Property Purchase in Spain – what could go wrong?

Stormy skies at sunset over a busy Spanish city

Buying property is easy – what could go wrong?

Buying property is easy, if you know what you are doing or have great professionals looking out for your interests and explaining things along the way.

The property purchase process is slightly different in Spain compared to many other countries.  This is how it works in brief.

       1. Reserve deposit – usually non refundable to take it off the market

  1. Pay to 10% of the agreed asking price and check paperwork and sign contract.  Usually within 30 days of offer

  2. Compraventa contract drawn up, funds made available and an appointment is booked at the notary to sign contracts.

  3. Collect keys

  4. The property is registered in your name – this can take 6 months.

    More comment will be made on the process and paperwork in other blogs.  Today we are looking at potential pitfalls, their consequences and how to avoid them.  Some may seem obvious but if they have happened to others it could happen to you.  It’s very easy to get caught up in the excitement of buying and forget to ask questions as you think that everyone else is as nice as you are.

    Professional Duty of Care in Spain for professionals involved in property purchases

If you are from the US or UK you will be used to your lawyer, accountant, real estate/Estate Agent taking your best interests into account and acting accordingly.  Here in Spain it doesn’t work in quite the same way.  If you ask a direct question you will, most probably get a decent answer.  If you don’t ask then all of the professionals may work on the basis that everyone wants to get the deal through.

Consequences: you end up with a property where you cannot build the outdoor kitchen you wanted, there is a neighbour dispute or the paperwork doesn’t quite come up to scratch.

What you can do: ask lots of questions, understand how things should be, work with a buyers agent who is working for you to see you right, regardless of whether the sale goes through.

Unexpected licences or limitations

You may want a property with a spare room that you want to let out or some land where you want to put some container homes and build a community.  If you don’t ask about what licences and permits might need to have in place you may find that it can’t be done or is unfeasible due to costs.

This has happened with people who assume that a tourist licence will be granted because others in the ares have one.  Some areas have stopped issuing new licences.

It also happened for some people that I met- they wanted land which they could put some containers on.  What they hadn’t taken into account was 1. That they wanted to use them as living accommodation so would need permits and planning permission (never going to happen on the site they bought) and 2. How would they get the containers from the lorry on the road to the land where they wanted to put them.

Consequences: you could end up with land you cannot sell or a house which cannot earn you an income.

What can you do:  be open and honest with what your plans are.  Ask questions.  Use a property finder who also knows about licences and is happy to research on your behalf.

No Mains Water or Electric

This may not be a problem if you know about it and have planned to use a generator, get a water deposit or install solar.  However if you are told the electric “just needs to be connected” that can mean a multitude of things.  Pylons may need to be erected or the property may have been connected once but disconnected to save money.  It is possible to have pylons or poles put across land but it can be expensive and it relies on other landowners giving permission and access.  To reconnect electric or water you now need to have a boletin to certify that the wiring/plumbing is up to modern standards.  The modern standards have recently changed for electric so it could mean a whole rewire is needed.

Consequences: you get a huge and unexpected bill or in the worst cases cannot generate enough power for your needs

What you can do: ask questions.  Work with someone who knows about these regulations and can advise you accordingly.

Being Rushed In

Many agents work on commission so it is in their interests to sell a house fast and at the highest price.  What if this isn’t the right one for you or a chicken farm is about to be built 100 yards away or a pipeline built across your land.  All of these have happened to people that I know personally. 

A house in the countryside accessed only by dirt track and which can get cut off is not the place for someone with a serious medical condition.  It happens all the time though.

Consequences:  You end up with a property you don’t like or have to sell and incur all the taxes, waiting and stress that comes with it.

What you can do: set your boundaries.  Take your time to consider if a property is right for you and then act with confidence.  You can also work with a property finder/buyers agent on a fee basis.  The fee means that you are their client.  Anyone sharing selling agent commission is really working for the seller, no matter how they present things.


Agent requests that you break the contract and pay more sooner etc.

This is, sadly, fairly commonplace.  It happened to me.  You buy with your heart, a bond is formed once the offer has gone in, if not before.  We had made an offer of x€ if the owners resolve the paperwork issues or x-€10,000 if we took on the changing of the paperwork.  We knew what we were getting into and the risk was fairly minimal but a risk all the same.  The seller – encouraged by the agent choose the higher offer and said that they would do the paperwork within the agreed timescale.

We had agreed that we would move in March and the balance would be paid in July once the paperwork had been done.  If not completed we revert to the other offer and pay €10,000 less.

The agent started to try to guilt trip us into paying more than had been agreed straight after the 10% deposit had been paid.  This continued right up to the day we sold our old house.  We still didn’t know if we could move into the house we thought we were buying as we signed to sell and received a bankers draft. 

We did get the keys after much protestations but the owners were still there!  Then in July when we completed the sale the paperwork hadn’t been finished so we paid the lower amount.  Right to the end the estate agent was trying to get us to pay more – because the sellers “didn’t understand”.  Err it’s part of the estate agents job to ensure the seller does understand.  Besides which there were two contracts which set it all out.

Consequences: you lose a purchase, lose money or just have a heck of a lot of hassle

What can you do:  Say no, refuse to give in to the pressure.  Use a buyers agent who will have your back and can act as the point of contact for everything.  You then get more reassurance and less hassle.  

Here at IdealCasa, we offer a property finding/ buyers agent service.  You can choose which elements you want.  Search, viewings or negotiations and completion.  If you are happy to look for your own just use us to finalise the details, negotiate a great deal and for our expertise in how things should work.  We also have trained coaches and wellbeing specialists who can lend a hand if you do feel stressed at any stage.

See our services in full at

We are also happy to list houses for sale wherever you are in Spain.  Please contact us for a property listing pack.  Our listing fees are €50 and sales commission is 2.5% for sole agency or 3% if we are one of several agents.  We may not accept your request to list your property – naturally there is no fee to pay in this instance.

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