Tuesday, 24 February 2015

The Philistines Guide to Spain (2)

Continued from  The Philistines Guide to Spain (1)

No matter where I go to spend time in the world, I always take more than a passing interest in the environs. Currently by way of a change from spending time in India or other countries in north Africa. We have chosen to  over winter on the Costa Blanca in Spain. We came out here principally for the weather and not particularly for the culture. As a place I quite like Spain having visited for several holidays in the past. 

First of all I must admit that my idea of a holiday is not to baste myself in suntan oil, (like a half cooked chicken) on a beach. I'm more outgoing preferring to walk in the mountains or to visit places with an interesting historical perspective. Looking around the coast I soon realised that much of the 'old Spain' was fast disappearing under the 'new Spain' which consists of endless kilometres of holiday lets and whitewashed homes for British expats.

Spain is a strong hold of Catholicism and seems to have more than its fair share of festivals. The first few festivals encountered are interesting and entertaining. But if you are a devout agnostic as I am. There are only so many festivals that one can endure before you go down to the local tourist office and obtain a list of festivals. This gives you a heads up on the days to avoid the local town centres. 

Markets are the same the world over. A few village streets or an area of open land are set aside and the stall holders turn up in there transport. Offering a myriad kinds of goods. I found it quite a curious juxtaposition experience, certainly in this part of Spain. After several visits to various towns on market days. We discovered that the markets are all exactly the same. With little in the variation of stall content and even less difference the goods on offer. There are only so many leather wallets you need in a lifetime!

Walking in the mountains certainly is a good and enjoyable experience. The local tourist information office had a booklet on several mountain walks providing varying challenges. The scenery made of mountains and valleys interspersed with olive and orange groves is very enjoyable. But there are large numbers of oranges which have collected as windfalls that no one seems to be interested in. Many of the groves are obviously untended which is highlighted more so by the ones that are being tended. Its only when you raise your eyes into the distance and look towards the coast that you can see a very distinct change. The small almost insignificant towns and villages which seem to have little impact on the landscape. Have a backdrop of coastal high rise concrete to contend with. If you only visit Spain as a holiday maker. Restricted to a resort while you soak up the sun before being whisked back to the airport for your flight home. You will not notice the high price that Spain is paying for a few weeks of high rise pleasure for the tourist.

Things change in Spain at an excruciating slow pace, described as the 'maƱana' or sometimes as the 'siesta' culture. But pressure is building to bring about significant political change. The meltdown in the Euro has been unkind to Spain and her people, there are very high rates of unemployment as a result.  As I travel around I can see property after property for sale. Government figures suggest that there are more than half a million empty properties in Spain. The property market is in free fall and prices have plummeted.  In a seemingly and increasing bizarre way. Young families are unable to purchase a place of their own.

Like the UK the majority of the property slump is outside of the large cities. The areas favoured by the expat British are certainly under a great deal of pressure.  We are staying in a complex, there are quite a few expats domiciled here. Many have been here for well over a decade and like us they came for the weather. But now, the 'Little Britain' enclaves are also filling with for sale signs. The tide has turned and to a point the bubble has burst. The tide turning metaphor is quite appropriate. Twenty years ago the government brought in a law that was intended to protect the coastline. It was intended for the government to buy up large tranches of land to protect the coastal regions. It's only now that this is starting to take place. It is possible that properties owned by expats which fall within the protected zone along the coastal region will find themselves with a place to live for a few years. But that they are unable to sell and can't be inherited by family members. With every likelihood that there will be no compensation.

The Spanish law over property transaction is unlike the laws in Britain. Many expats have discovered this to their downfall. There are tens of thousands of sorry stories. If you are considering moving out to Spain long term, you are going to need what has become known as 'trusted professional' help. Just like it says on the tin some professionals are not to be trusted.

'I hate to say it but it is full of sharks (not the sea variety) and conmen and knowing who to trust is practically impossible. Justin Aldridge in EyeOnSpain
So we decided to look at the apartment where we are staying. We checked the current prices of similar apartments that were for sale within the complex. What we discovered is the price we paid for our complete stay was less than one three hundredth the current price of the property. We could hire the property at this rate for the next one hundred years. Without any of the current risks associated with buying.

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