Sellers of Property in Spain (Warning)
Read your sales contract
Whatever your nationality, if you are selling your Spanish Flat, Town House or Villa through an Estate Agent, be sure to read the contract you sign. It has been brought to my notice that some unscrupulous agents are adding small print to their contracts, which mean, even if they don’t sell your property; Whether you withdraw it, it is sold privately or via another agent:
You must still pay the contracted agent the agreed commission. If you sign it, it is legal, make sure you are not caught. Only agree to pay commission to the agent who sells your property.
Caution. If you are considering moving to Spain, renting or buying property, the following statements supply the most important advice you will receive from any source.
I do most strongly advise that short visits to buy property should only be taken with the utmost caution, particularly if you have not previously visited the area in which the property on offer is situated.
I consider it essential to a happy result that, as well as assessing a potential property, you also take time to evaluate the surrounding area and its people:
Some areas are predominantly populated by English, French, German or Norwegian expats whilst others retain almost entirely their Spanish population, customs and language. Remember there are four prominent provincial languages in Spain other than the national Castilian language. Some, like Gandia, and many of the smaller towns speak mainly in their provincial language (in our case Valencian) which is most unlike the national Castilian language that most émigrés learn.
In many coastal locations you may rarely see another person during the winter months and may have to travel several miles to find a shop that is not open only for the holiday season. I know of several people who have found that they are the only winter resident in a block of 50 apartments. You can feel lonely and isolated in this situation. Likewise, in such areas you definitely need a car.
Location is more important in obtaining the ideal life style than the property itself. There are beautiful properties everywhere. So many people become discontented after just a few months, largely because they did not think their relocation through in the first place. If Spain is to be your home, treating it like a perpetual holiday may be OK for the few, but holidaying in just one place becomes boring, just as continual meals prepared for you, even at a very good hotel or restaurant in time become boring.
My wife and I have now lived here in Gandia for four years. It is a working town with very few expats. We've experienced its variable weather, very hot and just occasionally, very wet and sometimes quite cold but we don't regret a day, even though we've had traumatic times with an accident, hospitalisation and illness. It has all been very well worthwhile.
If you have been watching British TV ads offering A Land of Opportunity Use CautionThe recent British TV series on buying property overseas are I feel presented more as entertainment, than as a serious program to highlight the problems as well as the benefits. I got the impression that the producer had little comprehension of the problems facing would be émigré’s. I found the way they projected researching for suitable properties totally haphazard, there seemed to have been no real effort to understand or to make the buyer fully aware of the financial commitment needed or to have stressed to the buyers the need to take good professional advice from surveyors re structural soundness or to check that property planning rights were fully investigated.
Settling into a new country is more than just liking a warmer climate or an attractive property with swimming pool. It is a whole new way of life. No mention is made of the fact that much of the continent suffers from high unemployment, Spain is no exception.
Before buying a specific property, if you have children, you must consider the type of school and educational needs of those children and whether the property you are considering buying is in an area that allows you the right choice of schooling and language instruction. The location of your house determines which education authority you are within and which state run schools the authority will allow your children to attend. There are 4 major Spanish languages taught in Spain in addition to the national Castilian language. Some schools put accent on Castillian whilst other place more attention onto their provincial language.
For further information, read my article on Education in Spain.
Placing a deposit? Use Caution
If you are asked to place a deposit to secure a property, (which is normal practice);
This means you can’t be gazumped; good enough;
Sounds very safe if you are definitely set on buying; however, what if you find there are structural reasons to cancel? Unless you safeguard your rights you will still lose your deposit.
In England you would normally get a surveyor’s report before buying. It is advisable to do the same in Spain.
However, to safeguard your deposit; you must pay this money, only to your solicitor, and in addition, have the solicitor include within the sales agreement a clause stating, that, "the deposit is returnable without any loss, if you back out of the purchase because your surveyor’s report is unfavourable."
