More than just an estate agent…

I’ve never liked the term ‘estate agent’. There are far too many negative stereotypes associated with it. I am not that person. So I was delighted to read this piece written by some Danish clients of mine and find that they had coined a new title for me. Ambassador? I’ll take that…. :-)

Read their beautifully written story here – and get inspired!

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We are Signe, Tarje and Roar, Danes and recent homeowners in the rocky part of Asturias; Quiros. We met Mary more or less by chance after having spent half a year on the road with our baby Roar. Before that we were working as respectively an academic and a nurse, but we have always had that nagging feeling that fulfilling the ideals of society was properly not the road to meaningful and happy lives for us. The courage to do something about it, however, only came with parenthood. And while it does take a lot of courage to break away from your routine, we have learned along the way that the shackles don’t just fall off simply because you start to rattle.

We had an idea that we wanted to find a place in Catalunya – and start building towards self-sustainability. However, while Spain is littered with old ruins in need of love – finding a suitable one for sale turned out to be an insurmountable task. While we liked the experience, Catalunya seem to be hit hard by drought-spells and increasing heat – and didn’t really feel like home to us. With a few rock climbing images from Asturias, our heads turned west, and the lushness here immediately felt right.

It is only after you have gone through the process yourself you realize how much work Mary has put into finding properties suitable for expats. Mary calls herself an estate agent, but we feel a more descriptive title would be ambassador. Of course she runs a business, but you can immediately tell her main focus isn’t improving her own margins, but bridging the substantial cultural gap it is for northern Europeans to buy property in Spain.

One show of the abandoned village Eros – halfway up a mountain – and we were sold. We are now a few months in, the house seems to have stopped crumbling down – the once omnipresent brambles are starting to reappear less and less and we are making the first moves at making our house liveable and our garden edible.

 

The Brexit Effect

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Brexit. The B word that is on everybody’s minds right now, especially any Brit who is living in or considering a move to a European country. It’s hardly surprising then that a number of clients have asked me to write an article on the potential effects of a British exit from the European Union. So here’s my two (euro) cents’ worth.

The first thing to say is that nobody really knows exactly what’s going to happen with Brexit. Least of all, it would seem, the British government. Just yesterday Britain’s ambassador to the European Union and one of their most experienced EU diplomats resigned amidst a row over his candid observations that Brexit negotiations could take as long as 10 years.

This thing could run and run. In the meantime, there’s really no point in getting bogged down in pointless speculation but there are some things that we do know for sure and which I’ll try and outline here.

I can tell you for one that currently Brexit is, somewhat counter-intuitively, serving to give a push to my core market as Brits rush to get themselves established in Spain before Brexit kicks in, in whatever format it ends up taking. Many people who may have been dreaming for years of a move to Spain have suddenly found their plans firmly shoved from the back burner to the front as they see the possibility of their dreams being snatched away from them by external forces.

For the Brits who are already here and legally resident it is likely that not a huge amount will materially change although there will almost certainly be more bureaucratic hoops to jump through.

Facts for residents:
– if you have been legally resident in Spain for ten years or more you can apply for Spanish citizenship. (Note, Spain doesn’t recognise dual nationality although Britain does.)
– If you are an EU citizen who has been a legal resident for 5 years or more you have the right to permanent residency without any conditions.

EU nationals living in Spain are required to register with the Spanish authorities (Extranjería). This resident’s document has no expiry date on it and many Brits are now keen to get over here and get registered as an EU resident as soon as possible in order to try and protect their automatic rights to live and work here. It is possible that the rights of those already resident before Brexit takes place will be protected, plus the sooner you get registered as resident the sooner you start clocking up years of residency, accumulating rights and moving towards a position where you could apply for permanent residency or citizenship. That being said, until negotiations take place over the rights of EU citizens in Britain and vice versa we can’t know for sure what the outcome will be.

The right to buy property and the right to own a business are enshrined under international law and so will not be affected by an exit from the EU. 

The process for purchasing property in Spain is exactly the same for non-EU citizens as it is for EU ones. I have sold properties to South Africans, Americans, Brazilians and Australians as well as Europeans and it has been equally straightforward in all cases.

Where rights do differ is in the right to residency and to work. If we take the worst-case scenario and imagine a full-on hard Brexit, where Britain gives no quarter, leaves the single market and completely rejects free movement of labour then we would be looking at Brits having to go through the same processes as, say, an American citizen in order to obtain the right to live and work in Spain.

The thing to remember is that Americans and other non-EU citizens can and do manage to get work and residency permits for Spain. It may be a convoluted and time-consuming process but it is do-able and there is help out there. Sites like Spain Guru provide great advice on the processes that non-EU citizens need to go through in order to live and work legally in Spain.  Check out their article on the main routes to getting a work-permit in Spain here.

