How to choose your dream home in Spain – a step by step guide

All you need to know before and while planning house purchase in Spain: budget, regions, types of property, new vs old,etc.

1. Introduction

Buying a house in Spain begins with the selection of the property. It can be done on our website by looking through the 'Property' section and selecting the type of desired real estate, apartments, houses, townhouses, new built or property by the sea. The second option is to contact our specialists, who will find the best options according to your preferences.

When you have a list of a chosen properties, organize a trip to Spain and perform all the necessary technical procedures together with the assigned specialists (optional). You can read more about it in the 6th part of this article.

After you have found the property of your dreams, you can reserve it (optionally). Then start all the legal procedures. Firstly, you will need to obtain the NIE. Without this document you cannot take any legally significant action. Secondly, you should open an account in a Spanish bank. It is necessary for the calculation with the seller, and later, for the payment of taxes and utility bills.

The procedure of buying property in Spain includes checking the legal status of the property; who is the owner(s), if there are unpaid bills or debts (they are transferred to the new owner) and the purpose of the property. All information is contained in an extract from the register of real estate (Nota Simple).

Next, if there was no reservation, a preliminary agreement is signed. It contains the same data; price, form of payment, term of the transaction. The buyer pays 10% of the property price. When all the documents are ready, the transaction is completed; you need to transfer the remaining amount to the seller's account and sign the sales contract in the presence of a notary. Within 30 days after the transaction, you must pay taxes and send papers to register your ownership of the real estate. After 2-3 months, the buyer receives the contract back, and with it an extract from the register, indicating his right to property.

2. Calculate your budget

Depending on your funds, you can choose new, used or property under construction.

The cost of the real estate is determined by the district, number of bedrooms, the presence of a terrace, garage, pool, proximity to the sea and quality finishes. Penthouses are much more expensive than regular apartments in the same house. In Spain, this type of property is called atico, it has a private access to the rooftop terrace (solarium).

To figure out how much an apartment costs in Spain, you should analyze the facilities of the house. Spacious apartments on the secondary market in the small cities like Torrevieja can be inexpensive, and medium-sized apartments in new gated complexes with swimming pools, children's and sports grounds, parking and security are much more expensive per square meter, especially when it comes to the first line of the sea. Of course, there could be some exceptions, but in general, the Spanish property market is going through the growth phase, so there will be less bargain offers.
Beach view with palm trees
Generally, apartments by the sea cost about 30-40% more than those built via the walking distance. The further from the beach, the lower the price.
It will be much more difficult to find an affordable apartment on the Costa Brava. The north of the Spanish coast has always been famous for a milder climate and its luxurious infrastructure.

Costa del Sol is the place where many Hollywood stars, athletes and politicians from around the world have their summer residences. Luxury yachts, clean beaches and a permanent fiesta lifestyle during the high season. But because of the North Atlantic Current, the water in the sea will not be the warmest, but it's perfectly suitable for surfing.

All in all, if we talk about new houses, prices vary from 1,300 to 4,000 (exclusive villas) euro per square meter in different regions of Spain.

Approximate cost of properties
in the coastal areas of Spain in 2020

Decide whether you need a mortgage, or you have enough funds to enclose the deal. More information about mortgage you can read here.

Expenses and running costs

Mortgage property must be insured, which costs around 300-400 euros annually. In addition, the life of the loan payer must also be insured (500-1000 euros each year). Annual tax Impuesto sobre Bienes Inmuebles (IBI) is a local townhall tax. Its size depends on the built area of the property.

Also, monthly payment for household (comunidad) are around 40-100 euros. For luxury residence with a pool, garden, sauna, etc. it can be up to 500 euros. Consumption of electricity, water and gas is paid according to the utility meters.

Maintenance cost for apartment in Spain

Maintenance cost for villa in Spain

The cost of maintaining the house depends on the size of the villa and garden, the pool, the number of living family members and other factors. Estimated annual costs for a detached villa are:
Of course, the maintenance of the villa by the seaside with a large plot, a sports field, a swimming pool, and other elements of luxury could cost the owner much more.

3. Why are you buying Spanish property?

If you wish to spend several weeks a year in the "Spanish country house", you need an accommodation within walking distance to the sea, which does not require much attention to maintain it. Apartments in a residential area will suit you better than a detached house with a garden, which requires additional costs and time for maintenance.
Luxury house with swimming pool
In case you are planning a permanent residence, then it will be great to have a piece of land with a cozy garden.
In this case, you should consider a townhouse or bungalow in "urbanización", a gated residential complex. If funds allow, you can go for chalet or villa. Obviously, accommodation for students should be located near the university or college. At least, keep in mind the proximity of bus stops, metro stations and other necessary infrastructure
Condition to renting out property
Condition to renting out property
Apartments with 2-3 bedrooms by the sea with a resort infrastructure have a great potential for renting, which means it is a good investment.

