Retiring in style: Spain

Tuesday September 19th 2006

Alexander Garrett

Around 700,000 Brits have settled permanently in Spain, many of them retirees, according to Cyril Holbrook, author of Retiring to Spain and a resident in Spain for 20 years. Tellingly, his book is published by Age Concern, which has an offshoot Age Concern Espana with its own office and website ( It is probably no coincidence that Bupa has also moved into the Spanish market, buying the country?s largest healthcare insurer, Sanitas.

The attractions of Spain in broad terms are the climate, golf courses and the anglocentric infrastructure that has built up through years of tourism, with British people offering everything from restaurants to plumbing and hairdressing to their fellow expats.

The two main retirement communities are on the Costa del Sol and the northern stretch of the Costa Blanca, where, it has been joked, there are more retired people than in Miami.

To stay in Spain for more than three months, you need a residence card, even as an EU citizen. The Tarjeta de Residente Comunitario can be obtained through the Foreigners? Office (Officina de Extranjeros) or at a police station with a foreigners? department. You can get a temporary residence card, which lasts for up to a year, or a permanent one, which must be renewed every five years. But you will need to show you have financial support while in Spain.

Spain has its own version of the National Health Service ? the Instituto Nacional de la Salud ? with many English-speaking doctors and nurses. Healthcare is free if you have the European Health Insurance Card or its equivalent for older people or those who are full-time residents.

No country in Europe has a bigger supply of property targeted at overseas buyers, whether for retirement or holiday purposes. The difficulty with Spain is to know where to start looking. Apartments, townhouses and villas, many of them on urbanizaciones (self-contained developments with some shared facilities), are the main choice for incomers. Inland, fincas (traditional farmhouses) and village houses are another option.

What is clear is that, for now at least, the Spanish market has seen its glory days and is not the country to be looking at if investment potential is a high priority. Many owners on the Costa del Sol in particular have overpaid for their properties and are forced to accept a loss when selling. Newer areas such as Almeria or Murcia ? home of the gigantic Polaris development ? are billed as up-and-coming with lower prices.

Spain does have the most advanced range of purpose-built retirement developments for retirees from overseas. For example, Sol Andalusi, a large new development in mountains near Malaga, was recently voted the ?best place to retire in Europe? by Homes Overseas magazine. One of its key features is a giant leisure and shopping centre. It also has 24-hour surveillance and medical facilities.

Money Observer

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