Tapas Forever

Helping make the dream of moving to Spain a reality

Spain: The First Year

It seems like forever since I’ve had the time to sit down and actually pen a new blog entry. I’m currently sitting in a cute little co-living space, surrounded by other remote workers, on the island of Tenerife, an island that is part of Spain’s Canary Islands. I’ve been living in Spain now for over a year, and I thought today would be an opportune time to look back and reflect upon the experience of living in Spain.

Lifestyle

Living in Spain, like most countries, comes with certain pros and cons. Other than a few months in the summer when it can be amazingly hot, the weather for most of the year is extremely comfortable. In Valencia, the city where I live, one can often see upwards of 300 days of sunshine per year – as a Canadian who grew up near a rain-forest, it definitely was an adjustment for the first few months to not see any rain at all. Now I usually take for granted that when I wake up it will most likely be a sunny day.

Around Valencia

Around Valencia

The Spanish people are really skilled at balancing work and life. A typical day for a working class Spaniard seems to start at the nearest cafe, between 9am and 10am, either for a warm cup of ‘café con leche’, or often even a small beer before work. There is often a break between 2pm-4pm for a siesta, with the work day usually finishing around 6pm or later, depending on the type of business. Many businesses shut down completely during siesta hours, which takes some time to get used to since nothing is open.

Spanish Nightlife

Spanish Nightlife

One of the strangest aspects of Spanish lifestyle for me is the complete lack of food options usually between 4pm and 8pm – it’s very rare to find any restaurant or café serving food between those hours, so if you’re hungry you are mostly out of luck. Supermarkets are often closed on Sundays as well, as they once were in Canada too, which means you have to stock up before hand if you cook at home during the weekend. But I much prefer it to be honest – it gives everyone an opportunity on the weekend to spend time with friends and family.

In terms of holidays, many Spanish holidays fall on a Tuesday or a Thursday – I found that odd at first, but then realized that the Spanish often take the Monday or Friday adjoining the holiday off as well, making an extremely long weekend (they have this whole ‘not working’ aspect completely figured out).

But one of my favourite aspects to living in Spain is going out in the evening and seeing so many friends and families sharing laughs together late into the evening.

Travel

Spain is a beautiful country with many different geographically diverse regions, which is great for travel. This last year alone I visited from Girona in the north, near the French Pyrenees, all the way to Seville in the south. Thankfully train travel is extremely comfortable in Spain, and often just as fast as flying (if you factor in all the waiting and security aspects of the airports), so it’s usually my preferred option. While Valencia doesn’t have many high-speed train options, once you hit Madrid you can get to many different parts of the country via the Ave high-speed train network.

Girona

Visiting Girona

While Valencia doesn’t have as many flight options as Madrid or Barcelona, many low-cost carriers fly in and out of Valencia. I recently flew to the Canary Islands for only 29 Eurs, and can get to most areas in Europe for less than 100 Euros. I haven’t taken advantage of that very often yet, but it’s nice to know I can get around Europe easily from my local airport.

Seville

Seville

In addition since I have a Class D (long-term) visa in Spain, I am not bound by the Schengen limitations while in Spain. When I head to another Schengen country the clock starts ticking again, but I can simply return home to Valencia to regroup if I ever hit that limit again. Compared to Vancouver, where Asia, South America, and Europe are all 8+ hours away, I can get to Africa, all of Europe, and even western Asia in no more than 3-4 hours, so it certainly opens many doors in terms of travel options.

Food

While I definitely enjoy a good Paella on the weekend, I’d be lying if I said I am a huge fan of Spanish food in general. Sure, eating tapas, or at least the experience of eating tapas with friends, is great. But most of the food in Spain is deep fried, and served with white bread – it’s definitely nice once and a while, but it’s not something I can eat all the time. The typical menu in a Spanish café or a pub is about 95% identical between establishments, so there isn’t much variety. When I go out to restaurants nowadays, I often visit international ones – Mexican, Moroccan, Indian, for example.

Afternoon Paella

Afternoon Paella

If you live near a supermarket or a mercado, you likely can source many great local fruits and vegetables for cooking at home. Prices are often extremely reasonable, and there are usually enough options that you don’t need to keep much food in your fridge at home. My one complaint, if I had one, was the amount of packaging used in Spain – pretty much everything ends up in a plastic bag or is already wrapped in plastic. Hopefully this improves in the future.

Expat Community

One of my requirements when I moved to Spain was that whatever community I moved to had a vibrant co-working or entrepreneur community. Working from home can be a bit isolating, so I wanted to make sure there was a group around that would occasionally meet up, work together, and share ideas. Thankfully Valencia has a great group that fits the bill called the ‘Valencia Coffee and Co-working’ group – the majority of the friends I met during my first year in Spain were from this group.

