on the coast may attract a small community charge to cover the cost of street lighting etc. Invariably country properties are not subject to a community charge.

RATES - These are paid annually to the Town Hall and are based on the Local Authority's valuation of the property. Compared to UK rates they are quite low, typically as follows:

Village Houses - approx. £40/£80 p.a. 2 Bedroom Apartments - approx. £150/£300 p.a.

3 Bedroom Villas - approx. £250/£500 p.a. There is no Council tax equivalent in Spain.

ANNUAL PROPERTY TAXES - Non-resident British property owners are advised to nominate a legally recognised Fiscal

Representative to prepare the property tax forms. Apart from Local Authority rates there are two annual property taxes, as follows:

PATRIMONIO or WEALTH TAX - If you are a permanent resident in Spain there is nothing to pay if your property has a declared value of less than 17,000,000 ptas. Above 17,000,000 ptas the tax payable is 0.2% of the value declared in the Escritura. Therefore, declared property value 17,000,000 ptas - tax payable = 34,000 ptas (or £136 per annum @ 250 ptas = £1).

For non-residents (holiday homeowners, for example) 0.2% tax is payable, whatever the value of the property.

I.R.P.F. (NOTIONAL RENTAL TAX) - If you are a permanent resident in Spain and only own one property, this tax does not apply. For non-residents (holiday-home owners, for example) this tax is 0.5% of the rateable value of the property.

The rateable value is likely to be considerably less than the real value of the property. Therefore, property value £50,000 (rateable value £30,000) the annual tax payable would be £150.

ELECTRICITY - Costs are about the same as in the UK, with the bills coming every 2 months. These can be paid by direct debit from your bank account. Some of the more outlying countryside properties are not connected to the national grid system. The Electricity Company will usually provide a supply; estimates are available prior to purchase. Costs to connect isolated properties to the grid-system are likely to be prohibitive. Solar power - The main benefit, of course, is that once it's installed there are no electricity bills! The minus is that most solar systems will only provide enough power to operate low consumption appliances - Televisions, radios, domestic lighting, etc.

Fridges, cookers and household heaters that work on butane gas are available in Spain and a generator can always be used when more power is required.

Most of your electrical appliances will work in Spain. You will, however need to change the plugs. A minor alteration to your TV set, which costs around £30 and can be done in Spain, will enable you to receive the six Spanish TV channels. English programmes are available in most areas of Spain through Sky - yes it's exactly the same Sky TV that you receive in the UK.

These days many apartment blocks have a communal satellite TV system linked to each apartment - although programme choice may be limited. If you want to install your own satellite TV system local installers will advise and many are able to provide the new digital system.

HEATING - With the exception of northern Spain, this is not a major consideration throughout most of the year. However, December, January and February have their cold days and evenings are always cool when the sun goes down. The most popular (and attractive) method is to have a wood burning open fire. Many people have a delivery of logs made at the end of the summer, which will last them through the winter. Alternatively gas or electric heaters can be used. Most modern air conditioning units also incorporate warm air heating systems, which can be used in the cooler months.

GAS - There is very little piped gas in Spain. Butane gas is available in canisters -similar to our Calor Gas. Costs for a large container are approximately £5 - much less than the cost of a similar article in the UK. Containers are delivered to the door, or for more outlying properties, they can be collected from the local depot.

WATER - Water usage is metered (you pay for what you use). For the average household annual costs are likely to be much lower than in the UK. The water is drinkable, however, most locals prefer to use the inexpensive bottled spring water available from shops and supermarkets.

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How much income do I need to live in Spain ?

Pre-supposing that your Spanish property and car are paid for - then a couple can live well enough on £10,000 per year. Many British pensioners manage quite well in Spain on their State Pension, which is considerably less than £10,000 per year!

There are considerable savings on all of the following:

SUPERMARKET SHOPPING - a recent survey showed this to be 25% cheaper in Spain than in the UK.

HEATING BILLS - Minimal.

RATES - Local rates for a typical 2 bed apartment are likely to be no more than £150 to £300 per year.

WATER - Metered, but typically only 50% of UK annual charges.

WINE, SPIRITS, BEER and TOBACCO - Up to 50% savings on most items.

FUEL - Petrol and diesel are much cheaper in Spain - often as much as 40% less.

EATING OUT - It is possible to eat out in Spain every day, even on a limited budget. There are lots of 'menu del dia' (menu of the day) restaurants offering 3 course meals with wine for between £3 and £5 per head.

CLOTHING - The generally temperate climate ensures that outlay on clothing is much less than in the UK. In fact shorts and tee shirts are 'de riguer' for almost 6 months of the year in many areas of Spain.

