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PROPERTY

Champion of expat property rights in Spain awarded gong

Maura Hillen, who has campaigned tirelessly for expats affected by planning abuses in southern Spain, has been awarded an MBE.

Champion of expat property rights in Spain awarded gong
Maura Hillen is councillor for tourism and international relations Photo: M Hillen

The head of Abusos Urbanisticos Almanzora No! (AUAN), an organization that campaigns for the legalization of homes declared illegal by planning authorities has been appointed an honorary Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE), for services to the British community in Spain. 

Originally from Ireland, Hillen has steered the lobby group that represents more than 500 expat members with homes in the Almanzora Valley in Almeria, southern Spain.

READ MORE: Interview with Maura Hillen

AUAN has campaigned at the local, regional and national level for the legalization of homes, to get them properly connected to water and electricity, with mitigation of the costs of doing so, and called for information and support for affected home owners.

In May last year she was also elected to the local council and is now the councillor for Tourism & International Relations in Albox, Almeria, and a deputy mayor.

“Since 2008, Maura Hillen MBE has made a tireless contribution towards resolving the property problems that affect thousands of British homeowners in Spain. I am very pleased that Her Majesty The Queen has approved this honour, which recognises her dedication and resilience,” said Simon Manley, British ambassador to Spain, announcing the award on Tuesday.

“Under her leadership, AUAN is a professionally-run, well-respected organisation that has secured expert legal advice and in turn proposed realistic solutions to the Spanish regional and national authorities.

Last year saw the group win a victory with the introduction of legislation to protect thousands of homeowners across the Spanish costas whose properties are threatened with demolition after falling foul of planning laws. 

“In March last year, the Criminal Code was modified following proposals from AUAN that judges take into account that most owners purchased in good faith, and that compensation should be paid prior to any demolition,” explained Manley.

“That was a significant step forward in reforming a legal system that AUAN argued had failed adequately to recognise the rights of homeowners or compensate for their losses.”

“I know Maura intends to keep campaigning for more action to resolve outstanding cases and to increase the legal security for future buyers.”

Hillen, who moved to Almeria province from Weybridge, Surrey with her British husband  said she was thrilled with the recognition.

“I am very pleased and delighted to accept this award not only for myself but on behalf of every member of AUAN who has also played no small part in defending the rights of homeowners in Spain, most especially committee members, past and present, and those that came before me as president of AUAN,” she said on Tuesday.

“This award is a recognition and vindication of their efforts and perseverance as much as it is of mine.”

 

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PROPERTY

What the Euribor rise means for property buyers and owners in Spain

The rise in the Euribor interest rate, used to calculate mortgage payments in Spain, is causing big changes in the mortgage rates.

What the Euribor rise means for property buyers and owners in Spain

Looking to buy property in Spain? Already a homeowner here? Well, you may have heard something about rising interest rates recently.

Or perhaps changes to the terms of your mortgage. Or the Euribor – but what is it, and what’s going on?

What is Euribor?

In Spain, Euribor is the interest rate most often used to work out mortgage payments and to calculate both variable and fixed rates.

It is anchored to the interest rate set by the European Central Bank, and, as we are now seeing, quite responsive to global economic events.

It’s the interest rate that banks in the Euro Zone use to lend to each other, so when the base rate goes up, the Euribor does too, which sends mortgage interest rates across the Eurozone rising. 

Rising rates

Most Spanish mortgages with variable rates normally vary based on a variety of factors, but this number has been rising and in May 2022 saw figures of 0.240 percent (Tuesday May 17th), well above the average. 

The rises throughout May are leading many in Spain, and indeed across Europe, to wonder how high their mortgage rates can go, and when the rises will stop.

Banco de España has estimated that the increases could range from anything between €35 a month to an additional €400. Bankinter predicts the Euribor rate will finish the year at a staggering 0.40 percent, but, more encouragingly, Caixabank’s prediction puts it at just 0.13 percent by the end of 2022.

On Euribor.com.es, a website that tracks the index on a daily basis, they suggest that the market consensus predicts the Euribor will finish at around 0.3 percent at the end of the year, but could reach as high 0.8 percent in 2023.

All of them agree, and most other economic indicators suggest, that whatever the figure at the end of the year, it will remain positive, so it seems almost certain that mortgages will continue to rise throughout 2022 at the very least.

This instability, in addition to global inflation and supply chain problems, could mean that mortgage rates will be affected at least until 2023, with some predictors even signposting 2024 as the possible end of a rise in mortgage prices.

With things uncertain in the mortgage industry, and the world economy more broadly, perhaps you’re thinking of ways to try and insulate yourself from the climbing interest rates.

How to protect yourself from the rising rates

One way to weather the storm of interest rate increases is to change your mortgage from a variable to a fixed rate, either by negotiating with the your bank or by changing bank altogether – a process known as subrogation.

According to data from MyInvestor, during March and April the number of subrogations has started to rise.

Subrogation basically means switching the mortgage from one bank to another to change its interest rate. Although it does involve certain charges in order to do so – you pay the valuation of your house, which normally costs a few hundred euros, and a fee charged to the bank you are leaving, which can cost up to 2 percent of the outstanding amount – it could, and probably would, work out cheaper than paying the hiked interests rates over time.

You could also try and take out a new mortgage with another bank and use the borrowed money to settle the loan. This is, of course, a more expensive option as you have to pay the appraisal, the commission for early repayment of the current credit (again, up to 2 percent of the outstanding amount) and the expenses associated with its cancellation of registration, which normally runs to around €1,000.

READ ALSO: Spanish mortgages – Ten things foreigners should know before getting one

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