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Buying a House in Spain As An Expat: 9 Useful Tips

Buying a house in Spain as a foreigner can be a dream come true. However, it can also feel like a nightmare. Illegally built houses, debts from the previous owner on the house that you’re buying.. there are a few things that can go wrong. 

Therefore, it’s important to be well prepared when you’re buying a house in Spain. To make life a little easier for you, I’ve created this list of tips for buying a house in Spain. 

Read on to find out what you should take into account when you’re buying a property in Spain as an expat.

Is it worth buying a house in Spain?

It’s definitely worth buying a house in Spain (in 2023). Living in Spain can really feel like freedom. Especially if you prefer a more relaxed way of life and a lot of days of sunshine per year. Also, if you like the idea of delicious menu del dia’s (in general: a 3-course midday meal for around 12 euro).

Living in Spain is very affordable, especially compared to living in the US or in Western European countries. Of course, (gas) prices have also increased here, however Spain has one of the lowest rates of inflation in Europe

What makes Spain an even more attractive place to live, is that there is so much to do. Spain has more than 7500 kms of coastline and is home to more than 3000 beaches. At the same time, Spain is home to a lot of cultural attractions as well. For example, you can visit beautiful Granada (Alhambra) or Seville.

From your place in Spain you can also easily visit Spains magnificent islands or you can go on a road trip to Portugal. All in all, Spain is the ideal place to buy a house as a foreigner. However, you should keep in mind the following tips for buying a house in Spain…

Tips for buying a house in Spain

Useful tips for buying a house in Spain

There are a lot of tips on the internet about what to keep in mind when buying your house in Spain. However, there are so many tips that it can be a bit overwhelming and maybe even off-putting.

That’s why I’ve compiled a list of tips which, according to my experience, will be the most important during your house buying process in Spain:

Choose your surroundings

Instead of buying a house first and then exploring your surroundings, I would suggest choosing your surroundings first. In the long run your location will be very important for your contentment in Spain.

So, first choose your location. Then you can start looking for your ideal house. When you’re choosing your location, consider whether you would prefer living in the country side, a city, nearby the sea or a bit of everything.

Keep in mind that prices will be more expensive, the more nearby you are from the coast. Also consider whether there are any supermarkets and restaurants nearby and how far the nearest pharmacy and hospital is. In some rural areas this can be a bit further away. 

Ask your potential neighbors

Perhaps you’re using an estate agent to buy your future house. The estate agent gets a percentage of the deal he makes. The seller of the house eventually pays this fee to the estate agent. Normally this is around 3% of the price of the house. Therefore, the estate agent has a direct interest in selling you a property.

Estate agents can be very helpful, but it’s also important to keep this in mind when buying a house in Spain. The estate agent probably won’t tell you about the downfalls of the property you’re looking at.

That’s why it’s always a good idea to have a chat with your potential neighbors. Ask them what they like about the area and what they like less etc. In this way, you will be more likely to get an honest opinion of people that are actually living there. 

Find a good solicitor

I cannot stress this enough. Find a good solicitor who will help you in buying a house in Spain. Do this as soon as possible. It’s important that the lawyer is familiar with the area that you’re buying in. Ask around in the area you’re interested in buying your house. Other people in the neighborhood might have very good (or bad) experiences with a certain solicitor. 

Hiring a lawyer is not (formally) necessary for buying a house in Spain, but in the end its better to be safe than sorry. A lawyer can be costly, but buying an illegal house will be even more expensive. A lawyer will exercise all due diligence for you.

They will for instance check whether the house is built legally and whether there are still debts on the house from the previous owner (very important). They will be a crucial advisor during your process of buying a house in Spain. 

For your lawyer to act on your behalf, it’s normal to sign a Power of Attorney (POA) in Spain. This is a practical way of delegating authority to a person. This person will then be legally authorised to carry out certain acts with tax and legal implications.

In Spanish this is called Escritura de Poder. You can sign a Power of Attorney at a notary in Spain, but you can also do this at a notary in your home country. The notary in your home country will then send the signed POA to Spain. 

I do recommend, even after hiring a lawyer, to check all of the paperwork yourself as well. Lawyers have great eye for detail, but at the same time they are also humans that can make mistakes.

Having worked at law firms, I definitely know that most of the times they are also extremely busy. So make sure to hire a lawyer AND check the paper work yourself. You don’t necessarily have to have a legal background for this. 

