Buying Property in Spain : Buying Guide

Denise Watson,  Tuesday, 12 November 2013


This article is part of a series of 8 articles about buying property in Spain. The other articles in the series cover the following topics:

Today, many people are looking for an alternative lifestyle and the idea of moving to another country is a popular choice. With the freedom of movement in the European countries, and the possibility of cheap flights, ordinary working class people are increasing their comfort zones and indeed moving lock, stock and barrel to the place of their dreams.

In Europe, Spain is a popular choice: it guarantees good weather, good prices and a healthier lifestyle. Tourists may at first only see ‘holiday’ Spain, which is adapted to cater for foreigners and from this they get the taste of a Mediterranean lifestyle and a need for much more. While the tourist areas take up no more than a tiny portion of Spain, the country itself offers a diversity of temperatures, ways of life and also types of home. Setting up a permanent residence in Spain may seem an enormous step yet, in truth, it’s simply the lack of knowledge about Spain’s official red tape that makes it feel that way.

But maybe you simply want to buy a holiday home and are wondering if you can indeed do this. The quick answer is yes.

The first things to think about when buying abroad are where you want to live and if you have enough capital available. Other important questions are do you need to work while you’re in Spain, do you need schools for your children and do you need to speak the language. Armed with this information, you’re in a good position to move forward.

When buying in Spain, you need to find yourself a good lawyer or gestor (a qualified professional who helps the general public will all paperwork needs) and also an interpreter. These people should be employed by you and not provided by the seller of the house or the estate agent, as these professionals work on behalf of the people who are paying them and, if employed by you, will therefore have your best interests at heart. Like in any legal process, signatures are needed at various stages and you want to be sure that you fully understand the legal implications of anything you sign. These people, when employed by you, will be responsible for doing that.

If you’re applying for a mortgage in Spain, this will be calculated according to your outgoings. For example, you will be expected to pay a twenty five per cent amount calculated on the value of the house and then the mortgage will be calculated on the remainder. A Spanish requirement is that you spend no more than thirty five percent of your income on outgoings so, in this example, thirty five percent of a monthly income of 2,500 euros will be eight hundred and seventy five euros. If your monthly outgoings are five hundred euros, you will be allowed a mortgage of up to three hundred and seventy five euros per month, taking your total monthly outgoings up to that thirty five percent limit. Mortgage repayments periods usually stretch from five to twenty years, depending on whether of not you are a resident (i.e. the country where you spend more than 183 days a year) and when you will reach the age of seventy, the latter being the cut-off point for mortgage commitments. If you are not resident in Spain, you may be asked to provide an aval (i.e. a guarantor), someone who will pay, should you default on your mortgage.

You also need an NIE number (numero de identificación) to apply for a mortgage. This document, which may come in plastic card of paper form, is needed for all financial transactions and also acts as a guarantee card, when using your Visa or bank debit card. This card requires that you approach the Spanish Embassy in your own country, or you attend the police station in your chosen area in Spain with sufficient identification (which includes your passport) to begin the process. If you’re living in Spain, you might find that a condition of receiving this card is that you have sufficient cash to sustain your own upkeep and the police may arrive at your door to see evidence of money in a bank account, a regular pension or a current wage, before the NIE card is issued.

A Breakdown of the Buying Process

The buying process can be broken down into a few steps:

  • Knowing the capital available
  • Finding a suitable lawyer or gestor (a qualified professional who helps the general public will all paperwork needs) and an interpreter
  • Approaching an estate agent to help you with your house search
  • Checking the legal layout of the property and the land attached
  • Being sure that there are no outstanding debts on the property (houses are sometimes sold with unpaid mortgages or outstanding bills attached (e.g. yearly community taxes and utility bills), which then become the buyer’s responsibility).
  • Though not necessary under Spanish law, having a survey carried out is very important
  • Registering an interest in the property
  • Completing the necessary paperwork, always with the support of a lawyer and an interpreter
  • Attending the notary’s (a government official and qualified lawyer who presides over the signing of all legal contracts) office, to complete the legal sale.
While this is a simplified list of the buying process, it cannot be stressed enough that you should not sign anything without the support of legal representation and language translation. Without this support, you may find that you have signed a binding contract without knowledge of the consequences.

Bearing all of this in mind, buying a house in Spain is not a difficult process. You simply need to be sure that the professionals are working with your interests uppermost.

House in quiet street in Spanish village
Spanish property for sale. Appartements, villas and houses for sale on the Costa del Sol, Costa Brava and Costa Blanca. For sale by owner and by agent. 
This is the true story of the Spanish culture. Easy to read.

99651922 It’s easy to fall in love with a home in Spain and then blindly sign the purchase documents. However, because legal processes may be different there, you really do need to be on the ball when it comes to following the process through. A quick look at the buying process will stand you in good stead, helping you know what to expect next and making the system feel a lot more manageable. 
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