MARKETS - All the towns and larger villages will have a weekly open market. Prices are geared to Spanish pockets. Plenty of bargains to be had - especially locally grown fruit and vegetables - which are often offered for sale by the farmer who grew them (no middleman!). Melons, grapes, oranges, lemons, pomegranates, apples, pears, plums, cherries, peaches - and every kind of vegetable. Buy them when in season and fill the boot of your car for £10!

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Getting a job in Spain.

There is free movement of labour within the EEC. As both Spain and the UK are EEC Members, there should be few restrictions on those British citizens seeking work in Spain. The reality, however, is somewhat different and the following should be borne in mind:

LANGUAGE - Unless you are reasonably fluent in Spanish, then you will be precluded from most work opportunities. Really in the same way that a non-English speaking Spaniard would have difficulty finding work in the UK. Even British owned companies in Spain will, almost certainly, require their employees to have some knowledge of the Spanish Language Many British qualifications are not recognised in Spain. Remember that in the major tourist regions there is very little industry. The economy in these areas is geared to tourism and the service sector. Employment opportunities are likely to be limited.

WAGES - Per capita income in much less in Spain than in the UK and, whatever your skill, you are unlikely to command an equivalent salary. Fortunately, the lower cost of living does counteract reduced salaries accordingly.

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How do the Spanish feel about foreign residents?

Since the package tour boom of the early 60's, Spain has been subjected to an annual bombardment of foreign holiday-makers - usually in the millions - and all eager to spend their holiday cash. Tourism accounts for 10% of the Spanish economy. Many of these tourists have now bought holiday homes in Spain. Plus, of course, northern Europeans eager to retire to a country with a relatively low cost of living, comprehensive infrastructure and temperate climate have been investing massively in the Spanish property market for many years.

These permanent residents have contributed enormously to local Spanish economies. This huge yearly cash in-flow has enabled most Spaniards living and working in the major tourist areas to increase their living standards dramatically. As well as the obvious financial benefits to the local communities and the Spanish Government of these major investments by foreigners, it should be remembered that Spaniards are a naturally friendly and gregarious people - eager to learn about your culture and introduce newcomers to their customs and way of life. In our experience, there is rarely animosity to foreigners in Spain. However, if you really want to be accepted and integrated into the local community it goes without saying that newcomers to Spain should put learning a little of the language at the top of their list of priorities.

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Paying bills.

Most mundane day-to-day bills can be paid by direct bank debit. Such items as electricity, telephone, community charges, water and Town Hall rates can usually be paid through your Spanish Bank account. Normally the bill is sent to you - the bank receives the order for payment a week or so after.

Cash is still 'King' in Spain and, although the use of credit cards and cheque payments is increasing, Spain is still a long way behind the UK in this regard. Cheque guarantee cards are available from Spanish banks - usually these can also be used to withdraw cash from the appropriate dispensers.

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The manana syndrome.

The manana syndrome is still alive and well in Spain! If you expect the kind of speedy service we are accustomed to from most companies in the UK, then you will almost certainly be disappointed in Spain. Things do get done - it just takes a little longer! Siesta time - usually 2 pm to 5 pm - is still sacrosanct in many areas of Spain. It's the time of day for a substantial lunch - a few glasses of wine - and a snooze. It's almost impossible to budge the Spaniards from this time honored custom. However, they do work late. Shops and offices will be open in the early evening at least until 8 pm and often later. It takes a bit of getting used to at first but, once you settle down to the more relaxed lifestyle in Spain, it starts to make sense to take things easy during the hottest part of the day - saving your energy for when the sun goes down. However, multinational companies with branches in the bigger industrialised cities in Spain are pressurising their Spanish office based counterparts to fall into line with the working practices prevalent in most other parts of Europe and adopt the 9 to 5 working day. Will they succeed? We doubt it - watch this space!

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Shopping In Spain

What a pleasure this is in Spain compared to the frenetic scurry around the isles most of us endure in the UK. Most housing developments will have mini-markets - similar to our 'corner shops' or '8 till late' stores. They are convenient - usually pricey - but handy none the less for day to day items like bread and milk. Now that there is open competition in the fuel industry in Spain many new petrol filling stations (Gasolineras) have forecourt shops. Big players - like BP - are well represented and these 24 hour outlets provide a useful service.

