Buying and renovating a rural property on the Spanish side of the Pyrenees

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  • Buying and renovating a rural property on the Spanish side of the Pyrenees
  • muzzle
    Member

    I went to Torla last year. It’s lovely.

    piemonster
    Member

    Feel free to post horror stories below . . . .

    Once spent a summer on the French side (Luz St Saveur), some folks I met who had gone over there from the UK are still there. Still happy. Quite afew others I’d met still appear to be out there and enjoying themselves.

    If you can hack the mid-summer heat, why would you live in the UK? I couldn’t hack the heat, which is partly why I’m now in Scotland. And possibly why I’m learning Norwegian.

    Must be a good 20 years now.

    Not a horror story admittedly. At least it’ll rain less your side.

    Where abouts are you thinking of? This thread might need pictures and links to properties for full STW critique.

    dyls
    Member

    Ive just finished renovating a house in the uk, it is a lot of work trying to get trades people in, even when you speak the language.

    Premier Icon jambalaya
    Subscriber

    I know some people who did something similar in Galicia although mostly it’s rented out when they are not there, property in need to renovation is dirt cheap there now. Spanish residential property took a real caning post the crises.

    If its a B&B business you should get a good idea of what the likely market will be, why will people visit etc. You might like to compare prices to the French side, have a search on Air B&B (note air B&B is killing small hotels and I would guess longer stay B&B too). Also don’t assume the renovated property will be worth much more than the shell

    Going back a few years there where major horror stories, mainly around Valencia, where the local authorities abuse a planning/redevelopment law to build new roads and then charge the foreign property owners the cost as the road benefitted their property.

    Premier Icon mikewsmith
    Subscriber


    Too obvious??

    From watching too much daytime tv I’d say local rules, bureaucracy, language etc.

    Mackem
    Member

    Do you need an odd-job man?

    globalti
    Member

    My cousin and her hubby did just this – they “retired” from life in Orkney and moved to the south of France where they bought and renovated a gite. Last time I saw them they told me the strain or running, maintaining and making ends meet was increasing and becoming older and less fit was making it even more difficult.

    Personally I couldn’t think of a worse decision than to sink all your resources into a derelict property that nobody else wants and try to make a living out of it. There’s a reason why it became derelict. Homesickness, illness and family committments make this kind of isolation increasingly unattractive as you grow older. Britain may have lots of rain but it still has the best free-at-the-point-of-delivery health system in the world and is the best country in which to be expensively ill or injured.

    spekkie
    Member

    muzzle – Member

    I went to Torla last year. It’s lovely.

    We are interested in a area about 25km south east of there. The whole area between Jaca and Campo is very nice.

    piemonster – Member

    Feel free to post horror stories below . . . .

    Once spent a summer on the French side (Luz St Saveur)….

    Not a horror story admittedly. At least it’ll rain less your side.

    We stayed in Luz St Saveur for a few nights last year on our initial recon trip. The Col du Tourmalet is just up the road, as is Luz Ardiden. Great cycling but, as you say, rather wet. Spain won hands down on the weather front last year. I didn’t even have to go as far as considering the personalities of the two nationalities . . .

    Pics and details will follow as our journey progresses. I do expect all the std comments regarding the quality of the camera work and indeed anything (however unrelated it may be) that is in the background of the pictures.

    ๐Ÿ™‚

    mogrim
    Member

    I’d be worried about the amount of competition, the Spanish rural tourism market has grown a fair amount over the past few years. Another point is that most of the rural B&Bs I’ve visited are run by local people with at least one other source of income, they’re not generally 100% dependent on them.

    + what mikewsmith says: “local rules, bureaucracy, language etc.” None of this is too serious IFF you a) speak Spanish and b) know how the system works. Is that the case?

    atlaz
    Member

    My cousin lives and works on the French side (she IS French tho) and renovated a farmhouse and split it into apartments for themselves and as holiday lets. They’re busy most of summer and a little in winter but have a lot of down-time outside this. That said she has a day job and her other half looks after the property when they have guests and overall they get by comfortably.

