If you have a dream of buying a property in Spain, you will want to read this post. These are the top tips from a seasoned lawyer in Spain and they are here to help you with the process.
Table of Contents
- 1. Use a lawyer from the beginning (even before coming to Spain)
- 2. When you have several properties as potential candidates to buy, speak with the neighbors.
- 3. When you have the right property, try to rent it for a few days.
- 4. Clarify all of the conditions with the Real Estate Agent (Inmobiliaria)
- 5. The two most important things you must ask for if you don’t have a lawyer!
- Contact Us – We are here to help you with buying a property in Spain!
1. Use a lawyer from the beginning (even before coming to Spain)
As a lawyer with 20 years of experience in purchasing homes for foreigners in Spain, the first trick I would give you before buying in Spain is precisely to look for an expert lawyer in this area. There are not many who are dedicated to this sector of law and even fewer Spanish lawyers who speak English. There are some out there and AF Consulting is one of them.
In cultures other than Spanish, it is customary to use a lawyer for these types of issues. However, in Spain, it is not, and people who try to save some expenses, usually do without the Lawyer (a big mistake).
However, where you should not skimp without a lawyer is when it comes to purchasing a property. This is typically a large investment, hundreds of thousands of euros, and the consequences of making a mistake can be financially and emotionally catastrophic.
As I often say: a lawyer is cheap when hired in advance to ensure that everything goes well. When it can be really “expensive” is when there is an existing problem to solve or an issue to resolve. Quite often these scenarios can be much more expensive.
A Lawyer within the Autonomous Community
Look for a lawyer preferably from the area (at least from the Autonomous Community where you are going to buy). As you surely know, in Spain we have several legal entities in addition to the State, the country, which are the Autonomous Communities, and each one of them has the freedom to dictate rules in various matters, so one can be very different from the other. Being on the ground and knowing your surroundings will guarantee you greater knowledge on the part of your lawyer.
A Lawyer out of the local area
If you already have confidence in a lawyer from an area in Spain different from where you want to make your purchase, reach out to them and ask for their recommendations. They are likely to have contacts in the area you need or perhaps they collaborate with other lawyers, without a fee increase. If you are searching for a lawyer on your own, you may want to look for Abogados, Solicitors, or Lawyers.
Real Estate Agencies
I collaborate with many real estate agencies dedicated to this sector and the truth is that most of them are very professional in their work. However, Real Estate Agents are not lawyers. It is true that they have a basic knowledge at the legal level, but as you can understand, they do not have the knowledge or experience a lawyer has.
You have to remember that in Spain to be a Real Estate Agent, you do not need any official title or certifications. To be a lawyer, yes you do. In addition to the fact that we are covered by our Bar Association and our compulsory civil liability insurance, something which doesn’t happen in real estate companies.
Don’t Be Fooled
When a real estate agent tells you that you do not need a lawyer to buy a property. They say this to you and give you this advice while handing you legal documentation to sift through. It can turn out to be a disaster for you. I have many clients and court cases for this reason, believe me.
Therefore, remember this Always use a lawyer to buy a property.
2. When you have several properties as potential candidates to buy, speak with the neighbors.
Without a doubt, this is one of the best tips that I can give you before buying.
You will surely see a lot of properties before you have two or three candidates to buy. When you go to the real estate agent, they will likely limit themselves to showing you the inside of the property and explaining how wonderful it is (which I do not doubt).
They will probably tell you how quiet it is, and a million good things about it. However, most likely if there is some kind of “negative thing”, they will not tell you or they may not know about it.
To give you an example: being located in a noisy place, having a disturbing neighbor or another problem, etc …
Well, the best way to detect some of these problems is to visit the property later without the real estate agency. You’ve already seen it from the inside, however, now it’s the detective work on the outside. Let me explain: it is time to talk with the neighbors, with people from the houses next door, with the locals passing by, with the typical older people from small towns who are always sitting at the entrance of the town or in a nearby park, making a detailed analysis of the life of the town or its inhabitants in question. They are a true mine of information. Surely if you ask them they can tell you in detail who all the owners of the house have been, as well as some of their customs.
