Property: There’s a bright side to being gazumped in Spain

Sean Woolley, the director of Cloud Nine Spain shares an experience of recent clients on the Costa del Sol who walked away with €139,000 after a seller pulled out.

Property: There's a bright side to being gazumped in Spain
Photos: Cloud Nine Prestige

One of the great things about buying property in Spain is how fair the system is and how well it protects buyers against being gazumped.

When you sign a standard real estate contract to secure a property –  known in Spain as a Contrato de Arras – it states that if the vendor breaches the contract by backing out of the deal, that buyers are entitled to a refund of the 10 percent payment needed to secure a property, PLUS a further 10 percent payment as compensation.

Recently we saw this process in action and the compensation enabled our clients to buy a property which was previously out of their reach.

Our clients, Frank and Jane from the UK (Their names have been changed to protect the buyers’ identities) had been looking for their perfect holiday home on the Costa del Sol for over 18 months. During the summer, they came to Marbella to spend a week looking at potentially suitable villas with a budget up to €1.5 million.

We looked at several options during the first 4 days, a few of which really caught their eye……but nothing quite hit the spot. Frank was especially keen to try and bag a bargain during the COVID pandemic.

On the Saturday morning before their Monday departure, we visited a lovely 4-bedroom villa in a prestigious golf resort in Benahavís.

The villa had been recently reduced from its original price of €1.65m to €1.395m. As we were entering the villa, another set of prospective buyers were exiting the property with their agent, so we knew that there was other interest in the property.

Frank and Jane LOVED the property and immediately made an asking price offer, which was accepted by the vendor over the phone.

Keen to avoid any delays or other buyers making a counter- offer, they transferred a reservation deposit of €10,000 to their lawyer’s bank account and signed off the reservation forms.

On the Sunday, both lawyers were in contact, preparing the private purchase  contract, and on Monday morning the contract was signed and a sum of 10 percent of the price (less the reservation deposit) was wired to the lawyer. Done deal….or so we thought.

I received a phone call from the lawyers the following morning to say that the other buyers had made  an offer of €1.6m to buy the property. “But, they can’t do that!” was my initial response.

However, in Spanish law they can, but not without compensating the buyers fairly.

The contract that Frank and Jane had signed was a standard real estate contract which stated that if the vendor breached the contract and failed to complete the transaction (i.e. backed out),

Frank and Jane would receive a refund of their 10 percent payment (€139,500) PLUS a further 10 percent payment as compensation. In this case, the alternative buyer’s offer had been so much higher than ours that the vendor could afford to pay the compensation to our clients and still walk away with more money from the deal…€65,500 to be precise.

In the meantime, Frank and Jane were better off to the tune of €139,500. Not a bad result for a week’s house-hunting in the sun in the midst of a global pandemic! 

To conclude the story, Frank and Jane’s new windfall meant that they were able to secure a deal on a villa that we had seen earlier in the week that had been slightly over-budget at the time.
Sean Woolley is the Founder and Director of leading real estate agency Cloud Nine Spain. For more insights into the Spanish property market, and tips on buying property in Spain, pick up a copy of Sean’s new book From the Ground Up – The Insider’s Guide to Buying Spanish Property.


Sean Wooley is the Managing Director of Cloud Nine Spain, a luxury real estate agency in Marbella, southern Spain. 

Email: [email protected]

Phone: +34 951 204 229

Mobile: +34 692 254 432 





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EXPLAINED: What you need to know about locksmiths in Spain

If you get locked out, have a break-in or need to change or fix the door lock at your home in Spain, here are the rates and advice you need before calling a Spanish locksmith (cerrajero).

EXPLAINED: What you need to know about locksmiths in Spain

Like anywhere, locksmiths are generally expensive and the price can vary greatly depending on the service you need and where you are.

It also depends on when you need them, as it’ll cost much more to call them out on a Saturday night than a Monday morning, for example.

Nor would it cost the same to open your front door as it would a reinforced security door.

