Monday, May 28, 2012

What mass exodus are they talking about?

I read in the papers about thousands, even hundreds of thousands of ex-pats leaving Spain to return to the UK – why?

Well there are many reasons why those who came here might want to return to their homeland. The main one seems to be that they can no longer afford to live here.

Those of us who are retired with a pension have suffered as a result of the worsening exchange rate. Back in 2004 the rate was about 1.50 Euros to the pound. When it dropped to 1 Euro to the pound we effectively lost one third of our monthly income. Now it has recovered to 1.25 Euros to the pound things are a little better but of course the cost of living in Spain has risen dramatically since the financial crisis hit the country.

The worst off group are those who came to work here. Many sought jobs in property sales which have plummeted almost to nothing. There were plenty of others who, during their 2 – 3 hour  flight to Spain, became experts on home maintenance, building repairs, plumbing and of course pool maintenance. They largely relied on British customers because they did not have a command of Spanish. Cash strapped Brits can no longer afford their services and those that need help seek out cheaper local Spanish craftsmen and women.

Then we have those who bought their houses with a mortgage they can no longer afford or who were lulled into the idea that their holiday home would pay for itself with rental income. Handing over the keys and defaulting on their mortgages may solve the problem for the owners but it saddles the banks with even more toxic debt.

The price of returning to Britain is high. House prices here are about 40% less than they were in 2008 so, even if you can find a buyer, you are likely to see no return on your investment. When the Euro was equal to the pound that might not have been so bad but as the Euro weakens, the pounds you get to set back up in Britain gets less.

It is fair to say though that the majority of people who did move to Spain are happy to stay here and brave out the economic woes of the country. The reasons we left Britain still apply – nothing has actually changed there to lull us back. A few days of unexpected sunshine in Britain does not compensate for the months of glorious weather we enjoy here on the Costa Blanca. A few days back in England makes Pam and I realise we did the right thing.

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