Owning a Spanish property is a dream which many people can make a reality, providing they follow some tried and tested advice and understand the differences within the Spanish legal and property system. Now is a fantastic time to buy property in Span (and bad if you are selling) as the property market is still far from recovered from the crash a decade or so ago. You can quite realistically pick up properties for 50% less than they were exchanging for 15 years ago – and that estimate is measured with inflation and currency values in mind.
Chances are you’ll be very pleasantly surprised at what your money can buy on the Spanish property market. Even very popular and desirable areas such as the Costa Blanca have no shortage of straight-up bargains. Just be careful not to get too carried away. You ought to follow similar principles to purchasing property as you would at home and take a number of additional precautions and actions to help make the process as smooth and straightforward as possible. Here is our selection of the five essential tips overseas buyers need to keep in mind when buying anywhere in Spain.
1) Learn Basic Spanish Property Law & How To Work Within It
It is entirely normal to wish to skip this rather dull step and head straight out to begin arranging view appointments. But taking the time to understand the basics of the process – and various Spanish definitions and technicalities – will make that process far more straightforward. Take particular care to learn the differences (often ambiguous yet crucial) between’ urbanizado’, ‘fully urbanizado’ and ‘rural’ properties/dwellings. Julia Gomez of Inmobiliaria Javea, a Costa Blanca based estate agency says many people confuse words in Spanish so ensure you always use a professional translator for any legal documents. Mistakes over property definition are the prime cause for most licensing and planning issues further down the line.
You will need to hire local legal and property experts who need to meet various criteria. Ask around expat communities for recommendations but always do your own homework first. Make certain they speak English fluently (you’ll be well advised to have all documentation independently translated anyway), are completely independent of anyone else in the process (keep legal and conveyancing utterly apart at all costs), and make sure they are licensed and qualified. It is a competitive market in popular areas but there are advantages and disadvantages of working with the biggest in the business. Sometimes smaller professionals’ services teams will be able to offer a much more polished and personable experience.
2) Consider Your Options Carefully & Realistically
Even if you have visited the same place for years on end it may not be the place you wish to live throughout the year. Spanish communities tend to vary considerably depending on their location and the season. It is quite common for the bustling and vibrant coastal towns to pretty much shut down over winter, so consider this carefully when choosing between your options. Chances are you may actually find other towns which feel actually more like a ‘home’ rather than somewhere to enjoy permanent ‘holiday mode’!
Ideally, you should try and rent/live in Spain for a few months during the buying process. Not only will this allow you to test the waters without making an enormous commitment, but also allows plenty of time to travel about under your own steam and pick somewhere that could well be absolutely perfect. Speak to the locals for where they would recommend that you consider, and chances are that it will not be among your top few initial picks.
3) Keep Your Professional Services ‘Professional’
You cannot help but notice that property agents and legal service providers will be falling over themselves to take you on as a client. Sales commission rates in Spain are quite substantial – 10% is the norm but it can be even double that amount in some cases – and for overseas purchases which often do not involve a chain, that is an opportunity for them to make a lot of money quite quickly and without a huge amount of fuss.
As this is the situation you should expect absolutely top-quality service and do not be shy of binning your agent if they do not impress you from the start. Do not sign anything without having it fully translated and looked over by you independent (that word again!) legal team. Almost all sales agents will know each other and earn a nice sideline recommending friendly conveyancing services and so forth. Tempting as it might well be to keep everything ‘in-house’ you will be paying more for not necessarily a better overall service. We’d recommend meeting with quite a few before choosing who deserves your business and do not be afraid to haggle/negotiate at any stage.
4) Buy With The Future In Mind
A common pitfall that far too many people fall for is choosing a property akin to a holiday home but not really suited to most people’s long-term requirements. Location is important – especially if you want to insulate your property value against further market depression in the future – but remember that a beachside view is not everything. Finding a property with a good expandable grounds and (crucially) the right to develop it can be worth many thousands in the future. Plenty of properties in Spain have strict limitations on their purpose and size – so keep that in mind when selecting which properties you view, no matter how aesthetically pleasing they may seem in a brochure.
Basic rules to follow would include three+ bedrooms instead of two, the number of stairways, driveways/off-road parking, closeness to local amenities, noise and business at night, and so on. Of course, what you are looking for in a property may be completely outside of these limitations, but they are all handy features when it comes to selling at a later date.
5) Appreciate Advice
A good quality team is worth paying for when it comes to securing a good quality Spanish property without breaking the bank. You need to remember that some highly regarded companies are going to be lauded for the speed and ease that they can conduct business, and not necessarily the prices or quality of the properties that they exchange. You should ideally be looking for people who include both locals and expatriate members of staff who should be able to facilitate everything an overseas purchaser needs, while also having a good understanding of the local – and regional – property scene.
Do not base your purchase on one person’s advice. Ask around and wherever possible never feel rushed into making any decisions. Even if it means having to rent for another month or two, that is small change when it compared to ending up with an unsuitable or poor-quality property.
Plenty of people will claim that buying Spanish property is ‘broadly’ similar to those elsewhere but there are plenty of caveats to such claims. Make sure your conveyancing team is seriously professional and are going to present you with a full – warts and all – appraisal of the property including the legal status of the structure and all necessary licensing and boundary requirements. Do not make any assumptions at any stage! Providing you have the right assistance and do your best to understand Spanish and their way of handling property transactions (don’t expect to just ‘learn of the job’), don’t rush – or expect things to be handled at a breakneck pace – and vet your team correctly then it should be much more straightforward.