Eight Top Tips on Finding a Property in Spain
The Spanish property market is well established and was booming until 2007. According to the U.K.’s Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, registered sales in Spain peaked in 2006. Still, by the third quarter of 2009, sales had fallen by 40 percent, due to a combination of oversupply and the global economic downturn.
This was good news for buyers, who could find a property in Spain at a much-reduced price. However, the Spanish property market contains many pitfalls for the unwary foreign buyer because it lacks much regulation and real estate agents in Spain are not required to have any specific qualifications, knowledge, or experience.
- Research the Spanish property market thoroughly before you visit Spain to view properties. However, it is often difficult to find reliable, independent property buying information because much of it is provided by those selling property. It is a good idea to use a range of different research sources, such as books and magazines, as well as the Internet.
- Decide why you want to buy a Spanish property: Perhaps you are looking for an investment, a vacation property, or even a permanent home. Whichever it is, your selection criteria will be very different, depending on how you want to use the property.
- Select where you would like to buy your property: Spain has a huge range of geographic and climatic differences within its borders, which may affect your decision. The most popular areas with foreign buyers are those on the coast and the islands, but the main cities such as Madrid and Barcelona are also favourites. The Spanish Property Insight website has independent and wide-ranging information about specific areas of Spain and their property markets.
- Visit the areas of Spain you are interested in, especially if you have only spent a few happy vacations there. Think about how you will use the property and check out the local facilities. If you are thinking of living permanently in Spain, visit the area several times at different times of the year. Talk to any other expats who have a property in the area, who can often give you useful information that you may not get from an estate agent.
- Find a reputable bilingual estate agent. This has become increasingly difficult since deregulation in 2000, although Spanish estate agents usually belong to one of two professional organisations–API or GIPE. Members should have a higher level of training and some professional indemnity insurance, although this is not always the case. Many foreign estate agents are also working in Spain, especially in areas popular with foreign buyers. The only guide to their reputation and professionalism is a recommendation from someone you trust.
- Open a Spanish bank account while you are in Spain. Take your passport, to open a non-resident account in euros or any foreign currency; Having a bank account in Spain will make it easier for your property purchase. You can also ask the bank about a mortgage if you need one and find out how much you might be able to borrow in principle. Mortgages are available from Spanish banks, although they have reduced their lending since the property market crash.
- Start looking for reputable local Spanish lawyers: Do not use a lawyer recommended by anyone with a financial interest in selling you a property. The Spanish Property Insight website lists English-speaking independent lawyers in all areas of Spain. Your embassy or consulate in Spain can also provide lists, although they won’t make recommendations.
- Begin viewing properties but be prepared to return to Spain several times before you make a final decision.
If you are considering living permanently in your property, it is a good idea to take a rental for at least a year to experience the area and what it is like year-round. Make sure your estate agent is bilingual and ask for his registration documentation for one of the two main Spanish professional real estate organisations. Never sign anything until you have taken the advice of an independent Spanish lawyer (abogado).