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Camino Frances: Between Sarria and Portomarin (2.5km before Portomarin)
We have had so many people, from friends and family to total strangers, ask us so many questions. From our decision process, how did we find the property, how did we buy the property in a foreign country, what was the process? Every day we are learning more about the immigration/legal/business and taxation. Then add in a PANDEMIC and the world just gets even crazier!!
This is our attempt at answering these questions!!
"Better to die with your memories than your dreams"
My wife, Dominique, and I are American pilgrims that own an Albergue on the Camino Frances. As I write this, I am sitting in our Albergue, Casa Banderas in Galicia, in the province of Lugo, in the Concello de Paradela, in the Parochia of As Cortes in the village of Vilacha’. Our Albergue is between Sarria and Portomarin on the last 115 km of the Camino Frances. We are at the 94.1 km mark. Just approximately 3 km from Portomarin. The Pandemic is still here, and Spain is painfully slow at getting their citizens vaccinated. (note: both my wife and I were vaccinated with the Moderna vaccine in February and March). It is Easter Sunday and I have seen more and more pilgrims every day.
How did we get here? Did you do 12 Caminos and work as volunteers and researched the purchase for years before DOING IT? How did you find and buy an Albergue in Spain right on the Camino? What did you have to do to buy in a foreign country? Did you have to get visas and work permits? What about business licenses and tourism inspections? Was it as easy as just buying the Albergue and then you opened right up and started taking care of pilgrims?
So, to start this journey I have to give you a bit of background. As I child my parents brought us to Spain every summer from when I was 6 until I was 14 years old. My mom was a Spanish teacher (originally from Nicaragua) and had developed a business where my dad and her would bring her advance Spanish students for a month to Spain. They bought an apartment in Almunecar (on the Costa de Sol) and we would travel all over Spain taking in the culture and sights and sounds of Spain. My mom is now retired and lives in Motril Spain.
But the Camino was never mentioned and was not at all in our radar. This was from 1967 to 1975. Spain was a completely different place during those years!! So, I did not become aware of the Camino until 2016 when a Spanish friend of ours would lead groups of people on the Camino. My wife on the other hand has known about it her entire life (very Catholic) and has dreamt of walking the Camino.
In May of 2018, my 82-year-old dad decided that he was going to walk the full Camino Frances by himself!! It was an amazing journey to have an active, healthy, incredibly smart 82-year-old dad to myself on the Camino. One of the greatest gifts!! I learned more about my dad in those days then I knew in 57 years of being his son. The Camino also taught me patience and to slow down and enjoy and SEE the world and the beauty that is Galicia and the people!!! After all I was walking with an 82-year-old man!! We were not breaking any speed records and by the way the man can snore!! Ear plugs did not work because you could FEEL the snore resonate through your entire body.
But what about my wife Dominique? Who has been dreaming of this journey her entire life? You want to talk about jealous and upset that I went without her!! I walked in May with my dad so I made a promise to her that we would walk in October of the same year. We could not take enough time off to walk the entire route. So we did the Sarria to Santiago. It was such a different adventure. Even though I had done it in May and I was familiar it was different. We stayed in different places. Our pace was faster but still comfortable and the people you meet are fantastic. We both fell in love with Camino family and the land of Galicia. We both started the seed of changing our lives and DOING something different. But at that time, we had two kids in their first year of university studies and our last still a sophomore in High School. So, like so many others it became a “dream”. We went back to California and experienced the post Camino (whatever you want to call it) what are we doing with our lives??!!
My wife, Dominique, and I are American pilgrims that own an Albergue on the Camino Frances. As I write this, I am sitting in our Albergue, Casa Banderas in Galicia, in the province of Lugo, in the Concello de Paradela, in the Parochia of As Cortes in the village of Vilacha’. Our Albergue is between Sarria and Portomarin on the last 115 km of the Camino Frances. We are at the 94.1 km mark. Just approximately 3 km from Portomarin. It is early April 2021. If you have read part 1 of my story it gives you some background into our experiences on the Camino.
Reality strikes and you finish the Camino and head back home to reality, kids, work, running a business, and all the usual stressors of life. But the Camino is there!! Not in the back of your head but screaming out of your frontal lobe.
We started looking at all the stuff in our lives and the stressors that were making us mentally stressed and sometimes physically ill. It was time for a change. Almost immediately, every evening, we started google searching for properties for sale along the Camino. There was not much and the ones that were for sale were either way too big or way too expensive for our budget.
One day, 17 October 2018, remember my wife and I had just gotten home, I came upon a web search for an Albergue for sale. It was still a bit over our budget but it had contact information with an email.
What the heck, I sent an inquiry….Nothing.