It is important to know, in some cities in Spain, there are restrictions on renting. For example, in Barcelona you can rent out only villas and apartments that have tourist licenses (otherwise you can be penalized). In Valencia, from June 2018, tourists can be accommodated only on the first and second floors.

Various types of real estate satisfy different needs, and it is important to be aware of their features before deciding what to buy.

4. Choose a region to live

Climate. Seasonal influence:
Apartments with 2-3 bedrooms by the sea with a resort infrastructure have a great potential for renting, which means it is a good investment.

It is important to know, in some cities in Spain, there are restrictions on renting. For example, in Barcelona you can rent out only villas and apartments that have tourist licenses (otherwise you can be penalized). In Valencia, from June 2018, tourists can be accommodated only on the first and second floors.

Various types of real estate satisfy different needs, and it is important to be aware of their features before deciding what to buy.
Coasts VS inland:
If you want to save money and live with comfort throughout the year, we advise you to consider buying a property that isn't by the sea, but 3-10 km away from the beautiful Spanish beaches. Your property will last longer between the renovations, and plumbing will not be ruined by the salty air.

What is more, a significant part of property on the Spanish coast is resort-oriented. Not in the sense of its location, but built for recreation and renting out, so it may not be comfortable to live there. These houses are built quickly, for one year. Walls are usually 8-12 centimeters wide. The basement is low and central heating is not always installed.
Cities VS countryside:
Obviously, a chalet in a rural area is cheaper than in a city. And housing located in a gated urbanization by the seaside (which only the owners can access) is way more expensive. It is often the case of the new residences of bungalows and townhouses. Remember, that countryside has a great variety of traditional Spanish properties like Finca and Masia with an enormous agricultural land, whereas cities are for those, who tend to enjoy resort and comfort of the developed infrastructure.

In the end, only your personal preferences can influence your choice. Keep in mind the proximity of the services that you need.
Infrastructure :
Colleges and kindergartens, clinics, bus stops, commercial centers and restaurants, proximity of the airport, every element of the infrastructure influences both the life standard and the liquidity of your housing. It is common in Spain to drive for 10-20 minutes to reach the desired services, and even an hour to the private schools.
The closer your property is to the main places of interest, the more you can get out of the real estate. You may not only enjoy all the resort and tourist infrastructure, but to rent out your apartment at a very good price. Of course, there are some questionable elements of the popular districts like noise and crowd, so you should make a choice according to your priorities.
Infographics: Choose a region to live​​ Infrustructure and amusements

5. Types of properties

is a relatively small apartment where there is an open plan kitchen and the living room. There is also a bathroom and perhaps a balcony. The area of the studio is 30-45 sq.m.
All our professionals have more than 5 years of legal experiences.
is a flat with several bedrooms. The main feature of the apartments is in it structure: it consists of a hall, a kitchen, lounge, terrace, one or more bedrooms, and one or two bathrooms.
or semi-detached house
(also called casa adosada) is a compact multi-level houses that adjoin one to one. They usually consist of 2 to 4 bedrooms.
(or atico) is a type of apartment that is situated on the top floor of the house. It usually has one or two floors, with a several large terraces and solarium.
is an independent house that has its own land, parking place(s), pools and everything, that its owner ever wants.
The main feature of residential complexes of apartments, townhouses and chalets is its gated area, where you can use parking, garden, swimming pool, paddle courts and even attend golf courses.

If almost everyone is familiar with the villas, few people know about Fincas. This type of property definitely could not be found in the city, because its main advantage is a large plot for agricultural purpose. The vast majority of Fincas are owned by Spanish farmers, but in the 21st century, this type of property became popular among foreigners, especially among the British and Scandinavians, who like to have their own vineyard for a homemade wine. This type of property is for those, who do not need the sea within a walking distance, but rather occupy remote areas of the Iberian Peninsula and enjoy the beauty of the Spanish backwoods, which is usually hidden from the eyes of tourists.

One more typical Spanish house is called Masia. It has strong stone walls, sometimes there is one or several observation towers called miramar (can be translated as "look over the sea"). These traditional Catalan buildings look like mini castles. Coastal Masias used to play a defensive role. Dovecotes were placed in the attics of the houses, in case of an attack, pigeons were immediately sent as an alarm to the inland.

