Spain has a great variety of landscapes, from mountains and lakes in the north to sandy beaches, olive groves and vineyards in the south. The drive from Burgos in the north-west to Malaga in the south-east takes you through so many different panoramas; you could be forgiven for thinking you are driving through several different countries.
For years the south-eastern Mediterranean coast has been one of Europe’s most popular holiday destinations and is the place of choice for most British second homes. However, in recent years the north-west (Galicia) with its craggy shores on the Atlantic is attracting a large amount of attention amongst buyers looking for more rural retreats away from the tourist hubs of the Costas – at more sensible prices.
Spain has many charming and captivating religious festivals, pilgrimages, carnivals and fairs such as ‘El dia de los muertos’ and the running of the bulls. You will find yourself a part of these festivals as you are carried along by the warmth and enthusiasm of the cheering crowds – sometimes literally!
Only in the last two or three decades, and since Spain’s entry into the European Union, have things really begun to move ahead and to modernise. For those who live in the countryside however, life remains quite traditional and unchanged, blissfully so to visitors who look back to a more intimate and unspoilt village life that is long past in most countries.
People are also attracted by the relaxed and slower way of life in Spain and the culinary delights like paella and tortillas are legendary… and affordable. Overall, there are loads of reasons that Spain is the number one destination for Britons buying abroad.
Buying a property and living in Spain is straightforward if you are a national from another EEC (European Economic Community) country. If however, your nationality falls outside the Euro zone you may be able to buy a property but there might be time restrictions as to how long you can stay in the country. Furthermore, there are certain guidelines as to work permits for non EEC nationals. You can find out information pertinent to you by accessing the Spanish Embassy website or through a variety of internet websites. There are also specialist emigration organisations that will often do a free consultation letting you know your options.
In Spain purchase costs could be 10%+ over and above the purchase price and when considering the dramatic changes in currency exchange rates, this percentage could climb much higher. So, if your property price is £100,000 it could cost £110,000 (or more) by the time you complete and take possession of the property. It’s important from the start that you clearly understand how much a property will cost you as this will determine what price range you can look at.
While researching the Internet, attending property trade shows and emailing estate agents, start to investigate what is included in the property price versus what gets added on. In Spain the purchase price includes the estate agency fee (usually 5%, but nowadays maybe 3%). For all property and land, 10% of the purchase price is paid as a transfer tax that goes to the Spanish Treasury. In addition, there are notary fees and a land/property registration fee, which varies according to the purchase price of the property. Also consider solicitors and mortgage fees. Solicitors usually charge 1% of the purchase price + VAT at 21%.
Based on news stories about property buyers in Spain having their property demolished, I think it’s safe to say that buyers now realise that it’s not only imperative to get a solicitor, but it’s absolutely necessary to get a good solicitor.
Stating that, I suggest that you contact a solicitor before setting off to view properties in Spain otherwise if you do decide to buy you will be rushed for time and may be pushed into using a solicitor who may not act in your best interests. In the UK there are many legal firms that specialise in Spanish Law and house purchase. They can act as an intermediary between you and a local solicitor.
Another vital factor is that you need to find a solicitor who is independent from the estate agent, developer or company showing you the properties, so that you know the solicitor is working for you and not the property professional. Some solicitors may draw up a contract of sale which is in favour of the estate agent (or end seller), and the reason behind this is quite disingenuous. By safeguarding the agent the solicitors will be assured of retaining their valuable business. Compare your one transaction to the many the solicitor stands to gain from the agent or developer and you will understand the clear conflict of interest here.
Make sure that you have done your homework and that you are using a reliable and trustworthy solicitor. This may include asking for personal referrals – and these must not include your developer or agent – or using specialised Spanish websites. If the solicitor does not fully comprehend English or you have any reservations at all – move on and find someone else. You may find an English speaking solicitor in Spain is neither English nor Spanish, they might be German or Dutch for example, but they will be competent to deal with your purchase. Solicitors must be registered to practice in Spain and are usually found in the popular coastal areas or larger towns.
Your solicitor will review the sale agreement, verify titles, and carry out other checks to ensure that you’re protected. They, or a notary, may be responsible for paying any taxes and registering the property with the land registry if this is required. Charges vary for legal and notary services but can cost around 1% to 2% of the sale value of the property. In Spain the cost is determined by the government.
You need to bear in mind that the legal system in Spain may not work in your favour if trouble strikes, so it is of paramount importance that you hire qualified people who can ensure that you do not have to take legal action. Don’t put yourself in the position of needing legal redress. You may have the law on your side but the legal system abroad can keep you tied up for years and cost a fortune. Make sure you – and your solicitor – get it right from the start and the purchase will move forward easily, most purchases in Spain do, you only hear about those that don’t.
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