Meet Marc Elliott…

Marc Elliott is the British expat and brains behind Fluent Finance Abroad, the mortgage specialists based in San Pedro de Alcántara, Marbella.Providing clients with the most appropriate form of finance to purchase their dream home abroad, Marc – being half Spanish – has taken to life on the Costa del Sol like the proverbial duck to water. When he’s not hard at work sorting out people’s mortgages, Marc can be found relaxing on the beaches of Conil in Cádiz or occasionally belting out some top tunes in a karaoke bar…

What brought you to the Costa del Sol?

I am half Spanish, on my mother’s side, and therefore have been coming to Spain since I was a child so I have always wanted to live and work in Spain at some point in my life. Luckily I was offered to come to Spain and work as a mortgage consultant specialising in the Spanish mortgage market. The chance came about due to the qualifications I’d obtained in the UK and the fact that I was fluent in Spanish. I was 29 when I left London to move to Marbella.

Your life before relocating to the Costa del Sol?

At the time of leaving the UK I was working in the UK mortgage industry in London for a company called Mortgage Next. I owned my property which I rented out and I was establishing myself in the mortgage business in the UK.

Why and how did you come to set up Fluent Finance Abroad?

Having worked under strict regulations in the UK I was completely taken aback when I started working in Spain. Advisers in the UK are under constant pressure to pass exams and comply with mortgage rules protecting lenders and consumers. Unfortunately, in Spain there were/are NO rules regulating mortgage advice or practice so the mortgage market here was a free-for-all and that basically scared the hell out of me. The banks were out of control and had massive gaps/loopholes in their lending policies which people that advised on mortgages here (meaning absolutely anyone with or without any financial background) could sell Spanish mortgage products. Some were responsible but many others took full advantage of the holes and encouraged irresponsible lending. I tried working for a couple of companies but in the end I decided that I had the skills to create a responsible, knowledgeable and truly independent mortgage consultancy which made sure that both lenders and consumers were properly looked after. I believe that I have achieved that and I am looking forward to developing the business so that we can ensure we help more people have successful long term relationships with Spanish lenders.

Tell us about what you do and what it involves

As above, but to add, we ensure that we are 100% up to date with lending policies with all Spanish mortgage providers. We then try and explain that criteria to potential Spanish mortgage borrowers and see which provider would best suit their needs to ensure that the transaction with be a successful one at the point of sale and through to the termination of the mortgage. We make sure that we explain each case to the lenders in great detail, in their language, so that they have the correct understanding of each client’s application to ensure confidence that they are lending the correct amount to the correct people. It isn’t as easy as you may think, as you need to explain a client’s fiscal situation which exists in a different country with different rules and ways of doing things. This is why I feel that being able to communicate well with lenders and clients is essential to this business.

How do you start your day?

I normally wake early, get ready, say goodbye to my partner and make sure that our dog, Cindy, gets off to Doggy Day Care safely. Then it’s off to the office, set up, go for a coffee and a small breakfast with the team. It’s a nice way to start the day if I am honest.

What part of your work do you enjoy most?

Completing on each deal and helping people realise their dreams.

What motivates you?

Doing good work and being able to make people better off financially with the advice we give. I also enjoy being able to create employment for good people in their area of expertise.

And when you’re not working?

I do enjoy time away from work and I love to spend time with friends and family, good food, wine, sports, music and generally enjoying myself and others.

What do you love best about your Costa del Sol lifestyle?

Lots of things but the Spanish culture and the beautiful weather are real positives for me.

Your favourite beach?

I do love the beaches on the coast in Cádiz. Conil is a particular favourite of mine but I also enjoy going to lakes up in the mountains.

Your favourite Sunday lunch venue?

The Hogan Stand in San Pedro de Alcántara… very good value for money and excellent food.

Your favourite Spanish dish?

I do really enjoy shellfish in a Chiringuito on the beach, especially with the good bottle of white wine nicely chilled.

Preferred night out with friends/family?

Anywhere with good food and maybe a little dance later on. My girlfriend Kelly loves a bit of karaoke so she might drag me into a bar for a sing song!

Jump in the car at the weekend, where do you head?