    Spanish Pyreenees runs from the med to the Atlantic – surely actual location and distance from Airports etc very relevent

    globalti
    Member

    It’s true that in the French Alps the people who run chalets also seem to have winter jobs in the ski resorts or a sports shop in the town.

    piemonster
    Member

    I’d be worried about the amount of competition, the Spanish rural tourism market has grown a fair amount over the past few years. Another point is that most of the rural B&Bs I’ve visited are run by local people with at least one other source of income, they’re not generally 100% dependent on them.

    From what I’ve seen this is very much true.

    Not sure I can think of any rural gite/b&b/glamping place I’ve been to in the Pyrenees or elsewhere in Spain where the accomadation business hasn’t been an ‘add on’ to another venture.

    That’s not from a vast amount of personal experience btw. I guess 8 or so trips making up a total of 10 months. Albeit spread over 15 odd years. And I was drunk on the cheapest wine money could buy for most of that. Odd that I kept going back really, I don’t like hot places (relative to the UK)

    spekkie
    Member

    mogrim

    Is that the case

    We are both learning Spanish and enjoying it. We were told by a Spanish friend, Miguel, (obviously) that speaking the language is essential. Having been there twice now on recon visits I can see he was right.

    As far as corruption etc goes, we currently live in Africa, so we do have some skills . . . .

    simons_nicolai-uk – Member

    Spanish Pyreenees runs from the med to the Atlantic – surely actual location and distance from Airports etc very relevant

    Barcelona is about 2.5hrs away, Zaragoza (flights from Stansted) is 1.5hrs away.

    spekkie
    Member

    We’ve just spent 2 weeks driving around the Pyrenees looking at property.

    The plan is to buy and renovate a property on the Spanish side of the Pyrenees that we will then run as a B&B.

    We’re currently living abroad and want to come back to Europe. To young to retire but too old and grumpy to face Britain’s constant bad weather . . . .

    Feel free to post horror stories below . . . . ๐Ÿ™‚

    mogrim
    Member

    As far as corruption etc goes, we currently live in Africa, so we do have some skills . . . .

    I’m not sure how transferrable that kind of skill is – there’s a lot of corruption in Spain, but it’s invariably based on a personal relationship that’s been built up over time, and not something you’ll be likely to see as a newly arrived foreign B&B owner. You can’t, for example, bribe your way out of a traffic fine in Spain. Likewise you won’t get very far trying to bribe the local council employee to provide you a licence you need.

    Once you’ve been there for 10 years, you’ve been having a morning coffee with the deputy mayor most days, and your daughter’s at university with the son of the local police… then it would be different.

    All this changes if you’re talking about major construction projects with multi-million euro budgets, of course. But even then there’s a social aspect to it – you’d be going hunting with the local governing party head, etc, and organising it then.

    cbmotorsport
    Member

    Have a look at this

    I’ve stayed with them a few times, and it is superb. Worth booking a room for the night to pick their brains. Lovely people.

    They’ve done exactly what you want to do, albeit on the French side.

    Premier Icon doug_basqueMTB.com
    Subscriber

    I could probable give you some info on this. I run trips through the area regularly and know it very well. We use small, locally owned accommodation exclusively so know a bit about it. The area you are talking about is nice. It depends what sort of market you are aiming for. There a few areas which attract more tourism but it is all seasonal. The rules and regulations are a nightmare, most of our accommodations have had issues with rules changing suddenly and more and more demands for paperwork. Have a think about climate too… We run our Pyrenees trips in Spring and Autumn because summer is roasting and winter in some areas can be very cold. It’s a dry area though. Spanish is essential, English isn’t widely spoken. Good luck, it’s a beautiful part of the world.

    Spanish healthcare is amazing. Way better than my experiences in the UK. A lot of these derelict properties in that area are due to a move of the population to the cities during the early part of last century. A lot going on in Spain then which isn’t relevant any more. Now they aren’t so isolated due to better roads and cars and there is a slow move of people back out of cities and a lot of these abandoned villages are being repopluated. It’s a really cool thing.

    globalti
    Member

    I’m not sure how transferrable that kind of skill is – there’s a lot of corruption in Spain, but it’s invariably based on a personal relationship that’s been built up over time, and not something you’ll be likely to see as a newly arrived foreign B&B owner. You can’t, for example, bribe your way out of a traffic fine in Spain. Likewise you won’t get very far trying to bribe the local council employee to provide you a licence you need.

