Whether expats choose to rent or buy in Spain, there is a thriving property market in most Spanish regions. From city centre apartments to coastal homes or rural retreats, there are a plethora of options for finding a new home when moving to Spain from the Uk or further afield.
When deciding where to live in Spain, most expats moving to Spain’s larger cities opt to rent until they are certain of a particular location or neighbourhood. Properties in the centre of the likes of Barcelona or Madrid are relatively costly, but properties are generally of a high standard.
Although it is possible to find a property directly, the most practical way to rent property in Spain is through a reputable (ideally bilingual) rental or real estate agency. When moving to Spain from the Uk or abroad, applying to rent a property and arranging the subsequent tenancy agreement (contrato de arrendamiento) is typically a straightforward process. As a general rule, tenancy contracts run for a year and are renewable (usually with a 30 day notice period, though this may vary).
When renting in Spain, new tenants will typically be asked to show a passport or ID, some personal references (ideally translated) and their tax identification number, known as a NIE. This this can present a chicken or egg type situation, as usually the application for an NIE requires proof of address. Most agencies who work with international clients on a regular basis will be used to this and can advise accordingly. The landlord has the right to ask for proof of income and a guarantor may be required, particularly if the tenant is a student. A landlord may also ask for a bank guarantee, allowing them to apply directly to the tenant’s bank should the tenant fail to pay their agreed rent. When renting a property in Spain, utilities may or may not be included in the monthly rent (individuals should ensure that this is clearly stipulated in the contract) and tenants should be aware of any additional annual or monthly fees for maintenance.
For expats wishing to remain in Spain on a longer-term basis, or who would like to invest in property in Spain, the Spanish property market is extremely attractive, particularly in larger cities or desirable coastal areas. Buying a property in Spain is a fairly straightforward legal process, which begins with the buyer making an offer to the seller’s agent, then (if accepted), signing a preliminary contract (contrato privado de compravento) and paying a deposit (usually around 10%). This is legally binding and buyers should ensure they have undertaken a full survey and checked the Spanish property registry (Registro de la Propiedad) to ensure there are no outstanding debts or taxes to be paid on the property as any debts are transferrable with the purchase of the property. When the buyer has successfully arranged a mortgage, the contract of sale (escritura de compravento) can be signed in the presence of a notary. At this stage, the full sale price and all taxes and fees are payable to the relevant parties.
Foreign buyers should ensure they seek independent translation of any Spanish documents and if possible seek out a real estate agency used to working with international clients. The British Embassy in Spain has created a useful list of English speaking lawyers and translators also. Some useful online property portals include Idealista and Servihabitat as well as Comprarcasa, fotocasa and tucasa.com (both are only available in Spanish).