How to buy a property in Costa del Sol

Purchasing a property in Spain doesn’t need to be as daunting as it may appear. It is important, however, to follow some basic guidelines.
First of all, you need to make sure you understand the basic process of purchasing a property in Spain – it is, in many ways, similar to the way in which you will buy a property in the UK or Holland but there are some key differences.

Use a Spanish lawyer and agency

It is essential to find a good quality Spanish lawyer who speaks English or your native language. Ideally, they should be in the area you intend to buy in.
La Villa Realty has some connections with local lawyers. We have been able to identify those that are competent and professional and we can advise the most suitable lawyer or finance manager. If you would like to benefit from our experience, please feel free to contact us and we will be able to give you some guidance on the things you should ask a lawyer and the things that we can help you directly.
During the last years many Spanish properties have been updated, in terms of the legal paperwork, but there are a number of key documents that need to be in order before you complete the purchase of your new home. These include:

The Escritura Pública or escritura de compraventa

This is the property owners’ title deed.
It is registered at the Property Register (Registro de la Propiedad) and is the only guarantee of title here in Spain. Included within the title deed will be a brief description of the property, the details of the owners and any details on charges that affect the property such as mortgages, rights of way, water wells and court embargos.
Ideally, the escritura describes the property you are buying but it is likely that this description only details the property as it was bought by the current owners so please make sure that you are aware of any significant changes that might have been made by the seller while they have owned the property.
Whilst the escritura is a very important document it is a private document and therefore can have inaccuracies (passed on from seller to buyer over a number of years). Therefore it is extremely important to check the public registers for the property you are buying – these include the Property Register and the Catastro (more on both later).

Impuesto sobre Bienes Inmuebles

This is a receipt of the owners’ annual property tax that is known as IBI or “contribución”. This receipt is very important because it confirms what the owners have paid in the last year on their rates and it also provides information in relation to the Catastro.
The IBI bill will show the property’s Catastral reference number which can give you information (via the Catastro website) on the property you are buying (this website has details of the size of the land, the size of the property and there may also be photographs showing the property)
The IBI bill will also show the property’s Cadastral value as assessed by the Hacienda (tax office) which dictates your annual rates bill, as well as any possible tax due when you sell the property.

The Property Register

The Property Register is the public register for properties in Spain. Once you have bought your property you will have an “escritura de compraventa” which is signed in front of the Notary and this will confirm you as the new owner of the property.
After the signing at the Notary, your lawyer should forward the “escritura” to the Property Register for public registration – this register holds information about the legal ownership of the property together with details of mortgages, any other charges and rights of way, etc.
A very important document which is obtained from the Property Register is called a “nota simple” which is a summary of the records for your property.
There are often old copies attached to the “escritura de copraventa” and it is extremely important that you ensure that your lawyer updates the Property Register now that you are the new owner (we have seen some properties which have not been updated and this can be a big problem).

Catastro

The Catastro office is the second system used to identify the exact boundaries and the location of the property as well as giving a brief description of the property.
As mentioned previously, the Catastro dictates the amount of IBI (rates) you pay.
It is important to ensure that the property you are buying is described in the escritura, the Property Register and the Catastro in a similar way (there can be minor variations) but this will ensure that you are safe buying the property (because the public records match those of the escritura).