By Laura Kemp • 12 May 2023 • 11:40
Tyler and Dean Verdin of Verdin Property. Image - Verdin Property
With over 30 years of experience in the real estate market on the Costa del Sol, the team at Verdin Property understands that purchasing a new home or investment property can be one of life’s most stressful and overwhelming experiences. Particularly if you are moving to another country with a foreign language to navigate, as well as dealing with the laws, immigration processes, and visas.
Although for some people, buying a property is as simple as making the decision and stating “I’m going to buy a house”, Verdin Property has put together this essential guide on buying a property in Marbella, making the process as straightforward and stress-free as possible.
As with all important financial decisions, research, planning and preparation are essential when purchasing a new property. With so many estate agents on the Costa del Sol, finding the right one for you is the first step on your journey. You will need an agent that will listen to your needs and requirements, advise you on the best areas to look at and the locations which best match your lifestyle, and make you fully aware of the processes and fees involved when buying a property in Marbella.
The internet is an essential tool when researching practically any subject from across the world, making it easier for those who are planning on buying a property in Marbella but are currently living overseas. It will also give you that all-important feel for the type of properties on the market, the locations, and prices in advance of your exciting viewing trip.
It’s worth noting, however, that many agency websites and portals are not updated regularly so be sure to speak with your agent about which websites are the best for your search. Unfortunately, if a real estate firm has several hundred or thousands of properties listed on their website, you can almost always guarantee that they are using a database feed and do not have any knowledge about 90 per cent of the properties they are showcasing – this is not a good thing.
The property market in Marbella functions as an MLS (multi-listing system), meaning that the properties for sale are available and accessible for most real estate companies to market and sell. This is mainly due to the real estate agencies in Marbella sharing the same database, this means it isn’t necessary for you to visit multiple agencies in your search of finding a property – you can simply use one.
It’s a good idea to keep an open mind when searching for a real estate agent or firm. You don’t need to commit to just one agent and can begin the process by working with a few agencies, deciding on which one is best for you and the agent you feel most comfortable with.
With the team at Verdin Property, you will have the peace of mind that they are founding members of the Guild of Spanish Property Professionals, an association of handpicked companies within the real estate industry in Spain that possess the best values, ethics and practice standards. They are specialists in the Golden Triangle, the name given to the areas of Marbella, Benahavis and Estepona, and are always on hand to answer any queries or questions you may have during the process.
After careful planning, you can organise your trip and travel to Marbella to arrange viewings with your chosen agent. In this section, Verdin Property gives a few suggestions and tips for arranging your visits.
The team at Verdin Property advises you to always plan ahead and have a selection of properties that you would like to view.
It’s a good idea to let your agent arrange multiple viewings for the same day, which is a great way to familiarise yourself with the market without wasting precious time. Around four or five viewings in a day is the maximum you should let your agent plan, so you don’t forget any important details from previous properties, yet this still gives you ample time to see a good selection of properties. The team at Verdin Property can organise consecutive days of four or five viewings to make the most of your time.
Another important piece of advice is to ‘study the area’. It’s important that you get a feel for the location as well as the property. For example, you may want to live in a gated community, be located close to the beach, you may need to be within a reasonable distance of a school, or perhaps want to be far away from any traffic noise.
If you like a particular property after a daytime viewing, Verdin Property recommends going back during the evening or dusk if possible, to get a feel for the house at night and ensure your perspective hasn’t changed.
It’s essential to give your honest opinion to agents – don’t be afraid to tell them what you like and what you don’t. This will help you make up your mind and also let your agent adapt and suggest other properties that may better fit your needs. Keeping your agent informed about how you feel will help them to understand what you are looking for and accommodate that.
Be prepared to be flexible and for viewings to be changed or modified because, no matter how much time and planning you have done, you may change your mind about what you are looking for after viewing a few properties or areas. You might see a house online and it may not be what you imagined in person. That’s why it is essential to choose your agent carefully because a good estate agent will quickly adapt to your situation and find the best solution for you. Remember that appointments can also change based on the sellers’ situation.
