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Buying a property in Spain: What to do and what to avoid

Buying a property in Spain: What to do and what to avoid
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Spanish property expert Sean Woolley shares his advice with The Local Spain’s readers about what to do and what to avoid when searching for a dream property in Spain.

If you are looking to buy a property in Spain there is so much to think about and many factors to consider before you proceed.

As an agent, we’re always offering advice and pointers for our buyers, flagging up concerns and issues. 

So we’ve put together our essential dos and don’ts, to help you to avoid the pitfalls and make the right decisions. 

THE DOS

1. Do your research      

Don’t let the dream of owning a second home in sunny Spain cloud your decision making. Buying a property is an important decision, and one which must be handled correctly to stop that dream turning into a nightmare. Look online, talk to experts, visit the area, talk to locals and be prepared for the good and bad aspects of living in Spain and owning property here.                               

2. Work with the right people   

Make sure you do your research when choosing your agent, legal representative and advisors, as you need to trust them implicitly to help you make the right decision.           

3. Trust your instinct                                         

Trust your gut feeling throughout your property search, from choosing an agent to signing a deal on a property. Ask yourself – Does this company or person feel right? Do I like what I hear? Does it all stack up? If you have doubts, check and double check and if you’re not sure, walk away.      

4. Make a list of ‘must-haves’   

Start your search with a clear view of the essentials for your property and then a second list of desirable elements that you’re willing to compromise on. Think about why you are buying, who for and what will you be using it for e.g. would you like to rent it out. Convey this to your agent so they can make sure you’re buying a property which fits the bill.                              

5. Treat your viewings seriously            

I’d advise you to treat your property hunting visit as a business trip or a fact-finding mission. Of course, combine it with having a great time, but don’t expect to get much done if you have an army of screaming kids in tow or if you intend to go out on the town every night.                                   

6. Negotiate on legal fees

Most lawyers charge a standard fee of 1% + IVA of the property price (with a minimum fee of something like €2,000). This means that if you spend €500,000, your legal fees will amount to €6,050 (1% + 21% IVA), but if your property is costing €1,500,000, your legal fees shoot up to €18,150. To me, this doesn’t seem fair. Effectively you are being charged three times more for the lawyer to do the same job. It’s still one property, with one set of title deeds. But I would strongly recommend negotiating either a reduced percentage fee or a flat fee in advance.                                              

7. Use a mortgage broker and currency specialist 

Seek advice from a specialist mortgage broker based here in Spain. The mortgage market is forever changing, and these guys have their finger on the pulse, and will be able to assess which lenders may offer the most competitive mortgage deals for clients. If you are purchasing in a currency outside of the euro-zone, you should definitely use a reputable currency broker to transfer your funds into euros, instead of using a high street bank. It can make a HUGE difference to how much you pay for your property!

THE DON’Ts

1. Don’t expect perfection

I ALWAYS point out to clients that they are NOT going to find their perfect property. It normally doesn’t exist, and that’s irrespective of the budget. That’s not being negative, simply practical. So make a list of 10 things that the ‘dream’ property needs to have. Look at your list with the understanding that you would be doing really well to tick 7 or 8 of those 10 boxes. This means that you can remain grounded during the property search, and it provides a point of reference when looking at properties and comparing them on a like-for-like basis.

2. Don’t leave your brain at home

I’ve seen it happen so often in the last 20 years!  Clients become over-excited, they become unrealistic, they spend too much money, they purchase something wholly inappropriate, they even buy when they’re drunk. In essence they do things that they would never do at home, so don’t follow in their footsteps. The key is to get to know the area as well as possible, ask as many questions as possible and approach your property hunting seriously. 

3. Don’t overspend

Choose a realistic budget and don’t overstretch yourselves, you can always buy a bigger property when you have a foothold on the ladder and know that you love the area. 

4. Don’t confuse ‘cheap’ with ‘value’     

Great properties in the best areas will likely never need to be drastically reduced, because the demand for them is consistently high. You need to understand the market and the best locations to identify the best value property which will be the most sensible investment over the long-term. 

5. Don’t buy for your relatives and friends

Don’t be a slave to friends and family when purchasing a second home. Of course it’s great to share it with your friends and family, but remember who’s paying for it and don’t let their needs dictate your purchase.

6. Don’t trust all online property adverts

Please watch out for agents who seem to have an endless list of great-value and amazingly priced properties in 5* locations, posted on all the property portals. These properties are posted online simply to generate enquiries. They are NOT REAL! These adverts and listings are misleading at best, and fraudulent at worst. So, my advice is to be extra careful when using property portals. You can never be sure about the accuracy of the information.

7. Don’t forget about the fees

It’s really important that clients understand the costs involved in purchasing a Spanish property, and also the costs involved in owning the property from month to month. As a rule of thumb, the total buying costs for a resale property will be somewhere between 10% – 11%, while the costs for purchasing a new-build property will fall into the range of 13.5% – 14.5%. In addition to the costs of purchase, you will also need to consider the property’s running costs and community fees.

For more information, top tips and tricks to ensure your Spanish property purchase goes smoothly, read From the Ground Up – The Insider’s Guide to Buying Spanish Property, which is now available on Amazon. 

Sean Wooley is the Managing Director of Cloud Nine Prestige, a luxury real estate agency in Marbella, southern Spain. 

Email: [email protected]

Phone: +34 951 204 229

Mobile: +34 692 254 432


Member comments

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  1. Don’t buy, but do rent. Luke 14 forsake all, everyone, and your life for Me.
    Matthew 5-7 work for Me not money and I will give you food and clothing.
    Mark 16 share the Truth to all.
    John 17 work together in love.
    Don’t take the Mark of the Beast; right hand or forehead, only way to buy or sell (not a mask or vaccine, but could be a quantum implant or tattoo thing). Revelation 13-14.
    USA maybe the Babylon, to be destroyed with fire in one hour. Revelation 17-18.

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