I have met various local people since I’ve been here, but it’s a bit more difficult to blend into those groups if you don’t have a good handle on speaking Spanish. I’ve definitely made some progress on that front, but I need to put a bit more effort into it and force myself to speak it more often. But I’ll keep at it.

Cost Of Living

It’s hard for me to objectively rate the cost of living in Spain, since I intuitively translate everything in my head into Canadian dollars. That’s probably not a fair thing to do, since the Canadian dollar is trading quite low . I suspect compared to many places in Europe, Spain is extremely affordable. And even using my Canadian comparison, many aspects of life here are much cheaper. For example, beer and wine in a pub or café is cheap, usually only 1-2 euros per glass. Eating out can be just as expensive as back home though, especially in international restaurants. But there are definitely affordable restaurants if you know where to look for them. A bottle of wine in the supermarket is a steal, often only 3-4 euros, whereas back home they are usually $15-$20 CAD.

Beers on the Beach

Beers on the Beach

Accommodation prices really depend on where you want to live. A one bedroom apartment in a nice area can run upwards of 1,000 Euros per month – if you don’t mind living slightly out of the main areas, you can probably get by for 500-600 Euros. I recently purchased a 3 bedroom apartment in a decent area, and pay roughly 600 Euros per month, so definitely buying might be the better option for people who want to live in Spain for more than a few years.

Definitely in aggregate I think my costs are much lower in Spain, and certainly the lifestyle is much better. But it’s certainly not the steal it once was to live in Spain. Just something to be aware of if you are trying to move to Spain, especially if you will live in one of the larger cities or towns.

Friends

One of the best aspects of travel is meeting new people, and I’ve been very fortunate over the last year and a bit to have met so many different amazing people.

Nicki and Kaisu

Nicki and Kaisu

Many of my friends in Spain I met in various co-living and co-working spaces around the country such as Sun and Co. in Javea, Spain, or Nine Co-living (where I currently am) in Tenerife, Spain.

Stacey and Thomas

Stacey and Thomas

Others I met through the Valencia Coffee and Co-working group, which meets every Wednesday for a session of work and then evening drinks. The main organizer, Eric, was away most of the summer, so I even chipped in and helped organize a bit over the summer, which was fun.

Lara and Ben

Lara and Ben

And while I don’t do as much photography as I once did, I still try to shoot the odd gig, and even made some friends here through a few concerts I’ve attended over the last year and a bit. I’m hoping to get back into this a bit more this year, as most of my camera gear is just sitting collecting dust.

In general though, everyone I met in Spain has been absolutely amazing, and I feel fortunate to have such a great group of friends here, something that I was missing living out in the country in Canada for the last few years.

What Does The Future Hold?

In short, I really enjoy my new life in Spain. It has it’s ups and downs of course, but in general the lifestyle and climate are both amazing. I recently signed the contract to sell my property back in Canada, and once that’s done (shortly after Christmas), I’m basically going ‘all in’ on Spanish life. I recently bought a property in Valencia, and am working hard on reforming it. I don’t think it’s my ‘forever home’, since it’s lacking a pool and a place to cook a weekly paella, but it’s definitely good for a few years and a good investment I think due to its location.

Around Valencia

Around Valencia

Over this next year I definitely want to improve my Spanish further, and hopefully do additional travelling within Spain. Spain doesn’t recognize my Canadian driver’s license, so I also need to deal with getting a new driving license here, hopefully sooner rather than later. Once that’s done I’ll likely pick up a scooter or a cheap car so I can get around a bit easier on the weekends. And once I cash out my property in Canada, I’m going to seriously start considering picking up a sailboat in the future – years ago I obtained my sailing Certificate of Competency in Auckland, New Zealand, so it would be pretty cool to be able to sail around the Mediterranean from time to time.

But definitely it’s been an amazing first year in Spain, and I’m looking forward to what this next year has in store.

How To Move To Spain From The United States

If you’ve found this page, chances are you’re a citizen of the United States, looking out the window at the snow, the rain, or the endless months of winter dreariness, and wishing you were somewhere else. I know, because that’s exactly what I was doing approximately a year ago when I came up with the idea of moving to Spain from Canada. And here I am now, a year later, living in the beautiful coastal city of Valencia and eating paella with new my Spanish friends. You can read about some of my reasons for moving to Spain here.

So what does it take to move to Spain? Well, since the United States isn’t a part of the European Union, it’s a bit tricky. Normally Americas are only allowed to visit Spain (technically the Schengen Zone) for three months in every six month period. While some people thinks this resets the moment you leave, in actuality it’s a rolling six month window – if you’ve been in Spain for three months in the previously six months, then you aren’t allowed to stay longer. That’s a bit of a pain if you want to stay longer than three months.

But if you’re here, chances are you are looking for something more permanent. So I’ll give you a few of the options.

