Spain Explained

Next steps after buying a house in Spain

You’ve bought your home in Spain. Congratulations! Hopefully this will be the start of many happy years here. Whether you have bought a Spanish property to enjoy at holiday time, to live in or to rent out as an investment, you’ve taken a big step.

Now, you want to ensure that you make the most of it. Of course, what you do next will depend upon whether you are planning to be a resident or a non-resident. If you live in Spain for more than 183 days in the year then you are a resident. It is not a matter of choice.

In this article we outline the next steps you need to take after you’ve bought your house in Spain. We identify some actions you should take specifically as either a resident or non-resident, followed by some actions for all new Spanish property owners.

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Four steps for non-residents

1. Make arrangements to receive notifications

An important issue for non-residents is how they receive their mail. In Spain official notifications are sent out to properties and are very rarely sent to a home address in another country. Some of these notifications can be very important and require action on your part.

Some people ask a neighbour to keep an eye on their letterbox to retrieve any official looking post. If you don’t have some way of being alerted then the next stage is for the notification to be put in the BOE (Boletín Official del Estado) or local bulletin.

This is a lengthy document that is published daily in Spanish. Although it is considered to be an official way of notifying people, it is unlikely to be picked up by you. Therefore, it is very important that you receive any official communications before they are published here.

2. Keep a point of contact in Spain

If you are away from your property for any length of time you will be particularly anxious about security and access to your property. It can be that services need to enter your property whilst you are in your own country. Or you might want to arrange for someone to clean your Spanish house and air it before you come out for your holiday.

Either way, you might want to engage the services of a keyholding company in Spain or someone who you can keep in contact with whilst in your own country. They will keep a set of keys and might also be able to help out if you have visitors using your property whilst you are away.

3. Make sure you’re driving legally

If you are driving a hire car then there is nothing you need to do in relation to licence and registration. However do ensure that you know about the way in which driving is different in Spain to your own country.

If you bring a foreign-registered vehicle over to Spain and intend to leave it here then it will need to be re-registered after six months or return to your country of origin for six months.

4. Pay your taxes

As a non-resident you will have at least two taxes to pay:

  • IBI (Impuesto Sobre Bienes Inmuebles) or council tax
  • Imputed income tax or rental tax (in some cases a combination of the two)

You will need to decide if you wish to have the services of a fiscal representative in Spain to help you pay them. Having a fiscal representative means that if anything should go wrong with your tax affairs they are on hand to sort it out.

However, it is possible to do your non-resident tax return online if you prefer. A lot will depend upon how much responsibility you continue to want to have after you have bought your property.

If you are intending to rent out your property it is a good idea to have a representative as you will have to make quarterly tax declarations.

Read more information about Spanish non-resident property taxes.

Five steps for residents

1. Obtain your civil residency

The big issue once you have bought your property, if you are intending to live in Spain, is paper work. You will need to make sure that you have:

  • An NIE ( foreigners’ identification number)
  • A residencia (certificate to show that you are registered as a civil resident in Spain)
  • Registered on the padrón (see link above)

There isn’t space here to go into each of these requirements. However, the links will take you to articles which will provide more information.

Although there will seem to be a lot to do, it doesn’t have to all be done at once. You can apply for your NIE and residencia together – this is the most important first step. If you have bought a house in Spain you will already have an NIE.

It is very much about taking one step at a time – the vagaries of Spanish bureaucracy will mean that it will be hard to do anything else. What you will need to protect yourself against is frustration when things don’t go to plan.

2. Make a Spanish tax return

In the majority of cases residents must also make a resident tax declaration before the end of June each year. If you still have property or assets abroad worth more than €50,000 you will also need to complete a 720 asset declaration.

Making a Spanish tax declaration makes it easier to prove that you are a resident here and is useful to do even if you fall below the threshold for paying tax in Spain.

Read more information about fiscal residency.

3. Make sure you comply with driving laws

If you are driving in Spain you will also need to change your driving licence to a Spanish driving licence at some point (you have two years to do this from gaining residency). If you have a foreign-registered vehicle, you will need to have it re-registered in Spain within a month.

4. Make sure you are eligible for the health care you need

Once you are registered on the padrón, you can then apply for your SIP card (Spanish health card) if you are entitled to state health care. If not you will need to make sure you have private health insurance or buy into a state health insurance scheme.

Read more information about accessing health care in Spain.

5. Make a Spanish will

We can be reluctant to talk about inheritance. However, if you are moving to live in Spain it is important to make a Spanish will if you want to ensure that your wishes are fulfilled when you die. This is particularly important if you are British or Irish as these countries’   successions laws are different from the Spanish.

Read more information about making a Spanish will.

Non-resident or resident

There are some jobs that you should do whether you are a resident or a non-resident.

Organise your utilities

The utilities should have been changed into your name at the point of sale. However, there are some good housekeeping activities that we recommend you initiate now.

  • Organise a utilities file beginning with your first bill for each – make sure that all the details on these are correct
  • Make a note of how often you will be charged for each utility and build this into the calculations of how you much you will need in the bank
  • Keep in mind the seasonal variations there are likely to be
  • Keep a directory with the names of the provider of the service and emergency contact numbers or website addresses

Banks

You will need to make sure that whatever bank account you have in Spain reflects your residency status. If you are a non-resident you will need a non-resident account, for example.

If you do have a non-resident account you will be asked to sign a declaration to this effect every couple of years. This is just to confirm your status as a non-resident.

If you are a resident and have a regular income you might be eligible for an account with reduced charges and should make enquiries. Don’t forget to let your bank know either if you change your residency status.

If there are online banking opportunities it is likely that this will be a much better method of conducting your affairs. Make sure that your bank gives you the details of how to do this and that you are confident before leaving their offices.

Insurance

You will want to make sure that your property is covered by house insurance. Be hesitant about automatically taking out insurance with the bank. There are many reputable insurance companies that might be able to offer you better rates and conditions.

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Arranging the nice little extras

In this article we’ve talked about some of the more routine actions that you must take after you’ve bought your Spanish property. There are many more ‘fun’ ones too.

  • Exploring the area and further afield
  • Making decisions about the internet and satellite TV
  • Buying furniture and little extras for your home
  • Getting to know your neighbours and what happens with the community of owners
  • Finding the best local shopping

During this time there will be challenges. However, the rewards far outweigh any of the little niggles you’re bound to develop with Spanish bureaucracy. And soon, you will find yourself totally at home and feeling that you’ve had a house in Spain for years.

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