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Legalities of Buying Property in Spain

There are differences between buying a property in the UK and in Spain. The following brief guide explains in simple terms the process of purchasing your Spanish property - hopefully enabling you to proceed with confidence and peace of mind.

It does not cover all aspects of Spanish property law and is not a substitute for professional advice and representation. It is advisable that you have your financial arrangements more or less in place so you are ready to proceed quickly (refer to finance section).

Once you have settled on your chosen property you will need to appoint an independent lawyer who is experienced in Spanish property law and has a good knowledge of the area you are buying into. In the case of resale the lawyer will check that the property belongs to the seller and has the necessary building permissions. An important part of the lawyer's responsibility is to check the seller is free of debt because under Spanish law any debts will pass to the new owner. For new construction the same checks will be made on the land along with a background and financial check on the builder.

When your lawyer is satisfied you provide a signed contract with a non refundable 10% deposit which will then be matched at the same time by the seller. This is to stop the practice of gazumping, which because there is now too much to lose, does not happen in Spain. If you cannot be present in person to sign the contract or indeed the final completion contract you can grant your lawyer (a poder) power of attorney so he can complete on your behalf.

The contract will state the dates for subsequent payment of the balance due, which needs to be carefully observed. You will of course be provided with a copy. Your lawyer can also arrange your NIE (foreigner's identity number), residency application and Spanish bank account as appropriate. On completion day both parties or their representatives with power of attorney will appear before the Notary, who is a government official responsible for the execution of public documents and to ensure compliance with Spanish law. The Notary acts for neither party and does not replace the need for your own lawyer but witnesses the signing of the Escritura de Compraventa (the transfer deed). At this time the balance of the purchase money will be paid to the seller and any remaining purchase tax and fees will be paid. You will then have the keys to your new property and a copy (Copia Simple) of the title deed until the formal deed comes to you from the land registry.

At this point you can instruct you lawyer to set up accounts for utility services such as water and electricity and Spanish resident taxes which he can arrange payment of through your Spanish bank. (See also Buying Costs section).

On a final note it is worth considering that the inheritance laws in Spain are different than in the UK. In the event of death your property may be divided up equally between your partner and children. In the UK unless you have made preparations otherwise it would all revert to your partner. It is therefore advised that you instruct your lawyer to make a local will to suit your wishes.

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