Property Corner for serious buyers and sellers

Apartment for sale in Marbella

Apartment for sale in Marbella, hand-picked by Viva

I’m launching a ‘Property Corner’ to help serious buyers and vendors connect. This Corner includes new developments and a hand-picked selection of homes for sale in Spain, from leading agents and developers.

Compared to other countries, searching for property in Spain is a frustrating experience. The information available is sketchy, and you have to wade through layers of crapola to find the good stuff. It means you have to invest a lot of time and effort to find interesting properties, and understand prices, more so than in other markets.

Most people start with a search engine and quickly find their way to property portals like ThinkSpain, Rightmove, Kyero, Idealista, Fotocasa, Habitaclia, and Costadelhome, to list but a few. The portals are great, but they do have their weaknesses, for example:

  • Duplications, but which I mean the same property advertised by dozens of different agents, often with different prices. Some searches I have done suggest that a big share of the results are duplications.
  • Listing that turn out to have already sold. I get the impression this is quite a common problem, based on feedback I have received from my readers. Perhaps some agents leave attractive properties online after they have sold, as a good way to attract new enquiries.
  • Want to know the exact location of a property before you enquire? I mean, let’s face it, the location is important, right? Chances are you will see a circle almost as big as a city to indicate the location.
  • Over-the-top property descriptions. I despair at the cliché descriptions that many estate agents churn out. Every property is ‘prestigious’, ‘exceptional’, ‘stunning’, ‘exquisite’, and many other wonderful things, but the photos tell a different story. Does anyone fall for this guff?
  •  Anyone can advertise at a portal so there is no filter. So how do you know who you are dealing with when you hand over your personal contact details? Sadly, there are quite a few incompetente clowns, crooks, and cowboys (the three Cs) trying to sell property in Spain, and it’s difficult to know in advance who’s who.

None of this is the fault of the portals, which are basically machines talking to machines. They are only as good as the information they are fed by other machines. The problem is the lack of professionalism in the sector, and woeful lack of transparency in the market (for which the Spanish Administration is to blame).

Another problem is that vendors in Spain tend to work with multiple agents. This leads to duplications and perverse incentives for agents. If you are one of many agents trying to sell the same property, and it’s a zero sum game, what do you do? Do you spend lots of time and resources trying to market the property with the competition breathing down your neck, or do you tell the vendor one thing, a potential buyer another, and hope they reach agreement quickly once they start talking?

If you are serious about buying property in Spain, my advice is pick a good estate agent first, give them a clear brief, and let them search for you. Generally speaking, all agents have access to the same properties, and they all collaborate. Alternatively, hire a buying agent, as a good one will earn their fee. Either way you’ll save time, and get a better result.

Spanish Property Corner

Can I help? I dunno, but I’m going to try. I’m setting up this Property Corner to help serious buyers identify good agents, and cut through the crap to a hand-picked selection of attractive homes for sale. I’m also trying to make it easier to find new developments, as some buyers prefer new homes.

The rules of the Corner are as follows:

  • Only agents and developers I feel comfortable working with based on years of experience and feedback can advertise properties here. I’m highly sensitive to feedback, which I get plenty of every day by email, in comments to my articles, and in my forum. If a company or person is up to no good, I tend to hear about it. I can’t promise you won’t have problems dealing with the companies I allow to advertise here, but I do believe you will reduce your risk of problems because I have a reputation filter in place.  I’m not interested in dealing with agents and developers who will cause you problems.
  • Only a limited number of agents in each area will be allowed to advertise here. This reduces the chance of duplications, and increases the value to agents.
  • Agents can only list their hottest properties most likely to attract a buyer. They know their local markets, so they know what sells at what price. All the rubbish on their books they can’t sell? We don’t want to see it.
  • They hand-pick and manually upload all their properties, which means investing time in the process. This encourages them to think about the selection, and decreases the chance of duplications (which are immediately removed when spotted).
  • Resales are limited to a one-line description, on top of key information such as price, location, beds, baths, size, and photos. So you wont have to waste time reading the usual guff.
  • Wherever possible, locations are exact. But when they’re not, at least they are in the right postcode. I do understand why agents are leery of revealing exact locations, as trust is in short supply in this business. Also, some owners of second homes don’t want to reveal the location of their empty home.
  • Expect useful information such as time on market and price in €/m2 that you won’t find anywhere else.