The first way to get into Spain is to have a job offer, at which point the company can sponsor a work permit for you and you can get in that way. The problem with that is most Spanish companies have to first prove that there isn’t a local who can do the job they want you for. Unless you have a unique skillset or are in demand, it might be difficult for the company to do that.

The second way is to become a student and obtain a student visa. The only problem with that is you have to go to school as a full time student. So if you want to spend most of your time in school, then that’s certainly an option. But for people who want to spend their time bouncing around Spain, or staying longer once school is over, that may or may not work for you.

Another way a person can enter into Spain is to register as a self-employed worker, or autónomo. I don’t have any experience with that personally, but you can read about how to become an autonomo on the Toronto consulate’s website. The one downside is that you immediately have to start paying into the Spanish social security system, and the taxes for an autónomo I believe are on the order of €264 per month. So if you aren’t sure you’ll have any income for a while once you become an autónomo, you should save up as you’re going to have to pay that fee each month.

The way I entered into Spain is via something called a ‘Non-Lucrative Visa’. The non-lucrative visa is a special type of visa for Spain that means a person can live here, but they cannot work. The latter part is a bit of a grey area in that it’s debatable whether or not a person can work remotely (for a company outside of Spain), but I do know some people who did get the visa while working remotely and declaring that with the Spanish consulate.

You can read the entire requirements for the Spanish non-lucrative visa here, but in short, you need to be in good health, to not have a criminal record, and to also provide proof that you can live for a year without working in Spain. While some people have successfully approved by showing income made by working for remote companies, I have heard about more people who have been rejected for that. So it’s best to be able to provide proof that you can live on your savings alone, which as of 2018 is €2151.36 per month for all 12 months (so a bank account with €25,816.32) in it.

I applied through the Toronto consulate in Canada, and surprisingly, it went rather smoothly. But in general you have to apply for a Spanish visa in your country of residence (and not within Spain). I started the process of obtaining documents for my non-lucrative visa in May of 2018, submitted the application at the start of July, and was in Spain at the end of August.

So if you are motivated and fulfil the requirements of the non-lucrative visa, you can pull it off rather quickly. If you can imagine yourself living in nearly perfect weather year-round and spending your off-time sipping cervezas (beers) or vino tinto (red wine), then perhaps moving to Spain is a great option for you – it was for me.

If you’re interested in learning about how to obtain the non-lucrative visa to live in Spain, make sure you purchase up a copy of our 65-page Guide to Obtaining the Non-lucrative Visa by clicking the button below:


How To Apply For The Non-Lucrative Visa – $40 CAD

Moving Money From Canada To Europe Cheaply

One of the challenges with bouncing between Canada and Europe is having to deal with money in two different currencies. If you find yourself in the scenario where you routinely need to move money from Canada to Europe, here are some of the best options.

If You Don’t Have A Bank Account In Europe

If you don’t have a bank account in Europe, then some combination of cash and credit is likely your best bet.

If you pull out money from an ATM machine once you land in Europe, you’ll likely be hit with 5-7 Euros in fees per transaction, plus a currency charge from your bank in Canada, usually 2-4%. So while using an ATM in Europe is manageable, often the best deal you will get for cash is back in Canada from a dedicated currency broker. Usually you can exchange money for around 1-1.5% of the spot value, which is better than what the banks usually give you. The absolute worst places to exchange money though is via traditional banks (such as TD, Scotiabank, etc.) and at airports, so avoid those like the plague. What you want is a dedicated currency exchange broker, and often if you Google that you will find one near you.

There are currency exchange kiosks all over Europe as well, but in my experience they typically prefer the British Pound and the US Dollar, since those are relatively popular currencies, compared to the Canadian dollar. So it’s best to obtain cash back in Canada if you have the chance.

If you pay directly with your credit card locally, you’ll often pay the same 2-4% in currency exchange fees, but usually without any per-transaction fees. So if that’s all you have, it’s better than nothing.

If You Do Have A Bank Account In Europe

Opening a bank account in Europe, even as a non-resident, isn’t very difficult. I first opened bank account in Spain at BBVA as a non-resident and it only took me a few days. If you have some form of residency as well (a class-D, or long duration, visa) then you can even open a Revolut account and use that as your bank account.

Right now Revolut isn’t available in Canada though, so I’m not going to focus too much on that. But assuming you do have some type of bank account in Europe and have an IBAN number representing that account, I’ll tell what I think is the best method.

First, you’ll need a TransferWise account. TransferWise is a very well known financial company that facilities easy currency exchanges all across the world. TransferWise is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority in Europe so they are totally safe.

Second, you’ll need an account at EQ Bank in Canada. It’s free to open an account there, and it’s fully protected under the Canadian financial laws. Why I recommend EQ Bank is because they are one of the few banks to allow you to pay TransferWise directly using a bill payment for up to $25,000 CAD. The other methods of getting money into TransferWise from other banks, such as TD, are more cumbersome and have higher fees.

