I’d be happy to help answer some of your questions. I’ve completed and over-seen transactions here in Barcelona.
Firstly, I’d definitely advise you to employ a lawyer (abogado). I go by the rule that the precautions you take in the UK, should be the same (if not more) when buying abroad.
If you know the city well already, you should have a good idea about the areas you want to buy in, speaking Spanish & Catalan is a great advantage too. 10 days I would say is a little ambitious to choose a property but if you do most of the ground work at home, research all the properties on the internet first and book appointments, it should be possible.
(I like to see a property at least 3 times on separate times, days, occasions etc. before making a decision. So maybe my time scale would be a little different).
The initial contract is a formal engagement, and upon signing you pay 10%. If you back out of the transaction at this stage you lose your money. If the seller backs out, he pays you double your money.
You need NIE numbers to sign the contract and NIE numbers have a Spanish bank account. And if the property and accounts are in two names, then both parties need NIE registration.
Regarding signing the final contract it can be done a lot quicker than 6 weeks. It’s really dependant on how well and quickly your lawyer works. And more importantly the complexity of the property. As you have rightly pointed out, a lot of property has debt which can be quite complicated when related to ownership issues. (It’s very common here, that property is shared between family members).
I’ve just checked one of my last transfers and that was 18 days after the first signing. But we needed to speed the process as it was a distressed sale.
You are right to think about raising UK finance, it nigh to impossible to get Spanish funds especially if you do not have employment history here.
The main fees are as follows – Transfer Tax, Lawyer fees, Notario and Land registry.
Note that on the 1st August 2013, the transfer tax in Catalunya will rise to 10% from 8%.
The buying process should be relatively straight forward, as long as you do your homework and establish good contacts and have all your finance and registrations in place.
The renovating process can be a lot more complicated and long winded, dependant on the scale of the works you need to undertake.
If you’d like to know more info regarding renovations, I would happily discuss it further.
p.s. One piece of advice, if an agent tries to get you to pay 1% to them when placing an offer, don’t pay it. Incredibly this system still operates here. A throw back to the boom years when people were desperate to secure property.