Important checks to make before buying a property in Spain
So, you have found the perfect property in Spain. It’s in the right location, has the right specification and is on offer at the right price. It’s a good time to be buying here now, with lots of property on the market at very reasonable prices.
However, before you take the next step and put in your offer, you need to be sure that there aren’t any strings attached to the house you have in your sights.
The majority of sales in Spain go through problem-free, but there are some properties which can cause difficulties for those buying them and it is important that you safeguard yourself. You should not be tempted to rush too quickly into a sale without having the property checked, no matter how keen you are to secure it.
There are perhaps four types of check that you should have on your property before making the decision to buy:
Legal status of the property Utilities and taxes check Legal status of home improvements An inspection by an architect
Legal status of the property
Don’t part with any money until you have had the draft contract checked and you are confident that it protects your rights and your money. The solicitor you have appointed will do this for you.
Your solicitor should make a thorough search of the Spanish Land Registry to make sure that everything is in order. This will include checks against the nota simple. The nota simple is an extract from the Land Registry that gives details of any mortgages and debts held against the property and is essential information for anyone considering a purchase. It includes:
* A description of the property – including several physical features such as its boundaries, floors, surface area
* If it is part of a community of owners
* Who owns it and their identification
* Mortgages and any loans remaining
* Any outstanding taxes or debts held against the property
* If it conflicts with local planning laws
* The construction history of the property
Your solicitor will also request a certificate from the Catastral Registry and will check:
• That the m2 on the Title Deed is correct for the property
• The Catastral reference
• The Catastral plan in order to see whether additional building work has been registered or not
The solicitor will then compare the details on the two registries with the Title Deed to make sure they are consistent. He/ she will check that the first occupation licence/ habitation certificate is in place or second occupation licence if the property is a resale.
Every new property in Spain must be issued with a first occupancy certificate (Licencia de Primera Ocupación). This certificate demonstrates that the property developer has met all obligations and the property is legal. Only when the town hall is satisfied will a first occupancy certificate be issued.
When you come to sell your home the new purchaser will want to see that the property was given an occupancy certificate. Once in possession the new owner will need to apply for a new certificate themselves. This is the point at which it becomes a habitation certificate (Cédula de Habitabilidad). Without a habitation certificate you won’t be able to complete on a mortgage or take out a new water or electricity contract.
Utilities and taxes check
If there are outstanding payments on utilities the debts must be settled before services can be reconnected or transferred into your name. Outstanding taxes must be paid before you can take ownership of the property. Therefore it is important that a check is made of:
• Community fees
• Refuse collection
• Council tax
• Plusvalía tax
Legal status of home improvements
People sometimes forget that permission must be given for renovations and home improvements in Spain. Even relatively minor works require agreement from the town hall. If the property is part of a community they should have given their consent too. If alterations have not been recorded on the Title Deed, this can cause problems at the point of sale and if undetected could be an issue for you in the future. Any anomalies should be sorted out now.
Your solicitor should check against documentation:
• The number of rooms
• The number of floors
• If there is a basement and if it is used as living accommodation
• If any additional buildings have been added
• If there is a swimming pool or additional barbecue area
• If there are any other visible home improvements
• If terraces or balconies have been closed in
• If the outside appearance is the same as other apartments in the same building
Inspection by an architect
It is wise to ensure that somebody checks out the property on the ground. A professional architect is the best person to do this. They will have standards against which they can inspect the property and make sure it conforms to what would be expected from the age and type of property you are buying.
You would employ someone to survey a property in your home country without a second thought. It is surprising how many people miss out this stage when buying abroad.
This might look like a formidable list of things to do. However, omitting any of these can cause trouble and prevent you from enjoying your home in the future.