Retiring to Fuerteventura – How we did it

My wife, Sue, and I sold up in the UK before retiring to Fuerteventura in 2013. We chose to live in the north of Fuerteventura as that was the area we knew best and, obviously like.

This is the full story of why, where, when and how we retired here.

Retiring to Fuerteventura

Why Fuerteventura?

We started coming for holidays in Fuerteventura in the mid-1990s. This was largely because I had been once some 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 taking 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.

Retiring to Fuerteventura
Sue and I in Corralejo, Fuerteventura in 2004

Our 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, never dreaming that one day we would be retiring to Fuerteventura.

We stayed in a lovely apartment in El Cotillo, overlooking the lagoons and the beaches. During that stay, we fell in love with El Cotillo, making many friends that are still friends today.

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 thoroughly before we commit ourselves!

Deciding to retire in Fuerteventura

We began spending more and more time staying at our apartment.

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. Plus we got away to our apartment whenever we could at other times of the year.

I think at that point we both knew that retiring to Fuerteventura was what we wanted to do eventually. Sue was actually ready to do it 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 solid and that was it. I said “Let’s sell up and go!” – decision made, the countdown to retiring in the Canary Islands 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.

El Cotillo our apartment sun terrace
Our apartment’s sun terrace

Achieving our goal of retiring 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 had lived in that house in Northamptonshire for 11 years, so we spent weeks clearing out all the rubbish we had accumulated over the years. Where does it all come from?

I made 23 full car load trips to the local recycling centre. We also sold things we didn’t need on Ebay and gave some things to charity shops.

Fortunately, 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

Packing everything up when moving to Fuerteventura 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 being collected, 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.

Expats in Spain - Retirement in the sun
Sue on our last full day in the UK, staying in a hotel near Bristol Airport

We become expats in Fuerteventura finally

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 retiring to Fuerteventura easier. We settled into life here 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 white 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.

Expats in Spain - Retirement in the sun
Oscar on his “Gotcha” day just 6 weeks after we retired to Fuerteventura

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.

Sadly, Oscar died of lung cancer in November 2021. I miss him very much.

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!

I would guess that we have actually made nothing on the house we did buy after taking into account what we have spent on improving it.

Buyer Beware

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 it 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 we 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.

retiring in the canary islands
Our swimming pool

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, built a garage and lots more. You can see some of what we have done in this post – our house remodel.

Some buying advice with the benefit of hindsight

Unlike in the UK, the housing market in Fuerteventura, and Spain in general, is not very buoyant. The main reason for that I think is that to move from one house to another is very expensive. For example if we wanted to sell our house in La Oliva and buy one in Lajares for exactly the same price this would be the costs.

If the house was worth 300,000€, then it would cost around 60,000€ in taxes, estate agents fees, stamp duty etc. That is roughly 8% in selling costs and 11% in buying costs.

So my advice would be, if possible, to rent first, preferably in the area you want to buy. Don’t just buy a property without really considering it carefully first. We actually looked for a villa to rent for a year in Lajares after our original purchase fell through but there were none available so we bought this one.

Just to show how “lucky” I am when it comes to finances, if we had rented for a year first, and then bought, we would have had an extra 50,000€ to spend because the exchange rate changed substantially in that year. That is, unfortunately, the story of my financial life though.

My thoughts 8 years on

Neither Sue nor I regret retiring to Fuerteventura. Of course not everything is rosy, it has its bad points, but then there can’t be anywhere that is 100% perfect. Living in Fuerteventura is very different to coming here on holiday.

I often see on Fuerteventura forums people coming here on holiday describing Fuerteventura as paradise. The dictionary definition states “Paradise: a place of great happiness where everything is exactly as you would like it to be”.

When you spend 2 weeks a year staying in a hotel in one of the resorts having fun every day perhaps it may seem that everything is perfect. But clearly that is not true of Fuerteventura or anywhere else for that matter.

One of the things you will hear from friends and family many times if you do end up retiring to Fuerteventura is “you are always on holiday” but of course that is not the case. Normal life takes over such as shopping, housework, house repairs, car maintenance, gardening – and you may also have to add cleaning a swimming pool. The main difference is that you don’t do these in the rain and the cold any more.

The good things about living in Fuerteventura

  • The cost of living is lower
  • The climate means that we live a more outdoor lifestyle than we would have had we stayed in the UK
  • The healthcare is good
  • It is very cosmopolitan so you meet people from many different countries
  • Informal living. Personally I hate formality, particularly having to dress up. I wear shorts always here.
  • Cheap good coffee everywhere

The worst things about living in Fuerteventura

  • The top of my list is the way animals, in particular dogs, are treated (mainly by locals) and particularly the local hunters who abuse dogs
  • The stone-aged internet – no longer valid as we now have fast internet
  • Long winded bureaucracy – never make something simple when you can make it complicated! The Spanish have turned bureaucracy into an art form. Almost nothing can be done online and absolutely nothing can be done by post. You always end up having to travel to government offices to do anything.
  • Online shopping. This is getting increasingly difficult as more and more things on Amazon etc (even Amazon Spain) won’t be shipped to the Canary Islands.
  • I miss green and forests (but Fuerteventura does have its own beauty)
  • The ridiculous cost of flights to/from the UK during school holidays

Clearly the good about retiring to Fuerteventura outweighs the bad otherwise we would have left.

Retiring to Fuerteventura Youtube video

You can now watch our retiring to Fuerteventura story on Youtube:

You may find this book useful if you are considering retiring in the Canary Islands:

Moving Abroad Quote

“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 retiring to Fuerteventura as we have done feel free to ask any questions. I will try to help if I can.

Other articles you may find useful:

Read the articles on the cost of living in Fuerteventura

Hiring a car in Fuerteventura

Driving in Fuerteventura