    Once you’ve been there for 10 years, you’ve been having a morning coffee with the deputy mayor most days, and your daughter’s at university with the son of the local police… then it would be different.

    This is SO true. When I worked in Spain I quickly discovered the importance of what Spaniards call “un enchufe”, which is an electric wall plug but also means “a connection”. I was employed by the Opus Dei and when I had trouble with the local Police over the renewal of my visa for three months (this was before the EU) my Opus boss sorted the problem for me with one phone call. At that time un enchufe was absolutely the pre-requisite to any worthwhile job.

    Premier Icon Alex
    Subscriber

    Well you know you’ll have a few ‘guests’ if you do it Peter ๐Ÿ™‚

    wicki
    Member

    By a plot for peanuts and build, old property renovation is a money pit,build new and you can pretty much get of f grid with insulation solar power small wind turbine and a well for water get a wooden build kit do it your self or hire builders.

    Ah if only i could start again renovated 2 in France its hard work and you still have an inefficient money pit at the end if you want character build it in I would go new build if I had to start it again.

    spekkie
    Member

    mogrim – ours isn’t a multi-million dollar project I’m afraid. Part of our aim is to try and fit in with the locals anyway though. I doubt you can ever fit in completely, but that’s true of the British north South divide too ๐Ÿ™‚

    cbmotorsport – cheers, will look into that.

    doug_basqueMTB.com – I might pick your brains as we move forward!

    Premier Icon doug_basqueMTB.com
    Subscriber

    You can fit in completely. They still call me giri but I’m pretty integrated. Some places you practically get the house for free if you will do it up and provide a decent business plan involving tourism.

    spekkie
    Member

    doug_basqueMTB.com – Member

    You can fit in completely. They still call me giri but I’m pretty integrated. Some places you practically get the house for free if you will do it up and provide a decent business plan involving tourism.

    That is pretty much what the architect was saying. I know you have to take everything people say about how easy it is with a pinch of salt but the place we are interested in has been on the market for yonks and if we’re prepared to try and do something with it, licensing etc will not be a major problem. Of course there’s gonna be paperwork, but I can live with that. If I have to buy someone a bottle of whiskey for Christmas – well it won’t be the first time (was a sales rep for a (desperate) while)

    Premier Icon doug_basqueMTB.com
    Subscriber

    It would break my heart to buy another bottle of whisky for a Spaniard. Last time I did that I watched them mix it with coke. Almost cried.

    Good luck with your venture!

    spekkie
    Member

    Thanks.

    I’ll post some pics when I can.

    mogrim
    Member

    It would break my heart to buy another bottle of whisky for a Spaniard. Last time I did that I watched them mix it with coke. Almost cried.

    That’s where your personal touch is failing – you should have known if he was likely to do that or not… Still, a 30โ‚ฌ bottle of Talisker is a worthy sacrifice as a means to an end.

    poolman
    Member

    I ve stayed in bnbs in that area but now live further south. They do give away free houses inland to stimulate the local markets.
    best advice I ever got was its a lot easier to run an illegal business than a legal one.
    also do somthing else alongside. Everyone else does.
    good luck though, I d buy a part done one – there must be loads.

    Premier Icon jambalaya
    Subscriber

    @doug, interesting comments and yes I can believe local authorities will be very happy to see money being put into the area. The French put coke with Whisky too ๐Ÿ˜

    OP what @cb says is a good idea, pick the brains of others. From a personal standpoint I can see the Brits being keener on French side but TBH I could be just biased. Have a good a look around area wise, an ex colleague is Basque from a place South of Biarritz and is always raving about the area. Also as others have said the French often prefer to buy land and build than rennovate as it’s cheaper and easier, Spain possibly the same.

