Of course, you will have a specialist solicitor (or what is locally called a “Gestor”) in the area that will help you with the Spanish bureaucracy of obtaining an NIE number, checking all the contracts, property deeds and liaising with your real estate company to make sure all the paperwork is in order. However, we would like to detail a few less thought about points for you to consider. We guarantee that asking these important questions and letting your legal advisors know the answers early in the process will save you more than a few headaches.
What am I standing on? Yes, the property is perfect, the sun is shining and a wave of elation sweeps over you, but just a moment, what's this underneath you? It is very important to understand the difference between urban or rustic land in Spain. Urban land can be built on (as long as building regulations are adhered to and planning permission is obtained) and the legal infrastructure for all basic services, like drains, roads, paths, electricity and water, is guaranteed by the public administration.
Rustic land equals non-residential land. This land is currently not part of the development plan of the town hall; it's not an area that the local council is promoting for developers (or individuals) to buy and build on. It may be that the area benefits from the provision of basic services (drainage, roads, footpaths, electricity and water) or not. Rural land CAN be built on but, these days, to be eligible for building permission the plot must have a minimum size (typically 10.000m2 in a lot of areas including most of the areas we cover). Houses that were built in the past on rural land plots of less than 10.000m2 can normally be legalised using a simple process but this is where it’s important to ask if this has already been done. Or perhaps the current owners are in the process of doing this or it is about to be done.
It's worth double-checking the "land classification" for any property that is found outside of the main urban centres and explore all the related subjects with your agency and lawyers if your favourite house does turn out to be on rustic land.
Is what I see really what I’m getting? The house is amazing, the garden has a traditional outdoor kitchen and barbecue area to enjoy leisurely alfresco dining, the swimming pool is an enticing turquoise colour inviting you in for a refreshing dip, the independent guest house is just what you need for when your friends and relatives come to stay…. but is everything as perfect on paper as it looks in person?
As you can imagine, it’s easy to get carried away doing up and adding on to your property – the guest house, the outdoor kitchen, the extra storage room, a swimming pool etc – without perhaps always completing the necessary paperwork. Many homeowners across Spain have failed to inform the authorities or obtain the proper licenses over the years when they have been making these additions. This is normally not a problem as much of this paperwork (or alternative post-works paperwork) can be done after the event. Furthermore, on a lot of occasions these add-ons were made so long ago that they can be simply added to the deeds without any legal necessity to obtain post-dated building licences. Again, this is a simple process that an architect assists with. But it is worth asking your estate agent if these processes need to be used as it may mean that you cannot complete the purchase quite as quickly if this is the case. (This paperwork/these processes typically take 6 weeks to 3 months depending on the case).
Waste. Ok we know nobody really wants to think about where their waste goes or how it is treated but it is something to keep in mind when purchasing your dream property in Spain. Villas in many more rural towns and villages often don’t have access to main drains. While many councils are progressively installing a sewage system, it could take years to arrive at your ideal property. This isn’t a problem, but it’s important to establish if the property is already on mains drains or is planned to be in the near future (you will pay an on-going fee to the local council for this service) or is on a septic tank (no local council fee).
If the property has a septic tank it might be one of the new style EU-approved models or the older style model. It is also worth establishing, as again this makes a difference. Whilst the older style of septic tank is rumoured to work better, it is, according to the EU, not as ecological. The EU is pressuring town halls to either encourage their residents to install a new style septic tank or to connect to the mains (if available). The effect of this pressure is that some town halls (not all) apply methods to enforce their residents to change their septic tank and this is discussed further in our blog “5 things you need to know when buying or selling a property in Spain”.
When would you like to start your new life in this beautiful property you've found? Experience has shown us that this important question sometimes gets overlooked by enthusiastic buyers. In Spain, the completion date is chosen at the beginning of the process which is great as it means you know where you stand in terms of your moving in date. However, the date has to be a mutually convenient date for the TWO parties. Therefore it's important to consider all the elements that affect how long you need to prepare for completion. Will you need time to arrange finances /funds for the completion? Sell another property? Do you just need a bit of extra time for other personal reasons? Or is it a case of wanting to move in as soon as possible?
It may be that the property is the "perfect one" in all aspects other than the fact that it is owned by someone who is not in a position to help you move in on the date that you want as they need the sale to go through faster or slower. So make sure you speak to your real estate agent and your legal advisors about your plans and the time frame you would prefer, so that they can advise you on whether your intended completion date is realistic and feasible for the sellers.
The rain in Spain stays mainly on the plane, or so they say... In Alicante we enjoy a privileged climate of mostly year-round sunshine. However, when it does rain it can be rain with a capital R and the truth is that most properties in Spain are built with the sun, rather than the rain, in mind. So, it’s important to ask yourself when at your dream property, where is my rainwater going? No escape route for your rainwater in the necessary locations can cause you major problems both to the structure of your house and your retention walls. Most property owners have realised this and have ensured that the necessary is in place. Therefore, your selected property will probably have what it needs, if anything, to deal with the large rainfalls. However, it is worth double-checking so that you can consider the cost of any improvements when making your offer.
NB. This is not related to the negotiation of the purchase but just as a side tip; it can be an interesting addition to install gutters and rainwater collection to the property after you have completed so that you can use the rainwater to water the plants and the fruit trees.
We hope you find this information useful and it helps you to effortlessly secure the perfect property when the time comes. Please don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions and we will be more than happy to help answer any queries and help find you your dream home in the sun.