Spain continues to draw British buyers seeking a new life or a bolthole in the sun like nowhere else. Now that property prices have dropped in many areas of Spain, the dream is within easier reach - if you’ve got the finances.
No one can pretend that the Spanish housing market is in brutal good health right now, with estimates of 2.3 million homes started but never purchased, and thousands more bought and then repossessed by Spanish banks.
Even the Spanish president had to accept an asking price in September 2011 for his holiday property in Almeria of 38 per cent below what he paid at the top of the market in 2007.
But of course this is great news for buyers of Spanish property – and it’s quite clear from our readers and visitors to our exhibitions that the appetite for a home in Spain remains high – especially for permanent relocation. And let’s not forget it was bargain property prices that attracted so many Brits, Germans, Dutch, Scandinavians and now Russians to Spain since the 1960s – along with the sun, sandy beaches, short flights and sangria.
For those seeking a property in more authentic Spain, there are hill-top white villages with farmers riding donkeys through them, Moorish wonders such as the Alhambra and the coolest of cities: Barcelona and Madrid.
And while there are pockets of empty properties in some areas around Murcia and the Costa del Sol, there are still plenty of highly desirable areas where prices have stayed high, especially the Balearic Islands (with Mallorca and Ibiza amongst the world’s top 50 most expensive residential areas), Marbella and the Costa Brava.
Even President Zapatero’s discounted apartment went for €280,000. What’s more, Spanish banks are offering very generous financing for homes in Spain in an effort to shift the legions of discounted repossessed properties on their books.
There are few property “hotspots” in Spain right now, but some areas are staying reasonably warm. Mallorca seems recession-proof, still attracting the mega-rich and royalty. One-bedroom apartments in Mallorca start at around €150,000.
The Canary Islands have the perennial advantage of being the closest winter warmth destination to the UK – and are great for winter sun rentals - though they’ve suffered from rising airline charges.
A three-bed villa in Lanzarote will go from just under €200,000, but you can pick up a studio apartment on Tenerife’s Playa de las Americas from €60,000.
The southern Costas vary widely in style, price and ambience. The Costa del Sol is still a hugely popular destination to buy a home, with two-bedroom apartments starting at €85,000, but three times that in Puerto Banus where property prices have gone into positive growth.
The Costa de la Luz was fortunate in coming late to the property market and staying relatively unspoilt – yet remains off many Brits’ radar.
The southern Costa Blanca has so many advantages for property hunters, including a plethora of golf courses near popular towns like Villamartinand Playa Flamenca, and just about the healthiest climate in Europe. Prices vary between the desirable areas and the overbuilt areas but are generally low – two bedroom apartments near the sea from below €50,000 – and they will seem even better bargains when or if the long-awaited (but surely inevitable when the economy improves) Paramount theme park opens. The northern Costa Blanca, less affected by development and with more building restrictions in place, draws buyers to towns including Moraira, Javea, Deniaand Calpe.
The joys of rural inland Spain were highlighted in the bestselling book Driving Over Lemons: An Optimist in Andalucia, by sometime Genesis drummer Chris Stewart, with his smallholding in the Alpujarras near Granada. And you can still get that proper escape-from-the-rat-race experience much cheaper than in France, and a fraction of the cost of rural UK. A finca with land can be had for €100,000.
Spain’s long northern coast should attract more buyers than it does. Imagine the Lake District but with sun, fantastic beaches, brilliant seafood and mountains. Prices are not especially cheap, as northern Spain is generally richer than the south, but €200,000 will get you a good quality farmhouse with some land.
The reservation agreement is a contract that takes property off the market for, usually, 30 days on payment of a fee between €3,000 and €6,000. If the full private contract is then signed within the reservation period, the fee is deducted from the purchase price agreed. If not, it may be forfeited.
Next, an option contract gives the buyer the “option” to buy a property. Many sellers of resale properties now use options instead of a full contract. It specifies a period within which completion must take place, usually 30 days from the date of the option contract. If the “Escritura de Compraventa” (Title deeds/Conveyance) is not signed within this period the buyer will forfeit the sum paid under the option contract, often in the region of 30 per cent of the full purchase price. The option Contract makes it easier for a seller to rescind the agreement in the event of default, and does not afford a buyer the statutory protections normally given when signing a “contrato de arras” or full private contract.
The arras contract or full private contract will usually require a 10 to 20 per cent deposit to be paid. If the seller pulls out of the transaction he must return double the amount of the deposit received by way of compensation. If the buyer pulls out he will lose the deposit paid.
Before the main contract is signed and a full deposit paid, it is essential to complete all searches and legal enquiries, confirming that the sellers own the property being sold, there are no mortgages or charges and that planning consents are in order. Once both parties sign the main contract, it is binding.
The buyer is then committed to pay the balance of the price, and the seller (once the money has been paid) must transfer ownership to the buyer.
Legal ownership is transferred in the office of the Notario – a public official appointed to perform certain legal duties in the district – who prepares the conveyance document (“Escritura de Compraventa”). Once the Escritura de Compraventa has been signed before the Notario, all taxes must be paid and the Escritura presented to the Land Registry for registration.
Allow for 10 and 11 per cent of the purchase price to cover the costs of buying your property in Spain. This includes Transfer tax, equivalent to stamp duty, calculated on the property purchase price and 7 per cent in most parts of mainland Spain. The Notario’s fee is between €550 and €700.
Land Registry fees in Spain are between €400 and €600. Legal fees are usually a percentage of the purchase price – generally 1 per cent – but with a minimum fee.
VAT on new-build properties in Spain increased to 10 per cent at the beginning of 2013.
Laws protecting buyers of off-plan properties in Spain are in place but they should be invoked at an early stage for them to be effective. Some general tips are:
- Ensure that the plans and building specifications are agreed in advance with the builder and that these are attached to the contract and signed by the parties.
- By law a bank guarantee or insurance policy must be provided to ensure that if the developer becomes insolvent prior to delivering the property it would be possible for buyers to get their money back.
- The contract should provide that the property would be delivered only after all the appropriate licenses for occupation have been granted by the town hall.