Fincas. Detached, fully legal properties with significant land and all modern services (mains water, electricity, land line telephone and mains drainage) can be very desirable, particularly if they have already been renovated. However, if a finca lacks mains electricity then you should exercise great care, unless it has a proven and excellent electricity generation system. If a finca does not already have all the modern services then it is unlikely that it will ever get them, unless you pay (a lot!) to have them connected or they are connected as part of an imposed infrastructure project.
Villas. Most people want a 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom (one en-suite) villa on a flat plot with a swimming pool. Ideally, a villa should be no more than some 15/20 minutes from the beach and, if possible, have sea views. Critically, a villa should be both Urbano and fully urbanised (fully legal and with no further liabilities with regard to infrastructure works). Take care not to confuse a properly built and designed villa with a poorly constructed, self-build casita.
Town houses. The main problem with many old town houses is their lack of parking, an excess of floors, a gloomy interior and lack of useable outside space. So, look for a town house with plenty of natural light that has a dedicated parking place or garage, together with a garden or large courtyard (that will not be permanently in the shade). Do not underestimate the costs of any major renovations nor the inconvenience of having three or more floors.
New town houses. Many new town houses have a huge garage on the ground floor with the living accommodation on the 1st and 2nd floors with a roof terrace and, sometimes, a small courtyard. Try and fi nd a town house where the garage is at least half way below ground level, thus making the living area only a few steps up from the road. A garden is important and some individuality essential, as some areas are flooded with almost identical properties (making them diffi cult to sell, except at the lowest possible price).
Apartments. The key to buying flats lies in them having a lift (some do not) and making sure that they face south, thus catching the sun. Equally, broad (preferably quiet) streets give far greater natural light than narrow streets, with a large light well to the rear of a flat being important in allowing a flat to have suffi cient overall natural light. A dedicated parking space is invaluable and a large balcony is important. It is also well worth checking the sound proofi ng of a flat before you buy it, as many can suffer terribly from any noise made by neighbors.
Finding property in Spain
The key to finding the right property in Spain is to recognize that the real estate and land law are markedly different from ours.
Indeed, whilst the vast majority of properties in Spain are safe buys there is an unhealthy minority that are not – that are either illegal or have serious potential liabilities.
So, to buy safely in Spain, far more research is needed than in Britain. Equally, you should always use a first-class lawyer and specialist (English speaking), building surveyor to investigate every aspect of your proposed new home, before paying anything for it.
Internet sites provide pointers but rarely portray the reality of an area, let alone such vital and sensitive intangibles as the workability of any social life, the real pros and cons of a specific area and what an area is like, both in and out of season.
Certainly, there is no shortcut to buying property in Spain and an essential part of your research should always involve staying where you think you wish to buy. This should be undertaken both in and out of season, as many areas can radically alter during the course of a year: the fun, vibrant area that you so love may die completely during the winter, whilst the area you thought was just modestly lively may retain that quality, irrespective of the season.
If you do rent somewhere then make sure that you rent a property similar to the type you intend buying or you risk gaining a false idea of what your future life (or holidays) may entail.