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Buying a Farm in Spain

by Bill 

Posted: 06 January 2004
Word Count: 2649

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Extract from Buying a farm in Spain

Just when things seemed to be going our way the bottom has fallen out of our dreams. It seems that in Spain it will take weeks to get the deal finalised, and we have only a few days left on our lease. We have searched high and low and always found the same answer,
“You must be joking its the middle of the season and every room has been booked for ages.”

I am in despair and I can feel M.E. coming on.
“Go to bed dear,” said Jean, “I will go and visit our solicitor and see if he can get us permission to live in one of the out- buildings or something.”
I heard the car drive away and I was left on my own. The stress had brought on an attack of M.E. and I felt absolutely useless. My head throbbed and I knew that paracetemol would not put it right and every muscle in my body ached as if I had an attack of flu. What had we done. At the end of the week we would have to drive back and when we got there we still would be without a home. I could see through the window the receding arches of the villas below and the bougainvillea climbing over the veranda. Bilbo, our Jack Russell terrier knew that something was wrong he jumped up and licked my face.
“We are both in this together my friend.”

Michael rose to his feet as I entered his office,
“Come in Mrs. Gander please sit down”.
He sat at his desk and opened a large file.
“This is a very unfortunate situation, I am afraid only too common here in Spain .I keep asking for registration documents but they keep on fobbing me off with excuse after excuse.”
“But why would they do that, do you mean they do not own the property?”
“Oh no, I believe they have lived there for over forty years. No it’s all to do with tax. Often old houses are not registered. This is because when the house is sold then tax of 6% is payable on the difference between the original price and the new price. That is the profit they make on the deal after owning it for all those years. For a similar reason you may be asked for a lump sum in cash which means they are pretending that you are buying at a cheaper rate.

Of course if this is allowed to stand then when you sell you will have to pay tax on the difference between the declared value.” He closed the file on his desk.
“Sadly in this case we have an extra problem. Soon it will be August and then all offices in Spain will be closed and it will be the middle of September before you can take possession.”
I stared hard at the calendar on his wall and blinked to stop myself crying.
“It means we will have to drive back to England because our lease has run out and all accommodation in Mojacar is full.”
“Now do not worry because I think I have come up with an idea. Years ago I bought a cortčge up in the mountains for my mother. Unfortunately she has not been well enough to come to Spain for the last two years so its quite empty and you are welcome to stay there until its all sorted.”
“Oh Michael that’s wonderful I do not know how I can thank you.”
“You had better wait until you see it because it will be a complete mess. Still its up in the mountains and is about twenty degrees cooler than down here”.
“It does not matter what its like we will manage somehow.”
“Right then pack all your things in the car and park outside the supermarket at 12 and I will lock up and you can follow me for it’s a difficult place to find”


Jean was so pleased with him. It is well worth paying him 2k extra.
I was so relieved when she came home and told me all about it. I feel real ashamed but really could not see our way forward.
What an adventure we are going to have, still we are hardened campers and perhaps a little mad.
We waited as he had said with the car packed up and the dogs in the back. We arrived twenty minutes early and he appeared twenty minutes late and at noon in the sun in a car it was purgatory. We took the dogs out and let them stand in the shade but we had to keep all our eyes on the road.

It was all we could do to keep up for he knew the road and we did not and some of the hairpins were real hairy. I had not felt up to driving so had to sit while Jean swung the car around. After about half an hour he pulled off the road on to a dusty track. It led round a large rock and we were there.

It appears we were about 20 miles from the coast amongst scorched brown hills, olives and almonds. It looked pretty dilapidated but I was pleasantly surprised. It had huge steep steps leading down to a large kitchen and lounge and the same up to the bedrooms. A normal tarmac lane passed close to the house and went on to a farm and three houses, while immediately at the back door about thirty to forty goats were drinking from a water trough with chicken and chicks in tow. On the road an old mangy and flea ridden dog was lying.

“It’s not in too bad a condition ,said Michael as he bustled around. “There seems to be a full container of gas and the power is still on. Oh dear,” he was trying the tap in the kitchen,” it seems we have no water. Tell you what I will do I will come tomorrow with a plumber and sort things out, in the meantime I notice that you have brought some drinking water and perhaps you would not mind washing in the water from the goat trough outside.”

