Buying a Property in Spain – Some of the Differences of the Spanish Legal System


Posted and filed under Property in Spain, Property Purchase/Sale Service.

People buying a property in Spain are often surprised at differences between Spain and other countries for buying property.


Firstly in Spain, you will find you are asked for a deposit (generally 3,000€ in the La Zenia area) very early on. You should make sure that your legal representative obtains an extract from the Land Registry (nota simple), ideally before you pay any money. They need to check that the property and land offered are correct against what you think you are buying and that the sellers are the registered owners. Once you have paid a deposit, it is sometimes difficult to get it back quickly, so it is important to at least make sure that there is a proper contract mentioning about the deposit.

In addition, you will find you are asked almost immediately for the deposit and you are signing a private contract and making a commitment very early on, whereas, in some other countries such as the UK, checks are done for many weeks before the first payment and commitment is made. The Spanish system is fine and legal, but just different.


In the UK, for example, surveys are commonplace and have a standard format. In Spain, anything less than a full structural survey is not really going to point out major problems and they are much more expensive, so many people tend not to bother with one. That is your decision when buying a property, you are certainly entitled to ask for a recommendation of an architect to carry out a survey, but do not be surprised if it is not suggested to you.

Payment on Completion

One of the biggest differences when buying in Spain and that causes many people concern is how the final payment is made, especially for sellers receiving the funds. Payment is made in the Notary on the day of completion by banker´s draft. This seems very odd to many people as in 2018 they are used to payments being done electronically. However, a banker’s draft is the safest way of payment for both parties.

A banker’s draft is not a simple cheque, it is money which is bank guaranteed. A seller receives the cheque at the Notary in exchange for the keys. After that, they pay it in their Spanish bank account and it will be cleared in only 2 or 3 days. It cannot be stopped. Again this is a big difference in the Spanish legal system as opposed to what happens at completion in other countries.

Property Ownership

In Spain, properties are generally purchased in joint names as tenants in common, which means that each person owns a share in the property (either in equal shares or different percentages).

This has a huge impact when someone passes away as when the property is owned jointly, the other share or shares do not pass automatically to the surviving co-owners and can only be transferred into  their names (to allow a sale for example) by a probate/inheritance process involving a Solicitor, Notary and the Land Registry. This incurs greater costs than in other countries where properties may be held as joint tenancy, whereby the property is then passed automatically to a joint owner on death. There is nothing wrong with this type of property ownership (tenants in common) and it can have some advantages, particularly when joint owners wish to dissolve their joint ownership.

If you have concerns about the differences in the legal process of buying a property in Spain, please CONTACT US with any query and we will explain the system here in Spain to you. There is no need for concern, many differences have reasons and can be easily explained.

If you are looking for a lawyer or legal representative to help with your property purchase in Spain, or you need help with an inheritance or probate, please contact Amanda on

If you are at the stage of looking for a property, please contact us and we will introduce you to an agent who can help with your requirements.

We hope to see you here in Spain soon!

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