A visit to one of the bigger hypermarkets is almost a day out. Most will have a good Bar/Restaurant in-house to encourage customers to prolong their visit. Clever Spanish businessmen in the resort areas understand that many of their customers will be foreigners. Consequently, there is always a huge range of products - British, German, Dutch, French, Italian and Asian foods are widely available plus, of course, all the Spanish favorites. A wander around the isles is an international experience. Fruit, vegetable and fish departments have mouth-watering displays. Staff are friendly and eager to assist. All the larger hypermarkets will have some English speaking personnel. All the goods are pre-priced - just take your trolley to the check-out - in the same way you would in your local UK supermarket.

Some big towns - and most regional capitals - will have an 'El Corte Ingles' store. These Harrods style department stores are huge. All the famous designer labels plus furniture from all over the world are on display. Even the most experienced shopaholic cannot fail to be impressed by the quality and range of goods available.

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Countryside Businesses - Rural Farming, etc.

Opportunities exist for British owned countryside businesses in Spain. This will probably be limited to either the tourist industry or farming. 10 years ago the average British holiday-maker would almost certainly opt for one of the major coastal resorts. Many still do. However, today's holidaymaker is likely to have traveled widely and be much more sophisticated. Rural tourism is avidly promoted by the Spanish Government, who are eager to see some of that holiday cash spent in the countryside.

Inland areas - especially those with features of special interest - are likely spots for British owned and operated Pensions, small Hotels and Bed + Breakfast outlets. Specialist holidays are big business: Mountain bikers, fishermen, painters, hikers, ornithologists and country lovers in general are all potential customers for British owned rural holiday accommodation.

Marketing - as with any new business venture - is important. At least until a loyal following is built up. Wise businessmen won't just sit still and wait for customers. British owned rural businesses have, for the moment, little competition. It's an ideal medium for the Internet and once you have that hard core of regulars, the lack of competition should mean plenty of repeat bookings.

FARMING - Inland from the busy coastal resorts the economy in Spain is often dependent on agriculture. The most prolific crops are likely to be almonds, olives, grapes, citrus fruits, peach, plum, avocado and tropical fruits. Plus vegetables.

All are cash crops and can be sold either to local co-operatives, supermarket or direct from a market stall. Although we are not farmers ourselves, it seems to us that income is relatively easily earned. Many Spanish landowners operate their farms on a profit share basis. Locals tend the crops, harvest and sell the produce - often working on a 50/50 split with the farm owner. Alternatively, of course, you can do everything yourself.

Fruit farms generally need very little land to produce a reasonable income. 3 or 4 productive acres can often give an annual income of £10,000 to £15,000. More than enough to live on in Spain. Olive and almond farms need much more land to give an equivalent annual return - at least 15 to 20 acres.

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Crime in Spain

Sad to say that the days when you could leave your front door open all day are long gone - as they are elsewhere in Europe.

PETTY CRIME - Bag snatching and theft from unattended vehicles does happen (doesn't it everywhere!). This is almost always limited to the busy tourist areas. Take the usual precautions - only carry minimal amounts of cash and don't leave valuable items visible in your car.

Where property is concerned take the same steps that you would take in the UK. Have an alarm system fitted - there are many Security Companies in Spain who will fit your alarm and link it to their central office (if the alarm sounds they arrive in minutes). Have a safe fitted and lock-up your valuables, if leaving the property unattended.

Take out adequate insurance. If the worst happens at least you won't suffer financial loss. In our experience petty crime in Spain is pretty well limited to theft. There is very little evidence of violence.

Another pleasant surprise is the complete lack of child abuse. Family orientated and staunchly Roman Catholic, the average Spaniard cannot comprehend this type of crime. It is not unusual to see 5 year olds playing in the street at midnight in the summer in Spain. They've had a long afternoon nap and Spanish parents are happy to let their children play outside in the cool of the evening virtually without supervision.

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We're a couple but we're going to buy a 4 bed villa/apartment so the family will be able to holiday with us - what do you think?

Not an uncommon question. There are many British retired couples rattling around in properties that are much too big for their requirements simply because their children visit (or may visit) for a couple of weeks every year. Apart from the obvious expense of initially buying a larger property, there is both the expense and effort needed to maintain the home. Most resort areas (and many in the countryside) will have a plethora of property available for short term rental. In our opinion it makes much more sense to purchase a property that is suitable for your needs only. When the family or your friends come to visit just rent them a nearby apartment or villa for the duration of their stay. You can still enjoy your time with them. The cost of a few weeks rental every year is hardly likely to add up to the expense of buying - and maintaining - an oversize property.

