Having purchased a property in Spain and lived there for 3 years and now bought and currently living in Crozon sur Vauvre in France I feel some top tips from me may serve you well in your search for the home of your dreams.
My husband was in the Armed services and his Army pension was our income...I was a KC Assured Breeder of Beagles and an Accredited Pharmacy Technician in the UK.
From the comfort of your armchair you can access the agents and non-agents properties - the world is your oyster so plenty of research before your trip. Why? Well the costs can soon add up- flights, hire car, accommodation and food. So time spent trawling through properties and making a list of favourites to view with most of the boxes ticked will save you a lot of wasted time and money. Make your appointments with your owners and agents if you are choosing through an immobilier and plan your trip. Don't go in the hottest time of the year nor the coldest.
For the French trip viewing I spent nine days in Normandy in March and it rained all the time and my feet never dried out until I reached home. I saw properties at their worst and the areas mud mud and more mud. One property I could not go down to the cellar as it had filled with water!
When looking in Spain we were sweetened by agents with offers of lunch, boxes of wine and all white goods supplied. There are a lot of agents who depend on commission for their income so anything may go, don't be bamboozled! In France one agent begged us to get a bridging loan as our home had not sold in the UK.... desperate times then.
The opportunity is huge now for you to not use an agent but buy direct from the owners using a solicitor / abogado or notaire. Thus not paying agent's fees. You can still make an offer and this is expected.
There will never be the perfect new home but make your wish list and choose those as near as possible or with a little something to do to view... you can waste hours of time and money travelling around only to be disappointed, remember these countries are vast!
Choose your area maybe you know someone who lives there or you have been there on holiday. Research the chosen place well or rent a place for a week or two and find out for yourself. In my case my sister lived on the coast for 15 years then so I had insight.
Down on the Costa del Sol the world's largest greenhouse lies there and plastic becomes the vista on your way through to the South. One place I viewed there had farm silo's as a view from a wonderful Finca and when I asked was told "it's a pig farm... don't go out on a Tuesday when they empty the slurry!!" and if there is a mosquito cover around the pool its because of the flies!! Yes if its a hot country you will get flies and this may be a problem when eating out and in the kitchen. They are everywhere in Spain in the Summer.
Make sure when you find "the one" the legal documents are all up to date and legal, especially in Spain, before you sign anything.
If you are sure then you must decide if you are going to buy it by making an offer...go low you can only go up.........
We found our Villa in Spain and enjoyed 3 years there and made many friends...my husband became Chairman Of the Hondon Branch of The Royal British Legion and we found this group invaluable for English contacts. You do not have to be in the armed services to join and I can recommend the different groups. Help from other ex-pats and their knowledge can get you out of any scrapes and needs.If you have a question they are great groups for helping you and socialisation whilst raising money for a good cause.
My husband and I (no not Lillibet and Phillip) enjoyed 3 years there in Spain the Hondon Valley--a lovely place to retire but we have horses and Beagles and in Spain there are flies and no grass the riding poor as it is rocky so as I had always had a perchance to go to France we sold up using a non agent sales window.... in fact the lady who bought our home in Spain was French and lived in Indre.
It is important to understand it does get very very hot 44 degrees last year and can be bitterly cold in winter as the houses mostly are tiled and not carpeted, think ahead you will need heating and air con! We had oil fired central heating and used it all winter.... no air con because our villa was built by a Spanish man for his beautiful fussy wife so the walls were thick and well insulated.
Remember too there are insects other than flies, snakes and wildboar. It is illegal to kill snakes in Spain but we had to once as one had entered our bird aviary and was in the process of eating one of our Lovebirds.There are nasty centipedes that can sting very large with many many legs,wild boar we had one in our courtyard!And on the coast where there are many urbanisations cockroaches.It is very different to UK!!!!
But you can wake up to blue skies, a dip in your pool,enjoy a fairly cheap meal with wine out in the evening and become accustomed to Spanish ways! We had an Olive orchard and had our own oil from there.Fruit trees in abundance and wonderful days enjoying the fresh air(we lived on a Mountain) we were lucky many folk we met had to spend more money on their properties such as air con,security, (burglary was rife where we lived )maintenance and things like water bills are high,pool cleaning,etc etc.Most people we spoke to all had a 10 year plan--meaning they would stay that long then move back to UK when elderly.