Retiring in Southern France or Spain

Dec 31st, 2010, 05:47 AM
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Join Date: Dec 2010
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Retiring in Southern France or Spain

My husband and I are considering retirement either in Southern France or Spain. We are looking for an area: 1) that has warmer winters and mild summers. 2) possibly in a small village or hamlet that has some amenities (grocery, drug stores, restuarants) and has transportation to larger cities 3) has nice countryside 4) is not too expensive 5) we want to be able to be accepted socially. We are looking more for a house that has some land to it, not living directly in a village. I do realize we have much paperwork to go through. But this would be a preliminary search. I appreciate all information. Thank you in advance.
DMtalbott is offline  
Dec 31st, 2010, 05:51 AM
Join Date: May 2007
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Are you presently a citizen of an EU country?

Is language an issue?

Do you mind being with many other retirees?
Aduchamp1 is offline  
Dec 31st, 2010, 05:56 AM
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We are looking for an area: 1) that has warmer winters and mild summers. 2) possibly in a small village or hamlet that has some amenities (grocery, drug stores, restuarants) and has transportation to larger cities 3) has nice countryside 4) is not too expensive 5) we want to be able to be accepted socially. >>

lol - isn't that what we ALL want?

strangely, the south of France can have wickedly cold winters, as can the south of spain. and other places can have disadvantages you don't necessarily think of - friends of ours bought a beautiful place in Italy with wonderful views only to find that the terrace was unusable most of teh time because of the fierce winds that strangely the vendors had failed to mention.

have you thought of renting rather than buying? that would give you the chance to try the place out first.

plus, of course, what Aduchamp said.
annhig is offline  
Dec 31st, 2010, 06:06 AM
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Southern Spain has a large British retirement community in various areas. I spent a vacation on Chiclana de la Frontera and the amount of British and Germans "winter birds" is quite noticeable. Consequently, we also noticed the proliferation of the English language, stores, malls, and products in the grocery store that cater to that type of buyer.

My best advice for you is that you take your time, rent a place in Southern Spain for say 2-3 months and then rent a place somewhere in Southern France and use that non-committal time to research, explore, take notes, and overall get acquainted. ONLY after doing this you will be fully in charge of taking this decision by yourselves. Best of luck! Living for 2-3 months at a time in Europe is also part of my retirement plans; 5 years to go!! YOOHOOOO!
Viajero2 is offline  
Dec 31st, 2010, 06:13 AM
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Before I committed to such a move, I would, as annhig said, rent the place or an apartment in the area and see the seasons, people, transportation, etc. While there, you could look for real estate to purchase in a leisurely manner, instead of rushing into something. Also, asked above, but worth asking again, are you language proficient. If not, then you might want to look into an area where other retirees are who speak your language. You did not tell us your age so do you have children, and what do they think of this? Are both sets of your parents alive? What will happen when they get older and need you? We had friends who went to Australia, had children, lived there 20 years, but had to come back to US and start all over because his mother was ill and his father had died. He was an only child. Are you going to maintain a presence in US to return to, or sell everything and go? Many questions to answer.
jkbritt is offline  
Dec 31st, 2010, 07:04 AM
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My husband and I took early retirement packages two years ago and moved to SW France in July 2009. At the time we moved, we had been house-hunting and doing all the necessary research for about 2 years.

My husband holds a UK passport, which helped with the move, although I (US passport holder) was required to apply for a permis de sejour which included providing proof of private health coverage, financial stability, submission of birth certificate, etc. It was not too difficult, I received my carte de sejour, valid for 10 years, in under three months. The main benefit of spouse's citizenship is that I did not have to apply for residency until after we arrived.

If neither you nor your spouse are EU citizens, the process will be more drawn out and, based on the
experience of US friends, will result in a renewable permis of 2-3 years. Please note this is only anecdotal information which applies to France. The process is different yet again for non EU spouses of French citizens.

So, you are right to start with the basics. Whether EU citizens or not, rely only on the French (or Spain or Italian, etc) consulate/embassy in your country and web sites for accurate residency information.

There are many expat websites with forums, and, are two
large ones. While aimed at UK ex-pats, they have a lot of good info. There are many country-wide
real estate sites which are helpful or price comparisons cross regions.

Rent before you buy is a very good suggestion, particularly if you're not familiar with the area. Regarding weather, given the winter we are currently experiencing in western Europe, am not sure if you'll find your ideal. SW France has reasonable winters, we had lunch outside today but it can also go down to -2 or so C at night. Summers can have quite hot days with low humidity.

Southern France generally has milder winters for which you pay the price of much higher real estate, lots of traffic and crowds, particularly along the Med.

