Managing the relationship with your lawyer in Spain

Don’t sign or pay anything to an estate agent or developer until you have had an independent lawyer who specialises in Spanish property law give you the all clear.

This also applies to the reserve payment of 3,000 to 6,000 Euros when buying off-plan from a developer. Too many people make this initial reserve deposit without any legal advice whatsoever. Estate agents and developers often put you under pressure to take this step, insinuating that you will lose the opportunity unless you move fast. But in the present climate you need not rush, as property is not selling fast. The pressure is more a reflection of the estate agent’s anxiety that you will change your mind or find something better from someone else.

Once you have found and hired an independent lawyer you need to establish a good working relationship built on trust and avoid giving any impression that you lack confidence in your lawyer. Having said that anything is possible so always keep copies of all the important documents you pass to any law firm in Spain, and keep notes of conversations and decisions.

Many law firms in Spain charge between 1% and 1.5% of the value of the property for their legal services, whilst others Spanish law firms charge on an hourly basis or a flat fee (all fees attract VAT). Just be warned that there are considerable variations in fees and fee structures. Bear in mind that for 150 Euros per hour you can expect to have a top-class Spanish lawyer working for you so be wary of lawyers who charge more than this. Some lawyers, especially in the Marbella area, charge 250 Euros per hour or more, going up to over 400 Euros per hour. At this rate you should expect to get the very best cross-border financial wizardry, though don’t bet on it.

Typically you will be asked to pay a provision of funds of 1,000 Euros or up to 50% of the fee when your lawyer starts working for you, with the remainder due once your purchase is completed. You should expect to receive a receipt for your initial payment that details the amount and purpose of your payment. If you pay by bank transfer you should also state the reason for the transfer in the payment instructions.

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