It is only natural that first time buyers of property in Spain are uncertain of the route to completion of the transaction. Spanish laws and business practices are often a long way from what one would expect in the UK, although when analysed carefully it becomes clear that with a few notable exceptions the actors involved in a Spanish property transaction are not entirely dissimilar from those one would expect to encounter in one’s home country. Here we provide you with a brief guide to who’s who in your Spanish property purchase.
Buying property in Spain - The Estate Agent
The first person you are likely to encounter when seeking a Spanish property is the estate agent. In Spain estate agents are not regulated in any significant way, although some of them may be members of a trade organisation. In a relatively unregulated marketplace there is huge diversity, so it is impossible to generalise about the standard of professionalism and honesty that one can expect. The role of an estate agent is to introduce buyer to seller, on behalf of the seller, and as such the estate agent works for the seller. Estate agents may represent an important contact for the buyer, who may choose to rely on the estate agent for an array of services. However, it is important to bear in mind that once the buyer has identified the property that he or she would like to purchase, the next step is for an independent lawyer to make enquiries and report to the buyer before any money is handed over.
Buying property in Spain - The Independent Spanish Lawyer
It is essential that you engage an independent specialist Spanish property lawyer to represent your interests. The lawyer ought to be someone whom you can trust. While an estate agent may be trying to help you by introducing you to a lawyer, it is unwise to engage a lawyer to whom an estate agent has introduced you, as the lawyer may be reluctant to do anything to scupper a deal for an estate agent who regularly introduces him/her to clients. Your lawyer’s job is to make enquiries, report to you, set out all of the steps to be taken until and beyond completion of the transaction and keep you updated as to the costs to be incurred and the progress of the matter. This includes the payment of purchase tax and the registration of the property in your name, as well as advising you as to any mortgage that you may require. There is often a private agreement signed by buyer and seller prior to completion of the purchase, in which case it is your lawyer’s job to agree the terms of that agreement.
Buying property in Spain - The Surveyor
Before you decide to purchase you may choose to engage a surveyor to survey the property and provide you with a report. There are companies in Spain that specialise in providing survey reports in the style in which you would expect to receive these in the UK. It is very sensible to receive a survey in respect of a single-family home. That said, a survey is not compulsory and those purchasing an apartment may prefer to rely on evidence of any problems affecting the whole block, rather than engaging a surveyor to report on the state of a single unit.
Buying property in Spain - The Notary
The completion of the property purchase will be signed before a Notary. Present at the completion meeting will be the buyer, the seller (or someone representing either or both of them), at least one estate agent and perhaps a representative of the bank if you are buying with a mortgage, or there is a mortgage to be redeemed. It is the Notary’s responsibility to ensure that whatever is stated in the sale and purchase documentation is true. The Notary does not advise either party and is an independent observer to the completion of the transaction.
Buying property in Spain - The Tax Man
Once the property transaction has been signed, the purchase moneys paid and the keys handed to the buyer or the buyer’s representative, purchase tax must be paid to the tax office of the autonomous community in which the property is situated.
Buying property in Spain - The Property Registry
The stamped documentation will be sent to the local property register office. The property registrar’s duty is to ensure that the sale and purchase documentation has been prepared correctly. If a mistake has been made then that will be highlighted and any mistake may be corrected. The ownership of the property will then be registered in the name of the buyer and any lender’s interest in the property will also be noted.
As a purchaser of property in Spain you need to know who’s who, but in real terms the only person whom you should need to rely on is your independent specialist property lawyer.