North to the mountains, Sierra de Grazalema is always a good choice, El Chorro lakes near Málaga or the airport for a break slightly further afield.

Have you had the opportunity to travel much in Spain?

I have travelled extensively throughout Spain over the years although I have missed visiting the northeast of the country. I have been to Barcelona city on a few occasions and I would very much like to visit the surrounding areas.

What’s the best thing about the Costa del Sol?

The Costa del Sol is as great a place to be as any other… you can spend as much time as you wish outside enjoying all that the area can offer. There aren’t many days that you’d prefer to stay in to keep warm rather than going out. There aren’t too many reasons to not be content in my opinion.

What things have you learned? How has your life changed since living in Spain?

I feel that I have learned to better understand how to find a better life/work balance.

One thing you miss about the UK?

My friends, but not too much really as London is only a couple of hours away and easy to get to.

The Costa del Sol now and when you first moved here – what differences stand out for you?

I have been here for 11 years now and I can’t really pinpoint any major changes to the place since I have been here apart from the infrastructure is still getting better.

Do you speak Spanish?

I am and have been pretty fluent since I was a child, so yes.

What does the future hold for you?

Hopefully more good times please!

What advice would you give to someone relocating and wanting to start a business here?

If you have an open mind but stick to your principles and goals, be patient but take calculated risks, learn the language and smile in the face of adversity, you’ll be fine!

Marc Elliott is the founder of Fluent Finance Abroad, a VIVA Recommended Partner. You can contact Fluent Finance Abroad on +34 952 853 647, at melliott@fluentfinanceabroad.com or at www.fluentfinanceabroad.com

40 years after the death of General Franco – Spanish Mortgage Market Cleans Up Its Act

Press release…

Spanish Mortgage Market Cleans Up Its Act

Whilst mature mortgage markets such as that of the UK have learned from their mistakes and now heavily regulate the selling of financial products, Spanish banks are currently licking their wounds and suffering under the weight of repossessions on their balance sheets. New Prime Minister Rajoy is on a clean-up mission.

Independent Mortgage Consultant and Owner of Fluent Finance Abroad, Marc Elliott, explains, “You have to remember that Spain has only been a fully-fledged capitalist democracy for 35 years, and without the infamous dictator Franco for 40, so its banking and mortgage systems have had comparatively less time to mature. As the property market boomed, many banks took a naïve approach to lending money and they are suffering for it now. Whilst the UK has various checks and balances in place to prevent the recurrence of scandals such as the endowment mortgage mis-selling of the 80s and 90s, Spain has yet to get a watertight grip of its financial products although Rajoy is making huge strides.”

Marc continues, “Whilst Spain didn’t have ‘official’ subprime mortgages in the same manner as the US, throughout the late 2000s it did fall victim to unrealistic mortgages being handed out by greedy banks with the help of unscrupulous mortgage advisers, real estate agents, lawyers, surveyors, valuers and accountants. Local newspapers bore adverts offering fake P60s for credit purposes and many people took advantage. The consequence today is banks having to repossess a significant number of homes making them huge real estate owners and putting a strain on their balance sheets – particularly as Rajoy is asking banks to make additional provisions. The Government is forcing takeovers and mergers – Banco Sabadell acquired CAM bank for one euro in December 2011, BBVA acquired Unnim bank for the same price this month – in order to accelerate the clean-up.”

Marc Elliott gives his insight into today’s Spanish mortgage market:

Are Spanish mortgages still available?

Whilst the main priority of most banks is to try and offload the stock that they are currently in possession of, rather than lend money to new borrowers, there are of course still mortgages available. ‘Good’ deals, such as those seen in the past, are either non-existent or hard to find but if you have a good income and clean credit history the banks will lend. Certain banks did not fall into the reckless ‘subprime’ trap and are lending pretty much as they were prior to the credit crunch.

What percentage loan should I expect from lenders today?

Dependent on the individual application, a general rule of thumb in 2015 is 70 – 80% for Spanish residents and 60 – 70% for non-Spanish residents. Current lenders will now lend only on the purchase price or the valuation – whichever is lower.

Why are 100% (plus) mortgages still available – is this not madness?

