He Bought a Cheap House in Spain to Improve His Life Expectancy

Finding a New Lease on Life in Rural Spain

Most people buying cheap houses in Spain are attracted by the idea of a bargain price, escaping to a warmer climate, and enjoying better food. But what if it could also help you live longer?

The Pursuit of Longevity

Bingwa Thomas, a 72-year-old originally from Kansas City, thought exactly that. He purchased an old dwelling in a village in southern Spain, hoping the lifestyle change would extend his life expectancy beyond the average for his demographic in the United States. Of course, affordability was also a factor.

Currently based in Los Angeles, Thomas bought a 110-square-meter home after negotiating the price down to 8,000 euros (about $8,662).

A Lifelong Activist

Involved in social activism since the age of 18, Thomas was drawn to the village’s proximity to Africa, where he is engaged in humanitarian aid projects. "My main reason for establishing a residence in southern Spain was to have better access to the African continent," he says. "To use my pension to create, fund, network, and volunteer with programs there."

He wanted a residence that required minimal investment to make habitable, allowing him to allocate more funds to his African projects. Thomas, who self-funds his activism through acting gigs, was also attracted by the region’s healthier, slower-paced lifestyle, which he hopes will increase his life expectancy.

"Life expectancy in Spain is 82.7 years, while in the US it’s 79," he notes. For a Black male in the US, it’s closer to 70. "In Spain, I can gain ten extra years."

Thomas’s move to Spain reflects a shift from the original motivations behind the country's cheap homes initiative, aimed at repopulating depopulated towns. Initially, buyers were mostly foreign families and retired couples looking for vacation retreats. Now, artists, philanthropists, and social activists are increasingly interested.

The village where Thomas bought his house has been attracting mainly American buyers with its affordable homes and rentals. CNN Travel first highlighted the village’s house sales in 2021, drawing significant attention.

Smooth Purchase Process

According to Thomas, the purchase process was seamless, with the only challenges being pandemic-related travel restrictions. He was thrilled that a local official supported him throughout the purchase, influencing his decision.

Thomas, who visits Spain every few months, has budgeted about 20,000 euros (around $21,656) for renovations, including furnishings and appliances. He plans to help develop the village by creating an arts center on the ground floor of his house.

Revitalizing the Village

The village’s old district has been in decline for decades, with many homes abandoned. Thanks to the cheap homes initiative, there's now a new buzz as residents adapt to living alongside newcomers from around the world. For Thomas, life in the village aligns with his artistic philosophy. "As an artist, I love repurposing forgotten, under-appreciated, or discarded items," he says.

Thomas hopes to be part of the village’s revitalization, contributing through cultural and artistic projects once his arts center is operational. He admires the local revival efforts, noting that he has tried similar initiatives in the US with far more resources.

Experience Abroad

Thomas has extensive experience living outside the US, having traveled and worked throughout Europe. His usual route involved summer work on the Greek island of Ios, followed by jobs in Ireland or the UK, and then springtime in Amsterdam.

Embracing a Slower Pace

The village’s slower pace of life suits Thomas. "Living in Spain gives me more of what is most important to me—life," he says. He exercises daily, enjoying long runs in the scenic hills, and has embraced his new environment even before fully settling in.

His home, purchased in 2022, spans two levels of 55 square meters each. The top floor is already habitable, while the ground floor, previously an animal shelter, is being renovated. He plans to add a bathroom and restore the fireplace and wood-burning oven.

Future Plans

Thomas hopes to contribute to the village’s development by using his property to create new services and encourage other artists to move there. He plans to donate the house to a nonprofit in Los Angeles, stipulating it be used for community services, such as free bike repair workshops.

He is also in the process of buying a second property for 39,000 euros (about $45,727)—a compound of three rural cottages with land, where he will reside. He plans to transform this property into a multi-purpose arts complex for visiting international artists.

Adjusting to Rural Life

While he loves the village, Thomas acknowledges the challenges of rural living, such as limited access to amenities. He is moving out of his Los Angeles apartment and plans to officially relocate to Spain in September, using the village as a base for his volunteer work in Africa.

For Thomas, the move to Spain is about embracing a slower pace of life, fostering community, and gaining the gift of time. "It’s easier to travel between Africa and southern Spain than from Africa to Los Angeles," he says, looking forward to a new chapter in his life.