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To help Max buy safely, here is some advice from Amanda Lamb and two other experts who know a thing or two about buying character homes in Green Spain

Blakemore Walker Chartered Surveyors (


Max Campos (33) moved to the UK from Argentina seven years ago and works as a sales manager for an airline in Oxford Circus, London.


Max is trained in the hotel industry and would love to open a B&B or guest house of his own. He wants somewhere old and potentially attractive, preferably a renovation project, not only to cut down on price but also so he can create something beautiful. Economics dictate that he would need at least four bedrooms to make it pay but he can start out small and convert or add rooms as he goes along. He would like some land, a small patch preferably, or a larger amount that he could rent out to a local farmer if necessary. Max has around £45,000 in capital, but thinks he can double that with a mortgage and is wondering if there are local grants for renovation to aid rural tourism.


After a couple of holidays there, Max loves northern Spain, especially Asturias and Cantabria. Galicia is perhaps a bit too wet. These are mountainous areas, very popular for rural tourism, but the trouble is that Max wasn’t too keen on driving around the hairpin bends! So he favours something more in the foothills, preferably in the coastal strip. Being within walking distance of a village would be nice, but something way out in the sticks has its attractions too.

REASON FOR BUYING Max loves the UK, especially the Lake District, but opening a B&B anywhere here is beyond his budget, so he is looking at Spain instead. Being Argentinian he speaks the language fl uently. He also has an interest in the arts and is friends with Spanish artists and photographers so he hopes to offer holiday courses in the future.


For a total renovation in Asturias or Cantabria, say a barn conversion, you’re looking at €900 (£769) per sq. metre to comply with all building regs. To renovate an existing house, you could perhaps get the plumbing and electrics done for around €15,000 (£12,820), add €6,000 (£5,128) for a new roof covering, then do the décor yourself, but there are often problems with old timber. Planning is much tighter now, so you may need an architect’s project and planning permission, costing around €15,000 plus council fees. Grants of up to 40 per cent are available in theory, but in practice due to the fi nancial crisis you can’t rely on them. Similarly, mortgages are hard to get on older properties. Galicia is cheaper and Max could try business fi nancing rather than a mortgage. We’ve helped clients fi nd as much as €300K for a tourist renovation. Plus, there is demand for B&Bs here, especially close to the coast.

Carmen Santaeulalia, Spanish Country Cottages (01873 890928,


I think Max should focus on the Turia Valley, 20 to 30 minutes from the sea on the Asturias/Galicia border. It’s ideal for rural tourism, relatively undiscovered and unspoilt, inexpensive and with lots of rural renovation projects. There’s plenty to attract tourists, including mountain walking, cycling, white water rafting, surfi ng, sailing, salmon fi shing, and the villages are like Spain 60 years ago, with traditional crafts and artwork to buy (and homemade cider). It’s popular with Spanish tourists – last summer getting a property to rent was impossible – and depending on size and quality, renting a whole family home will cost €85 to €200 per day, or €30 to €50 for a room in a B&B. Location is vital; Max will need good access, beautiful views, and a mobile signal. Max’s budget won’t get more than fi ve bedrooms at most, but he could then look to renovate outbuildings for holiday lets.

Amanda is presenter of Channel 4’s hit TV series A Place in the Sun



Max will have to make a hard-nosed decision on how much of a renovation he thinks that he can manage. Rural “Green Spain” is littered with gorgeous stone barns that developers in the UK would die for, yet the Spanish seem to have little interest in developing or living in. But you cannot emphasise enough the effort needed to turn them into a business that people will pay to have holidays in, including perhaps connecting up electricity and making access roads. Max’s customers will demand sumptuous bathrooms; yet these places at present may get water from a well! It’s not impossible though. I’ve seen newcomers to rural Spain creating stunning homes in the very back of beyond, while really becoming part of the community – speaking Spanish fl uently will be a great help too. The easier option is to buy a house, however ramshackle, gutting it and remaking it. There will be savings in planning permission, water supply and access, and it will give them somewhere to live while doing the renovation.


THE PLACE The northern coast of Spain from San Sebastián on the French border to La Coruña in Galicia, is one of the least visited yet most accessible parts of Spain. It has a rural earthiness yet is renowned for Bilbao’s art galleries, and Galicia’s and San Sebastián’s wonderful cuisine. It has hundreds of miles of sandy beaches, including some of Europe’s best surfi ng locations, and the Picos de Europa mountain range, where wolves and bears still roam wild. It also boasts the most famous pilgrim trail in the world, the Camino of Santiago de Compostela.

WHERE TO GO The Costa Verde, as it is known, includes several world-class

cities, such as Bilbao with its Guggenheim museum and Santander – now famous for its bank but also an attractive and vibrant port city. The scenery and coastline, with its cosy fi shing towns such as Llanes, are what make this area so special though.


Though not scorching hot like in the south, Green Spain averages 5ºC – 6ºC warmer than southern England, meaning you can sunbathe in summer without the desperate need to be in the shade. Precipitation is similar to south-western England, with plenty of rain in the winter months but just enough to keep the gardens green in summer. Expect snow in the mountains, but rarely at sea level.


Turn over to see the four exciting properties we found for Max

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