24.4.07

BUYING PROPERTY IN GALICIA

If you have a notion that Galicia might be the place where you want to live, then this section should give you some help in deciding whether to take this (essentially sound) thought any further. Or at least give you some pointers as to what to ponder.

I have divided this answer into 2 parts:-
                        1. Information, and
                        2. Advice
The latter may fall out rather naturally from the former so you will have to forgive any obviousness.

Information

Property prices in Galicia are amongst the lowest in the country. You can certainly still get a very decent property for something below the average cost of property in Britain. I

As in the rest of Spain, you will have to pay up to 10% of the purchase price in costs and taxes. The largest element of this is a transfer tax, which is currently 6% in the rest of the mainland but, sadly, 7% in Galicia.

Agents will always ask you how many square metres of house and and/or land you require. No one here deals in the ‘number of bedrooms’ type of criteria prevalent in the UK.

There is not a great deal in English about Galicia and there is certainly nothing to match the BlevinsFranks book 'Living in Spain'. This, by the way, is something you should read before getting into greater detail about the pros and cons of Galicia. Contact details - 44 (0)20 7336 1022 or www.blevinsfranks.com

Another useful publication is ‘How to buy your home  in Spain’. This was issued in 2002 by the Spanish Institute for Foreign Trade (ICEX) and was financed by an accountancy firm, Deloitte & Touche. Contact details: - The Office for Economic and Commercial Affairs of the Spanish Embassy of the UK     Tel. 0207 467 2330.   Email: buzon.oficial@londres.ofcomes.mcx.es

If you are coming for a look-see, there is plenty of hotel or guest house accommodation both along the coast and inland. Rates are, of course, higher in summer but the peak occupancy is from mid July to end August. Outside this period, it shouldn’t be too difficult to find somewhere meeting your needs. Anyway, you need to experience the non-summer months, both for their pluses and their minuses. See the Galicia section of my web page, if you haven't already done so.

For flights, see my note on the Pontevedra section of my web page.

Galicia’s Costa de la Muerte is not the Costa del Sol. The weather here certainly is better than in the UK but the winters are cloudy and often rainy. There certainly are longish periods of brilliant sunshine in the winter but you cannot expect to spend most of your time sitting on your patio as you could in, say, Malaga or Torremolinos. If you want to work as well as live here, this may not concern you much but, if you are planning a retirement in near-eternal sunshine, then you may need to think about somewhere else, to the east or south. Or Africa, even.

Galicia – the locals insist - has a number of micro-climates, where the temperatures are higher or the rainfall lower than in neighbouring areas. So, for example, Vigo is said to be appreciably warmer than Pontevedra and the coast south of Vigo towards Baiona better still. Prices naturally reflect this. Mountain valleys may well be stupendous in summer but they can suffer from persistent mists in winter. If you have bought or built a beautiful place, you might like to be able to see your garden from your galeria.

Like the rest of Spain, Galicia gets mountainous quite soon after you leave the coast. Here the weather is both appreciably cooler in winter and hotter in summer.

Advice

Always remember that business in Spain is very local, very oral and very personal. As Spaniards don't regard written communications as serious, phoning is better than writing and sitting face-to-face across the table is better than phoning. The significance of this reality is that the further you are away from the challenges you face, the more problems you will have, the longer it will all take and the greater the chances that you will be taken advantage of. As John Hooper said in his book The New Spaniards, "In an age of service cultures and information technology, the difficulty a lot of Spaniards seem to have inputting themselves in the position of the other person or of dealing with people other than face-to-face must be regarded as handicaps."

Research Galicia as much as you can – books, articles, internet, etc.  Google’s automatic translations of Spanish articles will give you a good laugh, if nothing else.

Be wary of articles in travel magazines or on TV which portray Galicia as an undiscovered paradise. It is certainly a great part of the world but it naturally has its drawbacks and you need to be aware of these before you spend good money, even on a short trip or holiday. Check the place out against the Essentials on  your specification. If you don't have a specification, draw one up now.

If your research activities prove positive, then there is no substitute for getting at least a superficial knowledge of Galicia via a touring holiday or two. Chances are that you will want to stay along the coast, rather than inland, and it is very easy to move north-south along the coast, via the A9 motorway. Or either the N road or the (most scenic) coastal road. In summer, the latter is very much more congested than outside July and August.

As I implied earlier, it's probably not a good idea to consider having a property built or renovated here while you still live in the UK or wherever. At least, not unless you have a ‘supervisor’ here. Nothing beats being on the ground so that you can both chivvy your builder and ensure that any mistakes are either avoided or (less satisfactorily) quickly rectified.

If you are going to live in Spain during the construction period, it should be possible to rent at least a flat in a nearby town. But the rental market in Galicia, as in the rest of Spain, is not vibrant so you may have to make do with what you can get. As ever, it pays to have local contacts who know a friend who has a friend who knows someone who might just rent out a second property to someone who is ‘personally’ introduced. This is the way things are done here.

Finally, be at least as vigilant as you would anywhere else. Agents are agents and vendors are vendors the world over.  And lawyers recommended by agents by and large work for the agent, who represents the seller.