What to do and what not to do when you buy a property in Spain. Lawyer Raymundo Larraín shares some light-hearted tips on buying a house in Spain from his base in Marbella.
By Raymundo Larraín Nesbitt
Director of Larraín Nesbitt Lawyers
8th of April 2019
Article copyrighted © 2019. Plagiarism will be criminally prosecuted.
Springtime is upon us. It is again that bright season of the year where flowers bloom, bees dart around doing whatever it is they do, and real estate agents are busy dusting off glossy house brochures with a big smile on their face. Scores of buyers will now be booking flights to Spain with a view to acquire their dream house next to the sea.
With this in mind, I thought it would be a good idea to write this short amusing article to clue up buyers, so their dream does not turn sour on tripping themselves over in pursuit of their bolthole under the sun.
- Hire a qualified registered lawyer (abogado)
I know, I know. I just had to add this shameless plug in the first place.
No, a Spanish Notary is not your personal lawyer and will not look after your interests. He’s there to ensure taxes are paid, period.
No, a lender does not substitute a lawyer and much less defends your legal interests on taking on a mortgage loan. No, they do not do a due diligence on the property title. A lender is there to give you a loan, period.
Beware of intruders who claim to be lawyers or law firms but are not registered to practice. Within the last year alone, I’ve come across three such interlopers. Unlike lawyers, they don’t have professional indemnity insurance and lack the legal qualifications to practice. I see plenty of such outfits advertising themselves regularly on popular expat magazines with glossy ads peddling their conveyance ‘services’. They will label themselves with all sort of fancy titles such as: consulting firm, legal consultant, iuris consultant, jurist, legal executive, legal advisor, legal assistant, paralegal etc.
In Spain it is very simple, you are either a lawyer (abogado) or you are not; there is no in-between. Always ask the person you are dealing with for their Law Society’s practising number and verify they are indeed registered to practice. Wrong assumptions lead to expensive mistakes.
- When in Rome, do as the Romans do
I know, we have all been there. You come to Spain and you think some things are stupid and you could do them much better on your own way. Perhaps, perhaps not. The point is that there are rules in place you ought to follow; if you skip them nonchalantly, you are only setting yourself up for a nasty fall.
- Follow the 3 L’s: Look, listen and liken
This is not your turf, it is a new world you’re braving. Take your time to look around where you picture yourself living. Visit the property during the week and over the weekend, by day and by night. Listen to what neighbours and natives have to say about the place. Compare the pad you fancy with other similar properties and areas. If all adds up, go for it. You only live once.
- Don’t pay any money in cash
Would you seriously pay in cash a home in your home country? So, why do it in Spain? This only benefits the person asking to be paid in cash, it does not benefit the buyer in any way. When you come to sell the property later on, you will be hit by a massive capital gains tax bill. Under-declaring is illegal, it is stupid; don’t be a muppet.
- Don’t be pressurized to sign
The never-ending sun, the sweltering heat, the cool sea breeze, the enticing beach sunset with a mojito and a saxo playing, all them nice piña coladas you drank late into the night, the soft-spoken agent gently cooing into your ear promises of wealth and capital appreciation; all these things play tricks on our minds and make us lose the plot when we get off a plane in Spain. Unlike timeshare, there is no cool-off period when you buy property in Spain. Holding deposits are normally non-refundable (unless your lawyer words it). If you wouldn’t rush ahead and sign on the dotted line in your home country, don’t do it in Spain. Focus, breath and take your time to commit before you sign any binding document giving away your life’s savings. Don’t let the big lights dazzle you, you will be spoilt for choice. It’s a buyer’s market.
- Don’t cut corners
“Jack knows how to cut through all this red tape.” Maybe he does, maybe he doesn’t. Don’t try to outsmart local procedures by cutting corners; it is a one-way ticket into a world of pain. If you would follow set procedures in your home country, why on earth are you trying to skip them in Spain?
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“Me ha bastado pensar que la naturaleza pertenece a los niños para reanudar mi batalla encaminada a la conservación de la fauna.” — Félix Rodríguez de la Fuente
“I need only remind myself that Nature belongs to our children’s morrow, to give me strength in the battles to come in defence of wildlife conservation.”
Félix Samuel Rodríguez de la Fuente (1928 – 1980). Decades before the BBC’s brilliant Planet Earth, narrated by Sir David Attenborough, there existed Félix. He was a Spanish precursor of what is now branded as ‘ecologist.’ The son of a reputed Notary, he was expected to dutifully fall in line and follow on the wake of his father’s footsteps. But following social conventionalisms were not his cup of tea. After graduating in medicine, he heeded his calling and would go on to become a naturalist and broadcaster defending what he thought mattered most – Nature and the endangered wildlife. He would become world-renowned for his much-acclaimed tv series El Hombre y la Tierra (1975 – 1980). His calm, collected demeanour and rugged commanding voice, coupled with powerful images of an unleashed Nature the likes viewers had never witnessed, bewitched Spaniards and other nationalities, for decades to come. His enduring legacy would be to imbue and imprint on younger generations his indelible passion and love in defence of Mother Nature. This constitutes all unto itself a wondrous feat, given how Félix managed single-handedly to change the whole country’s mindset, which was not particularly renowned for its love and protection of wildlife at the time (seventies). He had a soft spot for wolves, which had been driven by Authorities to the brink of total annihilation. Decades on after his death, young generations of Spanish ecologists and eco-activists, who grew up watching his show, took the torch and would follow on the path laid by him, steadily bringing back wolf packs into a land which was once their rightful domain. He would tragically meet an untimely death in a plane crash aged only 52. No accolade can honour enough what this man achieved in benefit of us all. Almost four decades on after his tragic death, he is still mourned and is credited as the father of Spanish environmentalism. There isn’t a single town in Spain who does not pride itself in having a street or plaza named after him. So much for adhering to social conventionalisms, eh?
Article originally published in Larraín Nesbitt Abogados: Do’s and Don’ts on buying a house in Spain
Legal services available from Larraín Nesbitt Lawyers
- Conveyancing – Buying
- Conveyancing – Selling
- Non-Resident Income Tax (Fiscal Representation) from €90/year
- Holiday Rentals Accounting Service (HRAS) from €100
House Hunting in Spain – Interview with The New York Times. June 2015
Resurgent Spain: Málaga Sees Strong Sales – Interview with Mansion Global (The Wall Street Journal). December 2015
Buying Property in Spain from a Private Seller (Resale Property) – 21st of February 2017
Buying Property in Spain from a Developer (Off-Plan Property) – 8th March 2017
How to inspect an off-plan property overseas – Q&A with The Sunday Times. July 2017
Buying Property in Spain – 10 Reasons to Hire a Lawyer – 8th November 2016
Non-Resident Taxes in Spain – 8th December 2015
Non-Resident Income Tax – 8th December 2017
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