Once you set up both of those, add your bank details into EQ Bank for whatever primary bank you use in Canada. Then you can simply initiate a transfer within EQ Bank and pull money directly, for free, from your primary account. For me I added my TD Bank account information into EQ Bank. One caveat here is that EQ Bank places a one week hold on all funds that are moved this way, so you need to start this process 7-10 days ahead of when you actually need the money.

Once the money is in EQ Bank, go ahead and initiate a payment from TransferWise to your European account. If the fees look good to you and you give the go-ahead, select the bill payment option since it is how you’ll move the money there. If you read the directions for the bill payment, you will see your personal reference number for the transaction – write that down as you’ll need it on EQ Bank.

Next, head on over to EQ Bank and add a new bill payee for TransferWise. Use the reference number they gave you for your account number. Once that is done, go ahead and initiate a bill payment from EQ Bank to TransferWise for whatever amount TransferWise is expecting. It normally takes 1-2 business days for it to hit TransferWise after the bill payment, and you’ll receive an email from them as soon as it does arrive.

If you do all these together, you can often move money from Canada to Europe for approximately 0.5% of the spot price. That’s the exact same method I recently used to move approximately $100,000 CAD for an upcoming property purchase. So while I still paid roughly $500 in currency exchange fees, it sure beats the roughly $3,000 or so TD Bank probably would have charged me if I tried to do it through them.

If you have any questions, just let me know. But I’ve investigated lots of options, and this flow (Primary Bank -> EQ Bank -> TransferWise -> Spanish Bank) is the cheapest that I’ve found so far for moving money between Canada and Europe.

How To Renew The Non-Lucrative Visa Online

About six months ago I stumbled across an article here in Spain that basically indicated that it is possible to renew most non-resident visas online, including the non-lucrative visa. I found that interesting since most of my friends here on the non-lucrative went into the office in person or hired lawyers to help them with their process. Despite scouring the internet on the subject, I couldn’t find any other accounts of people attempting to renew the non-lucrative visa online, so I’m going to assume I’m one of the first (at least one of the first with a website). If you’re interested in renewing the old-fashioned way, in person, check out how to renew your non-lucrative visa in person.

To renew your non-lucrative visa online, you are going to need your digital certificate in Spain. If you don’t have one yet, I recommend getting one as it makes life simpler, especially for obtaining a new empadronamiento certificate. Once you have that, you can visit the website that handles online renewals, which is Renovacion Telematica Extranjeria.

The requirements for renewing online are similar to renewing in person, with a few small variations. First, instead of photocopies of your documents, you are going to need scanned documents, such as a PDF or JPEG file. Sanitas sent me an update for my Spanish medical coverage as a PDF, so I already had that. But I needed to scan my passport documents, as well as my proof of funds and receipt for the non-lucrative renewal fee.

You can renew your non-lucrative visa up to 60 days before your residency card expires. I tried visiting the renewal website a few times before that, and it basically said I had to renew in person. But once I hit the 60 day mark, the website immediately changed and gave me the option to renew. Make sure you are using the web browser that contains your digital certificate because your identify will be verified using it. Once verified, the website automatically showed me my personal information, even indicating that this would be for my first renewal (which was true).

Non-Lucrative Visa Information During Renewal

Non-Lucrative Visa Information During Renewal

Make sure in the dropdown box you select the region where your re-registration needs to occur. In my case the box was pre-populated with “Madrid”, so I changed it to “Valencia”.

On the next few pages you have to verify your personal and contact information, which is effectively reproducing electronically the same data on the EX01 form you would normally fill out and deliver in person. So for renewing online you won’t need the EX01 explicitly.

Once you are done updating your contact information, you will be asked to to attach documentation to support the following:

Renew Non-Lucrative Online

Online Renewal Documentation Required

Here is the list, in English, of those requirements and what I submitted for each one.

  1. Entire copy of my passport – This was a bit tricky, as I only had photocopies of this. But I took photos of each of the pages and combined them into a PDF. The website only allows a maximum 6MB file, which is insanely small, so I had to do a bit of massaging for my 19 page PDF representing my passport, but managed to make it work
  2. Proof of funds to live in Spain – I had a translated copy of a bank statement from TransferWise, and attached it as a two page PDF
  3. Proof of medical coverage – I attached the one page document Sanitas sent me verifying my coverage for another year
  4. Proof of payment – I attached a photo of the receipt from BBVA showing that I paid the appropriate fee
  5. Empadronamiento certificate – This actually wasn’t in the list of documents that was requested via the online portal, but it is normally required for a renewal in person. So I figured I would attach a PDF copy of it anyways, figuring if anything it was just going to help. In terms of the category for the attachment, I just chose “other”

I won’t lie, I was a bit hesitant to finally submit it. I’m happy to be a trendsetter, but really didn’t want this whole renewal process to blow up in my face for some reason if I did something wrong. But I decided it was worth trying, so eventually clicked submit.

