5 Things to Know When Buying a Rural Property in Mallorca (Part 1)

If you want to buy – or even rent – a rural property in Mallorca, there are plenty of things you’ll want to find out about before you commit yourself to a decision. And over the course of this week’s three posts, I’ll write about what I consider to be the five must-know things to keep front of mind, while you’re being enchanted by the beauty of the scenery, birdsong and rural charm.

Today’s two things are water-related. In the UK, we took it for granted that water came out of the tap when we turned it on, and we gave little thought to what happened when we flushed the loo or ran the washing machine. Living in the Mallorcan countryside is different.

  • Supply of water

A rural property won’t be connected to a mains supply, so find out where the water comes from. Some properties have their own well, but you’ll need to know that it’s in a good state and where it is. Does it have an electric pump and, if so, how old is it? Having the water tested is recommended if you’re planning to use it in the house, rather than just using it to keep your garden plants perky.

Our well has been out of action for at least a couple of decades and needs more than a good poke about with a long stick to put it back in service. It’s on the list of ‘things to do when all the more important things have been done’.

Water being delivered into our cisterna

If, as with our property, water has to be delivered, you’ll need a cisterna or storage tank, with pipe connections to the house.  If the property you’re viewing has a cisterna, have a look at it and see whether it shows any signs of leakage.  Repairing a leaky cisterna is inconvenient and can be expensive. You’ll need to find out if there’s a way to gauge fairly accurately how much water is in stock, so you know when to order more.

You’ll also want to check out the cost of water delivery by a local service. Ours comes in a tanker that delivers 12,000 litres at a time.

  • Waste water ‘n’ all that

What goes in, must come out . . . somewhere. In a rural property, waste water doesn’t go into a main sewer but into what’s known as a pozo negro (meaning, literally, black well), or septic tank. Find out how old it is, its exact location, and when it was last emptied. Don’t worry, there are companies that offer this as a service. They come along with a tanker and lots of pipes and suck out what’s left after the bacteria within have done their stuff. How often the pozo negro needs emptying depends on several factors, including – obviously – the number of people using loos, baths and showers. Ours is emptied every 18 months or so. And, amazingly, you won’t need a peg for your nose while it’s being done . . .

On Wednesday, I’ll continue the theme of five essential things you need to know when looking to buy or rent a rural property in Mallorca.

Jan Edwards ©2012

Respecting ‘The Beast’

One of the less appealing aspects of owning our rural finca in the early days was having to live with ‘The Beast’ – an innocuous-looking but extremely important concrete bunker, adjoining the small covered terrace outside our annexe bedroom. I’ll spare you too much detail, just in case you’re reading this over breakfast, but let’s just say that anything that left our property through waste pipes, went into ‘The Beast’ (a pozo negro, or septic tank) – to be subjected to some kind of minor bacterial warfare within. The property is not connected to a main sewer.

Fearing the worst if we did something to upset the delicate balance of bacteria and . . . yet more bacteria . . .  we sought advice. ‘Treat it with respect,’ said the former owners of the property (who, incidentally, have become very dear friends).  ‘And that means no nasty chemicals or non-biodegradable stuff.’

So, not for us, those giant bottles of lurid-coloured cleaning products, filling several aisles of the local supermarket, and much-loved by Spanish housewives. We were going ecological and, although the cost of buying these products can be higher, we discovered that they do last much longer.

Back to basics

Just add elbow grease . . .

Feeling good about saving some money, and helping the environment of ‘The Beast’ (and generally), I also resorted to some old-fashioned remedies: the kind of things my gran would have used. Back in the UK, one of the occasional guests on my BBC radio programme was an expert on food and ‘all things domestic’, and Jill often regaled us with tips for tackling household jobs using store cupboard items.

Now I’d much rather be writing stuff than rubbing sink stains, but I have taken on board some of her suggestions – and saved quite a bit more money on cleaning products. My favourite weapons in the war against grime? Vinegar, bicarb of soda and lemon juice. I’ve been amazed what I can shift using one or more of those!

And, for some time, there were no complaints from ‘The Beast’

Jan Edwards ©2012