“Well this is now the start of 2017 and the very beginning of our new adventure in Mattaranya.”

My husband Aidan and I are both in our mid-fifties,-  kicking back from work, and looking forward to building our house in this beautiful, unspoilt, piece of paradise.

It was about 15 years ago that we bought our first holiday home abroad. We fell in love with Provence at that time -as being fluent French speakers, and with its good wine and food it ticked a lot of boxes. Our three children were all under 10 and a rambling Bastide in the hills was the perfect setting for long lazy summers. Ten years later as they all grew older and wanted to holiday independently we decided that a large house with its very expensive French taxes was no longer the good ‘fit’ it had once been. We also sort of felt that however much we adored the rosemary and thyme infused air and the local gastronomy we wanted a new adventure.

We started our search for our new “grown-up” house – something that would suit just us at this newly independent stage in our lives. We made numerous trips to both Kenya and Sri-Lanka where we explored properties there, but the combinations of political unrest and government red tape became issues that we didn’t need in our lives.

Back at the drawing board we listed some of the things that we felt were the most important factors in a new home. We wanted privacy, excellent views, year round flights from the north of England (we live near Alnwick) and a mountainous setting similar to what we had enjoyed in France.

On our 30th wedding anniversary in May 2016, we started to explore Catalonia and viewed several properties there. The restrictions however regarding inability to extend rural fincas and prohibition of swimming pools didn’t work for us so we drove west to explore Aragon and discovered Mattaranya. As soon as we stopped at Valderrobres we fell in love with it and decided there and then that this would be the “shire” for us!

Whilst researching the property and land for sale we discovered “Country Property in Spain” and returned in June when we first met David. I think it’s fair to say at this point that as two individuals who are slightly cynical of estate agents and their ilk –  (Aidan builds and renovates property in the UK and I am an ex-police-officer) David seemed almost ‘too good to be true’ with his openness, honesty and razor sharp mind. It didn’t take long however, after numerous chats – whilst he drilled down into exactly what we wanted – that we realised that he was going to prove to be the magic ingredient we needed to realise our dream.

We saw the ruin and our little slice of heaven on our first day of viewing and decided there and then to buy. It is testament to David’s determination to ensure that we weren’t bowled over by the first place we saw – that he insisted that we viewed several other properties to ensure that we were making the right decision.

David then did the necessary hand-holding as he helped us to receive our NIE’s…. as neither of us speak Spanish very well – he accompanied us a total of three times to the Police stations until we were successful. I have no doubt that without his help we would still be trying to get them !

Before purchase, we had a list of must-haves, including habitation licences and swimming pools. David organised and attended meetings with the local Mayor and associated officials to make sure that these were all in place before we parted with any money, as well as acting as translator. On the human side he arranged meetings with the vendors which gave us an opportunity to let them know that their ancestral land would be sensitively developed and they in turn made us feel warmly welcomed into the small community.

We became the proud owners of our ruin and land just before Christmas last year – and are already planning a summer camping on site as, hopefully ,the building process starts.

We have been impressed by examples of building contracts and project plans for other clients that David has shown us and the “No money up front” approach is exactly the way to inspire confidence in two cynics like us. We like the micro payment system of stage payments after individual pieces of work have been completed as there is little room for costs to spiral or our hard-earned money to be lost.

In short –  we have secured our little piece of paradise in an area very similar to that which we enjoyed in Provence – sunshine, pine forests, wild herbs, superb landscapes and a much cheaper standard of living into the bargain! “

Helen and Aidan Ruff
23. Jan 2017