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PROPERTY

Property in Spain: What is the ‘nota simple’ and why is it so important?

If you're interested in buying a particular property in Spain, one of the documents you have to make sure you obtain before paying for or signing anything is this land registry certificate called 'la nota simple'. Here's why it matters so much and how to get it.

Real estate agents work wearing masks at the Remax / Casagrande real state agency in Sevilla on May 28, 2020
Make sure you get the nota simple before you sign a deposit contract for a property you like in Spain. Photo: Cristina Quicler/AFP

If you’re house hunting in Spain, it probably feels as though there’s a hundred different things to remember in order to cross all the T’s and dot all the I’s of the Spanish property system.

While there can be a number of hoops to jump through, one thing you must not forget is the nota simple.

But what is it? And why is it so important?

In basic terms, the nota simple is a detailed report of a property that is on the market.

They are crucial because they contain a full description of each property, what condition it’s in, who the legal owner is, when they bought it, any debts or legal charges against the property, defined use of the land, and any community costs for which prospective buyers would become liable. 

This Land Registry Certificate also contains the IDUFIR (Identificador Único de Finca Registral – Unique Property Identification Code) and practical information like the square footage, physical boundaries, alterations made to the property, and, most importantly, confirms who the legal property owner is so you can’t be defrauded. 

That’s why, in the event that you view a property that you like, it’s very important that you request the nota simple before you sign a deposit contract on said home to guarantee it’s reserved for you. If you discover something about the property which dissuades you from buying it, many banks and investment firms will not reimburse you the reserva (deposit) amount from this agreement, which is usually between 1 and 5 percent the value of the property.

Discrepancies 

It is not unheard of in Spain for property owners to not update the nota simple when they make changes to the property. If this happens to you during your house hunt, be sure to raise it with the owner immediately, and any third-party estate agents or letters you are dealing with.

Discrepancies between the nota simple and what you see when you go to view the property can have legal and financial ramifications: if, as is common, the nota simple is not up to date, mortgage lenders are obliged by law to make offers based on the lower reported value.

 

How to get la nota simple

You can request the nota simple in person at your closest land registry office, but note that it will only be available in Spanish and there should be a legitimate interest in buying the property.

If you’ve viewed the property through local estate agents, it’s also worth asking them if they can provide you with a copy. 

Alternatively, the process can be completed online at https://sede.registradores.org/site/home. 

The price of getting a nota simple varies depending on where you are in Spain but it’s usually cheaper to get it in person (around €3) and more expensive if done online (around €9). 

You’ll need the name of the owner – whether that be an individual or company – and their ID or passport numbers, or alternatively you can search the property’s finca number.

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PROPERTY

How to turn a bar, office or shop into a residential property in Spain

Commercial properties in Spain can be a lot cheaper than residential ones, but it’s not as straightforward as buying a former restaurant, office or shop and moving in. Here are the steps to follow and what you need to be aware of.

How to turn a bar, office or shop into a residential property in Spain

One of the tricks budget property hunters in Spain have been using in recent years is buying a local (commercial property), oficina (office) or nave (industrial unit) and transforming it into a vivienda (residential property) to live in or let out. 

It’s a trend that’s roughly doubled in big cities such as Madrid and Barcelona in the last five years. 

Buying a commercial property can work out to be 50 percent cheaper than a flat or house in Spain and there can be other advantages such as it being more open plan than Spain’s typical corridor-themed apartments as well having more money to invest in the renovation. 

Is it possible to turn a commercial property into a residential property in Spain?

Yes, in theory it is, but it’s not always possible. The rules relating to a change of property’s usage from commercial to residential or vice versa are determined by each municipality in Spain, so before you rush to buy un local, you have to do your homework first and be aware of some of the most common pitfalls.

It could be that the limit of residential properties per hectare has been surpassed already, or that without some major changes the property doesn’t meet the standards of size, rooms, space, height, layout, ventilation, air extraction or light of the town or city hall. 

It isn’t the most straightforward process and depending on the property and the individual municipal rules in place, it might just not be possible to live in the property or rent it out to others.

Living in a commercial property is illegal and may cause you problems such as not being able to activate water and electricity or register your padrón at the town hall.

Despite all the paperwork needed, flipping a bar or office and turning it into a home usually works out cheaper than buying a residential property in Spain. (Photo by ANDER GILLENEA / AFP)

Don’t be discouraged however, as in many cases it is possible to change the use of a property from commercial to residential and in regions such as Galicia authorities are currently facilitating the process to address the matter of empty abandoned stores and the lack of well-priced accommodation for young homeowners.

What are the steps to follow in Spain to change a property from commercial to residential?

Check the statutes of the community of owners: In order to make any changes within the community of neighbours, permission must be requested in advance. Beforehand, you can ask the comunidad president for a copy of the community statutes to see if the change of use from commercial to residential is mentioned.

READ ALSO: ‘La comunidad’ -What property owners in Spain need to know about homeowners’ associations

Request permission from the town hall: After getting the green light from la comunidad, you have to go to the ayuntamiento (town hall) of the town where the property is to find out if it’s possible to add another residential property to the finca (building). 

Even if this is confirmed, it doesn’t certify that the change of usage from commercial to residential is allowed, for which the town hall will ask you to provide an architect’s proyecto técnico or feasibility report based on municipal urban laws. You will only be allowed to swap from commercial to residential if the project meets the safety and habitability requirements of the Technical Building Code (Código Técnico de la Edificación).

Get the Building Licence: Known as licencia urbanística or permiso de construcción in Spanish, this is an official document required by the town hall for you to carry out a construction or renovation project. In other words, you’ll need this municipal authorisation to begin work on your future residential property, whether it’s major work or minor . 

Get the Certificate of Habitability: Once the renovation work is complete, you’ll need the cédula de habitabilidad to be able to move in or let the property out . The conditions for this are regulated by each regional government and again it’s an architect who must prepare a technical report in order for a town council technician to issue the certificate of habitability.

The certificate we need for the change of use is that of primera ocupación (first residential occupation), which has to include the usable surface area of ​​the home, rooms, address, location, maximum inhabitants etc.

How much does it cost to transform a commercial property into a residential one in Spain?

If for example it’s a 80m2 property with two rooms, the total would be about €50,000, according to property websites Idealista and Habitissimo, with the bulk covering renovation costs (€500/m2= €40,000) and the rest going to cover permits, architecture costs and taxes.

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