And then we bought a house in Spain!
Just like that. Or that's what it looked like to the outside world. The reality is that it obviously required a fair bit of work, research, tenacity and guts. Oh, and money, let's not forget that.
Hubby and I are property investors. We like houses. It's that simple. Truth be told, in Australia it's a fair bit easier to hold investment properties than in Holland. The legal and tax systems are set up differently. It's hard to get into the housing market, but once you do, it's pretty easy to buy a second property. So where Dutch people opt for shares when they wish to invest, Australians tend to go for investment properties. Having said that, it's not impossible in The Netherlands. We managed to successfully obtain one in Haarlem (read more here) but I think that's probably where it ends, as far as investment properties in Holland are concerned.
Dreaming of a holiday home
We always dreamed of a holiday home. Somewhere to escape. Something totally different to normal. Something that would be ours, and not purposely bought to rent out. We could never quite justify it though; you spend a lot of money to not always be there. And we love travelling all over the world. Would we still do so if we owned a holiday home somewhere idyllic?
Then corona hit. And we realised anything can happen. The world turns upside down without warning. We figured life is short. Too short. If we really want something we should just go for it. Especially now the kids are still young to enjoy it. And the idea of spending time somewhere in the middle of nowhere, without lots of people, suddenly sounded very appealing.
Because that's what we wanted. We both love living in the city. We love the hustle and bustle, restaurants, shops, everything in walking distance. But if we're buying an escape, we want to be country side, away from everything, somewhere with gorgeous views preferably. Bonus if there was surf around (hubby will always remain a surfie boy of course) but not a must. Fun fact: hubby's requirement was to be able to have enough land to have a goat. For some weird reason he is fascinated by goats. They're cute, I admit. I love animals. Not sure if I need a goat though!
While we still live in The Netherlands, Spain was our first choice. My husband speaks fluent Spanish (very convenient), we love the weather, the food, the wine and you can drive if you have to. We did lots of research and in the end settled on the area around Valencia. Why? Valencia is über cool. I am obsessed with its street art. I like how it's gorgeous yet understated, grungy, easy, friendly, 300 days of sunshine per year and it's very affordable. In fact, Valencia was recently voted as the number one city for expats to live (read full report here) by InterNations.
We started doing our research (we'd already been property hunting in France, and other areas of Spain) and got in touch with Valencia Property. Actually, we got in touch with many real estate agents (and when I say 'we' I mean my husband because speaking the language makes a big difference). Valencia Property is run by Brits (makes life a hell of a lot easier for me) that have been living in Spain for yonks. It's always hard to trust people when you buy property, especially real estate agents. Agents in Australia can be snakes (never take anything face value from them), agents in The Netherlands are so honest you wonder if they actually really want to sell you anything. Spain was totally new to us. David and Graham of Valencia Property were so incredibly nice to us, without us having to sign any paperwork or commit to exclusivity, it made us wary of a hidden catch. Initially anyway. We decided not to disclose hubby spoke Spanish fluently, to be able to hear what people spoke about behind our backs (what can I say, too much money at stake not to do your due diligence). Having gone through the entire process now, with the benefit of hindsight, I can wholeheartedly say that their attitude and belief that all good things come to those who make them happen couldn't be more true. I'd happily recommend them to anyone interested to buy in Valencia (just tell them I sent you).
Then the actual search. After all the pre-work, and short listing lots of properties, investigating all the legal requirements, and contacting lots of agents, we set off for Valencia. We rented a AirBnB in Cabañal, a folky neighbourhood by Valencia beach. Awesome place, vibrant area, great food, just not the place to be if you value your sleep at night. It was also the middle of summer, so incredibly hot, particularly wearing corona masks.
David had arranged an entire program of viewing properties for us which was just awesome. We saw a few properties with different agents but they simply didn't fit the bill. So after a few days we decided we'd only see properties with David, who kept arranging new properties for us to see (after we changed search areas). David also arranged appointments with a trustworthy lawyer and bank manager for us. Incredibly useful as well since you need both in order to buy property. You need a Spanish fiscal number, which is normally not hard to obtain from a Spanish embassy in your own country, EXCEPT in corona times. That made it impossible. David arranged for our lawyer to complete our paperwork, which went all without a hitch. A little scary at first, as doing official things in Spain the 'Spanish way' is a little scary, but we decided to have a little faith (after checking the lawyer's paperwork and credentials). And the legal papers appeared in our inbox while we were in Spain still.
Initially we looked for property in Náquera, an area in the mountains next to Valencia, hugely popular by rich Valencians to have a weekender as it's a couple of degrees cooler than the city. I just couldn't love it. We saw some nice properties albeit in urbanisations. An urbanisation is a group of apartments, townhouses or villas organised and grouped into urbanisations, much like estates, which are small communities within themselves. These urbanisations are often gated with on-site security. Living in an urbanisation can offer many advantages over living in a property on its own. While some people love that, we were just not into it. I prefer my own property, my own rules, and the more 'raw' feeling of country living. Doesn't have to be entirely off the grid, but it certainly needs to feel like you're part of the elements. Having said that, it wasn't the concept or urbanisations that put me off in Náquera (in fact, we saw a gorgeous home we almost placed a bid on), it was the mountains! I get claustrophobic of high mountain tops and freak out at cliff and steep drive ways. Not my thing. I wanted views, definitely, but don't need to be up high to get them. I preferred the rolling pastures of orange trees more inland. Luckily hubby agreed.
So we set off to Vilamarxant, and the areas around it. Being there, different parts of the days, got us excited. That's what we were looking for. Gorgeous surrounds, cute little village, beautiful sun sets, nice properties, 20 mins from the airport and only 30 mins to Valencia city itself. Plus, it was a lot cheaper than Náquera. Bonus!
Falling in love
We've bought a fair few houses in the past. And I know exactly when I want to have a place, it just feels right then. I can make a judgment call within a few minutes of setting foot in a property. We know what we look for. Usually we both feel exactly the same about a place which is lucky. The moment we entered the country home that we can now call our own, I fell in love. The setting, the tranquility, the cute pink house, the pool, the views, the orchard and the squirrels. It was exactly what we had pictured. We instantly named the house VILLA ARDILLA (the squirrel house). And even though we saw a few more houses after this one, I knew I had to have it. And, it would easily house a goat if we wanted to. 😉
The owners were keen to sell to us and we soon settled on a price. We couldn't be happier and started the ball rolling to get the actual keys and start living the dream.
Are you curious what happened next? Curious about the house? What it looks like on the inside? What I am going to do with it? Then stay tuned for my next blog!