My wife, Sue, and I sold up in the UK and moved here to Fuerteventura in 2013 to become expats in Spain. We chose to live in the north of Fuerteventura, one of the Canary Islands. Sue had just retired and I continued to run my business remotely from here for a couple of years before closing it in early 2015.
We started coming to Fuerteventura about 20 years ago for holidays. This was largely because I had been once a few years before and knew the winter weather was lovely. We used to come most years for a week to escape the awful UK winter weather, apart from the occasional cruise. The next year we would look at holiday brochures to choose somewhere different to go but usually ended up agreeing to come back here as we knew we would enjoy it.
For a number of years we stayed in various places in Corralejo and usually had the odd day trip over to El Cotillo.
In 2007 we had our first holiday actually staying in El Cotillo – in a one-bedroom apartment right on the beach. We really enjoyed the chilled atmosphere of El Cotillo.
Honeymoon in El Cotillo
After living together for 17 years, we finally got married in 2008. We came to Fuerteventura, of course, and stayed in El Cotillo for three weeks on honeymoon.
Two days from the end of our honeymoon we went for a walk and happened to look in an estate agent’s window. That was it, the idea came into our heads that we wanted an apartment there ourselves. By the following day we had chosen one and made all the arrangements to buy it. Well we like to take our time and think things through before we commit ourselves! We now let the apartment out for holiday lets in El Cotillo to provide an income. El Cotillo Fuerteventura is a perfect place to send a holiday.
Deciding to become Expats in Spain
We began spending more and more time here. As we both ran our own businesses – Sue was able to not take any training bookings for a couple of months over winter and, as I had staff in my office, and I worked from home most of the time anyway, I was able to work anywhere provided I had my laptop and an internet connection. We therefore started spending from just before Christmas to the end of February in the sun, and even longer some times.
I think at that point we both knew we wanted to retire to Fuerteventura and become expats in Spain eventually. Sue was actually ready a year or so before me. What finally did it for me was returning to the UK at the end of February 2012. The weather was amazing for February and I actually spent 3 or 4 days in the garden sorting it out. It then rained for over two months and that was it. I said “Let’s sell up and go!” – decision made, the countdown to our retirement in the sun had started.
That was in May 2012 so by the time we got the house ready to sell, accepted an offer and then completed the sale it was the beginning of February 2013.
The Move To Fuerteventura
After getting some quotes, we decided to take much of our furniture with us, as well as personal items. The cost was less than expected and certainly cheaper than buying new once here. This ended up being 133 separate boxes and items. We used a company based in Fuerteventura, run by an English couple, to organise all of the transport. Annette at Woodside Cargo SL couldn’t have been more helpful.
We spent weeks clearing out all the rubbish we had accumulated over the years. I made 23 full car load trips to the local recycling centre. We also sold things we didn’t need on Ebay and give some things to charity shops. Where does it all come from? We had lived there for 11 years. When we moved in I made the decision to only put suitcases and Christmas decorations in the loft. That was because when we moved out of our previous house everything that came out of the loft, apart from those two items, went straight to the tip.
Packing Up Our Life
It all took much longer than expected, even though we started weeks before we were due to leave. Every box and item of furniture had to be numbered. Then it had to be entered on a manifest, together with a description of the contents and the dimensions.
We began to run out of time. By midnight, the day before everything was going, we had hardly started packing up the garage contents. Sue helped until 1am then went to bed and I ended up in there all night to get everything done. It was pretty chilly in there I must admit.
A large removal lorry arrived at 7am, with two strong guys, who started loading up just as it started snowing. The UK weather was having its last laugh! Eventually everything was loaded and off it went to to be packed into a shipping container. We cleaned through the house and dropped the keys off at the estate agents. Then we were off to a hotel near Bristol airport for two nights before our flight. As we had sold our cars I had hired one locally but with a drop-off at Bristol airport.
We become expats in Spain
So we arrived in Fuerteventura late afternoon and went straight to our apartment. We immediately felt like we were at home. Admittedly, having the apartment already made our transition to expats in Spain easier. We settled into life in Fuerteventura quite easily over the next few weeks. Having said that it did feel for a while like we were on holiday rather than living here permanently.
Sue started volunteering at the dog pound in La Oliva once a week to help make the life of the poor dogs there a bit more enjoyable. On the third week she told me that a lovely little black and we dog had been found as a stray so was in the shelter. The next week he was still there and again the following week. That meant his 3 weeks were coming to an end so he would be put down. So, on his last day, ironically April 1st, we went and adopted him. Sue called him Oscar.
We always knew that we would adopt a dog once we were settled but the plan was to wait until we had bought a house. Having a dog in an apartment is not ideal. Every time he needed to go for a pee it meant I had to take him for a walk. That was 6 or 7 times a day. He also woke up and wanted to go out when it started to get light. I am definitely NOT a morning person but I saw more sunrises during that period than I have ever seen, or wanted to see, in my life.
Buying a house in Fuerteventura
We started house hunting, fuelled by the need to get a garden for Oscar. We would have liked to live in El Cotillo but there are no houses with gardens, only apartments and village street houses.
With hindsight, we could have made quite a lot of money out of buying bank repossessed property. There was a new development of 3-bed semi-detached town houses in Corralejo which were selling for just 75,000€ by the bank. We could have bought three – living in one and renting the other two out. They are now selling for 225,000€ each!
Our preferred location was Lajares and eventually we found a new detached villa we liked in a small development. We agreed a price and started the process of buying. The owners then informed us that they had decided to keep the one we wanted but we could have another one right by the road for the same price. This wasn’t worth as much as the one we wanted as was overlooked, which the other wasn’t. Then, when we were trying to decide what to do, I found out from another source that the sellers were trying to sell that villa to someone else for more. I told the sellers that they were crooks, and where to stick their villa, and we started looking again.
We couldn’t find anything else that we liked, or could afford, in Lajares so looked elsewhere. We found our current house in La Oliva, put in an offer and moved in in September 2013. It needed plenty of upgrading as it hadn’t been particularly well looked after but it had a good swimming pool and a large garden with trees.
We have done quite a bit of house remodelling since. This has included knocking down a wall to make the kitchen bigger, a new kitchen, both bathrooms remodelled and lots more. You can see some of what we have done in this post – our house remodel.
Read the articles on the cost of living in Fuerteventura
“I can’t think of anything that excites a greater sense of childlike
wonder than to be in a country where you are ignorant of almost
everything. Suddenly you are five years old again. You can’t read
anything, you have only the most rudimentary sense of how things work,
you can’t even reliably cross a street without endangering your life.
Your whole existence becomes a series of interesting guesses.” – Bill Bryson
If you are thinking of becoming expats in Spain please feel free to make any comments or ask for advice.