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What’s the process for buying a property in Spain?

Here's The Local's quick guide to the buying process once you found a property you like in Spain.

What's the process for buying a property in Spain?
Image: kirkandmimi/Pixabay

You’ve scoured the adverts, walked the streets looking for “se vende” signs, been shown around dozens of properties that aren’t quite right and then…you find the one.

So what next?

The buying process

Most foreigners say that the hardest part of the buying process in Spain is all the bureaucracy that goes with it. There is always a lot of paper work involved as well as some processes you won’t be used to, therefore it’s important to get an agent or a consultant to help you. 

1) Step one: Make an offer. When you’ve found a property you want, the first natural step is to put in an offer. You do this by filling out an official form. Despite what you might be used to in your country, many vendors in cities such as Barcelona won’t be willing to negotiate too much below the sales price, however this is changing during the current Covid-19 crisis. Fernàndez says: “It’s important is to never look like total foreigner, even if it’s your first time in the city, as you want to pay the same price that a local would”. He suggests that a good agent might be able to help you negotiate a better deal.  Once your offer has been accepted, others can’t keep viewing the property and you’ll move onto the next step.

2) Step two: Contrato de Arras. After signing the reservation document, you’ll need to sign a second private contact between you and the vendor called the ‘Contrato de Arras’. This is when you show your true intention of buying the property buy putting down a deposit. This could be anything from 10-40 percent, depending on what you agree, but usually it’s around 10 percent.

It acts as an incentive and security blanket for both you and the vendor to continue with the process.  If you pull out after this time and don’t sign the deeds on the day you both agree upon, the seller will get to keep the deposit. However, if the vendor pulls out or there is a legal issue with the property on their end, they must pay you back double (20 percent for example).

3) Step three: Signing the Title Deeds. When all the legal matters have been sorted and the final contracts drawn up, both you and the vendor will meet to sign the title deeds on the day you agreed upon earlier. This meeting takes place before a public notary. It’s also the time where you’ll hand over the rest of the money for the property and get the keys to your new Barcelona apartment.

Signing the deedsImage: Cytonn Photography/Unsplash

Legal representation

Solicitors don’t really exist in Spain, it’s just notaries who are in charge of the legal process and overseeing the signing of the official deeds and payments, however they represent both parties – the buyer and the seller. Most Spanish people don’t use the services of a lawyer when buying a property, however we’d recommend that you do, especially if it’s your first time buying. Fernàndez says: “When buying a property, you are legally protected by the notary, but that’s just basic protection. Many properties (especially when the price is attractive) have legal problems. All of them can normally be solved, but with the help of a lawyer they can be done correctly. It will save you a lot of stress, time and future problems”.


The cost of the apartment or flat isn’t the only thing you’ll have to factor into your budget, there are several other costs involved with the buying process. This all adds up to around 12-14 percent of the total cost of the property, added on top.

  • IVA or VAT: Value added tax added to the property. This costs around 10 percent of the of the price you agreed to buy the property at. 10 percent is quite a big chunk, so when you’re budgeting, you need to make sure you have enough money for this, as well as the property itself.
  • Legal fees: If contracting the services of a lawyer, you’ll typically pay them 1-1.5 percent of the total cost of the property.
  • Notary: The notary should cost just under 1 percent of the property price.
  • Stamp duty: If getting a Spanish mortgage to buy your property, you’ll need to also add on another 1 percent of the property cost for the mortgage stamp duty.

Find hundreds of properties for sale across Spain on The Local’s Property page

FinancesImage: Kelly Sikkema/Unsplash

To survey or not to survey

Most locals in cities don’t bother getting a survey done on the property before they buy it – a very common practice in somewhere like the UK. Most buildings now should have a TIE certificate, which states that the building is structurally sound and safe, however, it is advisable to get a survey done as many of the properties are very old. You may have to get an architect to do this, as surveyors don’t really exist. This will set you back around €800, but you may be able to find architects who will do it for less, particularly if you’re fine for the report to be in Spanish or Catalan only.

Agents’ top tips

Hankö says:“You must be very careful to check everything regarding the property, not only the apartment, but the whole building. You can’t choose your neighbours, they come with the purchase, so it’s very important that they’re ok and that they will pay for their part of the upkeep of the building”.