Not only will you enjoy the true essence of the place, but you will be able to capture very valuable information before buying. Believe me when I tell you that many times, as a result of these investigations, we have detected really incredible things. It is also a good idea to see it at different times of the day or night and see how the neighborhood may change.
Bring a friend
Of course, if you aren’t a master of the local language, it will be difficult to access this information from the locals. For that reason, within this trick, another is implicit: try to find a friend who goes with you and who can handle more or less Spanish. You do not have to be a polyglot. With a little Spanish it will be enough to communicate with the locals. You may even receive some of the wonderful philosophical pearls that older people treasure. Without a doubt, they are an invaluable source of knowledge.
One of my hobbies when I have to assist clients, especially in small towns is precisely talking to the older people of the town. I ask them things, let them tell me about the place, the area, the location of the house, its owners, etc. And the best thing is that they are eager to tell you stories, many of them worthy of being part of a novel.
3. When you have the right property, try to rent it for a few days.
I understand that this trick is not always possible. But if it is, it is one of the best to “try on the property”.
When you already have your ideal property in mind, ask if it is possible to rent it for a few days. Many properties are rented by the day as tourist homes or rural accommodation homes, so it is worth the ask.
Having the possibility to live a few days in it will give you a lot of information about the property, which will not appear in any legal document, and that the lawyers could never detect.
You will be able to obtain information about the neighbors, noise, some type of defect in the construction of its facilities, state of the furniture, comforts, or discomforts of the same.
To top it off even more, ask the realtor the possibility that in the event that you later acquire the home if what you paid for the rental days could be considered as part of the price if you purchase it (then you don’t lose anything by trying).
Why do I give you this advice?
Precisely because as a Lawyer, I have experienced many situations in reverse. That is, I have had clients who have sold the property and just before formalizing the deeds, the buyers requested to be in it the days prior to the signing, and thus be able to save hotel expenses, etc.
Well, in some of these cases, for my clients (in this case the sellers), this decision has been a bad idea. Future buyers have had time to do a detailed analysis of the entire home and have been able to detect some things that they did not like, resulting in a renegotiation of the price. It is true that the contract is the contract and that its terms are accepted by all parties. But it is also true that when you are on the verge of selling your home, you are much more permissive to renegotiate the price so as not to jeopardize the sale of the property.
4. Clarify all of the conditions with the Real Estate Agent (Inmobiliaria)
Undoubtedly, one of the conflicts that our clients often have is the misunderstandings that occur with real estate companies.
Before seeing a single property, I advise you to clarify all these points beforehand.
Real Estate Fee
It must be clear from the beginning what the agreed fees are and whether or not they include VAT. In most cases, they usually consist of a percentage. Clarify what percentage you pay as a customer purchasing a property.
You have to bear in mind that in Spain there is no rule about who has to pay these fees. There is total freedom to agree on how these fees will be paid by both the seller and the buyer. It can be agreed that only one of the two pays it, that they are paid half by the owner and half by the buyer, or even different percentages. So make sure this is clear from the start.
It is also important before starting, determine how and when they are going to be paid. Usually, the most common way is to pay them at the time the deed is signed at the notary’s office. My advice is to do it at that time.
It is also very important that you clarify which services are included in these real estate fees.
In addition to showing you properties, does it include being accompanied on the day of signing at the notary?
Does it include making the name change of the electricity and water contracts?
Does it include a bottle of champagne on the day of signing at the notary? (This is clearly a joke, although the truth is not a bad idea for real estate companies to do).
Although it is a question that your lawyer will clarify for you, it is important before deciding on a property, to know what expenses are involved in buying a property. Therefore, ask the real estate agent what the purchase costs are. I am referring to how the notary fees, taxes, registration, etc., will be distributed.
The magic word is that the expenses are paid according to the law. What does this mean?
According to Spanish law, in the event that the parties do not agree on a specific distribution of expenses and taxes, these will be made according to law. And according to law, it implies a standard distribution of expenses and taxes. This is the most used in this type of transaction. However, there are others, some of which may be more beneficial to you. Therefore, clarify it at the beginning so that you can estimate the total amount that your property purchase will cost.