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Spanish Escritura and notary

The Notary is a semi-public official who is legally qualified and appointed by the Spanish government. His offices are known as a Not aria and will be fully computerized and highly efficient. The Notary prepares the Title Deed (Escritura) from the information given to him by the vendor or his Lawyer. The Notary certifies that the Escritura complies with Spanish Law and witnesses the signatures of both buyer and seller. When you attend the Notary office with your Lawyer to sign the Escritura and pay for your property, the Notary will read out the relevant details from the Escritura - vendor's and purchaser's names and personal details, address of the property being purchased, plot size, room distribution, declared purchase price and so on. This will almost certainly be in Spanish. However - your Lawyer should have given you, at least a verbal translation, of the Escritura prior to signing at the Notaria.The Notary does not check legal title to the property, although he will make a check at the Land Registry immediately prior to the signing of the Escritura to ensure that there are no undisclosed charges on the property - a mortgage for example.

The Notarial charges for preparing the Escritura and presiding over its signing are set by law on a set scale depending on the property value. Expect to pay no more than 1% of the property value as declared in the Escritura - plus IVA (vat) at 16%. Once the formalities have been completed before the Notary, the Escritura is delivered to the Land Registry so that your Title can be recorded in the Registry of Property. Before doing so it is necessary for all taxes to be paid to the Notary. The most significant of these taxes will be the Transfer Tax (stamp duty) or IVA (vat) - depending on which type of property you purchase. The Property Transfer Tax levied on re-sale properties is 6% of the purchase price as detailed in the Escritura. If you buy a new property from a Developer, you will pay a different tax - IVA (vat) - levied at 7% of the selling price + 0.5% stamp duty.

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Spanish Land Registry

All properties in Spain should be registered in the Registro de la Propedad (Land Registry), where you can obtain full details of the property owner, exact size of the property and full details of any mortgages, debts or liens against the property. Only the persons named on the Escritura have the right to sell the property - unless a Notarised Power of Attorney has been given to a third party (often a Lawyer). Land Registry fees are assessed on a scale of charges related to the sale price as shown in the Escritura. The length and complexity of the Escritura and other factors are also considered. The fees do not normally exceed 1% of the registered value of the property.

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Community charges explained.

COMMUNITY OF OWNERS (COMUNIDAD)

If you purchase an apartment in a block, or a townhouse or villa in an urbanisation, you will automatically become a member of the community of owners - with the right to vote at the Annual General Meetings - which administers general maintenance of areas of common ownership: such as streets, gardens, hallways, lifts and swimming pools, etc. An annual budget is calculated to cover these costs, which is divided between all owners according to the size of their properties - the amount depends on the facilities available, services provided and the number of properties contributing towards these facilities and services. Your Lawyer should check the latest receipt for the payment of monthly or yearly maintenance charges - the ' Cuotas de Comunidad' - and discover how much you will have to pay. It is advisable for your legal representative to obtain a certificate from the association stating that there are no charges outstanding.

Your Lawyer should be able to obtain a copy of the minutes of the meeting and the community regulations from the President or Administrator. The minutes should highlight any problems, such as failing water supply and the regulations will confirm your rights. Some communities have special rules. It is advisable to check if there is anything special in the rules, such as 'no dogs', etc. If the building belongs to a community it is important that the property has a public Title Deed (Escritura) in which the plot as well as the house is shown. The community of owners is the legally registered body that administers the urbanisation or apartment building.

Community charges often include building insurance (not contents). Not all do, however, and you should check this out.

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Spanish Local Authority rates.

These are levied by the local Town Hall and are known in Spain as ' Impuestos Sobre Bienes Inmuebles' or I.B.I. for short. Discounts are often given for prompt payment and surcharges levied (usually 20%) on late payers. The I.B.I. receipt shows the Valor Catastral (rateable value) of the property. This is the officially assessed value rather than the real value. This officially assessed value is almost always considerably less than the actual value of the property concerned. The amount of I.B.I. you pay is 0.7% of the Catastral Value of the property. This rate can vary a little depending on the municipality. Therefore, real property value 20,000,000 ptas. - Catastral Value 15,000,000 ptas - Annual Rates or I.B.I. payable - 105,000 ptas.

The cost of rubbish collection is usually billed separately but in most cases it little more than a few pounds a year.

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Renting/Income from a Spanish property.

These days a holiday home in Spain requires a substantial investment and only the wealthy can afford to leave their property unexploited. Obviously the amount of rental income that can be expected depends on the property concerned. The following points can all be considered. If your property is in one of the major tourist areas, such as the Costa del Sol, Balearics, Tenerife or Costa Blanca, then demand for property to rent is likely to be high. Properties in the less well visited resorts and in the countryside are rentable - but demand is much lower. It is safe to say that there is a tenant for every property. However, those in most demand tend to be one of the following:

GOLF PROPERTY - Many Golf Courses in Spain are surrounded by residential developments. Obviously of most interest to Golfers. Thousands arrive every day in Spain, especially in the winter months, when it's difficult to play in many European countries due to the inclement weather. Generally well heeled, the golfing fraternity expect to pay high rents for the convenience of course-side properties.

