On June 14th 2017, a fire broke out at the 24 story, Grenfell Tower in London. More shocking news from back home; heartbreaking images, tragic loss of life and the beginning of a scandal, highlighting corruption and cost cutting, at the expense of peoples lives. So far 80 people have been confirmed as missing or dead; that total is likely to rise, as fire fighters concluded their search, of the ruined tower; a monument, to all that was wrong with housing construction of the past. Grenfell Tower, has brought government failings to the attention of us all. Not only Health and safety shortcomings, but also the lack of reasonably priced accommodation, poor standards and shocking inadequacies. Housing, the cost of buying or renting a home and the lack of affordable properties, are big issues in Britain. Ever since I can remember, there has always been problems surrounding supply and demand, especially where I used to live, on the south coast of England.
The UK has consistently under built homes, since Margaret Thatcher became Prime minister in 1979. Council houses were sold off to tenants, becoming home owners for the first time in their lives, lifting people out of a life time of renting, allowing them to finally own a property. Britain had shifted, from a country of renters, to that of home owners, in a very short space of time. Margaret Thatchers flagship policy was a success, at least on the surface. Sadly the money produced from the sale of social housing, could not be directly ploughed back, into building more of the same. By the time Britain had passed the millennium, the housing shortage was acute and getting worse!
The average cost of buying a property in the UK, as of 2017, is a staggering £217,502. a lot of hard earned cash by anyone’s standards. In the two years before I moved to Spain, I was renting a house at nearly £1000 a month; that was before I accounted for bills. The cost of housing in Britain remains out of control; if you want to buy a property, you are looking at borrowing, nearly ten times the average yearly wage; out of the pocket of most people.
There were many reasons for relocating to Spain; the cost of housing was just one; a very important part of our decision. 60% of Spain’s housing stock, is worth less than 200,000€ per property sold; a huge difference to that of the UK. I had no idea what to expect, when I moved to Gran Alacant; choosing a property in Calle Canarias 10. I was astounded by the price, to rent a two bedroom town house, with roof top solarium and views to die for; 450€ a month. A similar property in the UK, would be double that and more. On the surface, everything looked rosy; the house appeared perfect and it was a great start to a new life in Spain.
Two weeks ago; I was talking to a neighbour, who, looked exasperated. They had returned here for the summer, starting to clean, after the awful winter we had in Spain; the subject turned to housing. Property in Spain is a lot cheaper than the UK; you can purchase a lovely two bedroom apartment in Gran Alacant, for 70,000€, even cheaper else where. During the housing boom, which ended in 2008, Spain built many homes, outstripping demand. When prices collapsed, a huge glut of property was left behind; although the market has recovered now. After the crash, Spanish homes could be picked up for massively reduced prices. Even with the recovering house market, values are no where near, what they are currently, in the UK. When one considers the low cost of living also, the Spanish seem to have a good deal.
Of course nothing is quite as it seems. Until you actually live somewhere for a period of time, you really don’t see the reality, which isn’t as good as it appears to the novice buyer or renter, relocating to the Costa Blanca. Property in Spain, is very different to that in the UK; they are certainly not up to British standards of quality, mainly built out of concrete, rather than traditional brick, used back home. There is very little insulation or ventilation in the houses; windows are generally not double glazed and there is no central heating. If I look around my current home, I can see the small niggling things, that I moan about on a regular basis; the lack of plug points and storage; the tiny kitchen and little outside space
I am moaning for the sake of it really; when one makes the decision to move abroad, packing up ones goods and chattels and ending up somewhere completely different, one has to adapt to a new way of life; Spain has been a culture shock for me, in all respects. Before I made the move, I believed the biggest obstacle I would have to cross, would be the language barrier; nineteen months later, there are far more important hurdles to overcome; all part of the process of starting a new life.
We have all heard the term, ‘Whinging Pom;’ the British love to complain about everything that is different. When we move abroad, as Expats, we tend to remain part of an English community, partaking in very British activities, consuming British beer and eating British products; that isn’t going to change any time soon; Spain is Spain and does things very differently. We are moving for the things, Britain doesn’t have, cheap cost of living being one; importantly we need to embrace all aspects of Spanish life.
The houses are smaller; they were never built to withstand all year round occupation, by people like me. Gran Alacant is an urbanization on the Costa Blanca, that was always designed to cater for second home owners; of which there are plenty, visiting as many times a year as they can. As holiday homes, less is more; one certainly doesn’t want to spend time cleaning, when one should be enjoying Spanish life. Generally, how much space does one really need when on vacation?
The Spanish lifestyle is also very different; the majority of ones time is spent outdoors, enjoying the fabulous weather, this area has to offer; the reason most people move or holiday here in the first place. If you relocate to a place like Gran Alacant or the many similar developments up and down the Costa Blanca, you have to embrace the changes that come with it. Respect your new outlook and accept that the home you now live in, will not be the same as the one you left behind.
Property standards and prices, vary from country to country. I have been querulous about the house I live in; I have been amazed at the views from my sitting room window; I have been angry about the rain flooding my home; I have been astonished by the low rent I pay and I have been grateful that I made the choice to move away from the UK, even if I don’t always show that. On balance, the home I have in Spain, is far better than the one I left behind. My costs and utilities are a fraction of what they were and I finally enjoy a standard of living that is far more agreeable at my time of life. If you have just moved to Gran Alacant, you will find things very different, once you get passed the initial shock, adapt and enjoy, accept and adopt; eventually, you like me, will be happy to call this small enclave, on the Costa Blanca, home!