Before you begin the purchase process, you will need to obtain a fiscal number (numero de identificacion de extranjeros) or NIE. The NIE is your all-purpose identification and tax number in Spain. It is mandatory for all non-residents to obtain one prior to signing the Deed of Sale (Escritura).
Once you’ve found your dream house and your offer has been accepted by the owner, your agent contacts the owner to initiate negotiations regarding the terms and conditions of the sale. During these negotiations, confirmation is obtained with regard to the sales price and other conditions such as renovations or maintenance works to be done to the house, furniture arrangements, selling date and more. Please note this is a non-binding process and if you decide not to continue with the purchase at this stage, you are not legally bound to do so in any way.
The buying process usually starts with a preliminary contract known as a Contrato Privado de Compravento. This is a private contract of sale whereby the buyer agrees to buy, and the seller agrees to sell, the property.
Normally a deposit of around 10% of the purchase price will be payable by the buyer when signing this contract. This type of contract can take various forms, so your lawyer should explain the obligations of each party as a result of entering into this particular contract.
Once the private contract has been signed, the buyer will then have time to formalise any mortgage that they may require before they enter into the Public Contract of sale known as the Escritura de Compravento. This is the conveyance document that transfers the legal ownership of the Spanish property.
The Escritura de Compravento is prepared by a Spanish notary (the ‘notario’) and must be signed in their presence. The main function of the notario is to certify Spanish documents and agreements ensuring that they fulfil certain legal criteria and to enable the authorities to collect the relevant taxes. The notario does not advise or protect the interests of the buyer or seller, who should both be individually represented by an experienced and qualified Spanish lawyer.
You can either sign the Spanish title deeds document in person in front of the notario or arrange a Power of Attorney for someone else, usually your lawyer, to sign on your behalf.
In any event, if you do sign in person your English speaking lawyer should be present to translate and explain the contents of the deeds to you. The notario will usually read the contents of the deeds aloud in Spanish and may not agree to sign the deeds unless he is happy that either you speak Spanish and understand the contents, or that your lawyer is present.
Should you require a Power of Attorney, your Spanish lawyer should be able to prepare this on your behalf. You can put the Power of Attorney into effect by signing this in Spain in the presence of a Spanish notary, through the Spanish consulates in the UK, or through a British notary public with a ‘Hague Apostille’.
Once the deeds are signed on behalf of the buyer, seller and any mortgage lender, the balance of the purchase price and the taxes will need to be paid and the transfer of the property registered with the Spanish Land Registry, the Registro de la Propiedad.
The Registro de la Propiedad, protects the rights of the owners of a Spanish property by inscribing the title deeds to the property in the local land register.
It is the buyer’s responsibility, to ensure that all due property taxes are paid before the property transfer is registered. The notario may offer to register the property transfer for a fee, and may notify the registry office that the sale has taken place.
Thereafter you should be able to enjoy your new property, happy in the knowledge that your independent Spanish lawyer has taken care of all legal formalities for you and that your interests have been protected.