One of the biggest problems ex-pats encounter when they start a new life in their Spanish home is that very often their villa or apartment is simply not designed for year-round living. A three-bedroom holiday villa might seem spacious and idyllic when you're on a two-week vacation, living out of a suitcase and spending most of your time lounging by the pool. But it's quite a different matter when you turn up with a removal van full of belongings acquired over the last 40 years!
It's important to be aware that many villas and apartments in and around Spain's coastal resorts were built to accommodate short-term visitors and are not really suitable for permanent living.at least not without some major adjustments. A lack of space can be one of the biggest problems and it might not hit you until you've moved in. Holiday homes tend to have little or no storage space - simply because holidaymakers don't have anything to store. There are no handy under the stairs cupboards, no garden sheds, junk rooms, cellars or attics where you can put your highly prized clutter out of sight and out of mind.
So when you first start viewing properties take into account what, if any, storage facilities are available. If there's a shortage of storage space consider whether you'll be able to add some kind of extension (will you get planning permission, can you afford the extra cost and where will you store everything in the meantime?). Many holiday homes can seem extremely cramped when you try to live in them all year round. They were built for sunshine holidays when daylight hours are spent by the pool or on the beach and nights are spent out on the town so the lack of space doesn't present a problem.
Besides a potential shortage of space, you may also find your dream home is not geared up for extremes of temperature. With many southern resort areas boasting an average of 320 days sunshine a year, coping with the cold may not be something you've given much thought to. But even in the warmest areas of Spain, winters can be downright uncomfortable in a villa with tiled flooring, no wall-to-wall carpeting and no central heating. Some houses are specifically designed to keep out the searing summer sun but that means they're likely to be gloomy and cold out of season. On the sunny Costas, temperatures can drop below freezing in the winter and top 40C in August - so make sure the house you're buying is going to be comfortable at both ends of the scale. You might need to consider the cost of installing central heating, carpeting, ceiling fans and / or air conditioning on top of the purchase price (not generally matters you have to think about when buying a house in northern Europe).
Finally, if you're a sociable type and you're buying into a community development that's a hive of activity in the summer months it's worth checking out whether you're likely to have any neighbours from October to March. Some Spanish "urbanizaciones" become virtual ghost towns out of season as many foreign owners only use their properties for a few months of the year.