6. Condition of property: newly built VS old

Decide what suits you better:
1. Newly built property.
Frequently with the option of "come and live": an apartment or house is equipped with everything necessary including dishes, curtains and appliances. And all these elements coincide with your idea about comfort and style. Frankly, this happens rarely. There may also be hidden surprises" that will cost you additional time and/or money.

The advantage of it is the certificate on the status of the dwelling (cédula de habitabilidad), confirming that the housing has passed the test and complies with the statutory quality standards is issued for the newly built properties.
View of a modern house with a pool
In the future, this document will be required when entering into contracts with public utilities.
Also, all the new houses have a 10-year warranty (Garantía obligatoria), but nevertheless, survey may be performed at your request. Pay attention to the fact, that in new buildings it is forbidden to do reconstruction for the first five years.

When buying off-plan housing, you should make sure that the developer is a reliable company that has been operating on the market for many years and has a building permit and complies with the law. All in all, an off-plan property is a nice way to save money!
2. A resale property.
In one case, you will need a couple of paint buckets, a roller, your hands or hired ones. In another case, investments, major repairs and equipment are needed in full, but it allows you to adjust everything to your taste. Old housing units often require replacement of the communications, which can be expensive. But prime location and good infrastructure around, unlike some new buildings that are constructed in new urbanizations, can be a benefit.
Also, be prepared to the fact that the "time-tested" resorts that have been built up over the past few decades and have become popular with tourists have almost no new buildings, the entire area is filled with old property stock. And in the new resorts, which were "discovered" by holidaymakers not so long ago, there are a lot of new properties but little entertainment. Sometimes you have to choose between the age of property and the presence of a rich infrastructure.

Land in Spain is divided into three types: for building (urbanizado), fully built (100% plano y urbanizado) and agricultural (rural). In the latter case, there are restrictions on the construction and area of the facility being built. Do not purchase real estate if communications are not connected to it (telephone, plumbing, electricity, etc.). It may turn out that the plot belongs to a farmland fund and you will not be allowed to install these amenities.

We advise you to find a chartered surveyor who is the member of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors in London. There is no analogue of such a qualified English-speaking specialist in Spain, but there are number of British professionals working there and possessing this membership. This is the type of specialist we recommend you look for if you are not sure of the property you are buying (or just want to play it safe).

Which types of survey can be done?

Snagging Survey is the basic check for the newly built properties. In Spain you have 15 days after signing the deed of sale to claim differences between what you payed for and what you actually get. After this period, it may be harder or take longer to repair things.

Building Survey is the best choice for the property on the second market. If you want to get the thorough analysis of the property's condition and possible defects, planning some serious renovation or even reconstruction, go for this option.

Structural Survey is the heavy-duty check of the sound problems, that drastically affected quality of life in your house. It may require inspection of the structure to test the construction.

Keep in mind, that this is not only about the money, but also about the inconvenience. If all of this seems too demanding, you can leave anytime, as you are not yet bind by the contract.
List of steps to do after the survey

7. Liquidity

One of the main and most frequent concerns is to buy poor property in a bad district or run into pitfalls that sellers prefer to keep silent about.
The price of real estate is always worth the combo of certain factors, in addition to all the obvious things, it is the neighbors (and suddenly the gypsies?), distance to the beach, the age of the building and much more. Planning plays a significant role. Historically, Spaniards prefer large living rooms and miniature bedrooms, but in recent years the local market has increasingly focused on Europeans, so all rooms in new houses are more or less spacious. Please note that a significant bonus in Spanish property is the additional bathroom, a terrace and access to the rooftop (solarium). If the apartment or townhouse is located in a gated residence with a swimming pool, it immediately increases the cost by 10% -15%.

Having the necessary infrastructure nearby is another important factor when choosing a liquid home. Schools and kindergartens, hospitals, public transport stops, shopping and entertainment centers, each of these elements will not only increase the comfort of living, but also the value of your property on the market.

There is another concern of those, who buy property not only to spend vacations, but also rely on financial gain in the long run. It is no secret that Spanish property is now steadily growing in price, so investors from all over the world are earning on resale. In some popular resorts, real estate grows in price up to 15% annually. But more often you need to wait 3-4 years to earn on resale. Be prepared for the fact that about 10% of the price of the property will cover taxes and stamp duty.
IMPORTANT! There is no free lunch in the world. A property with an unexpectedly low price probably has some unpleasant surprises. For example, a few years ago a law on the protection of the coastal zone came into force in Spain, so that lead to the demolition of some houses on the seafront. Unscrupulous sellers can sell real estate in such buildings, attracting naive buyers with the low cost. But after some time, the building will simply be destroyed, and it will be impossible to get any compensation.
There are cases of sale of housing or a plot near the road, which the government plans to widen. Fraudsters can also sell real estate with "okupas" - as in Spain they call squatters (refugees from Africa or Asia). Unfortunately, according to local law, it is not so easy to evict them. Previously, the Spanish crown was loyal to such behavior of emigrants, in some cases it was almost impossible to make them leave, and the litigation between the owner and violators could continue for several years. In 2018, amendments were introduced in the legislation, according to which okupas would be evicted within three months.

