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

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.

Buying a property in Spain without an agent
Stock photo: Gabriel Rubio/AFP

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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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.

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