Buyer Insights

Why understanding other countries’ buying processes could help you make more sales

What keeps your customers awake at night?

Is it the excitement of the idea of a life in a new country? Maybe.

Is it worries about finding the money to make their dream happen? Perhaps.

More likely though, it’s concerns about how they’ll manage to get through a legally binding process that is unfamiliar to them, in a language they don’t understand. But in the world of sales, where there’s a worry there’s an opportunity.

Why understanding other countries buying processes could help you make more sales

This week we’re looking at how the house buying process works in other countries. So, when a foreign buyer walks through your door, you’ll know the parts of the process that might be causing them confusion. Of course, if you’ve done your research, you can capitalise on this, providing useful tips and advice to put their mind at ease and give them the confidence to navigate their purchase. You’ll also find it earns you some important brownie points, helping you to secure that sale.

What confuses foreigners the most about the Spanish property buying process?

  • NIE number – As you will know, buyers will need to obtain an NIE number before they’re able to open a Spanish bank account or undertake any type of legal transaction. This will be an unfamiliar process for many, and they may underestimate just how time consuming it can be. Even if you can’t help with the process itself, it’s worth checking that your customers have this in hand at the earliest opportunity so as not to delay the sales process.
  • Budget – The taxes and fees associated with the purchase of a Spanish property may not be familiar to your buyer. Make sure you remind your customer to factor in 10-12% of the budget for these matters as this is likely to be more than they would expect.
  • Fees & taxes – In Spain it is not always obvious who has to pay all the taxes and fees that are associated with a sale. This will seem strange to your buyers and they may appreciate a little guidance in this area.
  • The notary – The idea of a notary will not be familiar to some foreign buyers, particularly those from the UK or USA. It can be useful to explain to your buyers what the notary does and that they do not take the place of a lawyer. It is still important for your customer to appoint an independent legal representative who speaks their language and is familiar with the process in Spain.
  • Using a gestor – If your buyer is based in another country, it may be worth alerting them to the fact that they could use a gestor to complete some of the paperwork in their absence. This could save them a lot of time and stress.
  • Registering their property – Make your buyer aware that they must ensure the Property Register is updated following the purchase, whether they do this themselves or instruct the notary to do it. This part of the process may be unfamiliar to some foreign buyers but is extremely important.

For an easy to understand overview of the Spanish buying process, point your buyers in the direction of our How to buy in Spain guide.

A few notable differences in the sales processes of other countries:


Brits are used to being provided with a structural survey and often the contract would be dependent on a satisfactory result. It may seem strange to a UK buyer that this is not normal in Spain and therefore many may wish to undertake their own checks or instruct a surveyor to do it for them. Being able to recommend a surveyor who speaks both English and Spanish could be beneficial.

‘Gazumping’ is a term used in the UK when a seller reneges on the sale agreement in favour of a different buyer. Until the exchange of contracts there is nothing legally binding to stop this happening meaning buyers may lose out on a substantial amount of money if they’ve already paid for surveys and legal fees. It may be worth reassuring your buyer that this can’t happen in Spain without the seller being penalised.  


Buyers in France are legally committed to the purchase very early on, simply by signing a preliminary sale and purchase contract, or “compromis.” After this, they cannot withdraw from the sale without penalties. You may find that French buyers are extremely cautious about signing a reservation contract without all the details having been ironed out.

In France, there are obligatory diagnostic tests that must be done before the initial contract can be signed. These include things like the presence of lead, asbestos, termites, state of the electrics etc. but this does not include a structural survey.


Due to the lack of housing stock in Denmark, foreigners are restricted by law from purchasing property unless they make the country “the centre of their life”.


People in the US don’t always use a lawyer when buying a house. But the buying process in Spain is “very similar to the USA”, reported Thomas who purchased in Almunecar, Granada and spoke to Beth about his experiences in episode 19 of our podcast. “The one big difference was that in Spain there is a tax that the buyer pays and it’s like a sales tax. We didn’t know about it until the last moment. So, that was a chunk of change that we had not expected.”


While it’s more common to rent than buy in Sweden, the purchase process is so quick it is often faster and easier to buy a property than rent one.

Property visits tend to take place on Sunday afternoons, can last up to an hour and are nearly always held in groups. Properties are sold by bidding based on a price set by the estate agent. There are no legal regulations meaning the price can increase rapidly. A contract is signed by the buyer and seller once the seller is satisfied with the price. The only legal document is the contract and the whole process can take just a few weeks or even as little as one week.

Since all countries have their own nuances in terms of legal and taxation issues relating to property purchases, it is understandable that foreign buyers might find the process difficult. By trying to understand the areas that most commonly cause confusion, you will ease your customers’ worries and help them get a good night’s sleep again.  Which means when it comes to it, you’ll be in an excellent position to clinch that sale.

No matter which country your buyer comes from, it is good practice to advise them to appoint their own independent lawyer who speaks their language and is familiar with Spanish property law.

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