Interest in European markets, including those in Spain, has been growing in recent years. Expat and real estate broker Paul Brazell Acosta describes the personal and professional life you can expect should you decide to make the move.

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I was born in Southern California, but raised in the Spanish capital of Madrid from the age of seven. During my time of living in Spain and going back and forth to America, I’ve seen interest in the country increase and the travel routes improve. 

American and northern European tourists and expats just love the weather, proximity of everything they need and the lack of traffic and congestion. Marbella offers true quality of life, including amazing food, a laid-back attitude and incredible sports and leisure options which I believe are hard to beat. People really do know how to live and enjoy life in the South of Spain.

Since I moved to Marbella in 2002, there has been a noticeable increase in American holidaymakers and people who love it so much that they choose to make it their permanent home. Although I wouldn’t say that the American expat population on the Costa del Sol is large, it’s becoming more and more noticeable for sure.

Marbella came onto the radar for Americans when Michelle Obama visited in 2010 and since then it has become well known and loved by wealthy Americans wanting to travel to Europe. During my 20 years as a Realtor in Marbella, I’ve noticed that in recent years upper-class Americans have spotted the hotels and resorts on the Costa del Sol and discovered the amazing gastronomy, lifestyle and weather that it can offer.  

Why I love living on the Costa del Sol 

I have two teenage children who are studying locally and I must say that I cannot think of a safer place in the world to raise children. Children have so many activities to choose from, at all ages, and the culture is very family-friendly, which really suits us. 

I personally love golf and sports of all kinds and so this area is heaven for me. There are over 70 golf courses on the Costa del Sol alone and one of my favorite things to do when I’m not working is to play a round with my son and my friends. I am also a keen cyclist, a sport which is very big here thanks to the great year-round climate, beautiful countryside and great roads, and I really enjoy getting to know new routes and exploring the area by bike. 

Our family also loves getting to know undiscovered corners of Andalucía, little villages known as the “pueblos blancos” (white towns). We try to discover at least one every year and know we’re very fortunate to have so many incredible places on our doorstep.

For example, you can be in the historic city of Granada visiting The Alhambra in less than two hours and then a spot of skiing in the nearby ski resort. Seville, Jerez and Ronda are all an easy drive from the Costa del Sol and packed full of history, culture and Andalucian charm. I really feel very lucky to call the place home. 

What steps to take if you’re considering buying a property in Spain 

If you are thinking that it might be the right place for you, or if you are helping a client who’s thinking of moving abroad, the first step is to do your research. There are lots of forums and Facebook groups where expats from all over the world post questions and learn about the practicalities of moving to and living on the Costa del Sol.

There are also online resources, like our Costa del Sol area guide videos on YouTube and many companies have written articles specifically aimed at Americans moving to Spain, to help you get your head around it all. 

The next step I’d recommend is that you come here for a vacation. Make it an extended trip and try to explore and get a feel for lots of different places, as the variety within quite small areas is extraordinary. 

Take time to travel, get to know the people, the areas and the different aspects of the culture and lifestyle that the different areas can offer. Spain is a country that can offer something for everyone.

From the northwestern part in Galicia to the northeastern part in Catalunya to the capital of Spain, Madrid, and then all the way down to Andalucía without forgetting the east coast, Levante and Valencia regions — they are all totally different and many areas even have their own languages and identities and, of course, traditional foods.

The beautiful coastline of Spain is something truly special, with approximately 8,000 kilometres of beaches. Then you also have the Balearic Islands as well as the Canary Islands, which are paradises on their own.

As you can tell, the diversity is incredible, so if you’ve never been to Spain before, a vacation touring around the expat hotspots is definitely recommended. 

Legal considerations

Once you’ve narrowed it down to a key area, get in touch with a local real estate company and discuss your needs, preferences, concerns and the areas you really like. Then, upon arrival, the agent will show you the areas which they feel will fit your initial “wishlist” and may also make suggestions to push out of your initial area.

Speaking to an expat who has made the move and understands your needs, and who speaks your language, definitely helps to smooth out any bumps in the road. 

As always when traveling to any foreign country, you have to be open-minded and accept the culture change and differences. It is sometimes called a “culture shock,” but I do not believe it should be if you come with an open mind. It’s also very important to speak with people who have already lived here for a number of years and speak your language. 

There are lots of clubs and societies for expats where you can meet new people, learn new skills and have fun. These are open to visitors, so pop along to one while you’re here and hear different perspectives and opinions, and start to make friends. 

You should also seek legal advice around visas and immigration requirements, as well as the legal process of buying a property in Spain. You have quite a few options open to you including the tourist visa, the retirement visa, the work visa, the self-employment visa and the Golden Visa which is available to those who invest at least €500,000 into Spain.

Many of our clients take advantage of the very favorable conditions from The Golden Visa, as this investment includes purchasing a property. However, this investment can’t be via a mortgage, so you’d need to pay €500,000 without leveraging a mortgage loan to do so. 

The good news is that property prices and living costs in the South of Spain are considerably lower than in the US, so you should be pleasantly surprised by how far your budget will stretch. By using a currency broker, you can also save money when you transfer your funds into Euros, so that’s another way to maximize your spending power when you come over to buy. 

Working as an agent abroad

Being an estate agent overseas is truly a great pleasure, and at the same time, a lot of responsibility on a daily basis. With the market continuously changing, we are responsible to be on top of it all at every movement.

For example, we are constantly monitoring what has sold recently; what has just come onto the market; who lives in each neighborhood; why does a certain listing sell fast, whilst others take longer to sell; which businesses have opened or closed in certain areas, and so on. 

Also, due to the fact that all buyers do their “homework” by surfing the web prior to making the move to the Costa del Sol, we have to be constantly ahead of them so that questions they may ask don’t catch us “off guard.”

With the amount of competition we have, if we are not ahead of the game, our clients will detect this, and probably switch to another agent who is. 

Paul Brazell Acosta is a Spanish real estate expert, originally from America, but raised in Spain. He currently lives in Marbella on the Spanish Costa del Sol, with his wife and two teenage children and is Director of Realtors at Cloud Nine Spain.

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