Category Archives: The Backstory

My NIE… finally!

My NIE… finally!

We had to get up nice and early to meet up with Lucas to make our way to the Oficina de Extranjeros or Foreigner’s Office. It was not easy to drag out of bed because, although the bedroom was toasty warm, the bathroom and downstairs were muy frio! After making coffee in the french press (also left by the previous owner) and having eggs, bread and marmalade, we were ready to head out. (As a side note: we noticed that the eggs were super “eggy” if that makes any sense. A little like when you buy organic, free range chicken eggs in the States, but even more “eggy.” They were awesome.)

Once again we felt like we were in some movie, because Lucas told us to meet him at a roundabout just off one of the highways on the way to Almeria. We stopped at that roundabout and waited for his car. Some guy pulled up and stopped on the other side of the roundabut and we thought, “Is that him? It looks like a different car…” and when we drove over, we did indeed find that it was some other random guy waiting for someone else. I guess it’s normal to meet people at roundabouts!

Lucas arrived shortly after that and we followed him to Almeria. On the way down, we saw lots and lots of greenhouses. I mean LOTS! Apparently millions of tons of vegetables are exported from here each year. While that’s great as far as the production of fruits and vegetables goes, it wasn’t too pretty for the landscape. From the car, it was hard to get a good picture, but it was literally miles and miles of greenhouses.

Greenhouses in Almeria province

Almeria is a nice city on the south eastern coast and is the capital of the province of Almeria. We had never been there, so it was nice to drive down and see it. We followed Lucas downtown and went into the Foreigner’s Office. There were a lot of people in there waiting around, and we were obviously the only Americans there (Curt’s baseball cap is always the dead giveaway!) Lucas told us, “Wait here. Don’t move.” and left us. He rushed around and in a few minutes he came back and said, “Okay, stay here. I’m going to see if I can jump the queue.” Of course we did as we were told. There was a huge waiting room of people behind this glass, but we were on the other side where there was a huge room of desks and people rushing here and there. The next thing we knew, Lucas was back and said, “Come on! Follow me! Have your passport ready!” and we walked quickly to a lady’s desk at the back of the room. He spoke to her, she asked for my passport, she stamped a paper, and Lucas said, “Okay. That’s it! I’ll file it with the notary and everything will be fine.”

It just goes to show you that it helps when you know people who know people. Luckily Lucas is in good favor with the people there and was able to get us in and out of there quickly!

Almeria Foreigner's Office

Outside the Almeria Foreigner’s Office



Okay, so I spoke too soon.

Curt received his NIE in the mail in three days. I checked my mail faithfully every day only to find nothing.

At this point I was really stressed because you can’t just buy property without an NIE. Lucas tried to tell me not to worry, that we could drive an hour to Almeria foreigner’s office the morning of the completion, get the NIE, then drive to Vera to sign the papers, and everything would be juuuust fine. I know the Spanish have a “eh, it’ll be fine!” attitude about things, but this was really going to be cutting things close!

There was nothing I could do but roll with it, so I planned to do the last minute checking of the mail before departing for the airport, and if we had to go with Plan B, so be it.

Our estate agent arranged a room reservation for us at the Hostal Meson in Arboleas, and if the closing was delayed we at least would be able to stay there extra days if we had to. We were keeping fingers and toes crossed that this wasn’t going to be the case.

Planning for the Completion

Planning for the Completion

What we call “the Closing” here in the States is referred to as “the Completion” when purchasing a property in Spain. Buying property in Spain is not so complicated (as long as you manage to get your NIE in order… ahem) and you can plan on 10% of the purchase price as a good estimate for what will be needed to cover taxes, legal, and notary fees. Since we got word that the NIEs had been issued, we decided to go ahead and make plans for the Completion. The seller had already gone to the house to remove his personal items from the house and had given Power of Attorney to his Spanish lawyer so he would not have to make the trip from the UK to be there for the signing of the papers.

