What’s it really like to live in Algorfa? In this series of features, we’ll be talking to some of the Community Presidents Around Algorfa to find out! I live on Community R1 on La Finca Golf, and since our President, David Wren, lives just two doors away, it seems like a convenient place to start.
David is a retired software development project manager, who moved from Essex to La Finca with his wife Helen. During an inspection trip, they narrowed their choices down to two urbanisations – El Raso and La Finca – settling on La Finca because it had a more traditionally Spanish feel. They also fell in love with the surrounding area, deciding it would be a beautiful place to live. And the golf course is another attraction for David, who, despite a less than impressive debut on the driving range, is hoping to sharpen up his skills eventually!
The La Finca Urbanisation has well over 1,000 homes, but it avoids being a vast, soulless estate by the clever arrangement of the communities, with a good mix of properties in each. R1 is bounded by Calles Redovan and Rafal to the sides, Calle Alicante at the top, and Calle Pilar de la Horradada at the bottom. It’s a relatively small community of just under 60 homes, with a mix of apartments, bungalows, town houses and villas. Some of the villas have private pools, and there is a community pool set in well kept gardens. The properties are tastefully arranged in mixed rows, with a typically Spanish appearance.
Due to the Covid pandemic, David and Helen bought their property without even visiting it, thanks to a virtual tour on the Internet, but they couldn’t be happier with their home and their new life in Algorfa. In fact, David is so happy and settled on La Finca that when R1’s incumbent President decided to step down at the AGM in April, David put himself forward for the job, with near neighbour Robert Trotter, who moved to La Finca around the same time as David, volunteering as his Vice President. There’s also a committee to assist with decision making. I asked David why he wanted to take on the voluntary but essential role of Community President and he told me:
I feel the President should be someone who lives in Spain, and knows the day-to-day issues that can arise. And a willing volunteer is preferable to someone who doesn’t really want the job. I have a background in project management and budgeting, and I’m a natural planner, so the role is compatible with my skills set. I want to be here, and I want to give something back to the community that has welcomed us to La Finca.
It all sounds great, but surely there are drawbacks to living on a community? David offers some points to consider before choosing a home that’s part a Community of Owners on an urbanisation, rather than a place out in the campo (countryside).
- Living on a community comes with restrictions and extra charges. Make sure you are happy with these before you sign anything.
- While an Englishman’s home may be his castle, on a Community of Owners in Spain you can’t just do what you want to your property. Certain things need permission from the Community, and if you don’t go through the proper channels, you can be legally obliged to comply. That said, communities will usually do their best to accommodate reasonable requests.
- As well as local government property taxes, residents on communities pay fees to cover shared expenses such as electricity, pool maintenance and gardening for communal areas. On R1, each owner also pays a small amount for basic private gardening services.
On the positive side, there’s a great sense of support about living on a community, especially on R1, where there are a number of permanent residents as well as holiday home owners. David says:
The residents of R1 have the right mental attitude for living on a Community of Owners. They want to be here, and they are very helpful, with a great sense of community spirit.
Living on a community also offers a certain level of protection. R1 and many of the communities on La Finca are gated, so there’s increased security. And the costs of maintaining a pool and attractive communal and private gardens is shared between the owners, who all have a vested interest in keeping standards high for everyone.
One issue David faces as President is the steep increase in utility bills. During the past three months, the Community electric bill has quadrupled, meaning there’s not so much freedom to make discretionary changes due to the need to budget for further increases. Now R1 is over 15 years old, there are issues with ‘wear and tear’ maintenance, so provision has to be made for that. Still, everyone on R1 is happy that the Community is being well managed, and they are fortunate that most owners pay their community fees on time, so there is no issue with debt to hold back essential work.
I asked David if he had any general advice to pass on to anyone considering buying a property in Algorfa, or elsewhere in Spain for that matter, and his first point was to keep a regular check on the water meter! It’s not uncommon for there to be problems with pipes and leaks, and that can work out expensive, since your house insurance won’t automatically cover all aspects of the problem.
Based on his own experience, David also makes the following recommendations:
- Be sure you really want to be in Spain. It’s very different living here to coming to a holiday home. Consider renting before deciding to buy – it could save a lot of money in the long term.
- Use independent agents and lawyers; don’t entrust all aspects of the purchase to one person, and be sure to keep updated on progress. Spanish bureaucracy is notoriously slow moving.
- Check for any outstanding debts on the property, because you could be liable for unpaid bills. If you buy on a Community of Owners, check on the level of fees, and whether there is long-standing debt, which may restrict essential spending and compromise budgeting.
- Allow approximately 13% on top of the price of your home for hidden costs such as solicitors, property taxes and surveyors fees. It’s not as clear cut as it might be in the UK.
David is so happy with life on La Finca, he couldn’t really think of any downsides to living in Algorfa. However, he did mention that Spanish life is much more laid back, and sometimes you may find yourself waiting for people to turn up for appointments. That said, he pointed out that the builders constructing new housing and the gardeners are always at work on time, so maybe it’s us who need to be a bit more patient, rather than watching the clock! After all, who wants to rush around when it’s hot anyway?