When we came to Spain on our bargain £25 property inspection trip in July 2007, we were very nervous about parting with our hard-earned cash, because at the time, the furore about the Land Grab Laws and corruption on the Costas was at its height. We really wanted to live in Spain, but we didn’t want to wake up one morning with the bulldozers at the door, or find ourselves landed with a beautiful but unsellable property because the right planning permissions were never obtained. We discussed this with the property agent who was assigned to us for our visit, and she suggested that maybe we should consider buying on an urbanisation, as it was less likely that we would face problems in the future.
After living here for twelve years, the first piece of advice I’d offer to anyone thinking of moving into a property on an urbanisation is ‘Don’t do it!’ We love our ground floor garden apartment, and we have some lovely neighbours – although most of them ony use their properties as holiday homes – but we wish we hadn’t been so nervous when we bought our home in the sun.
The big disadvantage of urbanisation life is that you’re cut off from real local life. Most urbanisations are full of expats from all over Europe, but you don’t find many Spanish people living on them – or at least you don’t in our area. If you want to learn Spanish and integrate with the locals, buy in the village. It will probably be cheaper, you’ll be nearer to the shops and services, and you’ll be living like the locals.
Another major drawback of life on an urbanisation is the way the Communities of Owners are administered. Under the Horizontal Law, urbanisations are divided into smaller groups of properties known as Communities. Our community on La Finca consists of 57 properties, and basically all the owners have a say in how things are run, and how the community budget is spent. That’s a great system if all the owners are interested, but of course, it doesn’t work that way in practice. So major decisions which affect every owner can be taken by a vociferous minority.
I’ll have a lot more to say about life on an urbanisation, but I really wish we’d have known all about the downsides before we signed on the dotted line. Don’t get me wrong – I love our life in Spain. I’d love it even more though if we were down in Algorfa, living amongst the locals.