Many Spanish estate agents will offer low fee or no fee viewing trips to Spain to look at properties. This will include modest accommodation and sometimes flights. Check the small print though, because if you don’t end up buying a property on that trip, you may need to pay back some or all of the costs. However, you don’t need to feel pressured into buying a new property straight away. The longer you spend getting to know an area, the more you familiarise yourself with the buying process, the better off you’ll be in the long run. So get out there and have a look, but don’t forget to ask:
- Can you tell me if the value of the property in the eyes of the taxman is the same as the price I’m willing to pay? You don’t want to receive a tax bill that you didn’t expect.
- Check for guarantees regarding floodplains, timbers, ground conditions (like subsidence or erosion) or any nasties like high air pollution or asbestos. If the property is over 50 years old, it needs a technical inspection to ensure structural stability. Check how your municipality enforces this and whether or not you need a certificate of compliance. It’s worth doing a structural survey yourself if you’re not sure.
- Check that the person selling the property is actually the registered owner. If the property is owned jointly everyone on the deed needs to sign the documentation for the sale. If it’s a new build, double check the planning permission for the development is entirely legal.
- Ask if there is any debt outstanding on the property. Unpaid IBI taxes and community fees need to be settled before the transfer of ownership. These charges remain registered to the property and you may end up having to pay them.
- Unless you already know what it’s like year-round in the area you wish to buy, it’s worth checking for seasonal changes in weather, footfall, traffic noise, difficulty with street parking or other conditions that might affect the things you like about the property.
- Ask what the property last sold for and whether or not the increase in the asking price is reflective of a general rise in price or because of something specific. Property values are generally on the up in Spain, but there might have been extensive work done that may affect the latest asking price.
- If you’re buying in a resort complex, check if there are maintenance costs. Many urbanisations offering shared facilities like swimming pools or communal gardens will charge an annual fee for the upkeep. Double check that these prices have remained steady over the previous few years and that the bills have been paid by the current owner.
- If you are planning on renting your property out, make sure you ask about potential rental income in different seasons. You may want to inquire about the potential fees involved in hiring a management firm if you want the property cleaned and prepared for holiday lets while you’re not on site.
- An estate agent can be your first point of contact. If you trust them, you could ask them for introductions to building contractors you might want to quote for carrying out work on the property. Most estate agents offer after-care services but note that they may receive a commission for referrals, so services such as legal conveyancing should be sought independently.
- An agent should ask you what you think is wrong with the properties you reject. If an agent doesn’t show enough interest in finding out exactly what it is you want, it’s worth looking elsewhere. Anyone can register as an estate agent in Spain but many do get qualified and licenced. If you’re worried, you can always ask to see an agent’s registration number. It’s normal for a Spanish agent to ask you to sign a ‘nota de encargo’ before showing you any properties. This protects his commission and prevents other agents from doing a deal with the owner behind their back.
Remember, the more you love the place the more you should consider any potential risks. By asking the right questions and making sure you are well-informed, you have the best chance of getting your new life in Spain off to a flying start.
Explore more areas of Spain with our Guides to living in Spain.