The fantasy was always to buy a place in Italy, or maybe in Spain. That kind of fantasy is always more romantic than practical. We looked at this notion a thousand different ways. Hours were spent researching countries, regions, cities, properties, and foreign real estate laws and procedures. Research is critical because once you start looking at properties it is possible to fall in love with the wrong house, in the wrong city, at the wrong time, and possibly in the wrong country.
Common sense kicks in and tells you it’s better to rent. There are always counter arguments when it comes to common sense. You do your research to let you know how impractical you are being, and just how deep the water is.
Like a strong current pushing a boat into a shipping lane we were eventually guided to Spain. There is no accounting for that exactly. It is possible to get into the intricacies of food, coffee, hospitality, weather, the cost of living, and how it feels to sit on a terrace in the afternoon sun. It is possible to talk about the price of real estate. Pinning it down as an individual is tough enough. Pinning it down as a couple is an exercise in futility. Donna will talk about the light. I will talk about sunsets and night noises. In the end it comes down to feeling at home in a distant place, and everything else lining up to turn a fantasy into reality.
We narrowed our search down to the area in and around Oliva, Spain. It’s on the coast forty minutes from Valencia. The closest cities are Denia and Gandia. Unlike most coastal cities Oliva is not strictly a tourist destination. It’s a working Spanish town. It doesn’t pull up stakes and disappear during off seasons. The beach is long, beautiful, and relatively uncrowded. Real estate prices are attractive. We knew all of this because we had done the research. We had actually never set foot in Oliva.
Within an hour of arriving in Oliva we were doing neighborhood reviews. Donna had lined up 32 properties to look at. We narrowed it down to an agreed upon Top 10 list. It felt like we were doing a House Hunter’s International marathon. This wasn’t couch surfing though. This was feet on the ground, bring the tape measure and paint chips stuff. Thankfully, we’ve had lots of experience doing this kind of thing. Donna and I moved at least eight times the first twelve years we were together. My youngest daughter, Marleigh, knew the drill by heart. “Dad, everytime you guys buy a new refrigerator you move!”
The Top 3 houses on our list were visited. None of them had signs in the windows anymore. The apartment across the street from San Maria de Major Cathedral had already been decorated in our minds. The townhouse with a small yard was only grudgingly on my Top 10 list. To me it looked like a car had driven through its fence. Donna disputed this. After all it had a lemon tree in the backyard. Similarly, the apartment next to the Municipal Market was not one of Donna’s favorites. Location, location, location had her expressing a little more interest. It was skeptical interest, but that was an improvement. Again, we weren’t seeing any signs in the windows.
A walk through town on a Sunday afternoon doesn’t really tell you much. It tells you if they roll up the streets after Sunday Mass, but that’s about it. Oliva was pretty dead. A few locals were drinking in a small bar. A “kebap” and pizza joint was open. So was a little bakery. Other than small groups of kids riding bikes and scooters the streets were unoccupied. Adults were sticking close to home.
Oliva could have been a small town anywhere in the world. It was difficult to tell if we were actually going to like it. Standing on the rooftop terrace of our VRBO provided a strong positive clue. The view was outstanding!