Buying Property in Spain

Hoards of people buy property in Spain every year. Whether looking for a holiday home, dream retirement villa or even an investment property, the vast majority of people pay more than they need to. Why? The answer is simple, because they are paying an Agent.

Estate agents in Spain work on notoriously high commission percentages. It is not uncommon to find agents who demand ten or even fifteen percent of the purchase price of a property for finding a buyer. Nice work if you can get it. But what does this mean to the purchaser? It means that the purchaser is paying more than necessary for their new home.

It makes sense that, in the vast majority of cases, the vender will accept a lower price for their property if they are not in a position where they have to pay out a huge proportion of the agreed price to a third party. Selling without the involvement of an agent is a win-win situation for both purchaser and vender. The vender doesn’t pay out more than he needs to and the purchaser pays less for the property because the vender is saving money.

So why don’t people buy direct from the owner every time? Again the answer is quite simple, they don’t know how. Most people don’t know the system, and most people don’t speak the required language. However, these two factors can be overcome.

Let’s look at what an Agent actually does. An Agent lists a house and advertises it, finds a buyer, negotiates the price and then puts the buyer in contact with a qualified person who can supply and write contracts and carry out the conveyance. That’s the long and the short of it, really. So in effect, all we have to do to bypass this expense are two things; find a property ourselves and then find a person who is qualified and capable of carrying out the conveyance who also speaks our language. Not difficult at all.

How does one go about finding a property without using an agent? There are various ways to do this, but the most simple is to decide on an area, hire a car and take a drive, looking for “For Sale” boards. Plenty of people place these boards on their properties whether they are also using an agent or not. In Spanish “For Sale” is normally written “Se Vende”. You’ll see a telephone number. Call it. A lot of the time the person at the other end of the phone will speak English, if not don’t panic, this needn’t be the end of that avenue of enquiry.

In a lot of Spanish towns and villages you will find bars owned by English speaking people. Ask somebody to make the call for you. They usually will. People are generally willing to help if they are asked politely enough. No harm in buying them a small beer for their efforts either. That way you may be able to ask them to repeat the favour at another time, if need be. Make sure that the person calling knows what information you are looking for; the asking price, size of the house, number of bedrooms and bathrooms etc.

How does one make an offer? The truth is that nobody can teach you how to do this. Just use some common sense. Normally the asking price of a property is inflated to include a little negotiation. With no agent in the middle to make this easy and painless, you’ll have to bite the bullet and do it yourself. Start with a lower price than the price you want to finish at and do what you can, in a polite and hopefully friendly way, to arrive at an agreeable price. This is entirely your call.

What do I do next? You are going to need a contract, place a deposit and set a completion date and location. The easiest way to do this is to find a solicitor and let them do it for you. Yes this will cost you money, but it’s the only way. Go back to the bar and ask for recommendations. Somebody will know a solicitor who speaks English.

Your solicitor will liaise with the notary office and will carry out the necessary searches at the Land Registry. Tell the solicitor what you plan to do, and make an appointment to see him / her at an appropriate time. You will need to take along a copy of the Title Deeds (the Escritura) and a copy of the Habitation Certificate (Certificado de Vivienda/Habitación) of the property along with a copy of the vender’s Passport and N.I.E. (Numero Identificacion de Extranjero) if they are not Spanish or D.N.I. (Documento Nacional de Identidad) if they are; the vender will know that this is standard procedure and will not object.

Your solicitor will also advise you regarding the amount of deposit you should lodge, and also advise you with whom to lodge it. You will normally lodge the deposit with either you own or the vender’s solicitor. Never give a deposit directly to a vender. Your solicitor will also be able to help you to obtain your own N.I.E., a necessary document for anybody wishing to buy property in Spain. Unless you speak Spanish and know how to do this it is best not to attempt this without assistance, even though you will be charged for the service it will probably prove to be worth the cost.

On the day of completion you will arrive with your solicitor at the notary’s office carrying a banker’s draught for the final amounts. Your solicitor will advise you about how this should be done. You will sign for the purchase, hand over the monies, and receive the keys and a simple copy of the new deeds that you will have just signed. You will have saved a good amount of money and you will now be joining the rest of us in the Spanish Property Owners Club.