by Dick Handscombe who has enjoyed living in Spain for over 25 years.


Over the past twenty five years we have experienced wave after wave of individuals, families and retired couples coming to Spain and buying properties, with many of them looking forward to having a sun-lit garden on most days of the year.

Luckily many never regret the investment, but unfortunately too many do and smaller but significant waves after waves return from the sun to cloudy Britain and gardens seen through windows splattered by rain rather than living in them. The reasons are often that the move was not thought out in sufficient detail and properties purchased did not match basic needs, especially in terms of speedily establishing beautiful and productive gardens. There have always been some wonderful properties in Spain to match every size of purse from 10,000 to two million pounds or more and today bargains await suitable investors in most regions, but a bargain in purely economic terms may be a nightmare in reality. Think things through starting with the following thirty questions:

Recognise important realities!

  1. Could we cope with the hot days of summer and the cold days of winter? We have experienced plus 47ºC down to minus 15ºC; luckily only for a couple of days, but our house was designed to cope with both. Would we want to live elsewhere during the periods of January to February and July and August?
  2. Do we have sufficient cash to live without working and invest in the landscaping of a garden?
  3. Do we have sufficient interests to keep us occupied in a more leisurely environment beyond gardening every day?
  4. Summer holiday and over-wintering resorts adverts often promote the fast living of resorts such as Benidorm and Marbella. Could you cope with that for more than a month?
  5. Are you sufficiently adventurous to move to a largely unpopulated inland village as the only British family? Yes it can still happen.
  6. Are you willing to speak Spanish each day, or must you be in a largely English speaking community?
  7. Do you love Spanish food sufficiently to buy and cook like the Spaniards, even growing local fruit and vegetable yourself, or would a local British store be essential? If the latter, there are areas with many of the latter compared to twenty five years ago when there were none.
  8. Will you need to be half an hour from an airport, or would we prefer the wilderness two or three hours away?
  9. Do we plan a quiet life in Spain, or do we plan to become a private holiday resort for a large family and network of friends?
  10. Are our short and long term financial situations best met by a personal or corporate ownership?

Be honest with your ambitions!

Why are you really going to take the plunge?

  1. To live and work in a new environment?
  2. To retire from day one?
  3. To work for five to ten years and then retire?
  4. To retire, but return to the UK or elsewhere during the hottest and coldest months?
  5. For the golfing or sailing opportunities?
  6. For the walking, skiing or mountain biking opportunities?
  7. For the gardening and outdoor living opportunities?
  8. To let during the winter or summer months and only be in Spain for the delightful Spring and Autumn months?
  9. To use Spain as a tax efficient base for international jet setting?
  10. To only let except for a short inspection visit each year?
  11. To just buy a bargain to hold for an opportune profitable resale?

What type of property would best match our needs?

  1. A timeshare apartment or town house?
  2. An apartment by the sea or on a golf resort?
  3. A terraced town house or old village house?
  4. A stand alone villa, or one in the centre of a large urbanisation?
  5. A ruin of a farm house for conversion?
  6. An active farm or hunting estate?
  7. A yacht in a marina?
  8. An isolated mobile home?
  9. A mobile home in a mobile home park or camp site?
  10. A city centre apartment?

Gardening bookThere is not just one way to make a successful move to Spain, so think broadly and objectively about the possibilities before you even start to make a purchase?

The move has to be right first time, so do research before buying a flight and make a number of inspection visits to start your local search? If you come across an area that you really like, but don’t at first find the property of your dreams, spend a holiday in the area or even rent for a number of months. Preferably visit the area in and out of season and in the spring and winter as well as summer. Don’t rush unless by chance you find just what you want on the second day in Spain, but if that happens do still check it out in detail.

In a follow on article we will consider some of the things to check.

(C) Dick Handscombe 2015

Author with wife Clodagh of Spain’s best selling series of English language gardening books, namely ‘Your Garden in Spain’, ‘Apartment Gardening Mediterranean Style’, ‘Growing Healthy Fruit in Spain’, ‘Growing Healthy Vegetables in Spain’, ‘How to Use Less Water in Your Garden’, and ‘Living Well From Your Garden Mediterranean Style’. All can be obtained via Amazon Books.