Property in Spain
For family fun with a bucket and spade on the beach there’s really nowhere better than the Spanish costas. If you want to sit in a bar eating little plates of delicious food, you will love it. If you fancy early retirement in warm sunshine even in January, the occasional round of golf, the grandchildren just a couple of hours flying time away, yep, this is the place.
For all its economic problems in recent years, living and buying property in Spain is easy. It’s a modern country with first class health and education services and a modern infrastructure. You can get away without speaking Spanish if you don’t want to and you will easily find a welcoming expat community in any corner of the country.
On the mainland there are great properties along the northern coast on the Bay of Biscay, where relatively few us buy, even though it’s uncrowded and has cultured and has lively cities like Bilbao and Santander. Then there is the choice of east and south coasts on the warmer Mediterranean, from the hip and trendy Costa Brava down through the Costa Blanca, Murcia and Almeria to the blingy Costa del Sol.
Don’t forget the interior – it’s more mountainous and far less populated than inland Britain so if you’re looking for a slice of the country, your own vineyard maybe, inland Spain might be a good place to start your property search.
Wherever you decide on, you will probably have a good choice of property. Spain is notorious for having built far too many houses and apartments in the boom years and being unable to sell them. In truth, the backlogs have been sold in the most popular locations, but you can still buy an apartment in an established resort from €50,000 or a country home for €150,000.
We could go on: Spain has a wonderful culture, cuisine and countryside. It has some of the world’s great cities, like Barcelona and Seville, and 5,000 kilometres of its famous costas. How lucky we are to have all this within a two-hour, £19.99 flight from Britain!
For 300 years the Spanish ruled a huge global empire and now the world comes to them. It has the second highest number of tourists each year, about 65 million, and has also welcomed millions of immigrants. These include some 300,000 permanently resident British and as many again on extended holidays.
Where to Buy Property in Spain
As always, location is key. 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 prices have already begun to rise in Marbella, hotpots in the Balearics, and the ever-popular Costa Blanca.
There are a number of property hotspots in Spain to consider right now - in fact, some of them never really cooled off, such as recession-proof Mallorca, still attracting the mega-rich and royalty, and ever fashionable Ibiza, drawing the children of the buyers who discovered it in the Sixties. You can get a two-bed apartment in Mallorca from around €150,000, although you’ll pay more in the charming city of Palma, that is reinventing itself as a more user-friendly version of Barcelona.
Of the mainland Costas, the current favourites are the Costa Blanca and Costa del Sol. The southern Costa Blanca has so many advantages for property hunters, including a plethora of golf courses near popular towns like Villamartin and 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 €50,000 around Torrevieja.
In Cabo Roig, to take another popular resort, you might pay €90,000 for a spacious two-bed apartment with a sun terrace. Inland a little, in the village of Algorfa popular with expats, a comparable property will be nearer €70,000.
The northern Costa Blanca, less affected by development and with more building restrictions in place, draws buyers to towns including Moraira, Javea, Denia, Calpe and Benissa Costa. In upmarket Moraira, expect to pay €400,000 for a quality three-bed villa with a pool in a good location but in Benitachell you might get a four or five bedroom villa for €300,000.
Inland of these resorts, the Orba and Jalon valleys are increasing in popularity for buyers seeking a more tranquil location than the coastal resorts; and also more bang for their buck. In the Orba Valley you can get a three-bed villa with a pool for around €150,000-200,000, or a large restored finca for €450,000.
Going south to the Costa del Sol, glitzy Marbella might said to be well and truly booming, with new developments back in vogue and great demand for holiday rentals. You can get an apartment on a complex for €100,000 but a spacious apartment in a good gated community in a sought-after location would be nearer €300,000. Popular areas include Estepona, San Pedro, Nueva Andalusia, Mijas Costa and Benahavis. The Anglo-friendly resort of Benalmadena is popular with tourists and expats and you can get a two-bed apartment there for less than €100,000.
The nearby Costa Almeria, a stretch of unspoilt coastline between Murcia and Granada, is not as developed as the Costa del Sol, perhaps not as well-known by the British, yet its fans like the fact its villages retain much of their Spanish identity – it’s the “real Spain” still. Mojacar remains a popular spot, less than one hour’s drive from the airport, and a central location for getting around Almeria as well as a traditional holiday destination - ideal for families and couples in its own right. You have plenty of choice of one or two-bed apartments with a budget of €100,000; villas range from just over €200k.
How to Buy Property in Spain
Once you have found your property, the purchase process begins with a reservation agreement. This is a contract that freezes the purchase price and takes property off the market for, usually, 30 days on payment of a fee between €3,000 and €12,000. The deposit is usually held by your lawyer or your agent in a client or escrow account.
Within 10 days of signing the reservation agreement, the full private purchase contract (contrato de arras) is signed between the buyer and the seller. This is similar to exchanging contracts in the UK buying process. Within this time your lawyer should complete all the searches on the property - confirming that the seller owns 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 arras contract or full private contract will usually require a 10 to 20 per cent deposit to be paid. 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.
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.
The property sale is formally completed when the title deed (“Escritura de Compraventa”) is signed before a public official called a Public Notary, or Notario. This will happen at their office and be accompanied by the agreed final payment and all the relevant purchase taxes. The Escritura is then presented by the Notary to the Land Registry for registration and the property is passed to the new owner. Final registation of the title deed can take several months.
With a new-build property, obviously completion can take a lot longer, and the payments are split over stages of the build process, and the developer should provide bank guarantees against each payment. This protects your payments in the event the developer fails to complete the property.
Mohammad and Salma Aslam from South London are determined to buy on Spain’s Costa del Sol. Jonnie Irwin shows them five properties around Fuengirola for their £120,000 budget.
Ben and Kelly Jukes have been saving up for a holiday home in Costa Blanca since they got married 5 years ago. Scarlette Douglas tempts them with five lovely properties in and around Torrevieja for their budget of £55,000.
Chris and Anne-Marie McNeill from Scotland have fallen in love with South Tenerife after visiting regularly for the last 7 years. Laura Hamilton shows them five properties for their £200,000 budget, but will any of them be a place they can imagine creating new memories together?