This probably applies to anyone relocating anywhere, not just to those living in Spain. If we could give you one piece of advice that will save you both money and hassle is Caveat Emptor (Let the buyer beware).
We were fortunate enough to have friends in Lanzarote before we moved to the island who helped us out with this simple advice, as well as pointing us in the right direction at the time. We have since usually dealt with people only on recommendations, and others we have got to know over time either as clients or acquaintances. Sticking a pin in the local classified ads could well end in tears. Be sure to look for established businesses with a good reputation.
Not everyone is always as they seem, at best some people lower their standards of ethics in business, at worst some people are con-artists. This can apply to both ex-pats and locals. Don’t get us wrong, it’s not everyone you encounter, of course most people are perfectly okay.
However, don’t forget that not everyone leaves their homeland just for sunshine and a better life. Some are actually on the run! We heard of one individual back in Lanzarote who had been doing the rounds of the Canary Islands and was taking deposits on property, before just disappearing. Turns out he was wanted for fraud in the UK. Would you really hand over a cash deposit to a stranger on a property back home? Of course you wouldn’t. Why would you do anything different anywhere else? This is an extreme example we know, and far from typical. But when buying property, get good advice through a proper agent, preferably on a recommendation from someone you trust who has used or knows them. Only last week we saw another ‘estate’ agent featured on television, again in Lanzarote, doing much the same. You’ll find these kind of sharks anywhere you find expats.
Others, locals and ex-pats who are not what you’d call criminals, will think nothing of overcharging whilst taking advantage of either your naivety or lack of language skills. They are not legally doing anything wrong. It can be tougher than you might think at times to make a living overseas. These people, although they might not normally be this way inclined back in the UK, will prey on new faces to bolster there own income. Eventually of course it all backfires on them as most ex-pat communities are relatively close-knit and it doesn’t take long to get a bad reputation. This isn’t to say there aren’t many good agents, there are many honourable ones to balance it up. All we are saying is use your brain, don’t leave it at the airport when you leave – as many do. Get proper independent legal advice, and never accept phrases like “That’s just how it works here” or “You don’t need to worry about that we’ll sort it out”. Ask questions and, if the answers dont feel right, be on your guard.
For a time, until you find your feet, just treat people with a hint of suspicion until you get to know them, consider what their possible agenda might be, and don’t part with cash until you feel comfortable. And, remember, anyone operating legally will not be asking you for cash for anything without proper paperwork and tax identification.
And then there are the helpful people in (usually) the local bar…
- “Who’s cleaning your pool”?
- “Do you have a cleaner”?
- “Are you buying a house”?
These statements, of course not always, but often, translate to – “give me a job” (nothing wrong with that really, that’s just networking)….
Or, far more cynically they translate to, “I have a mate that does that”… and they will give me a few Euros for the introduction! (In many cases the quality of the work or the service is irrelevant to the person making the introduction – they only care about the percentage offered).
Newcomers should always be aware that people all too often have an agenda – what seems like an innocent and helpful bit of matchmaking may be nothing more than a proverbial ‘brown envelope’ for the introduction. It doesn’t matter to them what kind of service you may receive – only that they get a kickback.
It’s easy to get carried away in the early days with the excitement of the move, a new home and all those friendly people who have been around for years can seem ever so helpful. Just take care. Some of them may not be what they seem.
Thankfully, we haven’t been stung. We always exercise due diligence, as we would in the UK. It may look and feel like paradise at times – but remember people are just the same everywhere. Good and bad!
It can all sound like doom and gloom (it isn’t) – but forewarned is forearmed…