SEAFRONT APARTMENTS - Usually with plenty of facilities on the doorstep. Always popular and easily rentable.

VILLAS WITH POOLS - The top end of the market and often commanding rents in excess of £1,000 per week in the busy summer season

Most holiday homeowners will have no choice but to use a Spanish based Rental and Management Company to look after, and rent out, their property. Specialist Agencies of this type abound and most Estate Agents in Spain will offer this service to some degree. Competent Agencies will offer a comprehensive range of services - locating and vetting tenants, cleaning and maintenance, payment of utility bills and so on. Often monthly statements are forwarded to non-resident owners detailing income and expenditure. The profits can be deposited in the property owner's Spanish Bank account, remitted to the UK or held for collection by the property owner when he is next in Spain. Expect to pay your chosen Agent around 15% of the gross rental as his commission. Repairs, renovations, cleaning and maintenance will be extra and should be itemised on your monthly statement.

There are two main types of tenancies - short and long term. Short term tenants - usually holidaymakers - will pay a higher rent but this usually includes electricity, water and gas charges. Cleaning and linen changes are also 'all in'. Long term tenants (anything from a couple of months to a year) will pay a lower rent but normally are responsible for paying for their own utilities and cleaning. Competent Rental Agencies will always ask tenants to sign an agreement or Lease setting out the terms and conditions of the tenancy. They should also insist on a bond or deposit to cover any breakages or damage. In the case of holiday rentals this will usually be a fixed sum. Where a lease is involved (long term tenancies) most Agencies will ask for two months' rent as a returnable bond and one month's rent in advance.

WHAT CAN GO WRONG?

Your chosen Agent should be able to recoup the cost of minor breakages from the bond or deposit, which he holds. He will be keen to vet intending tenants. After all he wants to keep your property on his books for as long as possible to maximise his income. However, there is always the possibility that a bad tenant can cause damage which is more costly to repair than the amount of the bond held by the Agent. A more important potential problem can arise if a tenant (especially one with a Lease) decides he wont leave the property at the end of his tenancy. Especially where families with children are concerned, this can be a minefield. Courts can give the tenant extended rights of occupancy and fix his rent. It doesn't happen often - but it is possible.

TAX ON RENTAL INCOME

Non-resident property owners in Spain are advised to appoint a Fiscal Representative. You will be taxed on any rental income that you declare in Spain. Your Fiscal Representative will look after the paperwork. The income arising from your rental property in Spain will be taxed at 25%. Spain has a dual taxation agreement with the UK and any tax paid on rental income in Spain is deductible from UK tax liabilities.

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Moving to Spain

Moving to Spain is probably much easier than you imagine. Obviously it pays to use the services of a specialist carrier and to shop around. Prices and services available vary enormously. Provided that the furniture and goods you are taking to Spain are for your own use, there are few restrictions. Specialist carriers will be able to help and advise. Many of the larger Removal Companies have on-site storage facilities in Spain and, if your property is not yet ready for occupation, your belongings can be stored in Spain prior to onward shipment to your new home. Think long and hard about what you take to Spain with you. Personal items and antique furniture are probably irreplaceable. However, the cost of shipping many household items is uneconomical. Why pay to have old fridges, cookers and out-dated furniture taken to Spain, when the cost of replacing them with new Spanish bought items may be little more than the cost of shipping them over?

There's a huge range of furniture and domestic appliances available in Spain - from all over the world. Prices are reasonable and, of course, local guarantees apply. Remember - you may not be able to have your British bought appliances repaired in Spain if they break down. Think about style too. Is that heavy brocade 3 piece suite or that reproduction dining room suite going to look right in your new Spanish home? White walls and marble floors are the norm in Spain and local stores offer the kind of furniture that suits Spanish decor. Prices are good and quality excellent. This is the Numero de Identificacion de Extranjeros.

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What is an NIE number?

All property owners in Spain - whether resident or non-resident - must obtain the NIE. It is simply a fiscal I.D. number. You will not be able to pay your taxes or register your property without it. The easy to complete application forms are available from the local Commisaria (Guardia Civil Police Station) or the nearest Tax Office. There is no charge for the NIE number. Most people will let their Lawyer look after this simple but essential procedure. He is likely to charge around £25 for his time.

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