Spain is well-known for requiring a large amount of paperwork and legalities when applying for residency and buying or selling property, so it’s essential that you have everything in order. It’s even recommended that you have all of the paperwork and documents before viewing any properties, and having duplicate copies is always a good idea!
It’s important to note that Verdin Property has experienced occasions where potential buyers have lost out on a great purchase opportunity due to not having the paperwork in place in advance. That’s why it is so important to check your legal, financial and fiscal status before viewing properties in Marbella.
Although there are no particular restrictions for foreign non-residents when buying a property in Spain, you will need to meet specific requirements before beginning the purchasing process:
If you are a UK national, you will be considered a foreign buyer and will need an NIE number (Numero de Identidad de Extranjero). This number allows you to carry out what is necessary to buy a home here in Spain, including opening a bank account and buying your new property. The easiest way for you to acquire your NIE is by visiting your local Oficina de Extranjeros, the immigration office in Spain, or going down to the designated police station in your area.
Depending on where you are coming from in the UK, you may or may not be able to apply for your NIE at your local Spanish embassy or consulate.
To get an NIE number you will need your passport and photocopies, and a valid reason for requesting an NIE number (for example, a job offer or to buy a property).
Once you have your NIE number, you can then open a Spanish bank account. If you aren’t fluent in Spanish, it’s best that you open an account with a bank that accommodates foreigners, such as Sabadell, Caixa Bank and Santander. Pay particular attention to any fees that the bank charges for international transfers and issuing banker’s drafts (this is the standard form of payment used when buying a property in Spain). Most banks don’t charge for opening an account, but you will pay an annual fee for administration, either monthly or quarterly.
To open a bank account in Spain you will also need a variety of documents including your passport or ID, NIE number, proof of funds, and any other documents the bank sees necessary (for example, a job contract).
You might also need to have all of your documents officially translated and, if they are from overseas, you might need to have them authenticated using an Apostille stamp.
Tax in Spain is a complex issue, and the taxes associated with buying and selling property in Spain will differ from region to region. It is always advisable to seek the professional advice of an accountant or professional tax advisor. Further information can also be found on the Spanish tax authority’s website, Agencia Tributaria.
It’s recommended that to make sure you have enough money to cover taxes, notary fees, legal fees, land registry, bank charges, etc, you put aside at least 15 per cent of the purchase price.
Along with the standard documents, you might also be requested to provide proof of address, recently paid community bills, and more. Some banks will request you provide a certificate of non-residency (Certificado de No Residente), which can be obtained from a Spanish police station and typically takes around 10 days to be processed.
Now it’s time to move on to the negotiation phase of the purchasing process. Verdin Property outlines the typical process below.
It’s advised that you put your offer down in writing through your agent. The offer has to include the offered price, the proposed terms, and the deadlines. At this stage, you should also add any special conditions or requirements that you would like the seller to consider and they must be clearly stated in your offer.
It’s important to understand what will be included in the sale of the property, for example, furniture, fittings and fixtures when you make an offer. You should also provide a serious offer because this can have a huge impact on your chances of purchasing your desired property – the more serious your offer is on paper, the more chance you have of succeeding with the deal.
You should always negotiate through your agent so that the process is more gradual and controlled, negotiating directly with the seller rarely ends in the best deal. Verdin Property says that negotiating through your agent proves to be more beneficial to the buyer when agreeing on a final purchase price, primarily due to the agents’ experience with the negotiation process.
Before, during, and even subject to making an offer on a property in Marbella, you have the right to request technical inspections, which may provide insight into the risks involved in owning the property. During this, you can expect reports on tiny details and cosmetic issues (humidity problems, cracks, etc), as well as any plumbing and electrical issues. Be sure to have all of these details written down as they could affect your initial offer, but this will also demonstrate to the seller that you are serious about the purchase.
Once your offer has been accepted, it’s time to get into the legalities and contracts.