He left us to ourselves. Jean had discovered an old broom and was soon clearing up the debris. I took the dogs out for a walk as they were becoming desperate. The view was magnificent. It was lovely and cool and a steady breeze was blowing and wafting scented blossom to the nose that is really an exaggeration for it was the smelliest place I think I have ever been in. We were completely surrounded by the mangiest, smelliest goats it’s ever been my misfortune to meet. When I got back Jean, bless her, had made the place a home. There was even a bunch of flowers on the table.
“ Its not too bad is it?”
“You should see the bedroom. He did not show us that”. She took me through and we gazed at the ancient bed.
“It was too much to expect bed-linen but it seems as if all the goats have slept in it” It really was horrible.
“Never mind we have some plastic in the car and we can use our sleeping bags.”
Michael was as good as his word and arrived the next day with a young chap with a broad grin.
After messing around he came in and chatted away to Michael in Spanish.
“It seems,” said Michael, ”that the hamlet is serviced by a water pipe from miles away, but unfortunately the tank in the garage has dried up, and he thinks that perhaps the local council have cut off the supply to get more pressure to the hamlet. Still he has found a leak and he says that the pump’s air pressure had not been primed and was pumping air.” “Good that will be fine then.”
“Afraid not, you still have no water. Maybe manana, as it should fill at night.”

They both left us in our waterless home, but still it was a home and we were grateful. The worse thing was that we had to get a bucket of water from the goat farm trough to flush the toilet . But we were happy. Jean had cleaned through the house and James had said that he would let us stay until the matter was sorted. However we couldn`t wash, and couldn`t wash our clothes in the washing machine, but we did have a fridge, microwave, and cooker, and it was quiet and cool.

The other problem was that goats woke us at 5-6am clanging their bells and at the same time the cockerels began making a din. Two herds of goats are taken out from the farm all day, while one large herd was penned up. The two herds return back at nine for milking.

A van arrived this morning with a young chap from the water company. He said the owner of the property had reported that the company had turned off the water. He spoke excellent English probably because of all his dealings with ex-pats.
“No way ,” he said, “there must be a blockage or something.”
He took out a weird walking stick with a pad on the end and started checking out places by listening at the end of his stick.
“Ah”, he said straightening up and stretching his back, “I have found the problem. The goat man is a thief. He has disconnected the supply.” He had a real ding-dong with him and sorted it out. It all made sense then for often at 3-4am we were getting awoken with running water. as the goatherd ran his water taps and began milking under our window, and all this time we had no water and had to cope with the house drains smelling, and we were flushing with water from the goat troughs.

Michael had called a meeting for the Wednesday and we decided to go down in the morning and wait in the inter-net café in Garucha, one gets a little lonely up in the mountains even if we did now have all mod cons. It’s quite a small place but the owner knows us well for we frequented the place while we were living in Mojacar. One walks through the little bar to another room where there are a couple of tables and three pcs against the wall. One was being used by a young women who seemed to be looking for cheap flights to Alicante but the others were free. I took one and started to e-mail my father-in-law while Jean took the other to check our own e-mail. I had no sooner settled down and got my thoughts running when there was a whoop from Jean.
“What is up?”
“Look at this.” I got up and looked over her shoulder. It was a message from the bank to say our money had arrived in Spain.
“It really looks a lot in pesetas does it not?” she said. It certainly did. We had been given an exchange rate of 272 which was not bad.
“It couldn`t have happened at a better time, just before our meeting. I think we ought to celebrate.”
“Lets. We will have two tapas each and a glass of red wine.” I grinned, “OK I will go and give the order.”

Michael had arranged four chairs facing his desk.
“Come in Mrs. Gander, Mr. Gander, I am glad you have arrived first for there are one or two items to deal with. Please sit down. Now I think you must be warned that the laws governing inheritance are different in Spain. When David dies then one third goes straight to your children, another third also goes to them but you Mrs Gander have a lifetime interest in it, and finally the last third is for you to do what ever you like with. Later on perhaps you will want to do something about that.” He stopped. “I think I can hear my other visitors. Let us see what happens.
A pleasant young man appeared behind which was the tubby figure of the estate agent trying his best it seemed to hide.
“Come in, come in,” said Michael “This is Mr. Sanchez, Nicholas. He is the vendor’s son. You have met this man before.” He glowered at the poor estate agent. “Please sit down.” He rustled the papers on his desk.

