For someone whose main occupation these days is scouring the properties pages of the internet, you may wonder why I am not posting anything about what we have been looking at recently.
Well the truth is that we have seen nothing since Christmas worth writing about. Worse than that, we've seen one or two that have been so awful that I have almost (not quite) reached the opinion that there is no house here in the vicinity that will do for us. I vowed I wouldn't write about the possibility of us leaving Alcala on my blog because it feels disloyal to a town that has welcomed us with open arms and which has provided us with more than a year's wonderful life in southern Spain. However, I need to raise the possibility, both in my own mind and those who know us, that there is one big drawback about the place. The houses here are not up to standard. The houses we can afford, that is. Granted, if money were no object, then there are plenty of big, rather grandiose properties to the back of the children's school that are out of this world. Not to my taste though, so I don't lose much sleep about not being able to afford one.
The historic centre of Alcalá la Real has offered one or two rather nice possibilities but always leaving us having to make too big a compromise on our requirements to make the commitment to buying. One, on the Calle Real, was lovely but teeny weeny and the cost of putting an extra floor on put it out of our price range. Even the garage was too small - our Volvo wouldn't fit! Otherwise, it was perfect....
Then we saw a huge place, right in the centre, with a big garage. If the owner had accepted a reasonable offer, we could have taken it on and reformed the property, which was laid out as two independent apartments on top of the garage and storage areas downstairs, and ended up with a very spacious family home. However, the 'patio' was a handkerchief square with high walls all around it and I doubt we could have all gone out onto it at the same time. We discussed, for a little while, the possibility of opening up part of the top floor and having a terrace up there, but in the end, we accepted that we really wanted a little more outside space than we'd ever have if we opted for this one.
We've seen others but it's not even worth describing them, so wrong they have been.
I am registered with several websites that bombard me daily about wonderful new properties that have dropped their prices so much that I need to act quickly or loose out on the sale of the century. Mostly I have a quick look only to be disappointed, but one caught my attention the other day. It was a property I'd liked the look of over 12 months ago in the north of Jaen - readvertised after quite a long break and at less money. It touched all the right chords again, despite the attachment I'd since developed for Alcalá. We decided we should go and look at it.
So we set off directly after dropping the children from school on Thursday morning to meet the owner in Andujar, about an hour and a half's drive away.
|A nice, solid looking house - unpretentious; friendly.|
Turns out that the house is currently being rented out to an English family and has been for the past 12 months as they have been trying to raise a mortgage to buy the place - but can't.
The owner said they'd told him this morning that they would not be at home as a family member in Alicante was ill and they had to go there to see them. My first reaction was to say, let's go straight back home - forget it - but FR said we should go and look at the outside at least, having come all this way, so when the owner arrived we followed him to the property to look around.
As we pulled up, five ragged dogs came barking to greet us, clearly all noise and not threatening but running quite wild and loose. We walked onto the patio and were met with a lot of mess, including that of the dogs! The owner looked around in dismay and muttered something about being glad his wife couldn't see it. He was an elderly man and after he'd tried knocking on the door, he began to explain the situation with his tenants. He had given them a year to try and raise the mortgage but when it was clear that they couldn't, he told them he would need to put the property back on the market. We could hear more dogs barking inside the house and from the state of everywhere, I began to feel a bit concerned - bad vibes were pouring out from the windows.
The neighbour came out - a sweet lady called Maria - pleased to see the owner again and hesitant to discuss her English neighbours but equally not keen on praising them. Ignoring the mess on the patio, we could see that the house was lovely and it was surrounded by a quarter of an acre of land/garden - sadly, left without water or care for the past year - where the owner told us he had kept roses as well as olives, figs and cherry trees - he was visibly upset at the state of the place.
Suddenly, the door flew open and a woman, brandishing a sweeping brush and aiming it at several of the dogs, appeared. The owner explained we'd come to see the house and could we come in. Most reluctantly she agreed and with some trepidation, I followed FR and the owner into the house. The woman, obviously English did not speak or look at us and was clearly very cross so I didn't attempt conversation. Then her phone rang and I heard her saying, " 'e's 'ere an' e's go' a load o' folk wi' 'im an' they're lookin' all over t' 'ouse" - the strong northern accent sounding so familiar that it had to have been close to my home town of Bradford - had to be! But so rough, unpleasant and harsh and spoken with such anxiety that my knees started to shake and all I wanted to do was to get out! Which I did, followed closely by FR and the owner.
The owner still wanted to show us the garden, so we walked around the perimetre, where I asked him if he had problems with the family before - he said no, not until recently. They'd always kept themselves to themselves but always paid. They had two sons and he always spoke to the younger one, who translated for his parents. As we looked at the dried up roses, a car whizzed round the corner and an angry Englishman jumped out, shouting 'No es bueno' - and meaning, 'this is not good.' Either miscommunication or mistranslation or worse - but clearly the family were not in Alicante - equally clearly, they had not expected or wanted the owner to show anyone the property.
Ooh, er, it was 'orrible!! I'm a big softie at heart and felt for both sides, and whilst I was repelled by the attitude and behaviour of the English family, clearly they had terrible problems - as we left, we could hear them shouting at each other - and who knows what plans for their future. The owner was such a sweetie and obviously didn't want trouble. He really wanted them to leave if they weren't going to buy - but he hadn't made a formal contract with them. A very awkward situation as, like in many countries, the rights of renters are powerful and this family, after twelve months will certainly have rights as tenants...they could be there for a while longer. Maybe even as long as they want.
I do know that if we'd been to see the house when I'd first seen it, I am sure we'd have been living there now. It is what we have been looking for - a large, practical house with a patio, some land and within very easy reach of schools for the children and the town for our own convenience. We have told the owner that we will have another look when the current occupiers have left.
I'm not holding my breath. But having seen at least one house that we do like, my faith has been restored in the hope that there is something out there for us - I just hope there is more than just the one!