For members


Seven big differences between buying a property in Spain and in the United States

Americans have showed a growing interest in buying a home in Spain over the last two years, but what are the main differences with the US real estate market that they should keep in mind before searching for a Spanish property?

Seven big differences between buying a property in Spain and in the United States
Fancy a change of cityscape? On the left is Barcelona (Spain's second biggest city), on the right is Chicago, the US's third most populous. Photo: Walkerssk, David Mark/Pixabay

Since the Covid-19 pandemic began, there has been growing and consistent interest among American property hunters for second homes in Spain.

Data from Spain’s top property search engine Idealista revealed that from June to September of 2020, the highest foreign demand for Spanish properties on the coast came from the United States.

US nationals also topped annual property searches in many parts of Spain’s interior: first in terms of searches for Madrid, Salamanca, Ávila, Cuenca and Segovia, and second in others such as Guadalajara and Seville. 

In 2021, Americans were the fifth foreign nationals with the most interest in buying a home in Spain according to Idealista search data, including a growing demand for luxury homes in Madrid and Barcelona.

Now that Covid-19 travel restrictions between the US and Spain have been relaxed somewhat, many US nationals will be looking to carry out the property deal they’ve been hoping for.

But what differences can they expect to encounter when looking and potentially buying a property in Spain?

It takes longer to buy a property in Spain

According to data collected by the US’s NAR (National Association of Realtors) and its Spanish equivalent SIRA (Spanish International Realty Alliance), the average time for a property transaction in the United States is three weeks. 

The pandemic has influenced how long it takes on average in the US but prior to this, buying/selling an American property took five times less than the average transaction time for a property in Spain.

Negotiating a discount is a must in Spain

According to the NAR, 35 percent of US home sellers agree to sell at between 95 percent and 99 percent of the marked starting price.

In Spain, the margins are greater as prices are inflated and therefore the average discounts are well above 10 percent according to the experts, even when it’s a seller’s market.


Realtors in Spain aren’t necessarily qualified professionals

American realtors do need to have a licence obtained through university training or other specific courses, as well as having to update their accreditation with new qualifications to renew their licence. 

They also have to work for two years as an employee for another more experienced professional before becoming independent and beginning their freelance career.

“In the US, only the owner himself or a licensed real estate agent can sell a home. In Spain, access to the activity is free and professional barriers are non-existent,” SIRA head Francis Fernández told Fotocasa, one of Spain’s other major property websites.

“Anyone – the doorman, a neighbour, a relative, etc. – can handle the operation, which in the US would be considered professional intrusion, ” said Francis Fernández.

Commission in the US can therefore be higher

In the US, the higher the specialisation of the realtor, the higher the commissions are, generally speaking. 

“The North American real estate agent also needs to specialise in a certain area of work: residential, commercial, solar, etc. so that they can offer the client detailed knowledge in their area of expertise,” explains Fernández.

In the United States the usual commission in a buying and selling transaction is 6 percent while in Spain it ranges from 3 percent to 5 percent, something that contributes to making this activity more profitable for real estate agencies and the realtors themselves. 

Property ads in Spain can be more embellished 

In the United States, housing advertisements must be absolutely objective and accurate.

As a result, it is not possible to describe an American home as “wonderful” or “cosy” as that is subject to interpretation.

The opposite can happen in Spain, where the agent or the private seller is at liberty to speak wonders of the property even if it’s not accurate.

If a US realtor is aware of a defect or damage to the property, they are legally obliged to mention it in the ad or inform the potential buyer, as well as having to give them a document to sign confirming that they have been informed.

More regulation and legal guarantees in the US

In the United States there are protection funds for purchase or earnest deposit contracts (contrato de arras), in which it is mandatory to deposit and insure the amounts deposited by the buyer.

In Spain there are no obligations in this regard, even though there are other processes that have to take place. 

A purchase deposit contract must be signed but there are situations where the buyer can lose their deposit or the vendor has to pay double back.

Similarly, a US realtor who is not a lawyer cannot modify a contract at all, and may also be accused of professional intrusion, while in Spain property consultants (Agente de la Propiedad Inmobiliaria, API) or the clients themselves can agree to modifications to the contract.

You can’t choose your favourite Spanish realtor to show you all the properties you like

In the US, realtors in any given area work together with a pool of properties which they all have access to (Multiple listing service, MLS), meaning that the agent that you trust or has been recommended to you can guide you every step of the way. Therefore the seller’s realtor and the buyer’s realtor usually split the commission 50-50.

In Spain however, private sellers advertise through their real estate agency of choice, meaning that the potential buyer has to stick to the assigned realtor, unless a deal can be reached with your favourite agent and the agency in question.


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For members


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.