This is most important particularly if you are buying an old property or a new one built on a cliff edge (as many are in Spain today) or if you are being pressured to decide and sign, due to time constraints.
You may find that some sellers will not agree. If so, I consider this puts a doubt on the legality or construction of the property.
Some people think of Southern Spain as always sunny and after living here for almost three years I'd almost agree. It is invariably bright and if you live on the lower coastal plain we have a great deal of sunshine and only occasional bursts of rain (unless you have been here on holiday during March to May this year of 2004 - it has been the wettest, cloudiest spring for 30 years) and it is seldom really cold.
Likewise if your house is in the hills, on the slopes below the crest of the hill facing north you can be in the shade. Many properties, even in the sunniest areas, do not see the sun for several months during the winter period from November to April because the sun is too low down. Beautiful views do not always compensate for the cold and it can be very cold in the hills. If you suffer from SAD take this into consideration.
Also, pay particular attention to location if you suffer from arthritis, breathing, chest or spinal problems.
If you need to work when you come to Spain, before buying a property, do research the likelihood of obtaining a job in your selected location.
Unemployment is more than 20 per cent and thousands of people are looking for work.
Read my article on Employment and Business Opportunities.
There are so many sources. Places like Alicante, Denia, Gandia, Javea, Valencia etc have hundreds of estate agents. The internet is packed with thousands of offers, many offering what appears to be almost a free holiday to view properties without obligation. For many, these tempting offers do prove disastrous as shown by the large number of would be émigrés who return disillusioned to their native lands each year. There is so much more to buying a new home than just finding a property and a four/ five day visit for this purpose should not be taken lightly. These trips are hard sell excursions.
Spain is a wonderful place to live, but do your homework. Read my database, understand all the snags and problems. They can be overcome if you use practical common sense and don’t allow yourself to be taken in by the many false promises. Many agents will make all manner of promises to obtain a sale. Some offer to cut corners to save you money. I have just been able to advise one couple who had put down €57,000 for a property that had been built illegally without planning permission and was liable for demolition by the council and yet neither the estate agent nor solicitor had pointed this out, the English buyer had been foisted off with excuses for a year while trying to get the legal purchase papers.
Be warned, get good advice. See Property, Residency and Law for the legal aspects of buying.
We strongly advise you to use your own solicitor and surveyor, thereby removing any possibility of conflicting interests with an agent.
Having found your property, how do you arrange to finance the purchase? Have you considered the impact of the currency market on your purchase price?
To understand how to obtain a better rate of exchange than from your bank read my article on Money Exchange and see how you can gain an extra thousand euros or more toward your purchase.
A number of friends wishing to sell privately without involving an estate agent, have asked me to show their properties on this site. I have also identified a number of reputable local estate agents with english speaking representatives. These may both be viewed through the Property for Sale pages.
Remember, you need to allow an additional 10% for legal and other general charges but usually it works out somewhat less.
I emphasise that two weeks is a minimum stay if you wish to ensure finding a good property in an area that is fully suitable to your personal requirements.
Before setting off from England I suggest you write out Must Have and a Don’t Want lists. Your ideas will modify, but that list will give you and the agent a very good starting point.
Your visit should ideally start with a general tour of the area to get a good idea of the local places of interest. Location is all important before looking at property. Then review the areas of particular interest, visiting potential properties, followed by selecting a solicitor and ensuring that all legal searches and requirements are covered. I must emphasise that an independent solicitor should be engaged, and if an old property is involved it is very provident to obtain an independent survey. I am asked for advice many times after people have taken short cuts that turned out very badly. Resorting to legal action after the event is rarely helpful and it is long winded and expensive.
When considering Do’s & Don’ts, depending on age and health it is advisable to remember that many of the sites one sees on the internet are spectacular but are approached by quite startlingly hilly or mountainous roads and just to buy a loaf or any everyday item you need the car and in some places a 4x4. Whatever you do, read all of my cautionary notes. Best wishes, Maurice.