Thousands of people buy property in Spain every year, and even more consider it but aren’t quite sure how to start. In some cases, this is because they think they will have to do everything themselves, even though they wouldn’t dream of it when buying a semi-detached home in Oxfordshire. Buying Spanish property without using a lawyer isn’t against the law, but it’s not a particularly good idea. Here’s why you should get a lawyer to help safeguard your interests throughout the process.
Spanish government rules mean that a Spanish Notary will be appointed to check that the deeds for any property you are purchasing comply with Spanish law. However, despite being a qualified lawyer, this person will only assess the deeds themselves, and do no more than ascertain whether they are accurate. Someone else will need to check whether the property in question is being sold legally, as well as whether there are any outstanding problems with it – for example, enforcement notices from the local council. To ensure your peace of mind, you are strongly advised to hire a lawyer who is working for you, not for the Spanish government.
Don’t assume that the Spanish legal system is the same as the English one – it isn’t. Even many English solicitors won’t be familiar with the intricacies of Spanish property law, so imagine how hard it would be trying to make sense of it yourself. Look for a lawyer who has a full understanding of the property law of both countries, preferably one who has plenty of experience in helping people who are buying Spanish property. There’s also the language barrier to consider: legal terms are often technical and specific, and what seems like an unimportant error can cause delays or even invalidate a contract entirely. You could also run into problems with HMRC if you don’t understand the tax implications of your purchase. Look for an English lawyer, but one who has experience in Spanish law.
If you attempt to handle a property deal yourself, there’s always the risk that it could go horribly wrong. If the worst happens, you really need to have the backing of someone who’s seen it all before and can keep a cool head. Although a Spanish lawyer may be cheaper to engage, there are downsides. The regulations of the Solicitors Regulation Authority and the Law Society cover the activities of English solicitors, and are generally considered stronger than those which apply to their counterparts in Spain. English solicitors’ strict auditing and accounting rules are also worth considering. After all, for most people, property is the most expensive investment they will ever make.