27 May 2006

Buying the Flat, Getting a Mortgage & Starting to Go Eco

We found this flat in November last year and since then it has been quite a fight against the money sharks of the Spanish property market! Prices are high and still rising and the owners are normally estate agencies rather than private owners with a lot more experience than most people in the art of rip-off.
So it happened that the owners of this flat tried to sell it to me with a big fat structural wall right through the middle of it which meant no access to half of the flat without some major building work! I had to get my Spanish man to talk to them as 'pretty blonde female' didn'’t seem to be taken seriously when she said she'’s not going to buy it without a doorway. And oh what a surprise! it worked and this week they are putting the door into the dividing wall. Something to bear in mind when buying a flat is that it'’s easy to follow what others tell you rather than to stop and think. In my case the owner of the flat had a very good connection with a bank. So without thinking twice I went there and they gave me an attractive deal. It was so easy and I felt kind of obligated that I didn'’t even think of who I was going to give my money to. Three months later though this bank realised that the flat doesn'’t have the license (called cédula’ in Spanish) you need by law to live in a flat. I mean how could it have those papers if there isn'’t even a bathroom or kitchen in the flat?! Negotiating started all over again, we came to a new agreement but I wasn't very confident with the bank. Which is why (better late than never) I looked into ethical banking and found Triodos.
Meeting with Triodos in their brand new office was a whole different experience. They actually try to understand the whole project, were interested in who I am and what I do not just to make sure I can pay my bills but because they needed to know where the money goes. Their conditions might not be AS good as those an ordinary bank can offer you but at least you sleep well at night and it'’s certainly about more than Euribor.
All this meant quite a few months waiting with a headache but made time for dreaming up a flat. In the end everything happens for a reason they say and here the reason for me having to wait must have been clearly giving birth to the R3project. The idea was always to make my flat eco-friendly since I am an eco designer, grew up amongst vegetables and cows (thanks mum and dad) and have this passion for greening things. BUT I had my reservations: ‘uh, more expensive?... more time consuming?... can I really do it?'…I thought, well, I can install some solar panels later and use eco-friendly paint but will I research everything from what water tap is the most efficient and which heating system makes the most sense?
So this last month when things started looking more positively and we pretty much had assured the buying of the flat I got my act together and decided to go for a full eco-friendly renovation, and share my experiences with you. You can be as eco as you want but when it comes down to practicality it's often easier to go with the flow which right now is not green. I hope my research will help you though make your home more sustainable.

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