As many of my clients are entrepreneurial types with aspirations to develop a business or work on a freelance basis here in Spain I know that the self-employment (or autónomo) option and that of owning a business will be of particular interest. Other routes to residency are also available however, such as a non-lucrative residency visa if you have funds to support yourself and do not need to seek employment in Spain – I have some South-African clients who now live here on this basis, for example.

So those are the worst-case, hardest-Brexit scenarios. As I said at the start though, we don’t know when or how Brexit will really happen and it’s not something that we have any control over. The bottom line is that if you really want to move to Spain then you need to find a way to make it work for you. And you will.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Treasure Chests and Story Books

I love houses. Lucky really, given my job. I love the glimpses they give you into the lives lived within their walls, the histories created there and the views looked out upon over the years. Architecture, objects, landscapes all come together in a property to shape and illustrate cultures, communities and personalities.

Treasure chest, in the attic of a house in Quiros

Treasure chest, in the attic of a house in Quiros

With older houses in particular you’ll often stumble across pieces that speak volumes. Objects that make you want to run your hand along them, to hold that touch for a moment, pause and listen. As though it might be possible to feel history vibrate through a cool palm held on ancient hand-carved wood. Like this wooden chest that I found last week in the attic of a house in Quiros. What treasures had it stored down through the years?

Or these madrenas, found in an alcove of the same house. What paths did they once tread? Whose feet encase? When was it that they were shelved for the last time?

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A solid oak beam stands in the roof of the long-abandoned house. The light filtering through the wind-shifted, old-fashioned roof tiles falls upon it and highlights the rich, untreated grain, with not a single sign of decay or woodworm or any weakness upon it. A bang with your fist gives a reassuring answering thud. There is something deeply satisfying in the knowledge that some things really can withstand the test of time.

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If you fancy buying your own piece of history in northern Spain then take a look at this lovely traditional Asturian house set in a spectacular hill-top hamlet and ready to move into so you can start to write the next chapter…..

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Photos from the School Run

Autumn is in the air. Finally, there is a fresh crispness to the temperatures and a faint russet tone is creeping into the woodlands. Sweet chestnuts are starting to appear underfoot. Soon amaguestu will be upon us. Families are slowly settling back into the school routine, having started back on September 11th after a lengthy 3 month summer holiday.

Once again we are slaves to the alarm clock. We must be breakfasted, presentable and assembled at the bus stop by eight thirty a.m.  And make no mistake about it, here in Spain eight thirty in the morning is pretty much right next door to the middle of the night. The Spanish are not naturally early risers.

Still, for me anyway, the pain of the early start is completely anaesthetized by the glorious beauty of the school run. As my son happily rides his first bike the 500 or so metres to the bus stop, I stride briskly alongside him, hand at the ready for the occasional quick shove on the steeper sections, my head raised to take in the views on all sides.

The photos below were all snapped on yesterday and today’s school run, on my iphone. Not a bad way to start the day, eh?

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If you fancy swapping your school run for one with a better outlook, check out this lovely family home with views to the Picos and woodland paths on the doorstep.

Gorgeous traditional house in idyllic location

Gorgeous traditional house in idyllic location

 

 

 

 

Asturian Still Life

IMG_1612.JPG I took this snap on my phone yesterday as I wandered back from my neighbours’ house at twilight. It’s a bench that sits on the side of the road a few metres from our house. The Asturian countryside has a high bench to people ratio. In our tiny hamlet there is a total of 4 benches and a permanent adult population of 18. Benches are, of course, for sitting on. This one, as you can probably make out from the photo, is under a large fig tree and is the perfect spot to rest out of the heat of the midday sun and to while away half an hour or so, watching the world go (slowly) by or chatting to a friend. A few metres away around the corner in the plazuela (not quite so big or grand as a village square) is another, shadeless, bench; better suited to cooler winter days when there is nothing more nourishing to soul and body than to sit for a while with face upturned to the sun. But back to this bench. Alongside the fig leaf you see poking through the back slats is a well-ripened pepper and underneath the seat is a pair of discarded clogs, both indicators of its location next to the entrance of my neighbour’s huerta (veggie plot). This is the spot where she kicks off her ‘madrenas’ as she exits the field. These Asturian clogs, with their stilts for traction and to keep them out of the mud and their ample size to accommodate the wearing of slippers within, may be funky looking but they are eminently practical. (Before you ask, no, I haven’t got a pair. I haven’t *quite* worked up the courage yet. For now I’m sticking to wellies.) I’ll often see Rosi’s impressive harvest haul piled high here before she stores it in the barn or leaves it to dry under the eaves of the horreo. Often she’ll leave some fresh pickings on the bench for me to take for our tea. It sure beats the supermarket. If you fancy some bench-sitting in Asturias yourself why not take a look at this lovely village house for sale in La Vina, Villaviciosa for just €130,000? Set in a tranquil hamlet and with over 3,000m2 of productive land within its walled garden you’d also have a great excuse to buy yourself some clogs!

Traditional Asturian house for sale in Villaviciosa

Detached traditional Asturian house set in walled, mature gardens