Do your own research and don’t rely exclusively on estate agents for all your information, or at least don’t rely on one estate agent. Some estate agents will steer clients to developments that pay the highest commissions, regardless of the merits of the development. If you leave yourself entirely at the mercy of one estate agent you give them control over your access to information, and information is power.
Having said that I know how difficult it is for overseas buyers to find objective information on new developments in Spain. The internet should be the perfect solution but increasingly no matter what search terms you use at search engines like Google you always end up at the websites of a handful of estate agents (who just happen to be very good at ranking well with search engines). Overseas buyers, living far away from the area they want to buy in, do not have many options when it comes to researching new developments and it’s very difficult to find a list of developments in the areas that interest you. For this reason, and also by popular request, I shall put together a guide to new developments in Spain, thus giving buyers access to more independent research. If you have signed up for the news bulletin you will be alerted when the guide is ready.
In the meantime the best way to do your own research is to drive around the area that interests you and visit new developments that catch your eye (assuming you have time to do this). Other options include visiting overseas property exhibitions at home, some of which are attended by developers themselves, though once again most exhibitors are estate agents. A small number of Spanish developers place ads in the UK papers (The Sunday Times Homes Section is the best source) as well as in magazines dedicated to Spain such as Everything Spain and Spanish Homes Magazine.
None of which is to say that you shouldn’t work with estate agents that you feel you can trust – far from it (the difficulty, as ever, is knowing which ones can be trusted). The point is that you need to balance their opinions with your own research. Given the way that some of the big, aggressive, British-run estate agents operating in places like the Costa del Sol have betrayed the trust of their clients and placed short-term greed before professional integrity, it should come as no surprise that more and more buyers are choosing to organise their own search for Spanish property. Technology and low-cost travel make this easier than ever.
Note that buying off-plan property direct (rather than through an agent) from a Spanish developer doesn’t mean meaty discounts for you, even if the developer saves thousands of Euros in estate agency commissions. Spanish developers depend upon estate agents for the vast majority of their foreign clients and cannot afford to undermine estate agents by undercutting them. If they were to do so they would quickly find themselves with very few clients. However even if buying direct doesn’t get you a price reduction it helps to know that the developer is saving a considerable sum. You can use this knowledge to try and negotiate other benefits such as extra or better quality fixtures and finishings.
© Mark Stucklin (Spanish Property Insight)