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FINCAS ON THE COSTA BLANCA, SPAIN

And even if you are an adventurous, independent and self sufficient person who loves the Costa Blanca countryside, it may still be an idea to think again. A property beside a village that has water and electricity connections can make a good home but a finca with neither can be very testing. Purchasers of these properties will often end up selling.

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Costa Blanca Rural History

The Costa Blanca coastline has been inhabited from ancient times but it was only with the Moorish invasion of Spain that the Costa Blanca interior was developed agriculturally by North African Arab speaking settlers. They were governed from Granada and dominated the area for 600 years from the 8th Century onward, founding most of the interior Costa Blanca villages (anything that starts with "Beni" like Benimarco, Benitachell, Benissa, Benichembla etc.) and fortresses such as Guadalest. The miles of attractive dry stone terraces are their work, as are the numerous mountain footpaths. They cultivated olives, almonds and wheat and would leave their villages to work in these miniature fields that sometimes had rough stone shelters. With the Christian re conquest the Moorish villages were abandoned and later partly resettled by people from Mallorca in an effort to raise rural rents. The area has continued to be lightly populated since then, especially recently, as young people prefer to work on the coast.

Fincas and Villages

Spanish villagers will typically live in a town house in the "pueblo" and maybe have a rural finca (land with a farmhouse /cottage) that they use at weekends for family outings and to store crops. The finca is built with this in mind, which accounts for the fact that many are constructed in the simplest way. A typical Costa Blanca finca will have thick rubble filled lime cement stone walls painted with a cal whitewash and with various interior niches and hooks for pots and clothing. The floor can be earth or tiles, with a roof varying from uncut small tree trunks, covered in bamboo matting and tiles to the more recent concrete beams with air bricks and tiling. It has small barred windows designed to keep out the sun and heat and a sometimes a covered terrace. The family and friends will prepare their Paella type lunch here or under a nearby pine tree and enjoy a rural party that lasts into the late afternoon. Ex villagers who now live on the coast will often return to their fincas with their families for a weekend visit.

Purchasing and Living in a Costa Blanca Finca

Planning: Unlike a village house, a finca is classified as rural in town hall plans, and is designated as an agricultural property with a shelter or tool store on it. To extend the building you will need a minimum amount of land that can vary from municipality to municipality but which will be around 10.000 m2 to 15.000m2 on the Costa Blanca. If you have less than this, then the construction must remain as it is, although it can be renovated. It can't be extended or have permission for a residential feature like a swimming pool.

Water and Electricity: Rainwater is collected and channeled into a cement lined underground tank called a "Pozo". It has access through a small entrance in the top that allows you to put down a step ladder if it needs to be repaired or cleaned. Most fincas will have one, but if it doesn't, a lorry can bring water to be stored in a plastic tank. Water stored underground will usually come up by bucket or hand pump. Drinking water will be 5 litre bottles bought in the village. If the village is nearby, the finca may have mains water.
A diesel generator will normally provide electricity although it is possible to negotiate with the the electricity supplier (Iberdrola) for the installation of a line and posts to the property if there is a power line nearby. The high cost of the posts and the installation is paid by the finca owner and in practice this can be worthwhile for distances under half a kilometer. Solar energy can charge batteries and provide lighting with another alternative here being gas or paraffin lamps.

Property Survey: Most finca properties are old buildings so expect humidity in winter and no damp proof coursing. The walls are wide and provide good insulation but a typical rural finca for sale may not meet normal standards of habitability. The metres of existing construction are important here as they may decide how large a renovated property can be.

Septic tanks need to be checked (if there is any sanitation at all) and it is a good idea to look at the access road and distance to the nearest village. Earth roads quickly become difficult in heavy rain and a 4x4 is a good idea if you are planning to use the access all year. It's also a good idea for an emergency if you are not kilometers away from other inhabited properties. Rural fincas are lonely places that are often only occupied by occasional weekend visitors.

Documentation: Land title should of course be registered in the name of the person who is selling you the finca and your lawyer will check that the property has no inscribed debts. Rustic boundaries are not always clear so it is advisable to employ a topographer to measure and provide a land plan. Rights of way will also show in the registry and it may be that the owner has a right of way for access to his finca across a neighbour's land or that he in turn has to concede a right of way.

Agriculture: A Costa Blanca dry land finca will usually be terraced with almond and olive trees that need some pruning and preparation of the soil if they are to provide a viable crop. Other than that they're trouble free and the harvest can be collected and sold for a small amount to a village cooperative. The higher Costa Blanca villages like Fleix and Benimaurell specialize in cherry orchards and on some richer irrigated coastal land oranges grow well. Either way this is in not a viable way to make a living. Shops are miles away and the smaller mountain villages often only have a visiting vans to provide a weekly street market for essentials.