Gary McDonald owns an estate agency in Javea, and has helped hundreds of British families find their ideal home on the Costa Blanca, and also helped them make a smooth transition and settle into their adopted country. Gary gives the following advice:
Spain is a great country, very popular with retirees or anyone wishing to change their way of life. The lifestyle here is very laid-back, compared to the UK and some other European countries.
The climate is, of course, a strong attraction, but the pace of life, healthy cuisine, culture, and abundant places of interest, all add to the appeal of a life in Spain.
Would-be expats from the UK generally gravitate to the southern areas, like Costa Blanca or Costa del Sol. The Costa Blanca is a good choice as it is less expensive than further South, for a property as well as the cost of living.
It is advisable to take a least a couple of trips out here as a tourist first, to take a look around and decide where you want to be. Towns within a few kilometres of each other can be very different.
Once you have found your ideal spot, visit a few estate agents to find out the average price of buying or renting property, so you can be sure to find something within your budget.
Next you should find a gestoria, which is an office that will take care of all the legal aspects for you. You will generally find at least one or two that have English speaking Gestors. A Gestor is a combination of solicitor and accountant, and they will advise you as to what paperwork you need to live here. Initially you must get an NIE number, which is short for “Numero Identificacion Extranjero” or Foreigners’ Identification Number. Everyone has one of these, and you will be asked for it, along with your passport, to make any legal transaction; like opening a bank account, or signing contracts for telephone, electricity, etc.
You will also need to sign on at the local town hall (Ajuntamiento) when you have property deeds or a rental agreement, to receive a certificate called “Certificado de Empadronamiento” which is proof you are a local resident. You will need a copy of this for certain transactions, like getting health care.
After you have lived here at least six months, you can apply for a residencia or residents’ permit.
Once you have residencia you will be eligible for Spanish health care, as long as you are in employment, have a pension, or other means of supporting yourself.
The Spanish healthcare system (Seguridad Social) is very good, and you will be assigned a GP as well as having access to hospitals and specialists. Until you have your residencia, however, you will need private health care, once your UK NHS Europe card expires.
You will find a lot of locals speak English, especially if you settle in a tourist resort. If not you may have to pay a translator to help you with legal stuff, unless you are lucky enough to find a friendly fellow expat who speaks the lingo and is willing to help.
Usually, the town hall will offer Spanish lessons at very low cost, to anyone who is willing to learn. You just have to find out when the next course begins and sign up.
Spanish people, in general, are very friendly and willing to help, especially if they see you making an effort to speak their language, no matter how badly!
Moving abroad can seem like a daunting endeavour, but it really isn’t, and once you have made the move you will wonder why you didn’t do it sooner.