”As for you I really do not know how you have the audacity to come to my office. Over and over again I have phoned you only to be told the you were away ill and then when you pretended to be back you said your secretary had mislaid the file, and now the best excuse of all is that the deeds are with the registrar. If that’s true do you realise that they will be stuck there for six to eight weeks. I warn you now Sir, that this is going to cost you a lot of money. My clients arrived in Spain when you said you could complete and now they are paying expensive rent because of your delay. I shall seek compensation for this and let me tell you it will come out of your fee.”
“No Sir, it was all true but it’s all sorted now.” He opened his briefcase and produced a large envelope. He turned and looked at us with a grin of triumph. “Inside here are the title deeds. You will find it’s all in order.”
“But I thought ----“
“We both went to the office this morning. We saw the girl behind the desk and I said could we borrow the deeds for just one day. I handed her this envelope that I held open. She looked inside then took it into an inner office. A few minutes later she returned. “For twenty-four hours only”, she said.”
Michael looked at him in astonishment.” What did she see?” he asked.
“Twenty thousand pesetas.”
“You mean you bribed her”.
“Not at all it was a gift for the extra work involved”.
He opened the envelope and studied the contents.
“There is one problem. They have not been updated to account for the death of a relative.”
“Is that important”, asked Jean. “No I can soon sort it out. So now we can start getting this sewn up. Mr Sanchez, is there anything you would like to say? ”He turned to Jean and in halting English he said, “Senora Gander would like to buy the furniture?” I noticed Jean control a shudder.
“No thank you.”
”A pity it would save a lot of bother. And you Senor Gander, perhaps a tractor would be useful”. I was tempted but decided against it.
“Right,” said Michael,” there is the problem with the land tax. Will you pay or do you want the purchaser to pay?” “The purchaser,” said the estate agent.
”I do not think so.” Nicholas looked at us “we must be amigos,” he said, “there is a harvest of almonds on the trees which belong to me. You can have the almonds if you pay the tax.”
“That seems fair. You pay the tax because it’s in your name and we will add the amount to the purchase price.” He stood up and looked at us all.
“I` will arrange a meeting with the notary at Albox, then I will accompany you to the bank and then,” he paused and smiled, “hopefully we can obtain the ready cash Nicholas wants and then you can take possession.”
“Sure that’s fine by us,” I said. “The money is all there waiting.”
Nicholas and the agent stood, then we all stood and everyone shook hands with every one else and the deal was done. When we were alone we hugged

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Comments by other Members

Nell at 10:12 on 07 January 2004  Report this post
Hi Bill,

Welcome to WriteWords. I read this before I realised that you'd uploaded it to the Memoirs group. I don't usually comment on non-fiction, but here goes, for what it's worth.

I'm guessing that this is a chapter from a larger work, and that you've detailed your experiences exactly as they happened. I found the changing POVs a little confusing at first, but soon slipped into who was 'talking'. I was interested in Mr and Mrs Gander's emotional reactions to the horrible legal complications and setbacks involved in buying a property in another country, and I'd have liked to have 'felt' these slightly more. The M.E. is another complication on top of everything else, and maybe you could have brought this into the piece in more detail.

I felt that the dialogue could have been made slightly more natural, eg: “Oh Michael that’s wonderful I do not know how I can thank you ” could be altered to: 'Oh Michael that's wonderful, I don't know how I can thank you.'

There are some typos, and the punctuation could be looked at carefully too.

The description of the dilapidated house with the goats, the mangy dog and the goatherd were tantalizing, and I'd have liked more of those and to know a little more of their time there too.

An interesting read though, will look forward to more of your work.

Best, Nell.

Richard Brown at 18:08 on 07 January 2004  Report this post
Hi Bill,

I echo most of Nell's perceptive comments. There's a fascinating story here and I'm sure it makes more immediate sense when in the context of the whole book. The point-of-view shifts and the occasional changes of tense could be edited, I think, to make the work flow more fluently.

I'm not normally one for long descriptions but every now and then a flavour of Spain came through and I wanted more detail. Heat, colours, contours, smells; maybe you have done all this in earlier chapters but I would still have liked more description, for example, of the terrain in which the waterless temporary residence was situated.

Is the first chapter ready to be aired? I'd be very interested to see where the story begins.


Bill at 14:41 on 08 January 2004  Report this post
Thank you Richard for your kind remarks. Yes you are quite right it is from a book of 28 chapters. It was not possible to post anything more than a sample. As you know my ration of space has now been filled but if you really wish to read the rest I can attach it to an e-mail to you personally. Bye bye Bill

Richard Brown at 18:27 on 08 January 2004  Report this post
Couldn't cope with 28 chapters at the moment - I have a full length book to write for a Canadian client and I've only just started it. But I'd love to see the first chapter. Can you WW e-mail it to me?



Tuppence at 10:46 on 23 December 2004  Report this post
i loved it
so many memories
my brother has m.e.
my relatives lived in spain
frequently no water
it was like a cross between gerald durrell & laurie lee but it was u x

Tuppence at 03:52 on 29 December 2004  Report this post
so much i identify with here & F... punctuation
it was a lovely read thanks

Geebie at 20:33 on 12 February 2007  Report this post
Hi Bill
I could really identify with this work and i'm sure with the state the UK is in there will be a growing market out there for this type of thing. We emigrated to Bulgaria and I really felt for the Gander's and their dilemmas with beaurocracy as well as the goats!! It's sheep that's our problem here! In terms of style I would echo eveything that the others have said about the dialogue. It needs to flow more like a real person speaks. At the moment it all sounds too gramatically correct and this makes it sounds a bit natural. Great detail though.

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