The Agency Buying a property

Guide to buying a property in Spain in 5 simple steps

Teba Siles | · 16 min. read

Preparation is key, and we understand the importance of thorough research before starting your property search. One must consider budget, desired location, and the type of property that aligns with your lifestyle and family’s needs.

Once you have a clear vision of your requirements, our experts will assist you in finding the perfect property from our extensive portfolio in Marbella, Benahavis, and Estepona. Whether you prefer luxurious villas or stylish apartments with breathtaking views, we have a wide range of options to match your criteria.

Throughout the buying process, we will handle all the necessary paperwork, ensuring compliance with legal and financial requirements. Our team will guide you through fiscal and investment parameters, planning laws, and other factors that may impact your purchase.

Our ultimate goal is to make your property buying experience as enjoyable and hassle-free as possible. With our expertise and personalised service, you can trust us to be by your side every step of the way.

If you’re considering buying a property in Marbella, let us be your trusted partner. Our comprehensive guide will provide valuable insights and support throughout the entire purchasing journey.

1. Finding your agent – Key to finding your property hassle free

Like any significant financial commitment, purchasing a property requires thorough research and preparation to start off on the right foot. In Marbella, finding the right real estate agent is a crucial part of your research process.

The Internet has revolutionised the way we explore real estate options, providing easy access to a wide range of properties from anywhere in the world. This allows you to familiarise yourself with the market and narrow down your preferences.

Marbella’s property market operates openly, with multiple real estate companies marketing and selling properties. With numerous firms and agents to choose from, you have the freedom to select the one that best suits your needs and preferences.

While it’s common to approach multiple agents during your research, it’s important to choose the firm or agent you feel most comfortable with and trust to handle your property purchase.

Having a reliable and experienced agency by your side can greatly simplify the process and increase its efficiency. For buyers unfamiliar with Spanish laws and procedures, a trusted local representative is invaluable in navigating the complexities and ensuring a smooth transaction.

Busy schedules can make it challenging to dedicate extensive time to property search. That’s where a skilled agent comes in, helping you find suitable properties that meet your criteria and saving you valuable time and effort.

To ensure a successful property purchase in Marbella, it’s advisable to engage a qualified real estate agent with extensive regional knowledge and experience in buying and selling properties. With their expertise, you can approach the market with confidence and achieve your real estate goals.

2. Choose your area: Plan your property viewings with ease.

Now that you’ve taken the initial steps to plan your property purchase, it’s time to embark on your journey. Whether you’re already here or travelling from afar, organising your property viewings is the next exciting phase. After choosing your agent, the next most important thing is knowing where you want to buy.  The Costa del Sol is more than 150 km long, and the coast is quite different. We strongly recommend you do some research on the areas before coming (or ask your agent to tell you the differences) so that your property research can be as effective as it can be, 

Useful tips to ensure a smooth and efficient property reasearch experience:

  1. Plan Ahead: As always, it’s wise to have a pre-selection of properties that align with your preferences before arriving in Marbella.
  1.  Work only with one Agent: By now, you should have selected a trusted real estate firm and agent. Collaborate closely with him/her to arrange multiple viewings that can be efficiently scheduled throughout your visit. This approach allows you to make the most of your time and gain a comprehensive understanding of the market.
  1. Find the Right Balance: Aim to view around five properties per day. This number strikes a balance, ensuring you have ample time to explore each property thoroughly without feeling overwhelmed. However, if your trip is short, you can consider extending your viewing list to up to 10 properties on your designated tour day.
  1. Study the Area: Remember that it’s not just about the property itself but also its surroundings. Consider factors such as proximity to amenities, schools, beaches, noise levels, and preferred neighbourhoods. Take a drive around the area to get a sense of the location’s atmosphere and suitability for your lifestyle.
  1. See It in Different Lights: If a particular property catches your interest during a daytime viewing, we recommend revisiting it in the evening. The ambiance can significantly impact your perception and help you envision living there more accurately.
  1. Be Vocal: Don’t hesitate to express your thoughts and preferences during the viewings. Communicate openly with your agent, sharing what you like or don’t like about each property. This feedback will not only aid in your decision-making but also enable your agent to suggest alternative options that better align with your requirements. Building a strong rapport with your agent and keeping them informed will enhance their ability to meet your needs.
  1. Embrace Flexibility: It’s essential to remain open-minded as your preferences may evolve during the viewing process. The reality of a property might differ from your initial expectations. However, with a skilled and adaptable real estate agent by your side, they will promptly accommodate changes, adjusting schedules and finding solutions that align with your evolving vision.

3. Plan Ahead – Make sure you have all you need to buy a property

To ensure a smooth and stress-free property purchase in Marbella, it’s essential to plan ahead and take care of all necessary preparations. By being proactive and organised, you can save time and avoid unnecessary financial strain during the process.