Learn the language

Even though it may sound strange to move to a country without speaking the language, it happens a lot. You don’t have to be a native Spanish speaker to be able to buy a house in Spain.

However, it does help to at least start learning a little Spanish at home before you settle in Spain. This will make communicating a lot easier for you. There are many Spanish courses available in Spain at very affordable prices. 

Adapt to the local culture

Chances are high that you’re moving into a different culture. Make sure to adapt yourself to the local culture. Don’t expect everything to be the same as in your previous country. You’ve moved to a different country, so you should also accept that this country has different ways than you’re used to. 

For example, everything is a lot more mañana and tranquillo in Spain than what I’m used to from my own home country, the Netherlands. In the Netherlands everything is very organized and people even plan just hanging out with their friends months in advance.

In Spain this is very different as things are a lot more relaxed over here. This has its definite advantages, but also requires some flexibility. 

Another example of different cultures can be seen in the eating times. In the Netherlands it’s normal to eat dinner around 18:00 o clock.

However, in Spain, especially in more rural places, you might not find anything open at this time. If you want to have a big meal in Spain, for example in Gandia, you should either go out in the afternoon (around 14:00/15:00 o’ clock) or in the late evening (20:00/21:00 o’ clock). 

Apply for a NIE number

You will need a NIE number to open a bank account in Spain and to eventually buy a house here. NIE stands for Número de Identificación de Extranjero. This translates to Identification Number for Foreigners. This is the personal identification number for anyone who is not a Spanish citizen. This applies to EU-residents as well as to non-EU residents.

If you have hired a lawyer, your lawyer can apply for a NIE number for you. You can also apply for a NIE number yourself. The NIE number is not only necessary for buying a house, but also for other official processes such as buying a car or paying your taxes. 

Beware of the extra fees

When buying a house in Spain, keep in mind that there will be extra fees on top of the house price. These extra fees can consist of taxes and legal fees. You will need to pay 10% purchase tax on top of the purchase price.

Besides, legal fees will cost another 2 – 3% of the purchase price. To be sure, I recommend calculating around 15% on top of the property price for these extra fees. 

Keep a buffer

This is one of the most important tips for buying a house in Spain. Don’t spend all of your money on your house in Spain. To some this may sound logical, while to others it won’t. Make sure that you still have a buffer after you buy your house in Spain.

You never know what kind of hidden costs may suddenly appear, and if they do, you will be very thankful for having kept a buffer. 

Patience is key

It might take a little longer than you thought it would. Perhaps it takes 2-3 years before you have finally officially bought your house in Spain. This is not unrealistic.

Keep in mind that all great things take time. It’s better to have exercised all due diligence on your potential purchase than to buy a house in 4 weeks which may have been built illegally. 

Pay your Spanish taxes every year

In some countries it’s normal to get a letter from the government to pay your taxes. In Spain this works a little different. You have to take more initiative yourself to pay your taxes.

I know British people living in Spain that have not paid any taxes yet, even though they have been living there for years now. Please don’t do this, as you might get a very high bill some day. 

Helpful questions to ask yourself before buying a house in Spain as an expat

If you’re not quite sure yet what kind of house you would like to buy in Spain, it’s helpful to ask yourself a few questions first. Write the answers to the following questions down to give yourself a better idea of what kind of house you should buy in Spain:

What are my needs?

In what kind of area would I like to live, a more rural area or nearby a city? Do I want to live nearby a beach, and if so what is the maximum distance I want to live from the beach?What is the minimum amount of bedrooms I want? Is a swimming pool a must? 

What is my budget?

Have I already calculated 15% on top of the purchase price of the house for extra costs? Does my budget allow for a buffer after buying a house? 

What will be the purpose of my property?

Will the property be a new home for myself, a holiday home or an investment property to rent out?  

In conclusion

Buying a house in Spain is an excellent idea. Life in Spain is more easygoing, there is lots to do and there are thousands of beaches to choose from. Spain has something for everyone. However, it’s essential to be prepared before buying a house in Spain as an expat. 

Choose your location wisely, talk to your potential neighbors, find a lawyer to guide you through the process, learn a little Spanish and adapt to the local culture.

Also apply for a NIE number, calculate the extra fees on top of the purchase price, keep a buffer and at the same time have a little patience. In the end, buying a house in Spain will all be worth it. 

buying a house in Spain as a foreigner

Mountain scenery from our house in Spain

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