Well, it’s a while since we went through the process of researching a move to Spain, though even 6 or 7 years ago the online landscape was very different! A friend has recently been through the process though and is about to relocate, it’s been interesting to compare our research processes and look at how various online and social media tools can help make the project of moving to Spain to live easier and better.
Even if you are moving from one part of Spain to another, I hope you will find some of these ideas and approaches useful:
Research locations via blogs
There are some amazing bloggers living in Spain and sharing detailed first-hand accounts, in English, about their real lives and experiences. Google ‘blogs about xxxxx’ to find out the things you really need to know about the areas you might want to live in. Bloggers aren’t trying to sell you a house or a holiday, and they know about the places the guide books do not. You will find some amazing photography too to whet your appetite, and get instantly transported to your potential ‘place in the sun’
Every agent has a website, whether you are looking to rent or buy initially. And increasingly, even private sellers or landlords have an online presence of some kind, whether it’s a listing on Owners Direct or a classified ad with contact details. You can find out a great deal before you plan to visit, and make the most of your time actually visiting – create your own property tour itinerary using your own priorities and preferences, rather than putting yourself in the hands of a single agent
Google Earth can be one of your most powerful tools for researching a move from a distance. If you are thinking of viewing a property on a hurried forthcoming visit, demand the exact address and co-ordinates and check it out first – how close is it really to the beach, or that school, and is there an undisclosed reason for that excellent price… like a huge desalination plant or car dump on the next plot?
Is it clinging to a cliff face, perhaps? Actually not the easiest thing to spot on an aerial shot that tends to flatten everything out visually, but a lot of villas in coastal areas are built on very steeply angled plots, and that might mean limited usable garden or safe areas for children and pets. Triangulate and look for clues, if its several kilometres inland but the photo shows amazing sea views, they will come the price of elevation.
Also use the sunlight viewer, to see what the property is like in terms of light and shadow – remembering that in the Spanish winter, sun = warmth. Whilst it might be hard to spot the northern elevations on Google Earth immediately, if the place is in shade for most of the day then coldness and damp may be a problem.
Google Maps or Apple Maps or your good old Tom Tom
Digital mapping, whether at home on your PC or out and about on your phone, is a huge asset when househunting. Maps can deceptively suggest things are close together because as the crow flies they may be – whereas in real life the winding minor roads may mean a school run or airport commute is simply unfeasible, or a property is more remote than you are really bargaining for.
If moving from an urban area to a rural one, remember that roads may be designated such as more of a courtesy, than a fair description, and un-bypassed small towns may be on signal controls that take ages to navigate through. On the other hand if moving from suburban UK remember that you will be escaping the rush hour – your friends in the home counties may laugh at the idea of a 12km school run because it would take them over an hour, but for you it’s a pleasant breeze down the coast.
If you bring your smartphone to use on your reccy in Spain remember to pick up a local pay as you go sim, or better rely on a traditional sat nav.
Finally, this wouldn’t be Costa Connected if we didn’t mention Social Media. Every main expat area in Spain has one or many more dedicated Facebook groups where you can network and make connections. Each relocator has their own issues and concerns and things they need to know about, from a good vet to a place to buy certain kinds of food supplement or clubs for a child with specific interests… and the wonderful thing is, someone else probably knows all about it if you just reach out to them.
Best of all these kind of connections can lead to real friendships, that move from the virtual world to the real one when you visit or move to Spain.
Costa Connected, for Costa Blanca News, September 27th 2013 ©Maya Middlemiss, Casslar Consulting SL