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Ten things to know about buying property in northern Spain

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.

Ten things to know about buying property in northern Spain
Asturias is one of Spain's greenest and most picturesque regions. Photo: Carlos Urteaga Pintado/Pixabay

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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PROPERTY

REVEALED: The cheapest most in-demand areas in Spain to buy a house

If you're considering making the move and buying property in Spain, but don't fancy purchasing in a rural village in the middle of nowhere, you should know where the cheapest, most in-demand parts of the country are.

REVEALED: The cheapest most in-demand areas in Spain to buy a house

If you’re thinking about relocating, Spain is a fantastic place to do it. Foreigners have been moving to Spain for decades, not only for its fantastic food and weather, along with a laid-back lifestyle, but housing is generally affordable – if you know where to look.

Though the rise in the Euribor has sent interest rates spiking, house prices in Spain are expected to flatten somewhat in 2023 and it could be a good year to find a bargain, depending on your financial situation.

Knowing what type of house you want and where in Spain you want to live is one thing, but knowing the cheapest, yet most in-demand parts of the country could really help you narrow down your search.

Fortunately, Spain’s leading property website Idealista has put together a list of the most ‘in demand’ municipalities of Spain and where you can find the most expensive and, more importantly for the house hunters among us, the cheapest municipalities of Spain to buy property.

It’s based on data from the last quarter of 2022 and is the average price of housing in towns with more than 1,300 sale announcements and costs valued at more than €1,100 per square metre. 

You can find the ten cheapest areas of Spain to buy property by average price below, but it’s worth noting that Idealista did these rankings by average price across the entire municipality, so there are likely individual towns and villages dotted around Spain where prices are significantly lower.

That said, this list gives you a good idea of the areas to look out for.

READ ALSO:  What will happen with property prices in Spain in 2023?

The 10 cheapest municipalities in Spain to buy property 

Santa Pola (Alicante) – Santa Pola, in the Alicante province, is the cheapest most in-demand municipality to buy a house, according to Idealista’s rankings. The average price for a house in Santa Pola costs just €151,796, though this may come as a surprise given its prime location in a foreign hotspot on the sought-after Costa Blanca. The main town of Santa Pola itself is a small beachfront community with a population of around 35,000. It also has a large foreign population and is a short drive or bus away from both Alicante and Elche.

Ourense (Galicia) – Next on the list is Ourense in Galicia where the average price is €154,941. The municipality is home to several towns and villages, surrounding the main medium-sized town of Ourense itself in southern Galicia. The town has a population of around 105,000 and is a little over an hour’s drive from both Santiago de Compostela and the coastal city of Pontevedra.

Oviedo (Asturias) – Third on the list is the municipality of Oviedo where you’ll pay an average of €154,968 for a property. Another area in northern Spain, the main city Oviedo itself, which is the capital of Asturias and has a population of 220,000. It sits between Cantabrian mountains and the Bay of Biscay. It’s known for its picturesque medieval old town and impressive architecture. 

Jerez de la Frontera (Cádiz) – Properties cost an average of €155,563 in the municipality of Jerez de la Frontera, or Jerez as it’s commonly referred to. It’s located in the Cádiz province of Andalusia and is a real piece of ‘traditional’ Spain. Jerez city is a decent-sized place with a little over 200,000 people and is known for horses, flamenco dancing and sherry, as well as the Alcázar de Jerez, an 11th-century fortress that harks back to Andalusia’s Moorish past.

READ ALSO: Is it better to buy or rent in Spain right now?

Torrevieja (Alicante) – Another municipality in Alicante and another incredibly popular with foreign homeowners. Properties here go for an average of €155,787. Torrevieja itself has a population of 82,000 and is another coastal town, but also has nature trails and salt plains nearby.

Murcia (Murcia) – Murcia is often overlooked, wedged between Alicante and Andalusia, but you could grab a bargain here with average prices of €157,119. Murcia capital is a bustling city of almost 450,000 people, and is strategically placed for trips to the Costa Blanca, Costa Calida, Costa del Sol, and Costa de Almeria.

Parla (Madrid) – The municipality of Parla lies just 20km south of Madrid and the town of the same name is home to 130,000 residents. It’s a great commuter area for those who work in Getafe or the capital. A house here costs an average of €160,652. 

Salamanca (Castilla y León) – The municipality of Salamanca surrounds the capital of Salamanca in Castilla y León in northwestern Spain. Buying a property in this area costs an average of €162,909. The main city of Salamanca is known for its university, which is the oldest in Spain and dates back to 1218. Understandably, much of Salamanca’s roughly 150,000 residents are students, which gives the town a lively atmosphere.

Burgos (Castilla y León) – Another northwestern Castilla y León municipality, is Burgos has around, where you can buy a house for just €163,164. The city of Burgos has around 180,000 inhabitants and is known for its medieval architecture and grand cathedral. 

Dos Hermanas (Sevilla) – The second most populous municipality in the province of Seville, properties cost an average of €163.274 here. The Andalusian town is just 15km south of Seville, making it great for commuters or those who want plenty of culture nearby. 

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