When everything is complete, you are given the option to download two documents representing your submission, and I suggest everyone download them and store them somewhere safe. In Spain if they don’t give you a response within three months you are automatically approved, so this documentation will be your proof should that happen.

Open to download two PDF documents

Option to download two PDF documents

Once submitted, you can check the status of your non-lucrative renewal application online. You will need your NIE number, the date of application (which was the date you submitted it, also shown inside one of the two PDF documents you downloaded), and your birth year. When I checked after I submitted mine, the website said to try again as my data was incorrect. It took about 36 hours to eventually show some data, and currently says “EN TRAMITE”, or “IN PROGRESS”.

Non-lucrative Status Update

I imagine it will be a few weeks before the status of my application changes, but I’ll update this post once it does. But so far it seems like everything is going according to plan, and it does indeed look like it is possible to perform a renewal of the non-lucrative visa online. So stay tuned.

Buying Property In Spain: An Overview

If you’re on this page, chances are that you are looking for information on how to buy a property in Spain and are looking for more information. You’re in luck! I recently went through the process of buying a property here in Valencia and have documented the entire process.

This information has been split into a series of posts, each of which will give you more information on each part of the process. To find out how to buy your dream property in Spain, please refer to the following posts:

  1. Many home buyers in Spain use a mortgage to help finance their property – Spanish banks will usually even lend to non-residents. It’s usually a good idea to obtain a pre-approval on a mortgage of a mortgage broker before starting your search – How To Get A Mortgage In Spain
  2. Next you’ll likely want to do a search to identify which properties you are interested in – Searching For A Property In Spain
  3. Stay tuned for more in this series soon!

If you have any specific questions regarding buying a property in Spain then please contact me directly, and leave a comment here and I’ll get back to you shorty.

Buying A Property In Spain: Obtaining A Mortgage

If you’re able to finance the entire purchase of a property in cash then you are ready to make your offer. But most people nowadays typically engage a bank or a lender at this point to obtain a mortgage to finance a portion of their property purchase in Spain.

The mortgage system in general here in Spain is quite a bit different than back home. Unlike in Canada where most mortgages are amortized over a longer period (such as 25 years), but are renewable every five years, most Spanish mortgages are fixed for the entire term. What that means is a person can get a mortgage here for a certain interest rate, say 2.5% interest, fixed over the entire 20 year term – that’s as close to free money as you’ll find nowadays in my opinion, without the risk of interest rates changing while you own your home.

When I first started talking to banks about getting a mortgage, I realized that with my limited Spanish and short bank history the process was likely to be a bit difficult. My own bank, BBVA, looked over all my documents and basically said they’d call me back at some point. But other than an initial indication of the offer they might be willing to extend to me, never followed up with me after I expressed interest. Shortly afterwards BBVA changed their lending rules to make it harder to non-residents to obtain a mortgage here, so I didn’t pursue that avenue any further.

Thankfully there are mortgage brokers here in Spain that can work in English and generally have good contacts at the banks. If you haven’t heard of a mortgage broker before, essentially they are experts in obtaining mortgages, and often get preferential rates since they do most of the vetting on their side and also send a lot of volume to the banks.

One difference though is that unlike in Canada, where the bank pays a finder’s fee to a mortgage broker directly (essentially making the service free for the purchaser), here in Spain you often pay the mortgage broker for their services. While the costs for a mortgage broker generally vary, in my case I was presented with an initial scenario that my broker said they would be able to get me from one of their banks. At that point I was asked to pay €495 to formally secure the mortgage, with the caveat that if they couldn’t officially obtain a mortgage that was the same or better than their initial scenario, it would be refunded. So I said sure.

When the offers came in, I initially had two different ones from two competing banks: 25 years, 2.9%, 70% down, or 20 years, 2.15%, and 60% down. As a non-resident (from a tax perspective at least, which I still am), typically the most you can obtain for a mortgage is about a 60% loan to value ratio (LTV). Residents can usually get 70-80%, but since I likely won’t be a fiscal resident for another few years, I wasn’t able to get 80%. The 70% was actually appealing, but the documentation required for that one likely involved me visiting the consulate here and authenticating some documents, which seemed like a huge hassle (with various unknowns).

As part of the mortgage broker agreement, once you choose to move forward with a mortgage, you need to pay an additional fee, in my case a final €1,000. Obviously the combined total isn’t cheap, especially when taken in the context of the overall cost of the property, but you really need to keep everything in perspective. First, I might not have even been able to obtain a mortgage on my own, which means I wouldn’t be able to even buy a property. Second, having someone handle the entire process while I was busy working was a huge relief. Third, the rates I obtained were far better than I would have been able to get on my own. I know a few friends of mine here who obtained mortgages through their banks and were given rates of around 2.9%: that difference alone, 0.75%, amounts to roughly €9,100 of interest over the life of the mortgage, so more than enough to make up for the €1,400 or so I spent.

