How estate agents in Spain should work

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A real estate agent in Spain should:

  • Be mature and speak good Spanish. Real estate in Spain is one of the biggest investments most people will ever make and the least buyers can expect is to deal with a mature bilingual sales person. Many of the people selling Spanish property to the foreigners in recent years have been little more than teenagers. They are flown in by costa agents, promised an easy fortune on a commission-only basis, and then unleashed on unwitting clients despite their total lack of understanding of Spain, Spanish, and the local Spanish real estate market.
  • Demonstrate real experience and knowledge of the local property market. When buying something as expensive as property you should expect help from an experienced sales representative who can demonstrate knowledge of the local area and property market. They should have lived in the area for at least 5 years. Look for agencies that are locally based in the area where you want to buy and that have a good selection of properties to offer. Avoid using agencies that aren’t locally based, as they may know less than you about the local property market.
  • Respond to your enquiries in a quick and professional manner.
  • Make an effort to understand your needs and requirements from the outset.
  • Help you to understand what the local real estate market has to offer and what you can realistically expect to buy given your budget and requirements. Unreasonable expectations benefit neither client nor agent.
  • Provide you with clear and useful property particulars or reports.
  • Show you a selection of suitable properties given your budget and requirements. Some real estate agents in Spain intentionally show clients highly unattractive properties (known in the trade as ‘put-offs’) in order to make mediocre but slightly more attractive properties (the ones they want to sell) seem wonderful in comparison.
  • Be unequivocal about what is included with a property, for instance furniture, and back it up with documentation.
  • When dealing with resale properties, agents should have a file with all the relevant documentation on the property. As a minimum this should include the land register filing (nota simple) and a copy of the title deeds. Well organised professional agents will also have receipts of local rates, utilities and community changes where relevant. For new build properties they should have a copy of all the relevant documentation provide by the promoter, for instance up to date price lists, plans and specifications, copies of example contracts and a copy of the building licence.
  • Be honest, erring on the side of caution, on matters such as rental potential, expected capital gains and the real costs of purchasing property in Spain. Many agents have been known to exaggerate the rental potential of properties and downplay the costs of buying and owning property. And no agents have a crystal ball. All the can tell you is what prices have done in the past.
  • Not put you under any pressure during the process. There is a fine line between pressure and well-meant encouragement, and it can be difficult to identify subtle pressure, which comes in many forms. As a general rule ignore all claims by a real estate agent that other buyers are about to swoop and that prices are about to go up. If you feel you are being put under pressure make this clear and if necessary drop the agent.
  • Accompany you to the signing of the deeds.
  • Keep you informed of construction progress and the dates when stage payments become due when buying off-plan.
  • Make it clear what level of after-sales service they provide. There is nothing wrong with an estate agent providing very little after-sales service if they are perfectly honest about this and don’t mislead you into expecting help that won’t be forthcoming. In reality you may be better off hiring professionals that specialise in after-sales services that receiving a half-hearted effort from estate agents.
  • Be open about the commission they are earning if you ask (which you should).

© Mark Stucklin (Spanish Property Insight)