Buying Property in Spain : Real Estate Agents

Denise Watson,  Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Majorca Deia village 

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:

In any country, an estate agency is the natural place to approach when you want to buy a property. It is also natural to approach an estate agency in the area in which you wish to live but, when you’re looking for a new home in a different country, you may have to make that approach via the phone or the internet.

Depending on the part of Spain in which you wish to find your perfect home, you may find that the estate agency (inmobiliaria) has someone who speaks English and maybe some other language(s). Such good luck will tend to be more likely in the tourist areas of Spain, which stretch along the eastern and southern coasts, where the Mediterranean temperatures and lifestyle can be enjoyed. Buying inland or in the northern regions of Spain, an interpreter will most likely need to be sought. If a member of the staff team does speak your language, or the company offers to employ an interpreter, this will aid the day-to-day communications in the process of finding the right property to purchase. While this might seem a gift from above in those immediate moments, you must remember who that interpreter is working for. While he or she will be giving the right information, the interpreter’s aim for success may be pointed in the employer’s (i.e. the estate agent) favour and so, for legal paperwork, it is sensible to employ an independent interpreter who will therefore be acting on your behalf.

In the tourist areas and the big cities of Spain, an estate agent may specialise in dealing with buyers from the UK, Germany or some other country. However, in the quieter areas of Spain (e.g. Galicia, Asturias, Cantabria, Navarra, Aragón and the Basque Country, which are all situated on Spain’s northern coast or border with France), the prospective buyer will find that the estate agent is catering for all nationalities.

Another common practice is that one estate agency group might work together with another group, in order to maximise sales. An example might be that one estate agency has a client but it is another agency that is working for the seller of the ideal property. In a case like this, the two companies will work together and split the commission gained by the joint venture. The estate agent’s commission which now, by law, must be stated, may be between 3% and 5%, depending on the time taken to show properties i.e. an estate agent in a city may be able to show several properties in a couple of hours whereas, in a rural area, properties may be far apart and will take more time to be reached and visited, thus using more staff time and leading to higher expenses. Please note that the two companies should split the commission due and not increase payments to get individual ‘whole’ commissions.

The Local ‘Corredor de Fincas’

In small communities, the best person for finding the right house may be the small independent estate agent, as this person belongs in the community and knows who is selling or about to sell. While not all estate agents hold qualifications other than maybe that of trasador (qualified to evaluate properties), this ‘corredor de fincas’ will hold a relevant certificate and this can be an ideal opportunity to find the right house, though the need for a lawyer or gestor (a qualified professional who helps the general public will all paperwork needs) and also interpreter are still paramount.

The laws in Spain now state that an estate agent must declare the fee they expect from the sale of a property. This will usually stand at around the 3% to 5% marker.

Estate agents and sellers might push for quick completion but it really is in your best interest that you make sure everything is finalised before you sign on the dotted line. Though not everyone employs a lawyer or gestor when purchasing a house, it really does make sense to do so, as a good representative will be working with your interests foremost and he or she should make sure that you fully understand the process of purchase, before you sign any official document(s).

You can confirm the qualifications of a Spanish lawyer by checking their registration number with the Colegio de Abogados (lawyers’ college). You can access this information through the website. Also check that your chosen lawyer has professional indemnity insurance. A gestor may have a degree or diploma in business finance or in business administration, the certificate of which may hang in the gestor’s office. Again, the interpreter acting on your behalf should be able to check this out for you.

While looking around vacant properties, you may be surprised to find that the previous owners have not necessarily emptied the home of its contents. This may be more prevalent in the older houses, as the history of Spain involved many young people seeking work in other countries and not necessarily returning to their home country. Upon the passing on of maybe a parent or grandparent, these houses would then simply fall into disrepair, to be snapped up many years later by avid DIY enthusiasts.

It’s best that you travel in the estate agent’s car, as some roads in Spain are extremely bumpy and very narrow, both of which could do damage to your hire car. Also, if you’re struggling with the language, working out directions will not be an easy task.

The hours of work in Spain can appear somewhat strange to foreigners. Many people start work at ten in the morning, work until around half past one, and then take a three hour break, working the afternoon from half past four until eight in the late afternoon.

Recognising a Good estate Agent

In Spain, anyone can set up as an estate agent and, while some estate agents might have relevant qualifications, these certificates don’t confirm that you are getting a better service. So, a good checklist for choosing the right estate agent will be:-

  • Does the estate agent appear knowledgeable about the house-buying business?
  • Is the estate agent able to answer your questions?
  • Is the estate giving off a trusting personality and character?
  • Is he or she showing respect and not pushing to get things done?
With all these points in place, and the support of a lawyer (or gestor) and interpreter, buying a property of your dreams should be a hiccup-free and pleasant experience.

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