10 Tips to Buying Property in Spain – Safely
Spanish property has dropped in price radically. Since 2007, prices have fallen by around 35%-50% – thus returning property values to around 2004 levels. Whilst this is terrible news for Spanish property sellers, it provides a fantastic opportunity for anyone thinking of buying a holiday home or permanent home in Spain. Indeed, as a property buyer in Spain you now have a wealth of bargain properties to choose from in virtually every property sector.
Spanish property has dropped in price radically. Since 2007, prices have fallen by around 35%-50% – thus returning property values to around 2004 levels. Whilst this is terrible news for Spanish property sellers, it provides a fantastic opportunity for anyone thinking of buying a holiday home or permanent home in Spain.
Indeed, as a property buyer in Spain you now have a wealth of bargain properties to choose from in virtually every property sector, from luxury villas and town houses through to beachside apartments, commercial properties and fincas in the countryside. Sellers are desperate and you can negotiate hard before buying a property that, even in these hard times, will prove to be a sound long-term investment – as well as a pleasure to live in!
However, the urgent question remains: can you buy safely in Spain?
After all, many of us are aware of Spain’s notorious reputation for property “˜problems’, which have been widely reported in the international press. “˜Land grab’ has become a phrase powerful enough to put many people off buying property in Spain altogether and stories about foreigners buying into illegal properties, or those with high potential liabilities, abound – with some justification.
The truth is that you can buy property in Spain safely. However, to do so you have to be very careful and knowledgeable – with the following guidelines critical:
1. Dispel the illusion that the overall operation of Spanish land law is the same as for your own country. Be more careful and more cautious than you would be in your country.
2. Appreciate that there are many illegal properties in Spain and many more that have very considerable potential liabilities often connected to a possible state infrastructure project – the costs of which you may have to pay. In fact, an infrastructure project around your property may even lead to you losing a proportion of your land.
3. Understand an outline of Spanish property law before you go “˜on the ground’ looking at properties. Vitally, know the meaning and relevance of Urbanizado, Fully Urbanizado and Rural and be able to recognise, in principle, where a given property would fall within these designations – as its legality and potential liabilities can sometimes be obvious (until proven definitely otherwise).
4. Find a good conveyancing lawyer before you start looking for property. Spend time and effort to find an excellent lawyer and never, ever allow any conveyancing to be done for you by anyone but your lawyer. Furthermore, always make sure that your lawyer has all of the following characteristics, namely that he/she is: completely independent (of the seller, developer and agent etc.), speaks your language fluently, a specialist conveyancing lawyer, and fully qualified with high public liability insurance (check this!). Finally, always get all advice and assurances from your lawyer as to your proposed property in writing.
5. Never sign anything whatsoever at any time, for anyone unless the document concerned has been fully and properly translated into your language and has been expressly approved by your lawyer.
6. Never fall into the mistake of thinking that your estate agent is your “˜friend’. He may become so in the future but his aim, whilst you are his client, is to earn a sales commission and so his advice is likely to be biased. Given that sales commissions in Spain can vary from 3%-18% (generally they are 5%-10%) the stakes for the agent are very high, with the sales commission from a single sale sometimes equating to the national salary of some Spaniards.
7. Always use a building surveyor to survey your Spanish property before you pay anything at all for it. However, make sure that your building surveyor is independent (of the seller and agent etc.), fully qualified, fully insured and speaks your language fluently. Ensure that your surveyor provides you with a full written report as to the property, its state and any potential breach of planning controls and that he checks to see that any relevant building licences or building guarantees are in place and valid.
8. Location, location, location – it is critical that you choose the right location for your intended Spanish property and never get so obsessed by looking at individual houses (however wonderful) at the expense of checking and analysing your desired location very carefully – and this should be done both during the day and night. Are all the amenities that you need really there and close enough to be convenient in the long term? Is the land in front of you really non-building land or could a new property be built there, thus obscuring your precious view? Take nothing for granted and, if possible, rent in the area and stay there for a few months before you commit to buying a property
9. Always buy with a view to reselling your intended property. At some stage you will do this, so imagine when assessing the property you want to buy what obstacles might exist to other buyers when you come to sell it. For example, are there many stairs up or down to the house entrance? (This will put off elderly people or those with small children) Are there only two rather than three bedrooms (most people want three), is there good, off-road parking (critical for most buyers), and so on? Compromise on the property you want to make sure that what you buy is easily resaleable to the biggest possible section of the marketplace.
10. Never be rushed (nor rush) to buy a property in Spain as there are plenty of bargains on the Spanish property market and it is always better to miss a fantastic bargain than buy into a disaster. To miss a bargain is a shame but buying into a disaster could change your life completely – for the worse.
Good luck!Nick Snelling is the author of How to Buy Spanish Property and Move to Spain – Safely, which is available form Amazon, Kindle and all good bookshops. Nick is also the author of four other books about Spain and the webmaster of the highly regarded authority information site, Culture Spain