Thinking of buying a property in Spain? On 28th July 2020 we hosted a live webinar "Ask the Experts: Moving to Spain" (watch the full session here). Below we answer the most popular questions about the process of buying a property in Spain and the impacts of brexit, with input from our expert panel. For more FAQs from this webinar, including residency, the buying process, rentals, mortgages and more, click here.
All answers are correct as of the date of publication.
What are the basic steps for moving to Spain as soon as possible?
Find a good lawyer, locate a good agent, apply for an NIE (tax) number (your lawyer can help on this); open a Spanish bank account and start putting money into it (see below) look for a property to rent or buy. Use a foreign currency broker for any transfer of funds.
Am I running out of time before the end of the Brexit transition period?
The latest quarantine ruling and cancelled flights has not helped travel to Spain however there are many buyers who just want to get out there, and you can get prepared by making an appointment with a lawyer, opening a bank account, getting your NIE number (or grant your lawyer power of attorney do do this for you).
What about after we leave the European Union?
Assuming no new reciprocal deal between the UK and Spanish governments, there will be different terms for travel and residency. If a country is part of Schengen Agreement, their citizens will be entitled to spend 90 days in Spain without a visa. This is 90 days in any 180-day period - and will be the period that UK second-home owners are allowed to stay in Spain.
For full-time residency, there is usually a higher minimum income threshold needed for applications.
How is looking for a permanent home different from looking for a holiday home?
The area is far more key. You really need to see the location at different times of year - ideally not just July/August peak season (in a normal year) but January or February when the area still show signs of life (or not, as the case may be). Things like amenities - schools/hospitals etc - and access will be important. How good is public transport if you don’t want to drive abroad?
What about applying for residency once I have a permanent address?
You can get your lawyer to help you on this. There’s a new procedure for Britons to apply for a TIE (Tarjeta de Identificacion Extranjeros) residency card - which is a two-step process of applying online first and then (up to a month later) going to a designated local police station to collect the card, by appointment. https://www.citizensadvice.org.es/the-procedure-for-the-tie-foreigners-id-card-application/
What are the criteria for residency?
Apart from the proof of permanent address you will need to show a certain amount of money going into your Spanish bank account (this amount depends on which town/region but varies between €5,500 and €9,000), and proof of private healthcare cover if you are under 65.
Do I have to do this before 31 December 2020?
As long as you can prove residency by this date, you have until 30th June 2021 for your residency application to be completed. If you apply before the end of the year, you will still be entitled to lifetime healthcare and to live in Spain on a permanent basis, and to transfer your UK driving to a Spanish one without taking a test.
Can you apply for a residency before you have completed a purchase?
Yes, but you need a permanent address - an 11-month rental contract - on a (different) property as you will need to have been residing in Spain already.
If I move to Spain and stay over 183 days per year I need to get residencia and pay taxes?
If you spend 183 days or more a year in Spain you will automatically become a tax resident so liable to pay taxes there. Tax residency is different from legal residency, but you could need to apply for a residencia if you want to spend a continuous period of 183 days in Spain next year (as things stand).
How long do you have to be in Spain to receive free healthcare?
EU citizens can immediately obtain this with the EHIC (European Health Insurance Card), but at the end of the transition period, Britons won’t be able to do this unless a reciprocal agreement is made with Spain. Pensioners who live in Spain can access healthcare with the S1 form, but if you are under 65 and seek to move to Spain, you will need to take out private healthcare until you are officially a resident and can take advantage of options such as the universal health system in Spain.
How much does private healthcare cost?
As an example, a 50-something couple pay €95 per month each for fully comprehensive healthcare policy. Sanitas Healthcare is one example for expats.
Is there a minimum amount of money you must have in the bank before you move?
If you are applying for residency then you will need to prove your financial self-sufficiency. The amount varies from town to town, but is generally between €5,500 and €9,000. Check local requirements with a company specialising in residency.
I have heard that everyone must do a tax return. How easy it this?
Even people who have lived there for many years will prefer to get a professional to help them on this - a gestoria or accountant - because even if your Spanish is good, it pays to do things correctly.
How long goes it take to buy a Spanish home?
The process takes 6-10 weeks, typically, but don’t rush a relocation decision, you need to see good and ‘less suitable’ areas to really appreciate what it best for you. It will be quicker if you are not trying to get a mortgage.
What is the ‘golden visa’?
Launched in 2013, this is an incentive for non-EU buyers to get fast-track residency in Spain with a property investment of €500,000 or more. This can be through the purchase of more than one property adding up to this value. Subject to other requirements (healthcare/self-sufficiency) the residence permit will be granted for two years, and then renewal is possible.
Will the Brexit factor affect by ability to buy a property and the purchase taxes/costs?
No, citizens of any nationality can buy a property in Spain. You can still buy a holiday home, you will pay the same purchase costs as everyone else (budget 11-14 per cent of the sales price) but you may pay higher income tax/ costs if you rent out your Spanish property.
Are the rules and regulations different for buying in Mallorca?
No, not for buying and residency generally, but as an autonomous region of Spain, purchase taxes, short-term rental regulations and residency income requirements will be different, just as they vary between Catalonia, Valencia and Andalusia.
We had a property in Spain a few years ago, do we keep the same NIE number?
Yes, you keep the number for life.
My wife and I visit Spain quite often and intend to relocate eventually, I already have a NIE number, would my wife also need a NIE?
Is the agent going to work in your best interest, can they be held accountable if not?
The only way you will fully protect your interests is by using a lawyer who will act on your behalf to protect such interests. How ‘best interest’ may be interpreted in a court of law is a very grey area, so for peace of mind, just use a lawyer.
How and do you have to find a solicitor in Spain, or can you use one from UK?
The Foreign and Commonwealth office publishes a list of English-speaking solicitors in Spain (gov.uk), we also have some listed on aplaceinthesun.com. But do not use a solicitor who is not based in Spain and do not use one who does not have expertise in the Spanish region where you are buying because rules and regulations vary so much.
How much does it cost to run a swimming pool?
It depends on size of pool and type of heating apparatus but one example for a villa in Mijas is a total monthly electric bill of €140 (including air conditioning), plus around €100 a month for cleaning costs.
(Answers supplied by the panel during the webinar, or by A Place in the Sun)