Everyone involved was able to agree to a completion date of January 23rd. This was getting exciting! The purchase of our house in Spain was only a month away!

NIE — Take Two

NIE — Take Two

I was really starting to get worried about the NIEs because they hadn’t shown up yet. Lucas, our lawyer in Spain said that he would be at the foreigners office in Almeria  and would check on them for us. It turns out that they had been issued, which was a good thing; but more time passed and they STILL didn’t show up, which was a bad thing.

I decided that I should call the Spanish Consulate in Houston and see if they had any information for me. This turned out to be quite an interesting conversation.

First, the lady who answered the phone simply said, “Diga me.” which threw me off because I guess I was expecting “hello” but this is a normal phone answering phrase. It struck me as “Yo, talk to me!” but like I said, I’ve come to realize that this is quite normal. I figured I’d better be sweet and polite because whoever was on the other end of the line could have lots of control over our much needed NIEs, and even if her gruff voice sounded a lot like she just snuffed out her cigarette butt into her desktop, she was probably super nice.

“Hello,” I started sweetly. “I called in mid October about getting my N.I. E. and –”

“Yeah,” she said, cutting me off. “And it was probably ME you talk to when you called, so… what about it??”


“Uhhhh… no, I don’t believe it was you, I spoke to before…” (Mainly because the woman I spoke to before was nice and sweet and YOU are mean and scary!)

So I go through the whole story about sending in the paperwork and not hearing anything and being concerned because we were purchasing property and knew that was impossible without the numbers, but that I know the numbers have been issued–

“WHO?!?” she cut me off again. “Who TOLD you the numbers have been issue? WHO?”

“My lawyer in Spain went to the foreigners office and saw that the numbers had–”

“WHEN?!?” you see the pattern here. “WHEN.  Were. The. Numbers. ISSUE??”

If possible to cower via telephone, I was cowering. I told her the date, and then it was as if she had been sprinkled with magic fairy dust and all of a sudden her temperament changed into this syrupy sweet person with a cooing voice. “Well then hunnnny, don’ worrrry. It’s fiiiiine. You have nothing to worry about darrrling.” and then quite simply: “It will come in the next Deeeplomatic Pouch.”

“Oh. When will that arrive?”

“Who knows?? One week? TWO weeks?? It depends. Maybe they have something to send, maybe not. But don’ worrrry, hunnny. I will call you when it comes.”

And that was pretty much it. I spent the majority of the time on the phone covering my mouth because as scary as she was I was afraid that I might laugh out loud at the craziness of this conversation. You know when something bad is happening and you laugh out of nervousness? That’s how I was on the phone, but I was worried that she would hear me laugh and find our NIE paperwork in the next “Diplomatic Pouch” and tear it to shreds “by accident.”

I breathed a small sigh of relief and we continued the wait for the NIEs.


The NIE number

The NIE number

Now, buying property in Spain is not all that complicated, really. Even for a foreigner. You do however need an Foreign Identification Number — a Número de Identificación de Extranjero or NIE. (Pronounced Neeyuh by those “in the Know.”) This number is muy importante for  any foreigner wanting to purchase property, a car, or even a cell phone.

NIE form

The NIE is kindof a big deal…

Unfortunately I was not one of those who were “in the know” and so I did not know that I needed to make sure that we had NIEs before the purchase. Our estate agent emailed and let me know that we needed to apply in person at the foreigners office in Almeria or we could give power of attorney to the Spanish lawyer (when we finally chose one) and they could apply for us. Maybe I’m just paranoid, but giving a stranger power of attorney worries me, so I decided to do a little Googling and see if there was another option.