Wait for that Signature
And finally, before signing any type of document, no matter how important it is, have it reviewed by your lawyer. This is the best thing to do to avoid problems in the future with clauses that have not been detected. Trust me, no matter how much they tell you that it is an unimportant document and that it does not bind or oblige you to anything (that is what they usually tell you in these cases),
Do Not sign it until your lawyer reviews it, or it may cost you.
5. The two most important things you must ask for if you don’t have a lawyer!
Not everyone can have a lawyer, and I understand that. That is why I am going to give you the key to the two most important documents you have to request about a property. It is clear that there are many more documents to review, but these two are the basic pillars to detect problems before buying anything.
A) Simple Note of the property registry
(Nota Simple del Registro de la Propiedad)
First, you have to ask for the famous “Nota Simple”. What is a nota simple? This is a certification issued by the Property Registry of Spain. In the Spanish system to protect the owners, we have a public system to register the properties, where everyone, and publicly, can check who the owners of a property are and they can also check the description and whether or not they have “Liens or Loans”.
Well, before buying anything, of course, you have to make sure who the owner is, the “legal” description, and of course, if there are charges, liens, loans, etc., on the property. This is the information that comes in the nota simple.
It is common for realtors to have the nota simple of the property. But in many cases, those nota simples are not updated. If I ask for a nota simple today, this note gives me the information for today, a snapshot in time. But it may be that tomorrow this property has a foreclosure, or that tomorrow the owner asks for a mortgage. Well, that would not appear in the nota simple provided to you.
So please ask for an updated nota simple, as close to the current time as possible. It does not cost much (just € 4 if you request it in person at the Land Registry, corresponding to the town where the property is located). Here I leave you a link where all the Registries in Spain are, and also a link where you can even order electronically or online (it is a little more expensive, but it is worth it when you cannot visit the registry in question).
This simple note that we talk about is what I call a hands-on. When the DEED has to be formalized, the notary will be in charge of requesting a fully updated one before signing, so that you will know if there has been any change or not just at the time of purchase.
B) Real Estate Tax Receipt (IBI or “contribution”)
(Recibo del impuesto de bienes inmuebles)
This tax is a local tax that is paid every year for the property. And the amount depends on several factors such as the type of property (rustic or urban), as well as its dimensions, property lines, and more.
Well, for the calculation of this tax, the CATASTRO is used as a database. What is this? The Cadastre is the database of Spain where all the existing assets in the national territory are collected. Therefore, each asset in Spain is in the cadastre database, and in fact, each asset must have a Catastral Reference, which would be like a personal identity number.
Unlike the Property Registry, it is not possible to access the name the owner appearing in the cadastre of each of the properties. What you can obtain publicly is the description of the property and a plan, where the data related to the surfaces of the property in question is also collected.
The best way to obtain this information is the IBI receipt. This document can be provided by the real estate agency or the owner. Having the IBI receipt, even if it is from previous years, makes it easier to access the property information.
All you have to do is go to the cadastre page (catastro) and enter the cadastral reference in the search engine. Immediately you will see the information about the property in question. You may even download a certification called Graphic and Descriptive (Grafica y Descriptiva) where the physical characteristics of the property are summarized.
Once you have the documents
Well, once we obtain these two key documents, in addition to verifying that no charges appear in the nota simple. Be sure to compare the descriptions that appear in each of the documents to be sure they match.
For many years, the Property Registry and the Cadastre have been two bodies that have gone their separate ways. However, in 2015 a law was approved in Spain bringing them together so that both registries were fully coordinated.
Most of the new assets that were created after that date are characterized by being coordinated in these two organizations. So when requesting a simple note the Cadastral Reference will also appear, and even if it is said property.
Contact Us – We are here to help you with buying a property in Spain!
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About the Author: Fran has been a lawyer in Spain for more than 20 years and is based in the Costa Tropical. He is fluent in English and Spanish and can facilitate you buying a property in Spain. While he is located on the Costa Tropical, he can assist with any properties in Andalucia and eastern Spain. You may read more about his services and what offers he has for free consulting, see lawyer in Spain.
Read more How To posts on Almuñécar Info, full of tips and tricks for you to live in Spain.