How to avoid expensive mistakes when buying Spanish property

Published:  23 Sep at 6 PM
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For decades, Spain has been the top choice for British expats looking for second homes or retirement villas, but ‘look before you leap’ is still the best advice.

Spain’s sunshine, friendly people, great food, fascinating history and culture and ready-made expat communities have been attracting the British since the early days of cheap flights. However, buying a Spanish property can be fraught with risks such as dodgy developers, unstable property prices and even off-plan purchases of condos which are never built.

That said, Spain is still a favourite with British buyers, the majority of whom are now in tune with what’s hot and what’s not as regards risky transactions. Property prices are now in recovery and are still far cheaper than in their heyday, meaning that bargains can be found provided care is taken as the Spanish property purchase system bears no resemblance to that in the UK, and can be confusing as a result.

It’s essential to use a lawyer experienced in conveyancing rather than letting the estate agent do the job, and said lawyer needs to be reasonably fluent in the English language. Independence from the property’s estate agent and the seller as well as being registered with the Spanish authorities are all requirements.

Potential purchasers must never sign documents unless their lawyer is present, and should be made aware of all relevant fees due. It’s best to hire surveyors and lawyers working on a fee basis, and surveys are an essential part of home-buying in Spain. If you can’t find a local Spanish surveyor, it’s not difficult to locate an expat who’s qualified to examine the structure of your future home.

As interest in property purchases revives, the usual scammers are expected to crawl out of the woodwork with extravagant claims of dream homes cheaply available on an off-plan basis. To avoid losing your pension pot to these lowlives, insist on being shown a building license before even discussing prices and payments. Rushing into a decision without the right research is one way to court a potential disaster. Assessing the pros, cons and the literal lie of the land can avoid costly mistakes, and with resale properties it’s best to make sure there are no legal complications or hidden fees.

The one similarity between the Spanish process and that of the UK is the old saying of ‘location, location, location’. Choosing the right location means you will be able to successfully sell your home on should the need arise. Given the increased activity in the market, making a profit after a few years enjoying your property is now back on the cards.
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