You will be required to:
The contracts you will have to complete and sign include:
This contract is signed by the buyer and the seller and reserves the property for an agreed time – usually between 7 and 14 days. A reservation fee is applied by the seller for the buyer to pay, this can vary from €6,000 to €20,000, 1 per cent of the purchase price, or any other amount mutually agreed by both parties. If the buyer does decide to purchase the property, the amount paid goes towards the purchase price.
After signing the reservation contract, the buyer signs a private contract and then pays 10 per cent of the purchase price, this includes the reservation fee paid previously (for example, if you pay 1 per cent at reservation, you then pay the remaining 9 per cent).
On occasions, it’s possible to proceed directly to a private 10 per cent deal without first signing a reservation contract, however, this is typically done if the purchase price is high and the seller is unable to remove the property from the market in exchange for a very small reservation offer. In any case, this approach isn’t really advised.
There are three types of contracts you may sign that are all similar when making the 10 per cent payment:
This contract penalises the seller if the property is not sold under the previously agreed terms. If they decide not to sell, they will have to pay double what the buyer originally paid.
This contract doesn’t allow the seller to back out of the deal. The buyer can choose to execute this option during the contract and make the purchase.
Although this scenario doesn’t occur often, it’s worth noting. This contract is less commonly used since it requires both parties to purchase and sell, which implies that the loss of the 10 per cent paid or the seller’s refund of double the amount may not be sufficient to terminate the contract. If one of the parties refuses to sell or purchase, the other party can compel them to do so in court. The seller may be obliged to sell (even if they refuse to appear before the notary) or the buyer may be obligated to purchase (even if they do not wish to).
Importantly, each of the above descriptions of the 10 per cent private contracts is a general overview of what each contract entails. Contracts are subject to additional clauses and penalties, and the law states that it’s not the title of the contract that defines its intentions but the way in which the contract is written.
Like buying a property or home in the UK, there is a range of mortgages on offer which can vary according to your interest rates, repayment periods, and initial starting fees. Whether you choose a variable-rate mortgage or fixed-rate mortgage, it is essential that you fully understand the mortgage agreement you sign.
If you are applying for a mortgage for your new home you will have to have an appraisal of the property, which is often organised by the bank. After the property valuation, the bank will then know what percentage of financing they can provide.
The typical conditions for obtaining a mortgage are:
a) Amount of up to 60 per cent of the purchase price
b) Rate of 1.5 per cent – 2.5 per cent per year
c) Typical term of up to 25 years
d) A bank may also require property and/or life insurance
A Spanish notary is needed to prepare for the sale of the contract and the public deeds, you will need this to secure your new property in Marbella. The buyer and seller must both attend the Notary, in addition to legal representatives of both sides and bank officials if a mortgage is involved. The decision on what notary to use for this step of buying your home is up to you. Notaries are public servants whose duty is to provide free and impartial legal advice on parts of the contract pre-signature. Once a date has been set for your signing, you have three days before that to visit the notary and ask any questions that you may have.
The Notary will check all of the documents and read through the new Escritura (title deed) to make sure everything is correct. Certain points may be checked by lawyers to ensure financial protocol is being followed, as well as checking all personal information is correct and understood.
When the title deed has been signed, you then have an immediate transfer of property possession and with it, the full responsibility of the property, payments of community fees, IBI (council tax), etc. You will also make the remainder of the property purchase payment via bank cheque.
Once the payment has been made and all relevant taxes paid, the new title deed is registered at the Land Registry, a process which usually takes a few months.
After you have completed your purchase at the Notary, paid the applicable taxes, and submitted the new title deed to the Land Registry, you must ensure that all utilities, such as water bills, electricity bills, community fees, and council taxes, are changed to your name with the appropriate bank details.
You must now register your new house with the property registration once all property taxes have been paid. This will ensure your ownership rights. You will need the following papers for this procedure:
a) NIE and passport photocopy
b) Payment of ITP tax confirmed
c) A copy of the vendor’s IBI tax payment
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Originally from UK, Laura is based in Axarquia and is a writer for the Euro Weekly News covering news and features.
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