Fernàndez says: “Don’t buy in a hurry. To find a good property, that is also a good deal, you need to dig and dig. Many times, good properties don’t arrive on the market, so having good contacts can help you find a real bargain”.

Palchevskiy says: “A key takeaway in the current market is to look at buying properties with the intention of renovating them, instead of looking at turnkey unit. The most added value is in properties with historical value and original features”.


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For members


How to find temporary accommodation in Spain when you first arrive

One of the most common questions people moving to Spain ask is where they can rent temporary accommodation while looking for somewhere more permanent. This can be particularly tricky, but we've found some of the best places to look.

How to find temporary accommodation in Spain when you first arrive

So you’ve sorted out your visas, you’ve done all your packing and have either sold or moved out of your home, but when you arrive in Spain you’re not exactly sure where you’re going to stay.  

Of course, it’s not the best idea to sign a contract ahead of time for a more permanent place before you’ve actually seen it in person. Photos don’t always accurately represent what the house or apartment looks like in reality and you won’t really be able to get a feel for the neighbourhood without being there. 

On top of this, rental scams are rife in some places in Spain, particularly in the bigger more popular cities like Barcelona. Often people will place an ad (which usually looks too good to be true) and get you to wire over a deposit to secure it in advance, but here’s the catch – the place doesn’t usually exist.

This is why it’s important to never hand over money to secure a place to live in Spain before you’ve actually seen it in person and you can get the keys as soon as you sign the contract.

But, finding a place to live in a new country can be difficult and it can take time, so while you look for somewhere, you’re going to need temporary accommodation for a couple of months. This can be tricky too because often temporary accommodation is geared towards tourists and you’ll be paying tourist prices too.

While Idealista and Fotocasa are two of the most popular sites to look for accommodation in Spain, when you only want somewhere for a couple of months, there’s no point looking there, as most places will have yearly contracts.

Keep in mind with short-term rentals for a couple of months, you’re going to be paying higher than the average monthly rent, however, for this, the apartments are usually fully furnished, including kitchen utensils, wi-fi already connected and offer you the flexibility of shorter contracts.

Short-term rental agencies

Specialised short-term rental agencies are the best way to go, which will allow you to sign contacts for less than the typical one year. These types of agencies are usually found in Spain’s big cities that are popular with foreigners, such as Madrid and Barcelona.

Trying searching in Spanish too by typing alquiler de temporada or alquiler temporal plus the name of the city or town you’re looking in. This way you may be able to find places that offer better value. 


In Barcelona, check out aTemporal an agency that started up precisely to fix the problem of trying to find accommodation in-between tourist accommodation and long-term rentals. They rent out apartments for anywhere from 32 days to 11 months.

ShBarcelona is another agency that specialises in these types of rentals and have properties all over the city.

READ ALSO – Moving to Barcelona: A guide to the best neighbourhoods to live in


In Madrid, try DFLAT, which was created by two professionals from the Instituto de Empresa University after discovering the difficulties professionals and foreigners found when looking for an apartment in Madrid. Sh also has a good branch in Madrid.  


In Valencia, Dasha Living Space has both short and long-term fully furnished flats available and  Valenvi Flats also offers rentals for between three and six months.

READ ALSO – Moving to Valencia: A guide to the best neighbourhoods to live in


While the nightly rate of Airbnb apartments is typically too expensive to rent for a couple of months, you may be able to find some deals. Often when you input dates for a month into Airbnb, you’ll find that several places have a monthly discount offered. Also, some owners will do a deal for a couple of months. If it’s winter for example and they know they’re not going to get many tourists anyway, they may be willing to negotiate.


Like Airbnb, the properties on Vrbo are rented out directly by the owners. While the site is also mainly focused on tourists, some owners may negotiate outside of the tourist season.


If you’re willing to try something a little bit different, then housesitting could be the way to go. This is where you live in somebody’s house for free, in exchange for looking after their pets and their property.

Often people only need someone for a few days, but sometimes you’ll see house sits available for a month or longer. This is perhaps a better option for those who are flexible on where they might want to live and are trying out a few different places. It’s also better for those wanting to live in smaller towns or villages rather than the bigger cities, as there are fewer postings for these popular locations. Trusted Housesitters and Mind My House are good options.