Monday, April 28, 2008

New Real Estate Rules

The following has been creating something of a stir in the Real Estate world in Andalucía:

The Junta de Andalucía has recently been fining real estate professionals in Andalucía for non-compliance with the decreto218/2005 which states that every agent must have a DIA or a Ficha Informativa readily available relating to every property they market, amongst other things. We have been hearing from very worried agents about this but to date there has been very little information readily available about how to comply with this law. I would therefore like to make you aware of a new organization that has been set up to help with this situation. They are trying to raise awareness, offer support and assistance with regard to this situation, as well as offering related products. They have researched the decree, made it more decipherable, abbreviated it and explained it. They supply vendors with property information packs so they can go to agents and promote their properties in a legally correct fashion.They also provide property management software to agents, complete with the necessary forms, notices, window cards etc., to make sure their business isfully compliant with this law. Their website is We thought your readers would find this information useful. We would also like to raise awareness about the law in the very least, as many agencies in the region are blissfully unaware that they are at risk of being fined, or that they are in fact breaking the law. We would all like to see an improvement the Andalucían property market, and this decree could be the answer. If every agent abided by it, the whole industry would be hugely improved. If you would like further information about this organisation, please feel free to contact me, or email them directly on .
FAB Asesores S.L. Apartado de Correos 91, La Cala de Mijas, 29649 Mijas Costa, Malaga Tel: 952 587 673, Fax: +34 952 494 580

Charles Svoboda of AUN says:
Viewed positively this means the Junta is cracking down on some of the fly by night agents and it will be interesting to see if other regions folllow suit. I don't know of such rules under "Decretos" in other regions of Spain. This will be another reason for some of the smaller - one hopes the shadier - estate agents to shut down - or perhaps they will try to make deals and clear off quickly before they face "legal" action. The "Boja" advice, software and services need to be checked out by those who could suffer from all this new angle. The website is not that helpful as I read it, alas. More of a teaser than a source of free advice.

An estate agent called Tina says: We have some 600 properties for sale on our books and historically if someone is interested in purchasing we have always paid for the nota simple (property search). This costs around 10.46 depending on the property, whether it has a mortgage, is commercial etc. Decreto 218 now wants us to hold in our offices an up to date nota simple not more than three months old for every property we market. The cost and administration of this is, in our case, going to cost a very minimum of 6,300 odd euros per three months. Most agents, like ourselves, are not busy at present and certainly not making enough money to pay out this kind of money on a three monthly basis. However, I note that there are still cowboys swanning around in their 4 x 4s, not paying tax, social security or legally registered offering houses for sale over bars and in restaurants. They have already done deals with the owners of houses to pay them X before taking a potential purchaser to view. They are operating on the premise of "doing a deal direct with the owner" and can do so quite legitimately because an owner does not have to provide a potential purchaser with the paperwork that an agent does.

Friday, April 25, 2008

A Short Trip to Foreign Parts

There’s nothing like a few days away from home. Last week I went to Henley-on-Thames, an excruciatingly English town located midway between Oxford and London with three Spanish friends.
It was quite wonderful. Forget all the stuff I’ve written over the years about never going anywhere near Britain which has changed irreconcilably over the past thirty years. I was completely wrong. Henley was perfect.
It’s too early for regattas and tourists and all the hurly-burly. At the moment, with surprisingly benevolent weather thrown in for good measure and a dearth of noisy tourists (present company excepted), Henley is at its finest.
We stayed at a boarding house. I’ve read about these institutions in Dickens but rather thought that they had died out. Not in Henley. Ours was comfortable rooms, a one-table dining-room where we joined the three or four other guests, a Russian lady who kept everything ship-shape, and a latch key.
Henley is rather smaller than I expected and it was easy enough to find our way about – from the station to the Henley College (eighteen hundred A-level kids in a splendid looking school), from the River Thames to the town hall and from the cinema to the pubs. Actually, we went straight to the pubs.
How much does it cost in England these days? That’s the beauty of a three-day trip: I have no idea. You simply shovel over a wad of English pounds and come away with two pints and two double whiskies, ice no water. ‘Spanish, are you?’ and ‘It’s a nice day today’ being the main conversation. You can’t smoke in British pubs and the outside garden shed has to be at least fifty per cent open to the elements. No one seemed to mind much. Of course, at £6.80 for 16 cigarettes out of the fag machine, smoking is not quite what it was either. The pubs are quiet, the carpeting and decoration, together with the low tones of the English in conversation, take care of that. There are a few TV screens in the Henley public houses, but the sound is turned off. One place we found, kept by an 84 year old lady and two sausage dogs, had a clutch of agreeably drunk male customers. ‘Isn’t it dangerous?’ I asked. ‘Goodness, no’ she said ‘that’ll be nine pounds forty’.
One evening late, we sat on a bench by the river and enjoyed the view, an occasional splash from the sleeping ducks, the starry sky and the magnificent Henley Bridge.
The next day, we went to visit the mayor. It seemed like a good idea to broach the subject of an entente cordial between Henley and Mojácar. He received us in his office, on the second floor of an imposing looking public building. We took photos, exchanged a couple of compliments and then the mayor showed us around the upper storey, including the assembly hall walled with portraits of past incumbents. Nice chap. ‘Are you Conservative?’ I wanted to know. ‘Independent’, he answered with a grin. ‘We’re independent as well’, said Angel, my Spanish mate.
Henley has a Teddy-Bear shop. That’s all it sells – teddy bears of every size and inclination. Teddies, despite being named after Roosevelt or someone, are intrinsically English. There was Rupert Bear, Pooh, Paddington and a furry host of ursine characters lining all the shelves. ‘I watch the faces of everyone who comes in here’, said the lady, ‘they just light up with pleasure’. She was quite right about that. I asked her about St George’s Day – who’s saint’s day it happened to be that day. ‘No one seems to celebrate it’ she answered wistfully. It seems a shame.
I asked a few more people about the English saint’s day. Everyone agreed that nothing was ever done – but, all things considered, something most definitely should be.
The English have trouble in defining their Englishness – unlike the Scots or the Welsh – or even the British. It seems that no one can quite describe what being English is all about.
I would recommend a trip to Henley in the springtime. That’s English. Which is odd really, because the place is full of Poles.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Casas Ilegales

