Spain has so much to offer, from gorgeous sandy beaches to rugged mountains and lakes, so it’s not surprising over 800,000 Brits live there. If you’re thinking about joining them, we have some top tips to help you on your way.
Get Legal Advice Straight Away
It’s important to choose a lawyer who specialises in Spanish property law. The Spanish property system is very different to the UK system so you need to make sure you have independent qualified professionals with expert knowledge of the system.
Don’t use a lawyer recommended by the estate agent or builder as they may not have your best interests at heart. Also, don’t cut any corners even if the estate agent says it will save time or money. You may come unstuck later on.
Get Everything Translated
If you can’t speak fluent Spanish, ensure that you get everything translated by an independent translator or checked and explained to you by your own lawyer. Don’t sign anything that you can’t understand. Even if you think you can speak Spanish quite well, when it comes to legal terms you may struggle, so it’s best to leave it to a professional.
Don’t sign anything until all documentation has been checked by your independent lawyers. They work for you alone and will protect your interests.
Research Your Mortgage
You will need to do your homework for this one. Analyse and compare a range of different products and services offered by different lenders.
Make sure you can afford the mortgage and that it’s appropriate for your needs. If you can’t keep up with mortgage repayments, the Spanish bank could repossess your house in Spain. If the debt owed is more than the value of your house, they may pursue any assets you have in the UK to recover the shortfall.
Check the Residency Requirements
All EU citizens planning to live in Spain for more than three months must register in person at the Oficina de Extranjeros in their province of residence or at designated police stations. They will issue an A4 printed Residence Certificate stating their name, address, nationality, NIE number (Número de Identificación Extranjeros) and date of registration.
Make sure that the seller has the legal right to sell the property. At this point you can also see if there are any debts or charges on the property.
Check that the actual building of the property is authorised under planning legislation and that the correct planning permission is in place. This is essential with new builds. If the property is built on rural or non-construction classified land then you need to check with the local authorities and make further enquiries.
Off-plan properties need to be certified by a registered architect and listed as a new build in the property register.
Like buying a house in the UK it’s always advisable to check if there are any footpaths or rights of way over your property. Additionally, there may be restrictions as to what you can and can’t do in terms of alterations and extensions. It is worth while paying a visit to the local town hall to view current planning applications and plans.
Inheritance and Property Title
Always take advice in advance on the inheritance laws in Spain and how will they affect you and your loved ones and what will happen to the property. Don’t assume that your English will is sufficient or that the laws in Spain and England are the same - they are not. Consider inheritance laws before you buy the property as they can affect in whose name the property is held.
Find out what taxes you and/or your heirs will have to pay and how much. This may allow you to take tax planning measures during your lifetime.
Open a bank account in Spain. This will facilitate the transfer of funds for stage payments and completion and the payment of ongoing household/utility bills.
Be realistic about resale possibilities. Consider whether the property will have broad appeal and be affordable for the local market as well as possible non-Spanish second home buyers.
Finally, trust your instincts. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is!
Overall the most important piece of advice is to instruct a lawyer who knows the ins and outs of buying property in Spain. It’s an exciting time and it’s very easy to forget something along the way.
If you are considering buying a property in Spain (or France), call Slater and Gordon’s international property team on freephone 0800 916 9083 or contact us online and we will call you.