However, we reassure you that, everything said in this section does not apply to new buildings. Money for the purchase of housing under construction goes from the buyer to the developer not directly, but through a bank (your funds are put on escrow). Moreover, the bank gives the builder's money only for the purchase of materials at each stage, and the developer receives his profit only after he hands the house over in operation. So, buying a new home in Spain is possible without much concern: it's safe!

8. Planning your viewing trip

Purchase of the real estate is a serious step.

Thus, we strongly advise you to take your time and visit Spain to inspect all the selected properties and make the final decision.
Things for a travel
Even with a large number of photos, where each room is shot from different angles, you are not immune to the pitfalls.
Conventionally, they can be divided into two groups. First, the real estate deficiencies themselves. Construction defects of an apartment or a whole building, finding a house as part of an unfinished residential complex, etc. Secondly, deficiencies of the surrounding area. Lack of infrastructure, urbanization "extinction" in winter - people leave, shops close, long distance to the nearest cities, discrepancy of the real road to the sea with a straight line, etc.

Find an agency or an agent, that you will feel comfortable to work with, so he or she will help you to learn more about the area and specifications of the local properties. If you need to examine the chosen housing, you already know whom to contact for a property survey.

All in all, in order not to be fooled, we advise you to act on the principle of "trust but verify." This means not only asking your agent about the districts, but also going on your own "scout". For example, you are satisfied with the certain place in geographical terms. Look closely at what cars are parked on the streets, how are people dressed, what contingent visits the nearest bars? Do not hesitate to walk to the local school and look at the children and adolescents returning home. Their appearance and behavior can be indicative. Pay attention to the signboards, if the ones in Arabic catch the eye, this is a reason to think twice. When there are many advertisements for the sale of an apartment hanging on a house that you like, this is also not a good sign.

Pay attention to the climate and seasons. Do you want to live in almost constant summer, like in Alicante? Or you prefer seasons to change and love the European winter of Madrid and Barcelona?

What is more, if you plan to buy property in high season, be ready to pay the deposit to reserve the house you've chosen. Nevertheless, do not hurry with the choice, as it is a serious decision.
Final checklist
Obtain as much information as possible about the developer and chosen property. Ask for the legal documentation and the construction plans. Choose the South orientation so that you enjoy the sun and warmth even in the low season.
Check the list of specifications and find out what they include. Sometimes there are several options of furnishing when you buy a house directly from the developer.
Find out the future development plans of the area by enquiring at the local council's planning department. It is a must in order not to lose your home because of widening of the road or under the law on protection of the coastal zone.
Ask about the neighbors, it is fine to know who you are neighboring with. Most of the resort-oriented zones have a mainly foreign neighborhood.
Enquire about the infrastructure development intentions, such as sports facilities, cafeterias and commercial centers
Check the progress reports. Some developers put the updates on their websites or upload photos in dropbox. Ask for the links!
Find out what discounts or special offers the developer proposes
Here you can read more about the buying process and the complete list of the documents that should be checked.

Conclusion: Be smart in searching for your dream home.

To conclude, the step of choosing the house is obviously the determining one. Decide where you will live or spend the best times on your vacations. Time is a resource that we constantly lack, so within several days, you have to analyze the selected options, you have so much information, impressions and physical exertion that falls on you (after all, you have to drive, or even walk for miles in different parts of the city) that your might be spinning.

In addition, the situation is exacerbated by the fact that the "tastiest" offers for tempting prices are selling like hot cakes. While you are thinking about all the pros and cons, this "ruddy pie" is already gone into other hands. Nevertheless, do not fuss.

So, what can you do to not lose time and money? How to make a bargain without future regret?

First of all, answer the questions, after which the risk of buying something that is not right will be minimal: why do you buy the property? What type and size should it be? Are you ready to overpay for the seaside? And how much money are you ready to allocate for maintenance (taxes and utilities)?
But do not worry: we are ready to assist you in every step of the buying process, and even with these questions. Feel free to ask for our expert advice!
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