Me parece muy mal momento para hablar de “casas ilegales” en Zurgena y demás pueblos del interior de Almería donde residen - sobre todo - jubilados ingleses. No lo digo porque se trate de los ingleses, que han comprado casas donde jubilarse en nuestra bonita y soleada provincia, sino porque son precisamente los del norte de Europa los que suelen comprar en estas urbanizaciones que se construyen en el interior de Almería sin más. Los españoles están sufriendo mucho con el tema de la vivienda, entre el alza de los precios, el subida del tipo de interés de las hipotecas, el estado de la economía europea y el consecuente incremento de los despidos en casi todos los sectores. Los apartamentos en las grandes ciudades están sobrevalorados en un veinte por ciento y, mientras que los vendedores no empiecen a bajar sus precios, los compradores van a esperar.
Los mismos españoles, si compran “una segunda casa”, suelen hacerlo en la costa. Su idea es venir para ocuparlas durante un par de semanas en el verano y un par de días en la Semana Santa. Una casa así está considerada como una inversión.
Para los ingleses es algo diferente. Su nueva casa en Almería es, sin duda, una inversión, el fruto de sus ahorros o de la venta de su vivienda en Inglaterra, pero es, al contrario que para los españoles, su casa principal. La mayoría de los ingleses (alemanes, noruegos, holandeses, irlandeses y etc.) están aquí para pasar su jubilación. No piden gran cosa de España: un poco de sol, paz y tranquilidad y en cambio, traen muchas divisas que contribuyen a paliar la cada vez más débil economía nacional.
Debería de ser considerado como un chollo para España. Dinero que entra a cambio de que nada sale: mucho mejor que la exportación de productos o bienes al extranjero.
Es también interesante para las arcas públicas de los municipios. Las licencias y permisos ayudan a mantener bajos los impuestos locales, porque no hay que olvidar que alguien tiene que pagar las facturas de cada mes. También, evidentemente, genera puestos de trabajo.
Pero luego se despierta la política. A nivel local los de la oposición dicen “pero no conocen o respetan nuestras costumbres”, mientras que el coro de la política regional reclama que “vamos a vengarnos de estos pueblos que no son de nuestro partido”, como pueden pensar tanto el alcalde de Vera como el de Zurgena, ambos del Partido Andalucista.
Este acoso político no sería, quizás, tan importante si no fuese por el hecho de que el tema ha salido fuera de los municipios afectados. A pesar del ayuno de información en España (La Razón ha sido el único periódico nacional en tocar el tema de las consecuencias), el tema del derribo (inmoral, si no ilegal) de una casa en Vera y las secuelas han llegado al mundo entero. La televisión británica, tanto BBC como ITV, la Bloomburg, la tele alemana, la noruega, la prensa de toda Europa y hasta la americana y australiana ha comentado este tema, y tres meses después, siguen comentándolo. En los dos primeros días de la semana pasada, por ejemplo, me llamaron la ITV, la BBC, y hasta una radio americana interesados por este asunto.
La justicia nacional no se mueve muy rápido, como todos sabemos. Los Prior, jubilados, viejos, viven ahora en una caravana donde posiblemente vivirán el resto de sus días. ¿Cuánto tiempo tendrán que esperar antes de recibir alguna compensación? Varios años evidentemente.
Luego, tenemos casos de expropiación, compra forzosa, el escandaloso “land grab” (urbanización forzosa), hipotecas a terceros, permisos de construcción ilegales, fraudes, sobre-valorizaciones, leyes de urbanismo contradictorias, viviendas sin terminar, faltas de “licencia de primer ocupación”, estafas y otros temas del estilo. Todo esto contado con detalles en la prensa extranjera. Es evidente que el comprador extranjero, cartera de billetes en su mano, lo piensa más de dos veces antes de venir a comprar una casa.
Por si no fuese suficiente, ahora es más difícil empadronarnos que antes. Antes de subir al ayuntamiento para inscribirnos, nosotros los “europeos” tenemos que registrarnos en el “Registro Central de Extranjeros” en la capital de provincia donde, después de varios días de cola, nos dan un papel que ni siquiera nos vale como “tarjeta de identificación” ya que la “tarjeta de residencia del régimen comunitario” ha sido suprimida. Los ayuntamientos también sufren esta situación por tener aún más habitantes que nunca que no figurarán (ni piensan hacerlo) en el padrón municipal. ¡Chapeau!
Con la situación económica actual, lo último que se debería imaginar aquí es intentar asustar a los posibles compradores del Norte de Europa.
No todos podremos comer conejo.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

¡No Quejas!

