One of the first things people think when buying a house in Spain is that I must try to do it as cheaply as possible. That is a normal feeling to have; when someone is spending a lot of money on something they have a natural urge to curb spending in other areas. It is also a reaction to thinking I must not overspend, just essentials, so do I really need this?
The fact is that, yes, you do need to use someone to represent you with buying property in Spain. Over the past close to nine years, I have been working with our lawyer in Spanish Solutions, and many of the property purchases that I have seen that have ended in problems have been those where the clients, unfortunately, chose, for whatever reason, not to use a lawyer, usually being guided to just use the estate agent for help.
Help From Estate Agents
I would hope that in this day and age that estate agents are no longer saying to a potential purchase “Don’t worry, it is simple, you don’t need a lawyer, we will help you”. Firstly, it is not simple in Spain (nothing is!) and estate agents vary in quality and experience, usually demonstrated by their longevity (please check how long they have had offices – very important – and have been working as an estate agent in Spain). Secondly, estate agents know their business, and those dealing with the complexities of buying and selling houses know theirs. If your Estate Agent is recommending you have proper help in dealing with the legalities then they are looking properly after your interests.
Even if you were fluent in Spanish (and few non-nationals are) unless you have been dealing with conveyancing and the legalities of buying and selling for years, how are you going to be sure that what you are doing is correct, up to date and that you are fully protecting yourself? Business practices, legal requirements, how things are done, all vary greatly here, from the Ireland and the UK and other countries. You would not try to buy a house in the UK without professional help, so please consider very carefully before not getting professional help here in Spain.
I would also advise that when you are choosing who will represent you in an important purchase of your life, don’t necessarily go for the cheapest. There is a reason that we can all think of so many words of warning related to buying cheap “You get what you pay for” etc. The fact is that usually, the provider has to be cutting corners somewhere in order to achieve the cheapest quote, for example, they may not have their staff on full contracts, they may not be fully declaring income for tax, they may not even be legal, and, that can affect you, especially if they may be underestimating the true costs and something comes back to surprise you later, or not undertaking the task fully.
Equally, a very expensive quote does not generally always mean that firm is the best. I recently asked a firm in Alicante for advice on the taxation of pension funds coming into Spain, as I wished to keep personal matters separate. They quoted a minimum rate of 250-350€ to advise what tax rate would apply, something I know that would take them less than 20 minutes work with the information provided. Ridiculous and it did not make me feel any more confident that the tax rate they quote me would be any different to a firm quoting less than half the price for the task. Choose the firm who will represent you based on their longevity, reputation (it is easy to see reviews on Facebook and opinions on the internet), get a feel for their website and how often they update it, and above all on how they communicate with you. Obviously, excellent English is essential.
So for what reasons do you need someone to represent you?
Just a few of them are detailed below.
- In the UK, for example, you exchange, complete, then you can register your property. In Spain, you have to go through a Notary before the property can be registered in the Land Registry and you get the property deeds. Preparing all the paperwork for the Notary to satisfy their requirements is essential and not a simple task, that has to be carried out by someone with experience and Spanish fluency.
- Representatives of a buyer need to understand the up to date requirements regarding Certificates of Habitation and what paperwork and process are needed to apply for one.
- Representatives need to understand how to deal with the tax side of a purchase, what taxes have to be paid, how to pay them and something extremely important, how to avoid a tax fine for clients after purchase. In so many cases, we have new clients come to us with tax fines when having purchased a house because they did not use someone to represent them, or they did not check that there might be an additional purchase tax “complementaría” and explain to the clients about this.
- To do all the essential checks to avoid inheriting debts. This is vital. In Spain, the debts related to a property pass on to the buyer if they are not settled up to date on completion. This could include all manner of nasties and so it cannot be emphasised enough that a Representative experienced in checking is vital. The first issue we deal with is making sure that the property is fully legal, if it has a mortgage and to make sure it hasn’t got other major debts that could be missed on a purchase and thus inherited by the buyer, through no fault of their own.
- Aside from the very important issue of de-registering a previous owner’s mortgage (and we have seen people inherit mortgages unfortunately), a representative should ensure that all utilities are checked and it noted how much money should be retained from the sellers regarding, water, electric, Suma (council tax), certificate of habitation, community fees, gas, telephone etc. This is time-consuming, painstaking work, not much more enjoyable than watching paint dry, and thus often “overlooked” by less professional and experienced representatives, and buyers may well end up footing the bill for someone else, or ending up that they spend months trying to get a bill transferred into their name, long after the sellers have disappeared.
What else is important?
Clear communication in English. Responses to your emails and clear communication by telephone are very important. It is vital that you understand the process and the obligations you will have by owning a Spanish property. So many people still come to us about something else and have no idea that they should be paying non-resident tax each year, never having been told this when they purchased.
I could go on at length but I do hope that I have convinced you why you need the services of experienced representatives, such as ourselves when buying property in Spain. Our lawyer and the team have helped many thousands of buyers purchase properties without problems since 2005 and hope that we can also assist you, your family or friends. Please do send this information to your friends and family considering a purchase (share using the little buttons above).
If I have not managed to convince you of our expertise and the reasons why you need a representative to help with your property purchase in Spain in this article, then I am absolutely convinced that meeting one of our staff in person or talking to them on the telephone will do so. Please see our all 5-star reviews on Facebook and we hope you will soon be adding one!
If you wish to discuss a purchase or are thinking of buying a property in Spain please contact us and we will be happy to help and to supply quotations for prospective costs.