But locksmiths don’t just make copies of keys and bail you out when you’re stuck outside your flat.

They also offer a whole host of different services including, but not limited to, opening safes, creating master keys, installing security doors, anti-drill doors, cutting specialist locks that reject copied keys, and even unlocking the boot of your car.

How much does a locksmith cost in Spain?

Given all these variables, the price can range massively.

According to Cronoshare, the average price for a nationwide call out in Spain can start from €80 anywhere up to €400.

On average, for a basic service, you can expect to pay anywhere between €40-€70 an hour for the labour, with the price of changing or installing a basic lock anywhere between €80-€200. 

For basic door openings, it depends on the situation you find yourself in: for doors locked with a key, which is a more complex task, prices average around €200, and for doors that are jammed or slammed shut, slightly cheaper in the €80-€100 range.

For an armoured or security door, prices can start at around €300.

In short, a general rule is that the more complex the task is, the higher the prices.

And as always, prices can vary depending on where you are in Spain, the quality of the locksmith, the time of the day and week you need his or her services, and if its a public holiday or not. 

So, as always, compare prices to try and find the most economical solution without skimping on quality.

As such, the following rates are estimations taken from average prices from locksmith.

Weekend/holiday rates

Where prices can really start to add up, however, is when you have an emergency situation requiring a locksmith’s assistance at the weekend, on a public holiday, or outside of normal working hours.

And if you live in Spain, you probably know there’s quite a few of those days throughout the year.

If you really need a cerrajero on a public holiday or during non-working hours (usually defined as anything between 8pm-8am) prices can reach €300 or €500 due to the fact you’ll have to cover the cost of travel, which starts from around €40 plus the increased rate.

Then you must also include the price of labour to the flat rate, which is usually somewhere between €40 and €70 an hour regardless of when you call them out.

Key vocabulary 

We’ve put together some of the basic vocabulary you might need if you find yourself needing a locksmith while in Spain.

el cerrajero – locksmith

la llave – the key

la llave de repuesto – the spare key

la puerta – the door

la cerradura – the lock

la bisagra – the hinge

día festivo – public holiday

cambio de bombín – change of cylinder lock

puerta blindada – armoured door

coste de mano de obra – labour costs

quedarse afuera – get locked out 

puerta cerrada de un portazo – door slammed shut

puerta cerrada con llave – locked door

Tips relating to choosing a good locksmith in Spain 

If you’ve just started renting a new place or have bought a property, it’s advisable to change the lock as you don’t know who has keys to your front door. If you’re a tenant, try to negotiate this with your landlord as it’s in both of your interests that only you two have keys to the property.

If there has been a burglary in your property while you’re living in it and there’s no sign of forced entry, then there’s a very big chance that the burglars had a copy of your keys, and you should definitely change the locks. 

If you’ve lost your keys and you think it happened close to your home, again it’s advisable for you to change the locks.

One of the best ways to avoid being locked out and having to cough up a hefty sum is to give a spare set to someone that you trust that lives in your town or city in Spain. 

When it comes to choosing a locksmith in Spain, you should make sure he or she is a reputable one. Asking friends and family first can be your first port of call.

If not, make sure you read reviews online if available to get any insight beforehand.

In order to avoid any nasty surprises, ask them on the phone for a budget (presupuesto) for all the costs attached to their services before accepting.

Be wary of cerrajeros that automatically want to change the whole lock when a simpler and less costly option is possible. 

Usually they should offer you a contract for you to read carefully before signing. It should include a three-month guarantee for the potential new lock or at least a breakdown of the costs.

Make sure that they are not charging you an excessively high price if it’s an emergency, as this is not actually legal.

There’s also asking them to prove their accreditation with the Unión Cerrajeros de Seguridad (UCES).

Weekend and holiday rates can be higher nonetheless, so consider your options and if it’s worth staying with a friend or family member for a night to save some money. A trustworthy and honest cerrajero will let you know about the money you could save if you choose to wait as well.