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Tips before buying a house in Spain

1. Not having enough money
Do remember that you need more funds than just the cost of the house.
There are a number of additional costs such as legal fees, property taxes, Spanish notary and Spanish land registry fees. We recommend that you allow an extra 11-14% on top of the cost of the purchase.

2. Never think that the process of buying property in Spain is the same as for your own country.
EU law is not identical in all EU member-states, so do not come to Spain thinking that the way things are done in the UK or Denmark, for example, is same for Spain. Laws may be similar, but not the same. So be far more cautious than you would be in your own country: triple check everything, and be sceptical and disbelieving until every aspect of your intended property (such as its legality and potential liabilities) is categorically proven to your satisfaction (in writing!).

3. Understand an outline of Spanish property law. 
You must understand the distinction between “Urbanizado”, “Completamente Urbanizado” and “Rural” before you think of buying in Spain. These designations define (to a large extent) the nature of the property you intend to buy, and whether the property is likely to be legal and free of potential state-imposed liabilities.
* “Urbanizado” (urbanized) crudely means building land – somewhere that can be built upon, subject to compliance with planning regulations.
* “Completamente Urbanizado” (completely urbanized) implies that all infrastructure works have been completed (which you may otherwise have to pay for!).
* “Rural” means agricultural land, and if land falls in this category there are very significant constraints that restrict what can and cannot be built, and the size of what can be constructed.

4. Always use a conveyancing lawyer.
It is astonishing how many people do not use a lawyer for their purchase of Spanish property, and instead use an estate agent or other unqualified person. This course of action can have devastating consequences.
That said, if you make the informed decision of using a lawyer, then make sure that you use a lawyer who speaks your language fluently, is independent of the seller and any estate agent, is registered with the Colegio de Abogados and has significant public liability insurance (some have very low cover). Finally, make sure that all advice provided is in writing and keep a copy.
Sadly, the standard of legal practice in Spain is generally often poor, and is notable for conflicts of interest and sloppy practice. So, make sure that you spend time to obtain the best possible lawyer – before you start looking at properties.

5. Never sign anything unless your lawyer is present and it is translated into your language.
This may seem obvious, but people repeatedly sign documents without fully understanding their meaning. So always, always go to your lawyer whether the document is an agreement with your estate agent (some can result in very severe, ‘hidden’ fees!) or a seller.

6. Always use a building surveyor before you buy a house.
Once again, it is amazing how few people use a building surveyor prior to buying a Spanish property. While it is certainly not common practice to solicit these services in Spain, it is still recommended that you do so, despite what people may tell you.
Needless to say, the long property boom in Spain has led to many variations of quality in property construction. While some building has been of the highest standards, this has been matched by some very poor and sub-standard building, which you should make an effort to avoid at all costs!
Oddly enough, the profession of building surveying as understood in the UK does not exist in Spain. However, there are some really excellent UK fully qualified building surveyors in Spain who will undertake a proper and rigorous building survey. Use one – but make sure that he is fully qualified, and has valid insurance to undertake a survey in Spain.

7. Make sure that your intended property has mains water, electricity and telephone land line.
Every Spanish property in an “Urbanizado” area should have mains water, electricity and telephone landline (with ADSL available). If the property does not – then be very wary, as your intended property may not really be “Urbanizado”; and, if that is the case, it may never be connected to these services – regardless of what your agent or the seller may be claiming.

8. Location is everything.
Choose your location very carefully, particularly if you are buying a property for permanent living in Spain. Be wary about entering an expat ‘ghetto’ (however expensive), take care not to live too far from ‘civilisation’, and beware of being ‘suckered’ into buying a pretty property because it has lovely views of a glittering sea. After all, properties are immobile, and full-time life in Spain requires a location that will provide you with ‘life’: people, a community and proximity to services and amenities.
A crude guideline for buying in Spain (for permanent life) could be summarised as being somewhere that is:
* Within two minutes of a village
* Within 15 minutes of a major town
* Within one hour to an international airport.
* Preferably, the sea (for re-sale and rental purposes) should be no further than 15 to 20 minutes from your intended property.

If you follow the rules listed above, you will buy safely in Spain, and will likely be rewarded with a property that will not only be a sound investment, but also a home that can provide you with real joy.

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