While technically you don’t need to have a mortgage arranged before making an offer on a property, it will make the negotiation process (and subsequent closing) much easier if you do. So it’s probably a good idea to approach your bank or to engage a mortgage broker to obtain a pre-approval before you make an offer. You can certainly add a clause into the contract saying it’s dependent on you obtaining a mortgage, but to be honest it’s a bit of a bad deal for the seller since they are basically taking their property off for a month or two for your benefit alone. So many sellers will simply decline any contract with that clause in it. My advice is to make sure you can obtain a mortgage before you get that far.

If you are looking for a great mortgage broker in Spain, I highly recommend Mortgage Direct SL – they were absolutely great to work with, and obtained two pre-approval offers for me.

Once you know you are set with a mortgage, it’s time to put in the official offer. The next post in this series will deal with that, so stay tuned.

Buying A Property in Spain: The Search

For those of my friends that follow me online, you may have noticed that I’m currently in the process of buying a flat here in Valencia. While the process isn’t quite over yet, I wanted to give people information on everything that is involved here. I’ll break this out into a multi-part series, the first part of which is this one: how to find a property in Spain.

Looking For A Property

If you’re starting out in a search for a property, chances are you are already looking at some of the more popular real estate websites such as idealista.es or fotocasa.es. For the most part, those are the two websites I used the most when I started searching.

Another good tip for people to find a property is to walk around the neighbourhood they are interested in and simple scan all the windows looking for “for sale” signs. Many older people likely don’t think of using the internet or an agency for their properties, so you may end up with a good deal if you do spot a private sale only listed privately in a window.

Differences Compared To Back Home

The Spanish property market differs in many ways compared to the Canadian one. For example, agents here in Valencia typically represent the seller, and when you engage an agent you typically can only see the properties they have in their collection. So that means if you want to see another property that isn’t in a particular agency’s collection, you need to contact the agency representing that property. The last part is a bit tricky as well, since agents aren’t exclusive here – it means multiple agencies can list the same property at the same time, and whoever shows the property and closes the sale will get the commission.

One of the inherent problems that creates is that every agency will make you sign a document basically agreeing that they will get the commission if you buy that property – so once you sign it, make sure you in fact do buy that property with that particular agency, otherwise you may end up paying commission twice.

While in many parts of Spain the seller pays for the entirety of the agency’s commission, in some other parts of Spain (like Valencia) the commission is actually split between the buyer and seller. That may be a bit shocking, but the argument could be made that the buyer is paying the commission in both cases since the price likely reflects the commission that needs to be paid as well.

Often the document you will sign to visit an apartment (here in Valencia at least) will state the agreed upon commission rate, typically on the order of 3% of the purchase price. If you don’t sign the document then you likely won’t get to visit the apartment, so really the agencies have all the power at this point. While I’ve been told you can negotiate those rates lower, you really don’t have any leverage to do so at the beginning, since you haven’t made an offer and are not in the process of making one.

In my case I was ‘lucky’ in that the property I was interested in was a private sale, so both the seller and myself didn’t have to pay any agency fees. My end of that would have amounted to roughly €5,200, so it’s not exactly chump change.

Once you find a property that you like, the next steps are to make sure you can obtain a mortgage for it (if required), and then make an offer.

An Ode To Europe

I’ve been living in Spain, and consequently Europe now, for about ten months. While I’ve always enjoyed the time I’ve spent in ‘the old world’, I’ve really come to appreciate it much more now than I’m an actual resident here in Spain. So I thought I’d make a post about some of the aspects of living in Europe I really enjoy.

Freedom of Travel

Previously as a Canadian resident I was allowed up to a 90 day visit in a rolling 180 day window in any of the Schengen countries. That may sound like a lot, but there are 26 countries in the region and those 90 days can go by pretty quick if you are bouncing between them. In many countries when your visa expires you can simply leave for a few hours and then come back (popularly called a ‘visa run’ amongst digital nomads), but that’s not possible in the Schengen region due the rolling 180 day window – basically if you are here for 90 days, you have to leave for 90 days in order to be able to come back.

Now I don’t have completely unrestricted travel in Europe compared to an actual EU citizen: while I can stay in Spain indefinitely, the 90 day clock starts ticking when I leave Spain and visit other countries in the Schengen region. But when that time expires I can simply come back to Spain and regroup, since I am a bonafide resident here whereas before I’d have to leave the Schengen region completely. Even still it’s a huge advantage being able to reside where I want in Europe and do various trips from here.

