The legal process of buying a property in Spain is different from most countries. Spain has specific regional laws as well as national and EU legislation. Because of its size and status, there are necessary bureaucratic processes you need to go through to protect yourself when purchasing a property. Here’s a step by step guide of what you need to do — what you are legally obliged to do — and what you should do to make your life easier at every step of the process.
Step 1: You choose to move to Spain
You need to: Apply for an NIE number. This is a government issued number that acts like a Social Security or National Insurance number. You need it to pay your taxes in Spain and won’t be able to purchase a property without one.
Step 2: Find a house you would like to buy
You should: Ask your real estate agent for the Nota Simple. This is a document outlining what is registered with the Land Registry. It makes clear who owns the property and whether there are any outstanding debts on it.
Step 3: You need to get legal checks done and have someone oversee the contract paperwork
You should: Consider either appointing a lawyer (abogado) or a gestor. A gestor is a licensed administrator you can hire to carry out state-related paperwork. They can make sure the documentation is in order, but they can’t offer legal counsel. A lawyer is more expensive than a gestor, but as an independent legal representative is obliged to act in your favour, alerting you to issues or problems with the property and will make the contractual amendments to protect you against them.
Step 4: You want to make an offer on the property
You should: Protect your interests. Once a seller has accepted an offer, it’s wise for you to both sign a Reservation Contract (Documenta Reserva). This requires the seller to take the property off the market in return for a small deposit (usually between 3000 and 6000 euros). They must take the property off the market and are bound to sell you the property at the agreed price. You will lose your deposit if you pull out of the sale (unless there are legal problems with the property).
Step 5: You need to return home
You should: Sign over Power of Attorney (Poder Notarial). This is a nominated trusted individual to represent you in certain transactions. You can sign over a power of attorney in the presence of a public notary.
Step 6: You are ready to commit to a sale
You need to: Sign the Private Purchase Contract (Contrato Privado de Compraventa or PPC). At this point, you’ll need to pay a full deposit, usually around 10% of the property price, and agree to a time frame for completion. If the buyer pulls out after signing this, they are liable to return twice the deposit you’ve paid.
Step 7: You are nearly ready to complete
You need to: Appoint a Public Notary (notario publico) and make an appointment to finalise your purchase. A notary is employed by the Spanish government to certify legal documents. They don’t represent your interests, their sole role is to make sure all the legal boxes have been ticked, but you have the right to choose which notary you will use. People usually appoint one from the local municipal Town Hall to the property, so it’s easy for all involved to attend the meeting.
Step 8: You are at the appointment to complete your property purchase
You need to: Transfer all the money for fees and taxes. Sign the Title Deed (Escritura) to complete the sale and receive your new keys! The Land Registry has to be informed of the change of ownership within 10 days of completing and your notary will be able to arrange this at your appointment if you request it in advance.
For more information on the legal process of buying a property in Spain take a look at pages 35-37 in our 2019 Buyer’s Guide.
Step 9: You have moved into your Spanish property
You need to: Appoint a gestor to help you with your application for residency, a driving licence or help you to register as self-employed or set up a limited company. A gestor is a wholly Spanish profession, which stems from a time when illiteracy was common and bureaucracy was complicated in Spain. For a small fee, they will direct you to the right place and the correct queue to get all manner of civic obligations sorted.