In Algorfa - an obscure village south of Torrevieja on the Costa Blanca - a British home owner has made a few too many complaints about his builder and this has been the builder's revenge.
See the full story at

Monday, April 07, 2008

Crisis? What Crisis!

The ‘building crisis’ is affecting Spain. From a country that apparently built more houses in the past few years than Britain, France and Germany combined, Spain has moved to a country that is in a deep and probably extended crisis. All this in just a few months. The reasons given – if the Spanish authorities even admit to the deep problems which are so much in evidence – are all to do with exterior forces. The sub-prime rate; cheap mortgages in America; the high value of the Euro against the Pound; the war in Iraq, the price of petrol and so on.
But, the fact is, Spain just built too many houses. If I might distinguish ‘proper’ houses from ‘holiday homes’, I would say that the average (overpriced) apartment in, for example Madrid, is now almost impossible to sell and many property agencies are now closing their doors. Prices need to fall, according to economists, by around 20%, but it’s always easier to hold on… just a bit… longer.
With mortgages drying up, foreclosures, debts falling due, massive layoffs in the workplace (a forecast of as much as a million more to join the ‘unemployed’) and the cost of living in Spain rising by over 4% annually, many householders are feeling the pinch. To be obliged to take a bath of twenty percent on a major investment like a home – even if a buyer could be found – is a depressing situation to be in.
Meanwhile, many of the largest construction companies in Spain are either going spectacularly bust, or they are busy building urbanisations and tower blocks in places like Morocco and Brazil.
Then we come to the problem of the costas.
Spain has never seemed to recognise the large amount of money which is pumped into the country by the foreign residents: particularly los europeos. There are something over a million northern Europeans living in Spain, many if not most living on pensions from abroad. These settlers have bought a house, bought a car, furniture, white goods and so on. They buy food, clothing and a few gins and tonics all on money continually being brought in from their own country. Most banks in Mojácar, where I live, will admit that around 75% of all of their clients are from Northern Europe. One study suggests that just the British residing in Spain bring in to the country six billion euros a year.
In exchange for some sun and a little peace and quiet.
But, things are far from peaceful and quiet. Not only has a British-owned house in Vera been very publicly demolished – like a bolt of lightening from Seville – but now it appears that some of the British who bought their homes in good faith, with no thought of their life’s savings being in any way under threat, are now living with the very real concern of being reduced to living in a tent. There won’t be any compensation if this happens as most companies here are registered with a capital of just 3,000 euros. The government won’t pay out in some spectacular gesture of kindness and any claim under law is treated here practically with derision.
Which is why the Northern Europeans need some representation in Spain – an almost impossible ambition. There are, it is true, a couple of foreign councillors here and there: Almería has two, one in Zurgena and the other in Mojácar. They at least are keenly aware of the concerns of the foreign householders. There is a local political party, ‘Ciudadanos Europeos’, which seeks to look after the interests of this powerless yet wealthy group and there is the ‘Abusos Urbanistos – No’ based in Valencia, with a local group in Albox – which is doing sterling work in defending the europeos and reporting property concerns to the European Parliament.
Spain, heedless of the monies coming in from London and Berlin, is now apparently determined to kill the golden goose. We are now faced with even more obligations to get onto our town hall registries than even the immigrants from the Third World. We no longer have ‘residence cards’ but must carry a wallet of paperwork for identification. Wasn’t ‘Europa’ about union, protection and ease?
The number of people coming out from Northern Europe is drying up anyway, but now they are concerned with not losing (what’s left of) their money. They’ve seen the reports of the British and German television and read the papers in Norway and Belgium. They know and they worry about 'illegal' homes, demolitions, expropriations, 'land grab', scams, fraud and other property questions. Perhaps they’d be better off living in Cyprus!
Recently, the mayor of Torre Pacheco in Murcia was arrested for granting illegal licences. Another mayor in Huelva is now behind bars. Practically the entire Marbella town hall has now ‘done time’. Locally, the mayor and several other professionals in Zurgena spent a few days in jail last week and are now under investigation. Other towns, including some controlled (or should that read ‘protected’?) by the PSOE are similarly full of illegal homes: Carboneras, Albox, Huercal Overa and Arboleas…
Recourse under law? There are currently over 1.5 million court cases in the system. In Andalucía the courts are so broken down that a leading judge has said it could take years to fix, but ‘only if we adopted a more efficient and European system of justice’. Fat chance! On top of that, Spain is just coming out of a sixty day strike for the funcionarios de justicia – the secretaries and gofers in the justice system. Add at least another year onto your court case.