Feedback

A few weeks ago I asked for feedback on my New Development Showcase, as it was then. I’m very grateful to everyone who responded, and the feedback was reassuringly positive, as you can see from these results (the 1 star rating was from someone who couldn’t find any property in their area of interest – I’m just setting it up, give me a chance!).

But there is one comment in particular I would like to address.

Michael wrote:

“As someone who is actively looking to purchase a Spanish property what I value is your knowledge and insight. I want to believe that if you are showcasing a particular development, that it really is worth considering. If you like, it has the Stücklin stamp of approval. So some rating or personal comment would be extremely helpful. …. If, on the other hand, this is simply a marketing showcase without any bench-marking , then fine, but it is a missed opportunity, and becomes just another site. The real value for me is in knowing a development has to meet certain standards to qualify for inclusion and obtain your recommendation. Either way I wish you well with the launch of your showcase.”

Michael, that is where I am headed, but it’s going to take time to get there. First I need to get enough properties listed, and only then can I start with personal reviews, as otherwise the economics don’t work for me. As you can imagine I can’t work for free, so who is going to pay for these reviews? If vendors are my paymasters, I have to write flattering reviews The only way I can give honest reviews is if I charge people like you to read them. Reviews mean visiting properties (think travel expenses and at least a day of my time, if not more). Who is going to cover the costs? It’ll be coming out of my pocket unless you want to read what vendors want me to say about them. Either you pay for premium content, or you get advertising. There is no middle ground. I have to start with adverts, and move to a blend of adverts and reviews (as premium content) once I have enough variety in different regions.

 

Getting Going

Fortunately, after 15 years writing about this market, I have a large network of professionals around Spain, so I don’t have to cold call anyone. I’ve started off with a few developments in Barcelona and the Balearics, where I spend a lot of time, as proximity helps. But for resales my first client is Viva, in Marbella on the Costa del Sol, as I have always found them professional, and I relied heavily on them a few years ago whilst helping international funds understand property values on the Costa del Sol. Right now my Property Corner looks rather like a Viva advert, but that’s only because they are the first agency to add their hand-picked selection of resales. In a few months there will be a greater variety of agents, but in the meantime, I’m grateful to Viva for their support.

Without further ado, I invite you to check out my Spanish Property Corner for serious buyers and vendors. Feedback welcome.

About Mark Stücklin

Mark Stücklin is a Barcelona-based Spanish property market analyst, and author of the 'Spanish Property Doctor' column in the Sunday Times (2005 - 2008). He can be reached by email on ms@spanishpropertyinsight.com. All articles published in good faith as a general guide but no substitute for professional advice. Please read the SPI disclaimer

8 thoughts on “Property Corner for serious buyers and sellers”

  1. David Vick

    This sounds a good idea, a filter to promote reliable agents. Anything to give buyers confidence and add to their security in what can be a daunting market is a good thing.

    I’m not sure where my case fits into this but I am in the position of selling our existing four year old house and another nearing completion. The first was built as our main residence, the second as a company funded project to sell. We felt that we had learnt the ropes from two previous developments having used the same builders and professionals for both and there was a dearth of high quality new houses available in the area.

    Our plan now is to spend more time in the UK and build a further smaller house in Spain for our own use. Both houses are in the Begur area of the Costa Brava, they are top quality, 5 bedroom, sea view, pool etc. and in the more expensive bracket. If there is some way they could fit into your Property Corner I would be very keen to discuss this. Meanwhile we have created a website to market them http://www.jjlconcepts.com.

    1. Mark Stücklin Post Author

      Hi Giovanni,

      Yes, I know all about Purplebricks.com. I’ve seen at least one operation in Spain copying the model, but to be honest I think that flat pricing only works for the local market, as international sales have a higher cost structure. For it to work with international sales you would have to charge a higher fixed fee, which I guess will be off-putting. I’m not sure, I haven’t really thought it through. Anyway, feel free to email me with your ideas.

  2. SurveySpain

    Resales Online are now making it mandatory for listings to have the Catastral reference. That should exclude duplications and identify the property location. It will also encourage the agent to identify and point out inaccuracies, both in it and the Nota Simple. It should be a major advance, but many agents will be nervous of buyers/other agents approaching the sellers direct. So we should see more exclusive listings.

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