Finding our home in Spain

January 4, 2022
Last edited on July 13, 2023

Now to our experience finding our home in Spain. I had spent the previous four years dreaming about this move, and house hunting on Idealista was my hobby. I fell in love with so many places and imagined us living in so many different areas, that I knew quite a few parts of Málaga, Torremolinos and Benalmádena before ever coming in person.

I used to check the locations of the places I fell in love with on google maps and google Earth, checking distances and the way to the nearest bakery, market, beach, school and so on. When we finally came I did have my eyes and heart on a beautiful townhouse in Benalmádena. The price was right, the location was pleasing, it had a little bit of ocean view, garage and access to a pool. The dream house.

The dream house

As soon as we arrived, I called the number on the advertisement. No one picked up. I insisted until I got an answer: the home was already reserved, therefore no longer available. What a pitty. I hung up and sighed, having to tell hubby the bad news. But the fact is that hubby was also in love with this house and had already planned his whole office to be in one of the bedrooms and let’s put it mildly, hubby can be a bit stubborn. Absurdly stubborn would still be putting it mildly. So he asked me “what the heck does reserved really mean? Is it sold or not? Is there a contract signed?…”

Well, dear reader, that got me puzzled. I had no website to explain me (but you have: check how to buy a house in Spain) and no idea what a reservation implied. So I called again to ask and I believe I came across like a very insistent person, with a serious intention to buy this house. If so, I stood out as what I really was: very interested. The real state agent didn’t quite explain what a reservation was, but she did get my number in case the reservation didn’t go through.

Visits, visits and no more visits

We started seeing other places, calling every place that could fit our family and budget. We saw about three houses. Why so little? Because often the agent didn’t pick the call or called back only days later and I didn’t even know what house that was anymore, or the price advertised wasn’t the real one or because for each visit, we had to wait from 4 days to a week between the call and the visit itself.

finding our home in Spain
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels

Houses are not always what they seem

Now, let me tell you: for most places, the pictures were deceiving. The rooms appeared way bigger in the picture. I saw an add that said they had a parking spot, but indeed they meant that it was ok to park on the street in front of the property, if a place was available; one mentioned but didn’t show parts of the house – a bathroom, a garage – and when you visited, these places were falling apart; one of the houses we visited had a bad smell that I believe was mold and hubby believes was gas. Be careful.

Then a beautiful day – surprise! – the agent for the dream house called. She said that the reservation period for the dream house had expired, and that we could go visit and, if we liked the house, put our own reservation to it. That seemed amazing; we booked a visit as soon as she could, and we went to see the house. For the dream house the pictures were exactly like the house. True that the garage was falling apart and was not shown on the pictures, but other than that, no misleads. I was even more in love.

We reserved the dream house….

So we decided to put a reservation, process which by then we were starting to figure out. We went to the real state agency, paid 1% of the price of the house, read and signed the reservation contract and were given 8 days (it is low; you can definitely ask for more, but we were newbies). We were given the Nota simple and sent it to the lawyer the very same day.

…but Century 21 sold it to someone else

Four days latter, the bomb came: the house had been sold. But how, given that we had a reservation, paid the 1% and had a contract??? Well, they said, the people that had the reservation before did a money transfer equivalent to 10% of the value of the house, and the real state agency decided to give them the right to buy, instead of giving their money back. Their reservation had expired because they were not able to get their mortgage process concluded with the bank within the reservation days, but they got the bank agreement some days later, when the reservation was already ours.

Let me stress this point: the house was reserved to us by contract, meaning no one else but us could buy that house during the time the reservation was on. And we paid for that right. Still, the real state company sold it to others.

Was this correct? You tell me. I considered suing this company, but noticed, only then, that my own copy of our reservation contract was not signed by them, only by me and Hubby. I suspect they were already acting in bad faith on signing day. They did give back our 1%, but I felt quite scammed in this process. And we lost the dream house.

Here we go again

Heartbroken, the buying process restarted with a lot more viewings, so many calls and no dream home in sight. Prices had gone up quite sharply during 2021, covid second year, and what had fit in our budget before, now did no longer. We were going after adds of homes we weren’t even very interested, because we were not finding anything that would catch our attention. The hope was that a view would change our mind, but it wasn’t happening; what could fit our budget could not fit us, basically.

We realized we would need to spend more than we had anticipated in order to buy a place that would meet our needs. We were running against time; we needed to find a place soon because our goods were going to arrive any day and also because we didn’t want to live for months on airbnbs.

On top of everything, Hubby needed a place to start working properly; he had been working from his laptop on the airbnb’s couch or table, but that setup was insufficient and tiresome for him – he is used to have a powerful desktop with two big screens – so it was hurting the amount of work he could get done and therefore, our income.  Out of need, we started to look for places that costed more than those we had looked before. We eventually found an apartment that looked good on the pictures and called to book a visit, despite it being about 70k above our previous limit.

The new place

Despite the price surge, this place also had its imperfections: the kitchen was tiny, as well as the bathrooms, where a bathtub would never fit. The bedrooms were on the small side as well. On the other hand, it had a space that could be turned into a proper office, a beautiful sea view (better than I expected, actually; it had a gorgeous sea and mountain view) and a large terrace that sparked gardening dreams in me. We put an offer.

The sellers didn’t accept our offer but accepted to take 5k off the asking price. We accepted, with some reluctance on my side, because that price surge meant my dreams of having a second home to rent would be delayed indefinitely; but conformed – at least we would finally move on (literally) and stop worrying. Silly me, that was when the problems would start…

Next: Closing the deal on our new home

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