Search
  • Maura Hillen

Homebuyers Checklist for Property Resales - Be guided by experience

Maura Hillen, MBE, Hillen Real Estate.




If you are considering buying a property in Spain you need to bear in mind that the system, steps to follow and remedies in the event of any problems may be very different to those you have experienced in your home country.


As a homeowner and campaigner with over 10 years of experience of what can go wrong when buying a home in Spain, I have prepared a brief guide of practical, though not legal advice, for prospective home buyers written from the perspective of one who has encountered many pitfalls. It is based on property purchases in Andalusia but the general principles remain the same. It gives my personal opinion, based on my experience.


FIRST CHOOSE YOUR LAWYER WITH CARE

I do NOT believe that it is a good idea to engage a lawyer recommended by your estate agent, the seller or anyone else with a vested interest in the transaction. Indeed, if the property is located in a small town or village some people recommend using a lawyer located a reasonable distance away to avoid potential conflicts of interest.


Treat personal recommendations from acquaintances or from social networks with caution. Homebuyers are not experts and one person’s experience could sometimes mean one of two things: they were lucky or they were unlucky but they don´t know it yet.


LOOK CAREFULLY AT THE PAPERWORK AS WELL AS THE SPLENDID VIEW

A decent estate agent should be able to provide you with a pack containing the paperwork for the property that you are interested in. Pass it to your independent legal advisor so that they can assess the property from a legal perspective BEFORE you commit yourself. The pack should contain.


  • TITLE DEEDS (ESCRITURA). This document should accurately describe what you plan to buy. That is to say a dwelling (not a tool shed, commercial premises etc) of a specified size and description on a plot of land that can be located using the information provided.

  • NOTA SIMPLE. This document confirms that the deed (escritura) for the property has been registered at the Land Registry, thus legally confirming title. In addition to describing the dimensions of the property and who legally owns it, it also shows if there are any debts such as a mortgage or other financial liens registered against the house. The Escritura and Nota Simple will also reveal rights of others with regard to the property: rights of way, rights of view, hunting rights, gathering rights, water rights or any other right that might interrupt your enjoyment of the property.

  • PROOF OF THE PROPERTIES PLANNING STATUS: This is the most complicated aspect of buying a property in Andalusia. I would INSIST on one of the following documents:

  1. License of First Occupation (LFO): In general, this document is to confirm that the property was constructed legally in compliance with its planning permission and should be available for any fully legal property constructed after 1975 in Andalusia. This document is a must have if you plan to alter or extend the property. Check that the Licence describes the building in its current form.

  2. · AFO or DAFO: If the property was constructed after 1985 and does not have a licence of occupation it is likely that the property was constructed without planning permission, usually in the countryside where construction is severely restricted but consumer demand is high. There are an estimated 300,00 properties in this category and if you have fallen in love with a fantastic villa with a pool in a tranquil rural setting you are probably about to buy one of them. Insist that the seller provides a document called an AFO, also known as a DAFO, even if the property is registered at the Land Registry. This document confirms that the property is now tolerated by the authorities (that is a polite way of saying that they don’t want to demolish it), is not on protected land, and can be legally connected to services, such as electricity and mains water. Under current legislation, you will not be given planning permission to alter or extend these properties. What you get is what you see. No more.

  • CATASTRO SEARCH: To ensure that the property is registered in the catastro (a form of graphic registry) and that its description and characteristics concur with those at the Land Registry.

  • RECENT ELECTRICITY AND WATER BILLS: In the seller’s name showing that the property has a supply and is not in arrears.

  • PROOF OF PAYMENT OF LOCAL TAXES: The seller should provide recent IBI (Property Tax) and Rubbish collection (Basura) bills proving that these taxes have been paid and are up to date. A buyer can become liable for any arrears for the previous 4 years.

  • PROOF OF PAYMENT OF COMMUNITY CHARGES: If the property is a flat or on an urbanisation, proof should be provided that the property is up to date with community charges. It is of course necessary to know what those charges are. The buyer becomes liable for any arrears.

  • ENERGY PERFORMANCE CERTIFICATE: The seller is required to provide the buyer with a Certificado de Eficiencia Energética. The energy performance certificate is a report that describes how efficient a property is in terms of energy consumption. It assigns an energy rating to a property on a scale which ranges from "A" (the most efficient) to "G" (the least efficient).


PAY ATTENTION TO DIMENTIONS ON THE DEEDS

The deeds (escritura) for the property should be registered at the Land Registry and should precisely define the dimensions of the plot and any buildings upon it. If that lovely extension or swimming pool or garage is missing ensure that this is rectified before you buy the property because they may have been added on without permission.


CHECK FOR A SITTING TENANT

Be aware that sitting tenants have many rights under Spanish law and the buyer will be required to comply with any existing rental agreements, unless a compensation agreement can be reached with the tenant.


SPECIAL CARE MUST BE TAKEN WHEN PURCHASING A COASTAL PROPERTY

The Spanish Coastal Law (Ley de Costas) defines a public domain area along the coast and a further zone where special restrictions can apply to private ownership. If considering a property in such a zone, make sure that you understand the restrictions.


INVESTING IN A BUY TO LET PROPERTY?

Confirm that the Community of Owners permits holiday rentals and what the terms are. Be aware that you need a licence to operate tourist accommodation.

IS THE PROPERTY GOING TO BE PART OF YOUR BUSINESS?

Check that the property, and its paperwork, is compliant with whatever licence you need to operate your business if it is to be used as a holiday let, B&B, hotel, restaurant etc.


PLANNING TO ALTER THE PROPERTY?

If you are planning to extend your prospective purchase or add a pool, garage or wall make sure that you can obtain the necessary planning permission to do so before you commit to the purchase. The property will generally require a LFO (see above) before any application will be considered.


KNOW THE TRUE PURCHASE PRICE OF THE PROPERTY BEFORE YOU AGREE TO BUY IT

If your independent legal advisor is satisfied with the paperwork and BEFORE you agree to a purchase price ask them to work out the additional costs of the purchase in terms of taxes payable and fees (lawyers fees, notary fees, land registry fees etc).


PUTTING DOWN A DEPOSIT

The seller might retain the deposit if you change your mind, unless there is some legal defect that prevents you from buying it, so be absolutely sure that this is the house for you before handing over a deposit.


SIGNING CONTACTS AND OTHER LEGAL DOCUMENTS

Do not sign anything unless it under the guidance of your independent legal advisor.


CONSIDER EMPLOYING YOUR OWN TRANSLATOR

If you do not read Spanish consider employing your own independent translator, preferably a qualified legal translator when dealing with contracts and deeds. The legally binding text in any document that you sign is the Spanish text so it is important to know exactly what it says.


At Hillen Real Estate work with an exclusive network of trusted legal professionals and we can assist you with buying & selling property in Spain. Contact us at info@hillen.es

520 views

Telephone: +34 661329919

Paraje Locaiba, 92 04800 Albox. Almería. (by prior appointment only)