The property buying process in Spain
If you’re considering buying a property in Spain, lucky you! But before you get excited and run away with the idea, it always pays to do your research and make sure you know what you’re getting into. Buying property in Spain follows a different process compared to buying property in the UK, so make sure you know what to expect throughout every stage!
In Spain there are four key stages when buying a property:
- Reservation contract
The first phase of the buying process in Spain is a reservation contract, which usually ensures that the property is removed from the market. It’s not essential to sign a reservation contract/pay a reservation fee when buying a property in Spain, however it means that the property will not be actively marketed for a set period, giving your Spanish lawyer time to run all the necessary background checks before proceeding to the next stage. You should seek independent legal advice before signing a reservation contract and/or paying any funds.
It’s not uncommon for estate agents in Spain to ask you to sign their own reservation contract. However, these are often very vague, offering little protection to the buyer. Reservation contracts are not mandatory or fixed, so you have the right to negotiate the terms of the agreement if you do decide to sign one. Typically, a reservation fee is €3,000 to €6,000, however this is also negotiable.
It is advisable not to sign a reservation contract until your lawyer has checked whether there are any outstanding debts on the property (as these can be passed on to the new owner); you have secured a formal mortgage offer (if you require a Spanish mortgage) and if necessary a valuation of the property has been carried out.
- Purchase contract
Signing a purchase contract, or preliminary contract (contrato privado de compravento), is the equivalent of an exchange of contracts in the UK and is legally binding. It is at this stage that you are legally obliged to complete the property purchase within the agreed timeframe and the seller is legally required to sell the property as per the agreed price. The contract should also outline what fixtures and fittings are included.
Typically, at this stage you will be required to pay a 10 per cent deposit. Once you’ve signed the purchase contract you may incur late payment penalties if you’re unable to complete the property purchase within the agreed timescales or lose your deposit if you pull out of the sale without a valid legal reason.
While it’s possible to include clauses such as “subject to obtaining a Spanish mortgage” or “subject to legal searches”, if you need to take action on these it can mean you’ll need to take the vendor to court to retrieve any money paid, which can be time-consuming and costly! So, it’s advisable to ensure that all searches are carried out and a mortgage is secured before signing a purchase contract. In addition, it’s important to decide by this stage whose names will be on the title deeds as adding or removing names later down the line is a very complicated process.
- Contract of sale
The next stage of the buying process in Spain is the contract of sale (escritura de compravento). You will need to sign the contract of sale in front of the notary at the offices of the Spanish notary (Notaria Publica). Everyone involved in the property purchase must attend this appointment. This includes:
- the buyer and or your legal representative
- the seller and or their legal representative
- a representative from your bank/mortgage provider, if you are obtaining a Spanish mortgage
- a representative from the seller’s bank, if they are cancelling their mortgage or the existing loan is being transferred to the buyer (subrogation)
Understandably, with so many people involved it can be difficult finding a date and time that suits everyone, and it’s not uncommon for one or more parties to cancel, which is why it can be useful to assign Power of Attorney to your lawyer in Spain so they can act on your behalf in the event you are unable to be present for the appointment.
Unless you’re fluent in Spanish or the notary speaks English fluently, your lawyer or another bi-lingual representative must be present at this appointment to translate for you. Legally the notary cannot allow you to sign the paperwork unless they are certain that you fully understand the implications.
At this stage you will also need to have all the funds in place to cover all expenses and have the cheque or bankers draft ready with you on the day. You’ll also need to make sure you take your either a certified copy of your passport or the original passport and your original NIE certificates.
- Registration of ownership
The final stage of the process is registering the property in your name. When the contract of sale is completed you’ll receive a copy of the deeds. The original document should be sent to land registry to formally register the property in your name. This step is crucial, and you should double check that registration has taken place and make sure that you keep the original copies of all the documents safe as they are required if you decide the sell the property in the future. This process can take up to three months.
After all the formalities are over, it’s time to kick back with a sangria or cerveza and enjoy your new property!
For more information about buying a property in Spain or for assistance from one of our recommended English-speaking lawyers in Spain, Spanish estate agents, currency exchange experts or Spanish mortgage advisors give us a call on 01244 478 911 or email email@example.com. You can also download our Buying in Spain Guide!
Article published: July 30, 2018