Mortgages are available at 100% – or even 110% to include purchase costs – but only for specific properties or developments that are owned directly by the banks. You will not be offered a 100% mortgage on a traditional resale home.

Should I therefore buy a property direct from the bank because it is easier to get a mortgage?

Not necessarily – it does depend on your circumstances. If you are a first time buyer and you don’t have a large cash deposit then it would be wise to consider a bank property. If you have a sizeable deposit at your fingertips it would probably be better to look at the traditional real estate market as these properties tend to be slightly better value for money. At the moment banks are looking to get the best price possible for their properties to try and recoup the original funds that were lent, they do this is by slightly inflating asking prices and offering excellent finance terms such as little or no money down deals.

Shall I just purchase a property with my own funds and be done with the banks?

If you are lucky enough to have readily available funds at your disposal and you can find the perfect property within your budget, go for it. However, if you feel you are limiting yourself this way, then it is worth considering upping your budget slightly by using a mortgage and keeping some cash aside in your bank for a rainy day. Beware it is extremely difficult to release equity from a Spanish property at this moment in time if you urgently need funds sometime in the future.

What do I do if I am interested in finding out more about Spanish mortgages?

Get informed and do not take the first piece of advice you receive to be gospel. Speak to numerous banks or seek professional independent advice from a qualified person operating in your area. Always speak to more than one mortgage consultant to make sure you are satisfied that you are getting the best person to represent your interests. If anyone suggests that obtaining mortgage finance in Spain is easy, they are not being completely truthful. Securing ‘debt’ should never be entered into lightly.

I already have a Spanish mortgage that I am worried about, what can I do?

First and foremost don’t panic. If you are already finding that you cannot keep up with mortgage repayments then it is essential that you take steps to deal with the problem. Again, consult an independent expert to see if there are any alternatives out there in the market which could solve your problem and also speak to your bank to see what ideas they have – take an independent expert with you to this consultation if you prefer. Be warned, bank staff, however nice, work for their paymasters and can only recommend what their banks offer. If you are comfortably keeping up repayments but feel you could get a better deal elsewhere, again, speak to a professional adviser to explore your options.

Contact Fluent Finance Abroad on telephone 00 34 952 85 36 47, email melliott@fluentfinanceabroad.com or visit www.fluentfinanceabroad.com

About Fluent Finance Abroad – Our team of UK qualified financial advisers (FPC) and mortgage professionals (CeMap) specialise in finding the most appropriate form of finance to purchase investment or holiday property overseas.

Bankia to close 99% of branches on the Costa del Sol

Worrying news for Ex Caja Madrid & Bancaja customers as staff are told to announce that Bankia are to close 99% of branches on the Costa del Sol.

Bankia España

Having heard the rumour that Bankia were closing all of its branches in Marbella I decided to pop into my local branch (Ex Caja Madrid) to see if the gossip was in fact true.

I emailed the branch manager to see if he was able to meet with me to discuss this and to my surprise I received a very quick response informing me that he was available to do so and we arranged the meeting with no problem at all.

Basically the outcome of the changes are that all ex Bancaja and Caja Madrid branches will be closed in Andalucia apart from a few representative branches in Major cities including Malaga.

This means that if you are an existing Bankia client you will have to go to Malaga to speak to someone face to face which can be a huge inconvenience.

What should you do if you have a relationship with Bankia?

Well it really depends on the type of relationship you have, for instance, if you just have a current account or savings account then it would be fairly easy to make the transition away from them to another more stable local bank of your choice. If on the other hand you hold a mortgage or then you will need to keep your account open with them for payment of said loan but that doesn’t mean that you still couldn’t open a new account with a new bank and arrange regular transfers to service the mortgage or loan that you already have.

Personally given the terrible press that Bankia have had in recently months / years, I believe it would be a good idea to relocate your banking relationship away from Bankia especially if you have savings with them as, even though they have had government / tax payers money, it still doesn’t guarantee that money would be 100% safe and anyway, why would you want to travel to Malaga or Seville just to query any charges you may have incurred.

If you need to talk about your Spanish bank account and potentially moving it, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with Fluent Finance Abroad.