Before embarking on your trip to Marbella, we recommend ensuring that all your documentation is in order. This proactive approach will enable you to have everything planned and ready, making your journey more efficient and less burdensome.

Now that you have researched various companies and agents online, we strongly advise to stick to ONLY 1, otherwise you’ll have as many agents as you contacted chasing you! Choose the one you feel most comfortable with, at ease, and that you trust. At the end of the day, this is key to finding your dream property. Remember we all have access to all properties in the market, so it does not matter with whom you go with, we’ll all be able to find what you need and want!

NOW – it’s time to plan your visit to Marbella and ensure you have all the necessary credentials before you arrive. It’s important to note that Spain has strict paperwork requirements, so we advise you to have all the appropriate documentation in place before viewing properties if you want to save time down the line.

While there are no specific restrictions for foreign non-residents when buying property in Spain, there are certain requirements you need to meet before initiating the purchasing process:

APPLY FOR AN N.I.E NUMBER

An N.I.E Number (Número de Identidad Extranjero) is a sequential identification number allocated to foreigners. It is essential for various purposes in Spain, such as opening a bank account, obtaining a Spanish phone number, working or studying, among others. If you are planning from abroad, you can apply for an N.I.E through a Spanish Consulate. If you are already in Spain, you can do this in person at the Police Station or seek assistance from a legal administrator (known as a gestor in Spanish). In Andalucía, the required documentation for applying for an N.I.E includes presenting your main identification page (for European Passport holders) or your full passport (for all other passports), along with photocopies, two ID photos, and two completed and signed copies of the Ex-15 application form. You will also need to provide a valid reason for needing an N.I.E, such as for work, purchasing a car, or buying property. *** (Usually your lawyer can take care of this)

OPENING A SPANISH BANK ACCOUNT

Once you have obtained your N.I.E, you can proceed to apply for a Spanish bank account. We recommend considering banks that cater to foreigners, such as Sabadell, CaixaBank, Santander, and Bankinter, among others. It’s important to note that most banks in Spain require you to visit a branch in person to open an account. Along with proof of identity (e.g., passport or ID card) and your N.I.E, you will also need to provide proof of funds or tax declarations, as well as any additional documents the bank may require. Some banks may also request proof of address, such as a rental contract or recently paid community bills. Certain banks, like BBVA, may ask for a certificate of non-residency (Certificado de No Residente), which can be obtained by applying at a Spanish police station. Additionally, documents from abroad may need to be officially translated into Spanish and authenticated with an Apostille stamp. While most banks don’t charge for opening an account, keep in mind that there may be an annual administration fee.

When selecting a bank, it’s important to pay attention to the fees they charge for receiving transfers from abroad, making transfers to foreign countries, and issuing banker’s drafts (the standard form of payment used in Spain for property purchases).

It’s crucial to mention that, based on our experience, inadequate preparation regarding paperwork has led some individuals to miss out on excellent property purchase opportunities. Therefore, we highly recommend thoroughly checking your legal, financial, and fiscal status before viewing properties in Marbella. By doing so, you’ll be well-prepared to seize the best opportunities and make your property purchase a resounding success.

DISCOVER YOUR EXPERT SOLICITOR AND TAX ADVISOR

When buying a property in Spain, it is crucial to engage the services of a qualified and reliable solicitor and tax advisor. Establishing a strong relationship with these professionals right from the start will greatly benefit you during the negotiation stage. If you are not fluent in Spanish, it is essential to hire a lawyer who can communicate effectively in your language. Fortunately, Marbella is an international city, attracting individuals from diverse backgrounds, making it relatively simple to find a solicitor who speaks your language. Prioritising this step will ensure a smooth and efficient property purchase process.

CALL US IF YOU NEED PRE ADVISORY HELP – We’ll put you in touch with our recommended lawyer and he/she can answer any questions you may have

In majority of cases a good real estate lawyer will be able to help through all these processes 

04: CLOSING DOWN YOUR PROPERTY PURCHASE

4.Closing down your property purchase

When you find the perfect property that captures your vision of a dream home, it’s time to enter the negotiation phase with the private owner. This critical stage requires careful consideration, and we recommend following these steps for a successful negotiation process:

MAKING AN OFFER

To formalise your offer, it’s advisable to put it in writing, usually through your agent, using an offer letter. Your offer should clearly state the price you are willing to pay, proposed payment terms, and any applicable deadlines. When formulating your offer, it’s important to understand what will be included in the sale, such as furniture and fixtures. Providing a reasonable and serious offer increases your chances of securing the best possible deal. While some buyers choose to negotiate face to face with the seller, we have observed that negotiations conducted through an agent or in writing offer more control and a gradual process. Based on our experience, negotiating through an agent tends to be more beneficial for buyers, as agents possess valuable expertise in the negotiation process.

