Relocation, relocation, relocation

If you haven't got the time to do all that house hunting why not get someone else to do it for you? Chris Garwood explains what Costa Blanca Select can do for you.

Question: What is the difference between a Relocation Agent/Property Broker and a conventional Property Agent?
Answer: Essentially, relocation agents work on behalf of the purchasing client, whereas estate agents represent the vendor. This is a very significant issue for buyers, as we are effectively fighting your corner. We are here to see that your selection, purchase of and relocation to your Spanish home is as trouble free and as pleasurable as possible; thus ensuring a smooth transition from dream to reality. Our goal is not just to 'sell you something', but to do our very best to find the property which best fits your criteria.

Question: How do you see your practical role?
Answer: We initially ask clients to complete a simple questionnaire, either directly from our Costa Blanca Select website, or by hard copy and post. This helps us by identifying and prioritising your purchase criteria, planned timescale, preferred location/situation, and of course, your budget. We then work closely with our clients, using their feedback and comments to re-model and re-focus their portfolio, until we agree that the portfolio closely matches the purchase aspirations of the client. We then help arrange your viewing visit, collect and return you from the airport (or help arrange car hire), familiarise you with a tour of the local area, arrange your viewing itinerary, accompany and advise you during viewing with local agents, help negotiate a satisfactory offer and help with the selection of a local, English speaking solicitor, bank and (if required) surveyor etc. Most often, this can be achieved in the first visit; otherwise we are pleased to repeat this process until our clients are fully satisfied. Furthermore, we are available to assist and guide you through the entire buying procedure, your move, and any after sales issues, such as doctors, vets, dentists, furniture sourcing, property repairs and alterations.

Question: Why is your property selection better than we could do for ourselves?

Answer: A competent relocation agent can guide you to the best locations whilst avoiding the flawed or unsuitable ones. We have lived in the area in which we specialise for seven years and have been familiar with the area for more than twenty-five years. We know which of the many property agents and developers are trustworthy, efficient and reliable to work with, and we know who you should really avoid. Ultimately, we can find buyers the most suitable property at the keenest price, without wasting time and money on repeated random and uncoordinated viewing trips.

Question: Do you provide subsidised viewing trips?
Answer: We prefer to tailor our clients viewing itinerary to their personal requirements, and to whatever level and duration they choose, and to guide them through the viewing and purchase process without any kind of pressure. We reimburse completing purchasers up to €100 Euros towards their viewing and legal costs.

Question: What does this service cost the buying client?

Answer: In common with many relocation agents, we do not make any charge for our service. Instead, we are paid a percentage of the commission paid to the selling agents, or that paid by the developer.

Question: Do you actually sell or list property?
Answer: Most relocation agents inevitably find that they are asked to list various properties directly, either from private vendors or sometimes developers. This generally results in us having a more detailed knowledge of these particular properties.

Question: Is this not a potential conflict of interests?
Answer: This really depends on how the relocation agent handles this. At CBS we have a strict policy of always disclosing to clients resale property which we are offering directly on behalf of a vendor.

Question: Why do you only cover a limited area of the Costa Blanca?
Answer: We feel strongly that for an agent to 'specialise', they need to confine themselves to one limited geographic area. An agent who offers properties say, in Valencia, Almería, Andalucía, Morocco, Turkey and Bulgaria is not a specialist, so much as a 'Jack of all trades'.

Question: Are all Relocation Agents/Property Brokers the same?
Answer: Relocation agents vary enormously in both quality and style of operation. At one extreme is a UK based 'one man and telephone' type operation, whose role might be restricted to passing on your enquiry to a limited number of contacts; to the other extreme of a department of a slick major operator with a relocation or a Spanish arm within their property marketing empire.

Question: What do buyers need to know about the buying process?
Answer: Most importantly, decide what you want, what you want it for, and where you want it. If you choose to engage a relocation agent, they will not only help you with these issues, a good one will organise your NIE (fiscal registration) application, advise on choice of legal representative, bank and every other stage of the buying process and beyond. With in-depth local knowledge a good agent will be able to help and advise right the way through to a pool cleaner or a vet for the budgerigar!

Question: How should we prepare for a viewing visit?
Answer: Thoroughly research the area of Spain best suited to your requirements. The enlist competent local help to guide you. One procedure we would always recommend is you measure every room of your home in the UK and bring a note of these dimensions with you, together with a tape measure. Because of the outdoor lifestyle we enjoy here in Spain, there is more emphasis on outdoor living areas, with indoor areas generally smaller than those in the UK. When confronted with either developer's plans or a bare shell construction, it is often useful to be able to compare sizes by referring back to the dimensions of room areas which are familiar to you. Incidentally, I always make a point of carrying a compass with me so our clients can always see which direction is really south!

Question : Any special tips relating to a move to Spain?
Answer: Don't include, warm coats, thick quilts and wellies in your garage sale. It's not always hot in sunny Spain... All those clear winter skies do not help to insulate the earth's heat overnight and at times winds blow in from the deserts of North Africa and they can be so cold. Secondly, it always helps to bother to learn a little Spanish. In terms of moving to a foreign country, Spain offers expats a relatively 'soft landing' as one can be as English or as Spanish as one feels comfortable with. Language schools abound along the coastal areas.

Question: Is emigration to Spain complicated?

Answer: Absolutely not, providing you do your planning. We drove down in two days (with two dogs); it really was no different to any other house move - just a greater distance.

Question: If we are buying a holiday home, who will take care of things in our absence?
Answer: Unless, you are buying somewhere totally isolated, there will always be a Brit (or other national) at a bit of a loose end, who will keep an eye on things by way of neighbourliness, or to a greater degree (i.e pool cleaning and gardening) for a modest fee.

Question: What are the work opportunities?
Answer: Unless you can speak good Spanish you can only expect to work for, or with, other Brits. This will usually mean bar or other expat related activity. However there are so many opportunities to set up your own business here, again, most often within the general expat community.

Question: Should we move to Spain with young children?
Answer: During the past few years we have witnessed a growing trend of young families, or couples looking to start families who are fed up with prospects in the UK. Spain remains a very family orientated country with an enviable infrastructure in terms of health, education, security and transport etc. A poll  just carried out by UKFOREX of their UK expat clients, lists Spain at the top of the table in terms of satisfaction of those clients who have recently emigrated there with a satisfaction score of 90%, comfortably ahead of New Zealand at 88%, with France and the U.S at the bottom of the table with 19% and 14% dissatisfied, respectively.

Question: What is the current state of the market?
Answer: I can only really speak of our own area - the Marina Alta region of the Costa Blanca - North, centred around Moraira. We are fortunate that in this area the level of density is strenuously regulated: apartments in Moraira are limited to four storeys, individual villas can only be built on plots of no less than 1000m2, and a significant portion of the development land has to be set aside as zona verde (green belt). These kinds of measures have ensured that the local rate of development in the area has been well controlled. What we have seen after a sustained period of capital growth for several decades is a period of sensible consolidation, which was much needed. There were too many resale properties offered at 'frothy' speculative prices, and one or two highly inappropriate residential estates which thank heavens, did not sell too well. Another factor which underpins local prices is the severe shortage of further building plots. Notwithstanding, whilst well-priced quality properties still take a little finding, we feel 2008 will throw up some amazing investment opportunities for those buyers shrewd enough to take advantage of the recent relative weakness. They will have a good choice of properties with which they can look forward to safe and steady long term capital growth.

Author:  Chris Garwood – Partner, Costa Blanca Select, March 2008
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