The journey to retirement is one that includes questions about location, and location includes questions about cost.
We have always entertained the dream of living in Europe, but it never made any sense with work and finances. So, when it was time to think about retirement, we thought about Europe and we looked again at France, Italy, Portugal, and Spain.
Many will argue the following summary. Obviously, there are many people who chose differently than we did. The matrix of choices is very personal. For us, we first eliminated all the northern countries for cost and clouds. We found the beauty of France a bit monocultural. We eliminated our beloved Italy as they do not recognize our family, which can cause inheritance difficulties. We spent quality time on Portugal. In the end, the biggest point against was the cost of an apartment in Lisbon or Porto. We are city dwellers who might enjoy the country to visit, but home is urban. So, we turned to Spain.
As we investigated, we spent hours on Facebook Groups for visas and what it means to move to Spain as an immigrant. We studied the difference between an expat and an immigrant. We identified the Spanish Non-Lucrative Visa (NLV) as our best match for visa. We spent serious time first in A Coruña where my old college friend Todd has lived for years. It was an interesting choice as we rather like the cooler weather we enjoy in Seattle, so we thought perhaps that would be our choice. Too far from the rest of Europe. Then we looked closely at Madrid. Too expensive. Then we looked at Barcelona. Too expensive again. Then we discovered València.
As we looked on Idealista to learn about the state of the market, we also looked for detailed information about the cost of living in Spain, or ideally, València. We would find a flat we fancied and walk the streets. We would watch video walkthroughs of the city.
We saw in any of our countries a good deal for health. In Spain, we must obtain a private health insurance plan for around the €2.000,00 mark (variable for individuals, of course). Oh, did I mention? That price for health insurance was for the entire year. Yes, a monthly cost in the US is annual in Spain. You can watch the videos, but all our research indicates we can live well on €1.500 a month. Of course, this is dependant on choices one makes about how one lives, but with this reference, we were able to calculate our own cost of living.
A big part of that cost of living is shelter. We knew we wanted to purchase as a hedge against inflation, and to provide a measure of control not typically afforded renters. As it turns out, this was prescient as the rental market in València today has very low inventory. To purchase property in a different country is twice as hard as one’s first purchase in a country where you grew up in the culture. A good guide would be needed, and we found this first in video form with Graham Hunt (call or message on WhatsApp, Twitter, Facebook) of Valencia Property. Graham’s blog posts provided not only a solid grounding in the mechanics of Spanish property purchasing, but allowed us to see that his approach was very similar to Patrick’s approach in supporting buyers through the process. More later about Corinne and Tim pioneering and then our adventures in buying a flat.
By the time we arrived in València, what with all the videos and Google Streets walking, the city actually felt familiar when we exited the train station in November of 2021.
As we explored the city, purchased a flat, entertained visiting friends, reviewed Corinne’s renovation of her flat, and really lived in the city, we found ourselves very much at home. Our visit was a long one at four weeks, but we’ve never been so sad to leave. The people we encountered were almost universally kind and happy, saving only a grumpy waiter and the Very Disturbed Romulan who sold us train tickets in Madrid. We are excited for the new adventure and look forward to reading history, traveling to see it on site, and learning more Spanish, or Castilian as they prefer in Spain what with multiple co-official languages.