    Mackem
    Member

    Whilst the “enchufe” is common as a low-level form of corruption, be aware of individuals. For example, my two (female) bosses who needed planning permission to open their English academy were aked by the town-hall official for either sex or โ‚ฌ3000 – they paid the money. Apparently not an uncommon request.

    spekkie
    Member

    We have several ideas for making ends meet with other services.

    Have to see how many of them are actually feasible though.

    At the very least, the estate agent we’re using could do with some English lessons!

    Edukator
    Member

    There are always at least three police forces you can give copies of the recording of dealing with a corrupt official. And newspapers and government departments and his wife. Record everything and use the recordings to blackmail the corrupt official to get what you want if they are anything less than honest. We found officials honest; unhelpful, obstructive, job’s worth, honest.

    Water, property in Spain is worthless without mains water.

    Location… .

    spekkie
    Member

    We’re looking at a property without any services currently connected. We were assured that all services were available in the road outside and given prices (approx) for complete connection. But if they accept our offer, we will not proceed until we have assurance in writing that they can be connected at a reasonable cost and in a timely manner.

    Not wanting it to become a ransom issue!

    Premier Icon pedropete
    Subscriber

    My favourite part of the world. Ordesa national park is, for me, the 8th wonder of the world. I travel to Huesca 2-3 times a year as my late wife’s family live there. Can’t give any advice on buying/renovating, but I do think you will need to engage a local architect & lawyer. I wish you well. I would love to live in the region.The people are great. & you already know how stunning the area is. If you want to run a B&B who/what is your target market? In my experience, a large number of Spaniards from the region have 2nd properties in the mountains- Jaca, Panticosa, Biescas, Ainsa, Benasque etc (lucky buggers), which are used during the ski season or to escape for weekends, but they do like to have a choice of bars/ eateries nearby as, culturally they eat out, especially if they have down time. Summers are spent on the beach. Massive generalisation, I know but I have been frequenting the area for nearly 25 years & this is certainly the case for those that I have come in contact with.
    How remote is the property? So would you be looking to attract Brits, Dutch, French etc?

    mogrim
    Member

    we will not proceed until we have assurance in writing that they can be connected at a reasonable cost and in a timely manner.

    That I doubt they will be able to give you, it’s not in their hands but rather depends on the water / electricity / gas companies. Which may in turn depend on you getting the appropriate licence from the local council. Etc. Not impossible, and if the properties on either side are connected it probably won’t be too hard, but still not something the seller can really give you a guarantee about.

    spekkie
    Member

    Is rural but not remote, and the neighbouring properties are all fully connected. Services in the road are all available.

    Will make sure I don’t fall out with the architect! He seems a good sort with a genuine interest in promoting the area. I think, although it’s not impossible, it’s unlikely he would deliberately lead us on then pull the rug out from under us and con us.

    mogrim
    Member

    although it’s not impossible, it’s unlikely he would deliberately lead us on then pull the rug out from under us and con us.

    Certainly not impossible, I don’t want to be alarmist – the vast majority of Spanish workers in general are basically honest and not out to rip you off – but there are 1000s of examples of half-built buildings around Spain where the constructor has either gone bust or done a runner. Granted, most were towards the end of the housing bubble, but it certainly can happen.

    It’s probably stating the obvious, but you shouldn’t be paying it all upfront, something along the lines of 30%/30/35 +5% a month after completion when all the bugs are ironed out is fairly normal.

    spekkie
    Member

    We are going to do the renovation in stages, with me doing all the bits I can myself. (We’re not in a huge hurry) So it won’t be a full blown project as such, but rather getting the pros in for specific tasks. That should mean there is never too much risk involved.

    spekkie
    Member

    Doing a bit of forward planning this eve. Comparing prices between various methods of getting our belongings to Spain from South Africa.

    Options include shipping direct to Spain. Shipping to the UK and then van-ing stuff to Spain ourselves. Selling up here and re-buying in Spain etc

    Doesn’t look particularly cheap, whichever way you cut it ๐Ÿ™

    Any recommendations or advice regarding shipping companies etc would be appreciated.

    konabunny
    Member

    imvho there’s no real short cut.

    do you have enough stuff to fill a 20 foot or 40 foot container?

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