Guide to buying property in Northern Spain
There are a wide variety of properties in the area, sometimes with less correlation between price and quality than there might be in other places, so think carefully about what kind of property you are looking for. The area has dramatic mountains near a lovely coast with historic market towns dotted between them, so consider what kind of area you would prefer. Also, try to define your key criteria such as style of house, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, amount of land, etc, but also how you will use the house in the short, medium, and long term; it may change over time. The market is relatively slow, and in favour of the buyer to an extent, so there is no hurry as such, although the better properties, as you might expect, tend to sell more quickly.
There can sometimes be some scope for negotiation in the asking price. There is a lot of property on the market, but it is important to sift it carefully to find the good ones. What is important about it are the aspects that you cannot change: location, aspect, setting, surroundings, orientation, and access. If you like the house generally, but perhaps the interior is not exactly as you would want, that can be changed; don’t be put off by an ugly coloured interior. In terms of budget, whatever level it is at, consider putting three quarters of it into the purchase, to leave the rest to have some minor works done to have the house and garden completely to your liking. Also, the perfect house does not exist; in the end you have to make a decision and commit.
Just because what is listed on the deeds does not exactly match what is being sold is not necessarily cause for concern. It is quite common that they do not match. Passing years and various generations, land additions or sales, can all leave deeds with some discrepancies. This can often be easily be rectified the Land Registry and then with the notary as part of the purchase process. Although sometimes it can take a few weeks or even months, but there are some aspects of it can be done after purchase. Also, inheritance properties sometimes have not had the will fully executed, so the property is not actually in the name of the person selling it to you, but their deceased relative. This is usually okay and the notary ensures beforehand that everything is in order. Ensure that the element of the fees that relate to executing the will are paid by the sellers, and does not get bound up in the actual purchase fees. Confirm that all the owners are agreeing to sell. Properties can often have a number of owners because it has been inherited, and Spanish law divides property between all immediate descendants.
Rather than having a representation for both seller and buyer as in some countries, the purchase process is organised by the property agency, but done through a notary, who is impartial and in place to ensure that the legal purchase process is carried out correctly. The property agency can look into any other issues and appoint a property lawyer if required.
This initial exchange contract (contrato de arras) can be done by email and does not require the purchaser to be there, and the 10% deposit done by bank transfer. On the day of completion, the final signing of the deeds (escrituras) the purchaser does need to be present. The same day, a draft copy of the deeds will be issued (copia simple), but the actual new registered deeds can take a few weeks.
There is a purchase tax on buying, usually 8-10% of the final price, depending on the amount (under 300, 300-500, over 500 thousand euros) and can vary from area to area. Then there is the annual tax for property owners (IBI – Impuesto sobre Bienes Inmuebles) paid monthly, which is usually in the order of a few hundred euros per year.
Purchasing a property incurs Land Registry and notary costs which can be around €1000-2000 in total. Land Registry usually takes a certain amount and then returns some after they have calculated exactly what the charge is. Property agency fees are normally paid by the seller, and are usually a minimum 3%.
Not all banks are fully up to speed on international transfers. This is partly because many of the ‘caja’s’ – local banks, were forcibly bought up by nationals as remedial measures after the recession of 2008 to spread so called toxic debt around. This means that transfers go through a holding account, which is not a problem as such, but can cause delays. Amounts transferred can also be important. Recent changes to money laundering laws mean that where money comes from has to be accounted for and larger amounts can be subject to an auditing process. Amounts of less than €100,000 usually have less delay. So it is usually better to have a Spanish account in a larger bank, such as Santander or BBVA, and have that account in regular use. Transfer money well beforehand, in stages if necessary, so that the bankers cheque to complete the sale at point of signing can be issued easily by the bank the day before completion on the property.
There is no problem buying and owning a property in Spain. All you need is an identification number (NIE – numero de identidad extranjero) which can be issued at the main police station in each province. (Asturias is in Gijon or Oviedo, depending on where the property is. Previous appointments are required.)
Although you are visiting to view properties, part of your time should also be spent enjoying your time here; taking advantage of what the area has to offer, be it grilled fish restaurants, mountain walks, being on the beach or horse riding through the forest. That’s why you are thinking of buying a house.