It’s worth noting that if you have any specific conditions or requirements that you want the seller to consider, such as contingencies, these should be clearly stated in your initial offer.

REQUESTING A TECHNICAL DUE DILIGENCE

Before or during the offer process, you have the option to request a technical due diligence assessment for the property. This evaluation provides valuable insights into potential risks associated with owning the property. It covers various aspects, including cosmetic issues (such as hairline cracks, signs of humidity, insulation, and ventilation) as well as specific attention to plumbing, pipes, boilers, gas, water tanks, and electricity. The findings from the due diligence can influence your initial offer, so it’s important to document and consider these details.

By following these recommended steps, you can get the negotiation process done effectively and increase your chances of reaching a favourable agreement with the property owner.

5. signing process – Buying your property

Once your offer is accepted by the seller, you enter the exciting legal phase of the property purchase process. It is common to sign a reservation contract, a purchase contract, and an official deed at the Notary on the day of completion, although there are variations. Let’s explore the different contracts you may encounter:

RESERVATION CONTRACT – DOCUMENTO DE RESERVA

A reservation contract allows you to secure the property for a specified period, typically 7 to 14 days or more. To reserve the property, the seller may require a reservation fee, usually ranging from €5,000 to €20,000 or 1% of the purchase price, depending on mutual agreement. If you proceed with the purchase, the reservation fee will be applied toward the total price. However, if you choose not to proceed, the reservation fee may be forfeited unless special conditions are included in the contract.

PRIVATE CONTRACT WITH A 10% PAYMEN

After the reservation contract, you will sign a private contract and make a payment of 10% of the purchase price (including the reservation fee if applicable). There are three types of contracts you may encounter during this stage:

a. Penitential Deposit Contract – Contrato de Arras Penitenciales 

This contract imposes a penalty on the seller if they fail to comply with the agreed terms. If the seller backs out, they must pay you double the amount you originally paid. However, if you, as the buyer, choose not to proceed, you forfeit the 10% payment, and the contract becomes invalid.

b. Private Purchase Contract – Contrato privado de Compraventa 

This contract obliges both parties to buy and sell the property. If either party refuses to fulfil the contract, the other party can enforce it through legal means. However, such situations are rare.

c. Purchase Option Contract – Contrato de Opción de Compra

In this contract, the vendor is not allowed to back out of the deal. If you, as the buyer, decide not to purchase the property, you lose the 10% payment, and the contract is terminated.

MORTGAGE

If you are interested in obtaining a mortgage, it is advisable to start the process as early as possible, as it can take up to 2 months for approval. The bank will require additional documents, mainly focusing on proof of recurring income. Common mortgage conditions in Spain include loan amounts up to 50% of the purchase price, interest rates ranging from 1.5% to 2.5% per annum, and repayment terms of 15 to 25 years. Early repayment fees and insurance requirements may also apply.

COMPLETION OF A PROPERTY PURCHASE IN SPAIN – ESCRITURA DE COMPRAVENTA

During the completion phase, all parties involved, including buyers, sellers, legal representatives, and relevant bank personnel, attend the notary’s office. The signing of the title deed signifies the immediate transfer of possession and full responsibility for the property. Payment is typically made via bank cheques, ensuring a secure transaction for both parties. Following the signing, the deed is registered at the Land Registry, a process that can take up to three months. Once registered, you can update utility bill contracts and other relevant accounts in your name.

POST-COMPLETION PROCEDURES

Once you have signed the notarial sale deed and fulfilled all necessary tax obligations, the deed will be registered at the Land Registry. This important step ensures the legal transfer of ownership and protects your property rights. The registration process typically takes a few months, during which the original deeds and invoices related to the transaction will be made available to you. After the registration, you will have the freedom to change utility bill contracts, such as water, electricity, gas, telephone, and HOA bills, into your name and banking details. 

Our team can assist you with this process, ensuring a seamless transition into your new property.

ONGOING SUPPORT FROM OUR TEAM

At every step of the way, our dedicated team of professionals is here to support you. Whether you need guidance during the contract signing process, assistance with mortgage applications, or help with post-completion tasks, we are committed to providing you with a personalised and attentive service. We work closely with experienced solicitors and tax advisors who specialise in property transactions in Marbella. They can offer expert advice tailored to your specific needs and ensure that your interests are protected throughout the process. Furthermore, if you don’t speak Spanish, we can connect you with a lawyer who speaks your language, making communication and understanding easier for you.

Our goal is to make your property purchase in Marbella a positive and fulfilling experience. By relying on our expertise and extensive network, you can feel confident that you are in capable hands.

Signing contracts when purchasing a property in Marbella is a crucial step in the process. We are here to guide you through each contract, from the reservation stage to the final completion at the notary’s office. With our support, you can navigate the legal aspects with confidence, ensuring a successful and secure transaction.