On 23 November, “Good evening. We are wondering if this property is still for sale?....Nothing!!
On 28 December, “Hello I am very interested to know whether or not your property on the Camino is still for sale?
Thank you in advance for a timely response.
FINALLY on 30 December we get a response,
The answer is yes .....the Albergue is still for sale as an operating and licensed business.
the price we were asking about a year ago was Euros xxx,xxx but we have since come down to Euros xxx,xxx which is a gift for a complete up and running business!!!!
I have a woman from the Netherlands who is keen to rent the premises for a year
starting January, so if you are a keen buyer you must come to the party soon so that we are not selling an occupied house.”
Contact had been made!! The process had begun. We live in California trying to buy an Albergue in Galicia Spain, from a man who is currently living in the Netherlands. One of the main reasons he was selling it was because he had some major health issues.
During the negotiations it became very difficult to communicate with him, because of his health issues so he differed the negotiations to his son who lives in Northern Ireland. Now you have to understand that as we say in America, “this is not our first rodeo”. Dominique and I own very successful businesses and we own residential and commercial properties (in the United States) but not in Spain!! We have never bought property in a foreign country and have no earthly idea of all the rules and customs on doing so.
We hired a Spanish real estate law firm to help us navigate the process and to help us with the due diligence. This law firm is based out of Madrid and Barcelona and what we even found with that is that some things are standardized. But there are some regional differences as well.
My wife, Dominique, and I are American pilgrims that own an Albergue on the Camino Frances. As I write this, I am sitting in our Albergue, Casa Banderas in Galicia, in the province of Lugo, in the Concello de Paradela, in the Parroquia of As Cortes in the village of Vilacha’, in the Ribera Sacra wine region. Our Albergue is between Sarria and Portomarin on the last 115 km of the Camino Frances. We are at the 94.1 km mark. Just approximately 3 km from Portomarin. It is early April 2021. If you have read parts 1 and 2 of our story it gives you some background into our experiences on the Camino and the beginning of our journey to find and purchase Casa Banderas.
My wife instantly fell in love with the property. An emotion is very powerful but……there are so many things that have to be done to buy anything in Spain. The first item is a NIE number (Número de Identidad de Extranjero (N.I.E.) or Foreign Identity Number.)
The two real estate agents that were actually representing the seller have been amazing in helping us out even long after the sale. Bonus is one of them speaks pretty good English. Dominique got her NIE in Lugo Spain (at the police station) and I was able to get mine through the Spanish consulate in San Francisco. You have to have the NIE number to buy anything in Spain.
Dominique made the initial viewing of the property in February of 2019 and the negotiations continued with our Spanish real estate attorneys doing their part.
The seller was selling it “fully furnished” and in an “as is” state. We were a bit hesitant because of the age of the structure and that the seller spent 10 years in his summers making it a “Fixer Upper” with his family helping as well as the fact that it had been sitting unused for the last 3 years. We ended up setting up another trip for April of 2019 so that my wife and I and our daughter Emma could come and take a hard look at it and as well as have a pest and termite inspection done. We were told that that this was normally not done but I insisted.
We met the seller and his son for the first time as well as the inspector showed up to do his job. The seller and son came to pack up their personal belonging to ship back to their respective homes and to give away some specific power equipment to local villagers that had helped him out over the years.
There was some miss understanding by the seller that he thought we were bringing a large sum of cash (you cannot do) to pay him on the spot. He told us that was the customary way it was done. I told him that was not my custom, and we wanted the full process to be handled legally through the Spanish system and Notary. The other part was we had not yet decided on a final price. We could tell that he was a bit disappointed.
By May of 2019 with the inspection report having some “minor” issues, amounting to 9,000 € in repairs, we settled on a price and in mid-June my son Jack and I traveled to Madrid where we met with the attorneys who had also helped us set up a bank account in the BBVA bank and transferred the monies to that account. The checks were drafted, and we drove the 5 ½ hours to Galicia.
(Note: Transferring money into a Spanish bank will cost you quite a bit plus you lose in the dollar to euro exchange rate and then the bank charges you to print the cashiers checks)
The meeting was set with the agents and the notary and the official transfer of ownership was completed on 19 June 2019. The money was handed over, all the taxes were paid, and we were given the keys to the property. The wonderful real estate agent also helped us with transferring over the electricity, getting homeowners insurance, and transferring over the business license. She was incredible. In the months to come she helped us so many times with repair issues and getting us in touch with different contractors or repairmen we needed.
We own an Albergue in Spain!!! Let the cleaning and cleaning, and painting, and repairing begin. Oh and by the way, did you know that in order to work in Spain you have to have a residency and work authorization??? That’s Part 4—Stay tuned