Affordability of Travel

While Valencia does have a pretty decent airport, it certainly isn’t as large a hub as Madrid or Barcelona. That said, I can pretty much get anywhere in Europe from Valencia for less than the cost of a one way ticket to Calgary back in Canada. Back in December I flew to Tenerife in the Spanish Canary Islands for approximately 27 Euros ($40 CAD) – that’s a three hour flight. So other than the odd road trip to Seattle back in Canada, the options for doing a weekend adventure back home are pretty limited. Whereas here in Valencia I can easily visit other parts of Europe whenever I want.

Of course, many people here in Europe think the low-cost carriers are evil. Some of them probably are. But it’s pretty hard to resist the temptation to visit another part of Europe for €20-€30 Euros, and I’ve taken advantage of it a few times, often with just a carry-on bag.

Prevalence of Trains

For whatever reason train travel isn’t very popular in North America. In fact, other than a few distinct routes along the rocky mountains and to and from Seattle, I don’t know of many passenger routes in Canada – I’m sure they exist, but they certainly aren’t popular. Here in Europe train travel is extremely prevalent, and in many cases the preferred means of travel.

Madrid is about 360km away from Valencia, but thanks to the high speed Ave train that travels at up to 300km/hr, is only takes about 1 hour and 30 minutes. It’s not a super cheap route (about $50 CAD each way), but there’s something to be said for just walking on and off the train without a whole pile of security, and also being able to watch the world casually float by from a window seat.

Whenever I have the chance to visit someone by train here in Spain, I usually jump at it. Usually there is a bar car at the back of the train with drinks and food, Wi-Fi available, and often a table in front of my chair that I can set my laptop on. So I can easily get in a full work day while chatting it up with various other passengers along the way. It’s a very enjoyable experience that I wish we had more of back in Canada.

Ease of Banking

One thing Europeans have figured out is their banking system. After using the banking applications here and also moving money to and from Canada for the last ten months, I can say with certainly just how behind we are on most things in the banking world. While we applaud ourselves in Canada for being able to send a $3,000 transfer using an email address (Interact e-Transfer), I can send money to anyone in the European union, usually instantaneously, using their IBAN number. Sure, it’s a 16-20 digit number which is a bit of a pain to type in, but thanks to internal error checking within the algorithm it’s essentially impossible to make a mistake when typing it. That means once it’s typed in, and accepted, you can be sure it’s valid since there are various check-digits along the way.

For example, to pay the €5,000 Euro deposit on the flat I am going to buy, I simply punched in the seller’s IBAN number into my BBVA (Spanish Bank) application, clicked “Send”, typed in €5,000 for the amount, and boom, it was there pretty much instantaneously. And of course you get detailed receipts of any transaction you do, so you can easily prove receipt of funds for legal purposes and more.

Quality of Life

This isn’t a European benefit per se, but the quality of life I enjoy in Spain is pretty fantastic. First, there are roughly 300 days of sunshine every year in my area (not to be confused with Vancouver’s “300+ days of sunshine per year”, where they count each time the sun peaks out from a cloud for 30 seconds a day to get counted). A day of sunshine here is basically a full day of sunshine, so imagine 300 or more days without any clouds or rain.

In fact when I first arrived it seemed strange to me to go for so long without seeing any rain. It’s amazing how much better your mood and well-being is when the weather is almost always nice.

I also had to make use of the medical system here in Spain a few months ago, and it was a great experience. Of course I have private insurance, and many locals just have public insurance, so my experience likely isn’t the norm. But I was able to get diagnosed by a specialist, complete an MRI on my knee, and have the results back, all within about two weeks. In Canada that would take 3 – 6 months at the minimum, and you’d likely have to fight your doctor along the way just to get you in front of a specialist. I can actually book an appointment myself directly with a specialist here as well – no need to waste my general practitioner’s time if I know exactly who the best person is to deal with the issue is.

In Short

So as I sit here in the Valencia airport getting ready to board a flight to Germany (which is essentially a domestic flight since I’m traveling to and from the EU), I can’t help but feel a bit privileged to have spent most of the last ten months living and enjoying Europe. As my cottage back home is rented until at least January at this point, I’ll likely continue staying here for the foreseeable future, and likely will be spending the next few months renovating a flat in Valencia.

But without a doubt I’ve definitely enjoyed my time here, and encourage other people looking to try living in Spain or Europe to jump at the chance.

Renewing The Non-Lucrative Visa In Spain

Well it’s hard to believe, but I’ve been in Spain nearly ten months now. My original non-lucrative residency is valid until August 30th, 2019, but the rules stipulate that a person can start the renewal process up to 60 days in advance, which means I can start the renewal process on July 1, 2019.

The renewal process is significantly less involved than the first application – you don’t need any criminal record checks for example, and the fees are basically administrative in nature. So I’m mostly looking at this as a formality. Compared to the original visa though (which was only valid for one year) this new renewal is valid for two full years.

