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10 point guide to buying property in Northern Spain

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10 point guide to buying property in Northern Spain
An Horreo is a typical rural construction in northern Spain. Photo: miff32/Depositphotos
13:58 CEST+02:00
With it's mountains and valleys dotted with rural communities within easy reach of a wild Atlantic coast, Northern Spain couldn't be more different from the over-developed Mediterranean resorts.

For those looking for somewhere in the cooler north of Spain, where rural communities are nestled in fertile land boasting views across impressive mountainous terrain, there are great bargains to be found, especially if you are looking for a restoration project.

Mountains, forests, an unspoilt coastline boasting pretty fishing villages and isolated sandy coves as well as  small cities with bustling historic streets and traditional farmers markets, and good restaurants galore, the north of Spain provides something very different from the south and Mediterranean coasts.

If you want a quieter life and don't mind a bit of rain, it could be just what you are looking for. 

The Local spoke to Marc Furnival, a architect who started a property company in Asturias, for his tips on buying in northern Spain. 

Search

The market is relatively slow and very much in favour of the buyer, so there is no hurry. Consider your key criteria including how and for what the house will be used for in the short, medium, and long term; it may change over time.

Property

There can sometimes be quite a lot of scope for negotiation in the asking price. There is a lot of property on the market, but it is important to sift it carefully to find the good ones. What is important about it are the aspects that you cannot change: location, aspect, setting, surroundings, orientation, and access. If you like the house generally, but perhaps the interior is not exactly as you would want, that can be changed; don’t be put off by an ugly coloured interior. In terms of budget, whatever level it is at, consider putting three quarters of it into the purchase, to leave the rest to have some minor works done in order to have the house and garden completely to your liking. Also, the perfect house does not exist; in the end you have to make a decision and commit.

READ ALSO: Spanish property of the week: An entire village nestled in the Picos de Europa

Deeds

Just because what is listed on the deeds does not exactly match what is being sold is not necessarily cause for concern. It is quite common that they do not match. Passing years and various generations, land additions or sales, can all leave deeds with some discrepancies. This can easily be rectified the Land Registry and then with the notary as part of the purchase process.

Although sometimes it can take a few weeks or even months. Also, inheritance properties sometimes have not had the will fully executed, so the property is not actually in the name of the person selling it to you, but their deceased relative.

This is okay and the notary ensures beforehand that everything is in order. Ensure that the element of the fees that relate to executing the will are paid by the sellers, and do not get bound up in the actual purchase fees. Confirm that all the owners are agreeing to sell. Properties can often have a number of owners because it has been inherited, and Spanish law divides property between all immediate descendants.

Legal representation

Rather than having a representation for both seller and buyer as in some countries, the purchase process is organised by the property agency, but done through a notary, who is impartial and in place to ensure that the legal purchase process is carried out correctly. The property agency can look into any other issues.

Paperwork

This initial exchange contract (contrato de arras) can be done by email and does not require the purchaser to be there. On the day of completion, the final signing of the deeds (escrituras) the purchaser does need to be present. The same day, a draft copy of the deeds will be issued (copia simple), but the actual new deeds can take a few weeks.

Taxes

There is a purchase tax on buying, usually 8-10 percent of the final price, depending on the amount. Then there is the annual tax for property owners (IBI - Impuesto sobre Bienes Inmuebles) paid monthly, which is usually in the order of a few hundred per year.

Fees

Purchasing a property incurs land registry and notary costs which can be around €1000-2000 in total. Land Registry usually takes a certain amount and then returns some after they have calculated exactly what the charge is. Property agency fees are normally paid by the seller, and are usually minimum 3 percent

Banking

Not all banks are fully up to speed on international transfers. This is partly because many of the ‘caja’s’ - local banks, were forcibly bought up by nationals as remedial measures after the recession of 2008 to spread so called toxic debt around. This means that transfers go through a holding account, which is not a problem as such, but can cause delays. Amounts transferred can also be important. Recent changes to money laundering laws mean that where money comes from has to be accounted for and larger amounts can be subject to an auditing process. Amounts of less than €100,000 usually have less delay. So it is usually better to have a Spanish account in a larger bank, such as Santander or BBVA, and have that account in regular use. Transfer money well beforehand, in stages if necessary, so that the bankers cheque to complete the sale at point of signing can be issued easily by the bank the day before completion on the property.

Ownership

There is no problem buying and owning a property in Spain. All you need is an identification number (NIE – numero de identidad extranjero) which can be issued at the main police station in each province (Asturias – Gijon; there are less people than the principal office in the regional capital, Oviedo, and it can be done the same day).

Trip

Although you are visiting to view properties, part of your time should also be spent enjoying your time here; taking advantage of what the area has to offer, be it grilled fish restaurants, mountain walks, being on the beach or horse riding through the forest. That’s why you are thinking of buying a house.

Marc Furnival runs Iberia North. a bespoke property agency presenting interesting homes from across the region. Based in Asturias, it introduces local properties to an international market. It also worked with estate agents in the area to find particular properties either directly or as a commission.

READ HIS STORY HERE: Why I swapped London life for a tiny village in northern Spain

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