How do I buy a house in Spain?
The text below is a summary of the basic steps involved in buying a property in Spain.
1. Find a house to buy The 3 main choices are to look in an estate agent's window, find a place on internet or see a for sale sign. You will save a lot of money if you buy directly from the owner.
Estate agent's normally charge 4% of the sale price. 2% from the buyer and 2% from the seller. They ought to be impartial and they should give both the buyer and the seller good advice.
In theory, and by law, when you are shown a property you must be shown these 3 things.
a)The "nota simple" This is an official summary of the legal status of a property according to the land registry. Among other things the nota simple states:- who owns the property, the type of property eg RUSTICA (farmland) URBANA(for human dwellings), an exact legal description, information about the neighboring properties (lindes), any outstanding mortgages (hipotecas).
b) Proof of payment of property tax (Recibo del impuesto de bienes inmuebles) Every year it is necessary to pay the property tax and a receipt will be issued.
c) Title deeds (escritura)
In reality you are not shown the 3 things above until you have shown strong interest in the property. The nota simple can be obtained from the land registry.
2. Put down a deposit: Once you have decided to buy the property you should pay a deposit (señal) The quantity of the señal is normally about 10% of the full price.
If the buyer decides not to buy the house after paying the deposit the buyer will lose the señal. If the seller decides not to sell the house after receiving the deposit he will have to pay the deposit back plus pay the buyer the same amount as the señal.
You should never pay a señal unless you are absolutely certain that you want to buy the property and that it has been checked out from all angles.
When you sign the señal contract it will state the date when the sale will have to be made by.
3. Pay for the house at the notary's office. The buyer and seller meet at the notary's office. The notary will organize the official paperwork for you to sign. After the money has been paid, the notary makes a speech summarizing the aspects of the sale. The keys are handed over. It normally takes a week or so for the notary to process the sale and make the new title deeds in your name.
SOME NOTES FOR FOREIGN BUYERS: It would be almost insane to buy a property in Spain without a lawyer or someone who understands exactly what is happening. It is not a good idea to get a lawyer recommended by the estate agent because the lawyer must be totally independent. Remember that the estate agent just wants you to buy the property as soon as possible. Here are some common complications:
In Spain a married couple cannot disinherit the children. On the death of one spouse, half the property is equally divided amongst the children and the other half goes to the surviving spouse. As you can imagine if a few years go by it is possible that a property could be owned by 20 or 30 people who all must sign at the notaries office.
It is fairly common that what it states on the deeds (escritura) is different from what is actually at the property, because the property has been extended. The most extreme version of this is when a house has been built illegally on farmland (Finca Rustica) without permission from the council. It may have water and electricity and be a perfectly good house but officially it does not exist. You will need good advice from independent lawyers if this is the case.