When I wrote this series of posts last year, I never dreamed another entry would be needed so soon! Such is life. A friend & I began househunting online during the height of the pandemic, mainly as a way to pass time. So without trying, we learned a lot about the real estate market in Spain. When our landlady decided not to renew our lease for 2021, I put all that research to work & became a first-time property owner.
El Pedroso, España
Over the course of five years, Rafa & I had turned our Sevilla apartment into a cozy home. We even grew to love our neighborhood of El Porvenir & got along well with everyone in our building —no small accomplishment. During the pandemic, ultra-right neighbors made their political feelings evident & we toyed with the idea of searching for a new apartment in a different part of the city. No rush, or so we thought.
In December 2020 with Christmas festivities in full swing, our landlady advised that she wouldn’t be renewing our lease. Complete shock to us & incredibly poor timing on her part. Evidently as a retiree, she’d be eligible for a huge reduction in property tax when selling the apartment in the future… provided it was her primary residence for three years prior to the sale. So Esther wanted to move back in. Fine, the property belongs to her. But eight months notice gave us more time to worry & put a big damper on the season.
The search begins…
January is the worst time to find apartments in Sevilla. Pickings were slim & prices high. As another alternative, Rafa & I decided to look for a place to buy. Property values had not decreased during the pandemic as many predicted, but they hadn’t risen much either (about 2% compared to 5% pre-pandemic). Real estate in Sevilla is not as expensive as Madrid or Barcelona, however most places were out of our budget… especially with Rafa just beginning to resume tours & me not working at all.
Rafa took a break from the stress & visited a small town about 1 hour north of Sevilla with lots of outdoor hiking options: El Pedroso. As he walked around town, he sent back photos of houses with For Sale signs. Neither of us had considered the Sierra Morena, so I got on the internet to have a look. Affordable prices, only 2,000 people in town, train & bus connections to Sevilla, & better weather. More important, a town we could visit in person given COVID travel restrictions. We planned to rent a car to see properties in Higuera de la Sierra, Aracena, even Cumbres Mayores… but until the number of COVIE cases dropped, we couldn’t go to the adjacent province.
Long story short: Rafa & I visited only two places in El Pedroso but kept thinking the first one. Got it right the first time. We didn’t even bother with other towns in Huelva due to cost & transportation issues. As you can see from Rafa’s sketch above, there’s very little regular about our place on an almost V-shaped lot… one of its main charms. Built in 2007 from part of a 1967 house, the previous owners took immaculate care of the property they designed. Half is a two-storey house, the other half is a split-level patio & both have a very Andalusian rural vibe. At 118 square meters with 1.5 baths, the house isn’t huge but just right for the two of us. The patio adds another 48 square meters to the property.
At first I had difficulty envisioning the house with our belongings inside or seeing it with our choice of paint. But we dove in… negotiated the price, signed a contract of intent to buy, issued a check & dealt with the notary. The entire process had stressful moments, but overall everything proceeded as planned. Rafa & I became homeowners on Pride Day, with movers taking our stuff from Sevilla two weeks later!
We’ve spent the past few months cleaning, assembling, drilling, painting, designing, ordering things we forgot we needed on Amazon, meeting neighbors & just settling in. Compare the photos above & below to see the difference. We’ve yet to spend our first winter here, but with a chimney & plenty of firewood Rafa & I will be just fine.
Still lots to do: add a bit more decoration, get plants + a table for the upper patio, turn the lower patio into a food garden, get the bookcase unit from the carpenter (our large library is still in boxes!), find hallway light fixtures… as with all houses, the list goes on & on. But Rafa & I are having fun with the process.
Interestingly, many people we know in Sevilla were less than enthusiastic when we told them of our decision to move to a small, rural town. Comments ranged from “how boring” to “you’ll soon get tired of the train ride.” As if we hadn’t considered all options before spending a huge chunk of our savings & making this big change. Is it so difficult to be happy for others? We’re thrilled to be here, still love the train ride & for the moment I can say this is a dream come true.
Places lived series: Florida/Iowa/Alabama 1970-75 ● Memphis 1975-88 ● On campus 1988-94 ● Seattle 1994-98 ● Cádiz 1998-99 ● Memphis/Seattle 1999-2000 ● Buenos Aires 2000-08 ● Sydney 2008-09 ● Buenos Aires 2009-13 ● Esquel 2013-14 ● Seattle yet again 2015-16 ● Sevilla 2016-2021 ● El Pedroso 2021-present