Spain Explained

Making checks before you buy in Spain

Now is the time to buy in Spain. There are many properties to choose from offering every facility imaginable. Rustic or town, apartment or villa, spacious or compact – the choice is yours.

You might have seen your ideal property on an inspection trip in Spain or whilst taking a holiday. Doing your research is the important first step to making sure that you find the property that is right for you. The second important step is establishing that the coast is clear for you to buy, with no unexpected unpleasant surprises round the corner.

It is with this in mind, that we advise you to have your ideal property checked out thoroughly before you sign any contracts.

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Spanish property checks

There are three types of check that you should have on your Spanish property before making the decision to buy:

  1. Legal status of the property, including home improvements
  2. Utilities and taxes check
  3. An inspection by an architect

1. Legal status of the property and home improvements

Your solicitor should make a thorough search of:

  • the Spanish Land Registry
  • the Catastral Registry

The Spanish Land Registry

This check will include scrutiny of the nota simple.  The nota simple is an extract from the Land Registry that gives details of any mortgages and debts held against the property. It includes:

  • A description of the property – including several physical features such as its boundaries, floors, surface area
  • If it is part of a community of owners
  • Who owns it and their identification
  • Mortgages and any loans remaining
  • Any outstanding taxes or debts held against the property
  • If it conflicts with local planning laws
  • The construction history of the property

The Catastral Registry

Your solicitor will again request a certificate and will check:

  • That the m2 on the Title Deed in Spain is correct for the property
  • The Catastral reference
  • The Catastral plan in order to see whether additional building work has been registered or not

The solicitor will then compare the details on the two registries with the Title Deed in Spain to make sure they are consistent.

First occupancy certificate and habitation certificate

There should be either a first occupancy certificate or a habitation certificate in place.

Every new property in Spain must be issued with a first occupancy certificate (Licencia de Primera Ocupación). This certificate demonstrates that the property developer has met all obligations and that the property is legal.  When you come to sell your home the new purchaser will want to see that the property was given an occupancy certificate.

Once in possession, the new owner will need to apply for a new certificate themselves. This is the point at which it becomes a habitation certificate (Cédula de Habitabilidad). Without a habitation certificate you won’t be able to complete on a mortgage or take out a new water or electricity contract.

Home improvements

Even relatively minor home improvements in Spain need the agreement of the town hall. If the property is part of a community they should have given their consent too.

If any alterations made have not been recorded on the Title Deed, this can cause problems when the property is sold and could become an issue for you in the future.

Your solicitor should check against documentation:

  • The number of rooms
  • The number of floors
  • If there is a basement and if it is used as living accommodation
  • If any additional buildings have been added
  • If there is a swimming pool or additional barbecue area
  • If there are any other visible home improvements
  • If terraces or balconies have been closed in
  • If the outside appearance is the same as other apartments in the same building

2. Utilities and taxes check

If there are outstanding payments on utilities the debt must be paid before services can be reconnected or transferred into your name.

Outstanding taxes must also be settled before you can take ownership of the property. A check will need to be made of:

  • Electricity
  • Water
  • Community fees
  • Refuse collection
  • Council tax
  • Plusvalía tax
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3. Inspection by an architect

In your home country it is likely that you would have some kind of survey completed on the property to make sure that everything is in order. It is surprising how many foreign purchasers in Spain do not do this.

We recommend that a professional architect should give your property a thorough inspection before you sign a contract. They will check the property against agreed standards and make sure that everything is in order.

This might look like a formidable list of things to do. However, omitting any of these can cause trouble and prevent you from enjoying your home in Spain in the future.

Find out more about our Spanish Property Health Check.

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