The downside of that is that because the visa is non-lucrative in nature (in that a person can’t be working in Spain), Spain requires you to show that you can afford to live without making any money. For the first application, that amounted to one full year of expenses in the bank. But since this renewal is good for two years, basically you need to show two full years of expenses in the bank. Like most things in Spain, your mileage may vary. It’s quite possible a person can simply submit proof of funds for one year and have it approved, but in general most people need to submit proof of two years worth of savings at the current rates.

In terms of what’s required, here’s a rough list to assemble before renewing your non-lucrative visa:

  • EX-01 Form – this is the non-lucrative application form. The first time you applied you would have selected “INICIAL” for the type of application; this time around we need to select ” 1ª Renovación”, the 1st renewal.
  • Proof of funds (certified translation required) amounting to €2,130/mo, or €51,120. Sometimes they will ask for this to be in a Spanish bank account, but you should be able to get away without it. For the second case though, you will likely need a certified Spanish translation of the proof. I’m planning on taking one of my monthly reports for my retirement account and having it translated by a certified/sworn translator.
  • Padron Certificate – you need your empadronamiento certificate. If you have your digital certificate, you can easily generate a new one online. But hopefully you are still registered at a place, as this was one of my hang-ups with getting my TIE card originally.
  • Photocopies of every page of your passport – you need to actually prove you’ve been living in Spain for six months. In the old days people would obtain the non-lucrative visa and just come and go as they pleased, often only staying here a few months a year. Spain now only wants people who actually want to live in Spain (and ultimately pax taxes here – can’t say I blame them), so you will likely be denied the renewal if you didn’t spend six months here. So the point of asking for all the pages of you passport is to look at the stamps to get an indication of how long you spend in Spain.
  • Photocopies of the front and back of your TIE card – I’m not entirely sure why they need this, but apparently they do.
  • Medical Insurance – My Sanitas plan from last year (which I think was a great investment, they have been amazing to me) automatically renewed for another year on May 31, 2019. I did have to contact them via their online chat though and ask for proof of the extended period, since all the documentation I had only showed my plan was valid until May 31, 2019. But they send me a PDF via email in about 24 hours with proof of my renewal.
  • Tax Form: Code 790, Tasa 52 – You have to fill this out and pay the fee associated with the non-lucrative renewal. The option you want to select is “Renovación de autorización de residencia temporal”, and the fee at the time of this writing as €16.08, payable at most banks.
  • Proof of payment – keep your receipt for paying the Code 790, Tasa 52 form above.

One of my main sources of confusion is where to actually go to process the renewal. When I arrived in Valencia, I already was approved for my visa, and simply had to get my fingerprints taken while submitting the paperwork for the TIE card. This time around you need to get approval first, and then redo the procedure of getting an updated card.

I’m only about two weeks away from having to do this procedure, so I’ll update everyone with the results once I get started. I recently submitted a document to be translated by a sworn translator, and I’ll likely be able to pick it up in the next few days.

Update – I chose to attempt to renew my non-lucrative visa online. If you’re interested in that process, read how to renew your non-lucrative visa online.

Using Your Digital Certificate For A New Padrón

In a previous article we showed how to obtain your digital certificate here in Spain. One of the benefits of having it is it will allow you to do some services here in Spain that would normally involve having to take a trip somewhere and stand in a queue for an hour or more, or make an online appointment and eventually show up somewhere.

One such service is the empadronamiento – registering with the town hall. You will need to do your first empadronamiento in person once arriving in Spain, that’s basically so they can check your documentation and your rental or ownership documents. But once that is done, and assuming you haven’t moved anywhere, it’s possible using your digital certificate to simply download a new copy of your padrón certificate from your computer. Each certificate is only valid for three months, so at some point you will likely need a new copy.

After installing your digital certificate, navigate to this link from the browser you installed the certificate on. The website is normally in Valenciano, so you may need to select Castellano to make sense of it.

Once there, click the button in the “Acceso con certificado digital” section – access with your digital certificate.

Access with your digital certificacte

Access with your digital certificacte

Once your click the button, your browser will likely issue a dialog box asking if you want to be identified using your digital certificate – it should look something like this:

Identification

After that, you should be presented with a dropdown box for you to select the reason you want a new padrón certificate. For me, I typically use the “Permiso de Residencia” option – residency permission.

Select the reason for the padrón

Select the reason for the padrón

Once you click that, it should generate a new certificate for you and let you save it as a PDF.

And presto:

New Padrón Certificate

New padrón certificate, valid for three months from this date.

As you can see, this is a very easy way to get a new certificate without having to go through the hassle of going into the ayuntamiento in person, which often requires an appointment weeks in advance. I’ve been told it’s possible to renew a non-lucrative visa this way too, so I’m going to be testing that out at the end of June when I’m allowed to renew.

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