If you have decided to buy property in Spain, then make your search for a law firm in Spain one of your very first tasks, before even contacting estate agents and developers. This gives you time to find English lawyers in Spain, or rather English-speaking lawyers in Spain, who have no connection to the companies you end up buying property from.
Avoid using a law firm in Spain recommended by your estate agent, and never use an in-house lawyer. If you have no option but to use a recommended lawyer, then try to get 3rd party references from other people you trust. If you have any doubts about a lawyer you could check their credential with the local branch of the Spanish law society (colegio de abogados), but you would be wasting your time. This is also the organisation you go to if you wish to file a complaint against a lawyer (not that it will do much good, but that’s another story).
With a little effort you will have no trouble in finding an independent English-speaking Spanish property lawyer. One sensible approach is to ask friends and acquaintances for recommendations. Otherwise try the British consulates in, or closest to, the region where you are buying. They can fax or email you a list of English-speaking lawyers in the region.
Spanish lawyers specialise in different areas of law. You need a Spanish property lawyer who specialises in Spanish property law (derecho inmobiliario). Spanish property lawyers will not have to look up the relevant Spanish property laws, will be familiar with the problems, will be quicker and more dependable, and might know something about the reputations of many of the estate agents and developers in the region. So make sure you select a lawyer who understands property law in spain – got that! Note that the lists of lawyers published by the British Consulates do not indicate which lawyers specialise in Spanish property law.
Ideally, you should hire a solicitor based in Spain, and preferably in the region where you are buying. Locally based lawyers can easily visit the town hall of the municipality where you are buying, and may even know the mayor, the municipal architect, and the local Notary. In a country like Spain, where contacts count, this can be a big advantage when sorting out local problems.
Local lawyers are also more likely to know about regional urban plans, the problems specific to the region, and the reputations of local estate agents and developers. They are on site to do any of the many legal checks that may need to be done, and can readily accompany you to the signing of the deeds before Notary. Lawyers who are not locally based, for example Spanish lawyers in London, have to operate over the phone, or through associates, all of which may decrease their speed and effectiveness whilst increasing the cost to you.
Having said that there are cases where British buyers are better off using lawyers based in major cities such as Barcelona and Madrid, or even Spanish lawyers in London. This is usually so when buyers need a high level of international fiscal expertise, or where an appropriate local lawyer cannot be found.
In the end what counts is the quality of the legal service you get. There are some first class Spanish lawyers based in the UK or other countries, and you might be better off with one of these than a mediocre lawyer based locally, or a lawyer who is too close to local developers and estate agents, and thus suffers from conflicts of interest. That said, you almost always need someone on the ground close in the area where you are buying if you need a lawyer for conveyancing.
- How to find and select a solicitor in Spain
- It is crucial that your lawyer is independent and is working for you
- Managing the relationship with your lawyer in Spain
- What to do if things go wrong with your lawyer
- Personal experiences of dependent lawyers and conflicts of interests