Hi fjamvj, I am a Spanish Lawyer based in UK, the process is as you explain, but with some other details, I will try to explain:
1)Find an independent English speaking solicitor. At this stage it can be only for advice and to be ready to engage him in case you find a property.
2)Obtain a foreigner identity number (NIE), it is required for any dealings which involve the Spanish tax authorities, like a purchasing.
3)Open a Spanish bank account (NIE is needed).
4)Once you find a property in which you are seriously interested, make an offer and arrange a verbal agreement on the price, ask the owner (through their solicitorand yours) to agree it and any other conditions in writing. You have to pay the deposit at the signing, and it can be done by cash or cheque
5)Once you have agreed on the price and any conditions of the sale, your solicitor will request:
-Confirmation of the sale price and terms of the sale
-Copy of the Title Deeds, payment of council tax(IBI) and utility bills
-Land Registry extract (nota simple)
Also the Solicitor will check:
-There are no debts or charges, such as a mortgage, on the property
-There are no legal proceedings initiated against the property for contravention of land planning law
-Certificate signed by the President of the Community of Property Owners stating that there are no outstanding debts
-If the property is new, the license of first occupancy or habitation certificate issued by the town hall.
-Energy efficiency certificate if applicable.
-A draft contract of sale
6)If everything is right, he will arrange a date with the Notary and the seller to complete the purchase. At the same time you sign the deeds, they give you the keys and you pay the outstanding money, usually by cheque.
The whole process can be done from UK, were solicitors are regulated by the SRA. If you are not able to attend to the completion it can be made through a Power of Attorney, your solicitor can assist you in this matter too.
If you want more formal information, I will be very happy to help you.