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The best tips for buying a property in Spain without an estate agent (and avoiding scams)

The best tips for buying a property in Spain without an estate agent (and avoiding scams)
Stock photo: Gabriel Rubio/AFP
If you are thinking about buying a property privately in Spain, without going through an estate agent, then here are our top tips for things to consider before you sign or hand over any money.

There are several reasons as to why someone might want to purchase a property privately, instead of through an estate agent in Spain, but the main reason is cost. You can save between two and five percent on the total purchase price of the property by going private.

However, this option does have more risks involved and could see you have legal more difficulties with the purchase. For those who decide that a private purchase is the way to go, here are some top tips on what you need to remember to help the process go more smoothly. 

Hire a lawyer

It is not necessary to hire a lawyer in Spain when buying a property. The only legal person you really need is the notary when you’re signing the deeds, however, it’s still advisable to get one, especially if you’re buying privately. This is probably the most important tip on our list. Estate agents know the legal processes of house buying and can advise you on what documents you’ll need, but if you don’t have one, then you will still need someone to advise and look over all the legal documents for you. It’s important to have someone on your side during the process.

Check there is no outstanding debt on the property

It’s important to check that there is no outstanding debt on the property before you purchase it, otherwise, you could be landed with it when you take over. This is one of the things that your lawyer can help with. “Before the formalisation of the purchase of a home, as long as you have a legitimate interest, we can obtain information in a legal way about the charges, debts and fiscal conditions that a property has, through the request for a Registration Certification or a simple registry note,” explains Gerard Aguilar, from the department of document management and director of taxation at Tecnotramit.

Get to know the person you’re buying from

We all know there are estate agents who will just tell you what you want to hear and don’t build up a good rapport with their clients, however, the estate agents that you’ll likely buy from are the ones who you trust and the ones who you have gotten to know. Without this relationship with an estate agent, it’s a good idea to build up a rapport with the owner instead. Get to really know them and ask them questions about the property, the local area and the neighbours. All this can help you establish a good relationship with them and get to know how trustworthy they are.

Make sure to get a survey done

In many countries, such as the UK for example, it is very common to get a survey done on a property before you continue with the purchase. In Spain, this is not too common, but if you’re buying privately, without help from an estate agent, then it’s a good idea to consider it. Although estate agents are not trained in architecture, they still know what to look for in the structure of a property because they see so many. Without an estate agent advising you on what work may or may not need to be done, it might be a good idea to get a surveyor, just so you know what you’re getting yourself into. It’s important to not just take the seller’s word for it that the property is structurally sound.

Buying a property in Spain without an agent. Image: Naomi Hébert / Unsplash

Don’t forget to sign a Private Purchase Contract

Although it’s not mandatory, it’s normal to sign a Private Purchase Contract (Contrato Privado de Compraventa) with the vendor before you sign the deeds. This is not entered into the registry, but is valid by law. Upon signing the contract you will usually pay the vendor 10 percent of the total sales price as a deposit.  If you then pull out of the contract, you will lose this money, but if the vendor pulls out, they must pay you back double. Typically, the estate agent will help organise the private purchase contract, however without one, you and the vendor need to make sure you organise it between yourselves.

Give yourself enough time to secure a mortgage loan

If you need to get a mortgage to purchase the property, you need to give yourself enough time for it to come through. Lawyer Raymundo Larraín Nesbitt told Spanish Property Insight that he recommends at least 45 to 60 days. Typically, when you’re signing the private purchase contract, you and the vendor will come to an agreement on the date that the title deeds of the property will be signed before the notary and you will exchange. If you fail to secure a mortgage loan before the date agreed upon, it could result in you losing your 10 percent deposit as mentioned above.

READ ALSO: Property in Spain: Why mortgages are now cheaper than ever

Make sure the vendor has all the necessary documents

Many documents such as the floor plan of the property, the details of the community fees, the cédula de habitabilidad certificate and the last IBI tax receipts will be collated by an estate agent and shown to you upon interest in the property. But if there is no estate agent, it will be up to the owner to gather all this information and show you. It shouldn’t be difficult as these are all things that the owner should have anyway, it’s just a question of remembering to give them all to you.

Ensure you get a detailed inventory

If buying without an estate agent (or even with one), sometimes things can become a little unclear as to what is included in the property, particularly if it’s not written down on any documents that the estate agent may typically provide. It’s really important to get a detailed inventory from the seller as to what they will be leaving in the property. You may be expecting that the place won’t be furnished when you get the keys, but you may be surprised to find items like the light fittings, plug sockets and the oven gone too. Ensure that the seller writes down exactly what they will be leaving in the house and that you both sign it so that everything is clear.

Never agree that a seller can stay in the property post-completion

This one is particularly important, even if it’s just for a couple of days, so they can pack up their things. “This can create massive legal problems for a buyer, which will require a full eviction procedure,” warns Nesbitt.

A beachside house in Gerra, near Torrelavega in northern Spain. Photo: CESAR MANSO/AFP

What scams do I have to be aware of?

According to pisos.com, some of the most common cases of fraud relating to buying and selling property in Spain occur when the person claiming to be the owner is actually not.

The easiest way to verify that the seller and the owner are the same person is by requesting proof of this from Spain’s Land Registry (Registro de la Propiedad).

Another scam to look out for is the double sale: when fraudsters try to sell a property to a third party when it has already been sold by private purchase contract to another person. Look out for concealment of charges and debt on the property by asking for all the relevant documentation including the last IBI receipt.

You can also request a letter from the president of your community (´la comunida´) confirming that all the fees have been settled by the owner.

There’s also fraudulent contracts to keep an eye out for, when the scammer produces a fake contract that the buyer signs and subsequently gives a deposit to the alleged seller, who then disappears with the money.

The ideal here would be for your lawyer to take a look at the documentation and make sure that all the paperwork is legal.

Lastly, some sellers might try and give you a discount on the sale price in exchange for paying part of the price in cash.

This will reduce their capital gains tax. However, when it comes to your turn to sell the property, because the property was registered at a lower price, that would require you to pay a much higher capital gains tax as the property value has seemingly increased a lot.

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Properties in Spain

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