The word ‘mortgage’, as anyone who knows any Latin languages can imagine, is connected with ‘death’. And although some people take one on like a condemned prisoner being fitted for a noose, it does not in fact mean the end of all forms of leisure, but a ‘death pledge’, because the commitment ends with the death of the debt, or the default.
Having cheered you up a little bit, Kevin Monger and Katherine Walkerdine have brought to Valencia the ability to make that noose feel like a tailored, silk scarf, and to hang around your neck like a picture frame rather than a boa constrictor.
And before I get any further entangled in cluttered metaphors, let me clarify that they are international mortgage brokers, and their job consists of making sure that you can buy a home under the most favourable conditions available on the market.
From their cosy flat in an old building in Valencia’s medieval quarter, in a street so named because it used to be the execution place for errant aristocrats, as opposed to common malefactors who used to meet their maker on the scaffolds once standing where the Central Market of Valencia is today a symbol of liveliness, Kevin and Katherine told Valencia International their story.
It all began in Portsmouth where they were both studying Economics at the University, although their life as a couple would commence years later when both were working in London, Kevin as an actuary who worked in the pensions industry for many years and worked as a consultant for Mercer Human Resource Consulting in London for 8 years, and Katherine as a UK qualified independent financial advisor, who had her own business in London for over 15 years advising clients on financial matters ranging from independent mortgage advice, pensions, investments and inheritance tax planning.
Although successful in their fields, they both had it in mind to find a lifestyle with more quality, and to be able to raise a family in a place and with an atmosphere where they could not only feel safe and comfortable, but also to give their children the opportunity to be bilingual.
Valencia turned out to be the answer to their dream, and now their daughters Imogen and Scarlett are happily integrated, learning at a school that is a short stroll away, fully Spanish but with an international syllabus.
They arrived in Valencia in 2005, and by the following year had set up Mortgage Direct SL, which is now Spain’s leading independent mortgage broker.
A broker by the way is not somebody big and brutal who breaks your legs if you fall behind with the payments, but an agent who will find you the best deal by analysing and talking to banks both in Spain and elsewhere.
They are also the only brokers who are qualified to advise both in the UK and in Spain, and are constantly travelling around the country finding the best deals mostly for foreigners wanting to buy properties in Spain, be they British (the majority), Dutch, Belgian, French, German, or even American or Australian.
As they point out, although people in Spain often think that banks, like politicians, are basically all the same, in fact there is a wide discrepancy among them, which makes it well worthwhile having someone who knows where to look and how to negotiate for you.
Their business is prospering, so much so that there is enough work to take up their time 24 hours a day if that was what they wanted; but it isn’t. They came to Valencia to get away from the rat race and to work to live rather than living to work.
Today they make sure there is always time to enjoy a bike ride in the Turia River Park, a wander through the Central Market, where the only things hanging today are the colourful myriad of fruits and vegetables all whispering “buy me, cook me, eat me!”
They also enjoy showing visitors the bill at one of their favourite restaurants, such as La Salvaora just around the corner in Calle Calatrava, and waiting until they hear the inevitable: “You must be joking! Is that all!”
The path to Valencia, for Kevin, who originates from rural Buckinghamshire, and Katherine, who spent most of her youth in Staffordshire as well as an American year in Minneapolis studying, has been eye-opening, discovering like Einstein that time can bend, and a two day weekend can, and almost always does, feel like four.