Oh Happy Day! I found out that we could apply via mail through the Spanish Consulate and the NIEs would be processed without us having to be in Spain in person. This was glorious good news because applying in person is one thing, but then you apparently have to wait and then return to the foreigners office to collect the NIE paperwork; and this would require way more vacation time than we had! I saw that there was a Spanish Consulate right here in downtown Dallas, so I took a personal day from work and planned to get down there lickety split to get the ball rolling. I didn’t actually CALL the Spanish consulate office, because it seemed easy enough to get to according to my bff GoogleMaps… (**cue ominous foreshadowing music here**)

I drove down to Dallas and followed the directions EXACTLY, but this building did not seem to contain the Spanish Consulate office. I went in one entrance and then another. I went up one staircase and then another. It started reminding me of this clip from one of my favorite movies “What’s Up, Doc” in which Eunice Burns get dropped off in a shady warehouse district…

Okay, so it wasn’t THAT shady, but it was awkward because I’d go up some stairs and then end up in the middle of an allergist’s waiting room with sniffy itchy people; then I walked into the middle of an architect’s office full of drafting tables… Those were two of the nicer places I burst in to, but the rest of the building was rather run-down.  This really wasn’t the best part of town, so I figured I’d better high tail it back to my car and call the consulate.

I called the office and the entire recorded menu was in, of course, Spanish. I did recognize para Ingles push one, so luckily I spoke to someone who spoke to me in English. This was not a time to try out my weak Spanish vocabulary! The woman was so very nice and told me that this office in Dallas was not the main consulate office for Spain. This one dealt with more touristy things (my words, not hers) and that the office in Houston would have to process our NIEs. Yikes! Houston!! Have no fear, she said (well, again my words, not hers, exactly) we could do all of it via mail. Whew! What a relief! The nice lady told me it would be a couple of weeks and it would all be taken care of. This was the middle of October, so if our offer was accepted, we should have plenty of time to arrange a closing without dragging it on forever.

I got everything I needed in order, downloaded and printed off the NIE forms, wrote my $14 check, and dropped it in the mail. Curt was a little less worried about getting it done immediately, but I was too paranoid that it would be my procrastination that could hold things up, so I wanted to get it taken care of ASAP. He got all his stuff in the mail within the week, and then we just played the waiting game again.



Case of the Missing Passport

Case of the Missing Passport


So, who misplaces their passport?? Apparently I do. I knew it needed to be renewed, but somehow in my move out of my apartment and into my house I must have lost my mind and tossed it out along with a bunch of random things that had been cluttering up my closet. Who does that??

Sigh. I do.

This was causing a glitch in our plans, because as opposed to making the trip to Spain during the summer when I am off of work, we now had to wait until I received my new passport. AND because I am a cheapskate, I refused to pay the extra $60 to expedite the process (this would have guaranteed my getting it in 2 weeks) and decided to gamble and see what happened.

Surprise! It arrived in 2 weeks anyway! (Way to go, Cheapskate!)

All systems GO! Now it was time to make the travel plans… I LOVE making travel plans!

The Dream of the Vuelta

The Dream of the Vuelta

Travel back in time to June 2011…

La Vuelta

Seeing this cycling race in person has been a dream of my boyfriend’s.

I, on the other hand, didn’t even know it existed. I know about “the Tour” because honestly, who doesn’t? But this is what prompted him to ask me if I had ever considered looking at overseas properties in Spain. My father’s family is originally from Extremadura, which is in the western part of Spain (near Portugal) but other than knowing that bit of geography I was clueless.

A bit of internet property searching and I was right on board with the idea of Spain. I’m a native Floridian. Give me the heat – the hotter the better – so the obvious choice was Andalucia in the south of Spain, known for its 300 days a year of sunshine!

Luckily there were quite a few properties for sale, but we had a reasonable budget (not like those House Hunters International people who are buying vacation homes for half a mil!) and we had to seriously think about what kind of renovations we were willing to do, how much it would cost to furnish the place, and where EXACTLY we wanted to be.

We found a couple of interesting places and I managed to contact a real estate agent in Spain. All that was left to do was plan the trip over!!