Rent before you buy?

Ojen - scenic and tranquil but isolated

Spain is still attracting thousands of foreign buyers each year and purchasing a property is likely to be one of the largest purchases you will ever make. On what else would you spend over 100,000€?

If you are buying to retire or making a permanent move then you are likely to spend a great deal of time in your new town so you want to be sure it is the right one. You may have visited a few times for a holiday but is that really enough to get to know an area?

With so many properties available to rent on the Costa del Sol many people are now choosing to rent before they buy. Renting is an easy way to “try-before-you-buy” allowing you to experience your chosen area as a resident rather than a tourist.

Puerto Banus, for example, is a very popular place for tourists – all night bars, restaurants and a real party atmosphere create the perfect tourist nightspot. A nice place to live? Probably not. Spending a week living in Puerto Banus would probably be a sleepless experience. Throughout most of the year the port is packed full of revellers and few venture home before the sun wakes up!

At the other end of the scale inland towns like Ojen seem like the perfect country retreat. A quiet, tranquil village with views to die for – olive groves, quaint white houses – perfect. But are you looking for such isolation? Although most of the smaller, inland towns are well connected to utilities they can be a long drive from the lifestyle you are looking for. You may have been expecting more of a social scene in your chosen town but be prepared to drive to your nearest bar or restaurant. You may find yourself cut-off from society. David Bebbington moved to Spain from Manchester in 2004. “We wanted to be near to night-life but somewhere quiet.” he said. “La Quinta was sold to us as ‘only a short-drive from local nightspots’ but it was more like half an hour. Although the area was peaceful and quiet it was just too far from anything. We didn’t have a single bar or shop within walking distance and we felt completely cut-off.”

Renting a property in your chosen town is a great way to weed out any possible issues. Quite often visitors and locals will view a town differently. Visitors tend to do the “tourist” activities: visiting museums, hiking, sampling local delicacies. Locals live there – they have jobs and families to look after and their day-to-day tasks are probably pretty similar to your home life. Remember, what you do at home now will still need to be done when you move. Take the children to school – where is the nearest school? Do the food shopping – where is the nearest supermarket? Not feeling too good – where is the nearest doctor? How many hours of sun you get may turn out to be the least important requirement.

My advice is to rent before you buy. If you buy first and then find the area isn’t what you expected you will have to find a new property, sell the one you just bought and move again – extra stress that I’m sure you don’t need.

Rent for six months first. Live with the locals, find out about local activities, local amenities, community fees, traditions etc. Become part of society and above all….. learn to speak Spanish!