Good luck and have fun researching.
Cathinjoetown is offline  
Dec 31st, 2010, 08:34 AM
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If you have never lived abroad, I strongly urge you to rent first. France has wonderful gites that you can easily rent for a month, and I'm sure Spain has the same. Do some personal research, pick a spot and a gite and explore the general area ( for Spain & France)before making a decision.
historytraveler is online now  
Dec 31st, 2010, 10:41 AM
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Posts: 45,650
Definitely rent first. And if you want to be accepted socially (by local people, not other ex-pats), or really, even understand the property-buying process,learn the language. Fluently. For one thing, it will save you a bundle of money. There are entire businesses these days devoted to "handling things" for ex-pats who don't make the effort to speak the local language and figure out how to do things for themselves.

Also, I don't know how old you are, but think long-term. You don't want to be on a remote piece of land with poor access to everyday goods and services as you get older. It won't help you socially, either.

Good luck. I'm easing into retirement in France myself, but have already had a place there for almost 20 years and don't have citizenship issues.
StCirq is online now  
Dec 31st, 2010, 11:14 AM
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I think there are a lot of British people buying up parts of France, and certain towns with plenty of them (in Provence and elsewhere).

There isn't very good transportation from small villages in rural areas to big cities. There is some, of course, depends what you expect. In Provence, the bus lines even for the more major cities isn't that great (eg, from Carpentras or Cavaillon to the bigger cities).

I don't know what your idea of "mild" summers is, but I wouldn't think either southern France or Spain fit that category. Actually, Provence isn't usually too bad in the evenings, but can be very hot in the day time, of course.
Christina is offline  
Dec 31st, 2010, 11:30 AM
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First, I would look into the legal and financial requirements for such a move. For US citizens they are quite demanding. And you must understand that the local healthcare system will not cover you and Medicare doesn't cover anyone outside the US. So you will need to include in the cost of living the price of a comprehensive health insurance plan, including drugs and long-term care for when you're older.

Also strongly agree that you visit the areas you are considering for at least a month or two - staying at the type of rental property you are looking for.

The only place in Spain, IMHO that has mild summers is the NW coast - the rest has hellishly hot summers and most private residences do NOT have AC. The summers in southern France can be warm or hot - not sure what you mean by mild. (There are very few places that have both mild summers and winters - usually you get a real one or the other.)

IMHO the place with the moderate climate in europe is usually Ireland - damp most of the time but hot or cold is very rare. Btu, this is not an inexpensive place to live.
nytraveler is offline  
Dec 31st, 2010, 01:14 PM
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I would choose somewhere in the Cadiz area.
Egbert is offline  
Dec 31st, 2010, 07:43 PM
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Egbert - shhhh....that's where I plan to retire
CathyM is offline  
Jan 1st, 2011, 10:15 PM
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If you've spent a considerable amount of time in an area, and feel comfortable being there, then go for it, but if this is only a dream, without the first hand experience of living in the area for some time, then it may be more than you bargained for. Take the advice offered and consider everything you'll need to do to get by. Language is a major issue that can't be ignored.
Robert2533 is offline  
Jan 2nd, 2011, 04:32 AM
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Be aware that there are all sorts of administrative documents, health documents, tax documents, etc., that will become a part of your life constantly, so make peace with it now rather than ranting about foreign bureaucracy after you arrive. It seems to be the principal peeve by many ex-pats, and even I found it horribly complicated in my first years as a "re-pat," but once everything it settled, it is all incredibly easy to live with and often much easier than "back home."
kerouac is online now  
Jan 2nd, 2011, 05:17 AM
Join Date: Mar 2008
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Strongly agree on keeping all papers at hand and in order. Most frequently requested are copies of our EDF (electricity) statement followed by the attestation from our maire that our principal residence is in France. Also birth certificates can be copies but should be copies generated by the records keeper, not a personal printer or photocopy machine.

We've not had to pay for translation help, although that could happen. Did have to have some docs translated by a court-approved translator as this was required for carte de sejour application. It was a bit expensive, 125 euros, but couldn't be avoided.

The applications for planning permission (building) have actually been simplified and standardized, with a commitment to respond within 30 days.

So, we muddle through.

As always, caveat that although this is recent experience, it is anecdotal.
Cathinjoetown is offline  
Jan 2nd, 2011, 10:19 AM
Join Date: Jun 2003
Posts: 21,223
I have the delightful advantage as a French citizen that whenever a translation is requested, it is free for me. I even got certain requirements waived when I told the authorities the cost of the translation "and how are you going to pay for it?"
kerouac is online now  

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