House Hunting In Spain – Crisis What Crisis?

If you believe only what you read in the press then you will not be looking to step out of your house at the moment, never mind think of traveling abroad … and as if the credit crisis was not enough, now we are also faced by near parity between the pound and the euro. Yet if you are prepared to look below the surface I think you will see things look much more interesting … especially here on the Costa Blanca in Spain. In fact I would go further and say that all of the reasons why Spain has been the most attractive destination for both holidays and second homes for us Brits remain valid … and some may have got better!

When the oil price was spiraling out of control last year there were serious fears that we might be seeing the end of cheap flights. Thankfully, this has not proved to be the case at all, and if you are able to travel light with hand luggage only, then there are some phenomenal bargains to have had on the budget airlines – just make sure you do not ignore the terms and conditions as penalty charges are harsh!

And once you are over in Spain, how to get around? You will find car hire which given the immense competition has always been good value, is now even cheaper as companies fight to fill the fleets of empty cars that they find them now can not sell. You do not need to book only with the internet brokers to find a deal. I for one find reasonable peace of mind in dealing with the hire car companies direct – the response to any problem should it occur is much better for a start. Similarly, excessive supply means there are some real bargains available when it comes to accommodation and owners are very worried that they may not get any summer bookings so it may not be necessary or prudent to wait for the last minute to make that reservation – especially if you want to pick from some of the gems you can find here, not just the leftovers.

Eating out has always been one of the big attractions in Spain. True, prices have risen since the arrival of the Euro, but you really do not have to look hard to find great value, with many of the better restaurants now offering inventive and high quality "menu del dias" with dishes selected off the a la carte menu to attract in the clientele. And I do not need to add the wine remains as tasty and cheap as ever!

Yet Spain has become more than just an occasional holiday destination. Changes in the buying process over the years, the higher priority given to leisure time and most probably the increasing interest in second homes have all contributed to the house-buying boom over recent years.

In this regard the excellent accessibility of Spain from the UK can not be ignored – not just the short travel time, but also the number of daily flights and departure points. People are increasingly looking at Spain as a preferred place to live – both in retirement, and more and more as a better environment to bring up a family. That is not saying there are not negatives here … not at all – the worst for example we refer to it as "being Spained" in our attempt to soften the frustrations experienced when dealing with the mind numbing bureaucracy and officialdom over here ( although it is the way the country works and is the same for all – not just the foreigners). The counterbalance though is the attitude and way of life, with people choosing to focus on enjoying the positives, rather than focusing on the negatives as seems to be the way all too often in the UK.

And of course we must not forget the weather … yes the reality might be that Spain is a cold country with a hot sun … but the sun does come out a lot! And it is not only the summer months that are great. No, there was something nice about having breakfast last Christmas Day outside on the terrace. And the fact that in winter the earliest it gets dark is near 6pm … well enough said!

But hang on a minute – why bringing up house buying when all is doom and gloom at the moment. Well that is not exactly the case. It is true that it is not a great time to be a forced seller. But as a buyer, for the first time in some years there are some real opportunities appearing. Following the building boom of recent years there are clearly more sellers than buyers at the moment, which puts the buyers firmly in the driving seat. This is particularly true in the "off plan" sector where investors who expected to sell their part completed project for a quick profit, are now being forced to make the completion payments they are never expected to have to make. The credit crisis and provision of the banks to lend is also currently creating a window of opportunity for those who already have the necessary finance in place – those able to move quickly are not only able to take advantage of the increasing number of repossession properties, but to also make cheeky "take it or leave it" offers. The current lack of liquidity globally has exaggerated this position of power but with all the occupied government efforts being made this will not last for ever – indeed the "credit" dam will become unjammed.

Clearly the exchange rate is an issue, and we do not know how long this current situation will last. Neverheless it is not necessarily a block to taking advantage of current market opportunities – particularly if you are able to find a seller looking to repatriate funds to the UK … of which there are a growing number at the moment … in which case a lower euro price today will still equate to the sterling value of early last year.

Please do not think I am saying everything is attractive at the moment. For a start, many properties are cheap for a reason and given the available alternatives will remain so at almost any price. You must not loose sight in the rush to pick up a bargain of the need to do proper due diligence. Even the infamous Valencian "land grab" law, which while never the threat to all houses as published in some of the UK sensationalist press, has now been moved to the back-burner as large building projects are shelved. But do not be fooled that it has disappeared off the statutes – it will return when times get better, and needs to be considered … but only for certain types of property.

Remember, "the night is darkest just before dawn" … yes things are pretty bleak out there in the world at the moment. There has never been an economic downturn co-ordinated in so many countries at the same time, but it is only a cycle and things will get better again. The reasons why people want to buy a property abroad – particularly in Spain – remain unchanged. What has changed is that now the choice is greater and prices are much more affordable – at times reaching "bargain basement" levels. I would be lying if I said I or anyone one else can accurately predict the bottom of the market. But two things I do know are that we only know we reached the bottom, sometimes after we have passed it, and that the greatest choice and opportunities are before the consensus joins in.

Whenever you decide to act – now in the down-turn, or once things have gotten better – the advice you must not ignore that that most mistakes happened when buyers do not do the proper due diligence and did not take professional advice. You would not do it in your home country where you usually understand the rules pretty well. Whilst the system in Spain has improved over time, it is still a foreign system connected in a foreign language.

If you are planning to buy in the Costa Blanca area in the coming months, or are looking for more information to see whenever the possibility is an attractive one then talk to where you can find a complete and professional buyer-focused property finding service.