Written by Christopher Nye, Senior Content Editor, Property Guides
13th August 2019

Buying property in your home country can be nerve-wracking enough; buying property in Spain adds extra challenges. But don’t be put off – you can do it, with our help and that of our trusted partners.

Having helped thousands of people buy property in Spain for over 15 years, Spain Property Guides has the knowledge, expertise and contacts to help you through every step of your journey.

Read on to find out why you should buy property in Spain and learn about the entire buying process, step-by-step. Alternatively, download your free Spain Property Guides booklet. Either way, we’ll give you all the advice you need and guide you around the potential pitfalls.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to call our Spanish property experts on 020 7898 0549 (Monday to Friday, 8.30am to 6pm) or send us an email at spain@propertyguides.com.

People in water on beach in village of Calella de Palafrugell, Costa Brava, Spain

Costa Brava, (Pawel Kazmierczak / Shutterstock.com)

Should I buy property in Spain?

We certainly think so! By buying property in Spain, you can swap the 1,500 hours of sunshine that the UK averages per year for the 3,000 hours that the Costa del Sol gets. You can enjoy the lower living costs, weather in which you can play golf, swim or just sit outside comfortably all year, the emptier roads, the excellent health service, the family-oriented lifestyle, the food and the wine and the friendly people.

There are lots of reasons you’ll love living in Spain, but here are five to get you started:

1. Sunshine

Being that much further south, Spain not only enjoys twice as much sunshine as the UK, but it’s spread throughout the year much better. So even in the depths of winter Spain has two hours more daylight in the evenings. The effects on one’s health – both physical and mental – are hard to calculate, but it certainly allows for a round of golf after lunch!

2. An outdoor lifestyle

It’s not just because of the weather that people spend more time outdoors in Spain. Whereas in UK high streets the shops close at 6 and people rush home to their TVs, the evenings in Spain are the time to see and be seen! The paseo is a leisurely evening stroll, with a drink, maybe a bit of shopping, a chat with the neighbours and a chance for the kids to run around in the warm, fresh air.

3. Family life

When the OECD compared happiness and wellbeing in the world’s 34 major industrialised countries, Spain was above average for work-life balance, safety and community. It’s a country where kids tend to be happy and occupied. The latest PISA (The Programme for International Student Assessment) stats show that Spanish kids were significantly happier and less stressed than almost every other country, especially the UK, despite performing generally better at school.

4. Cost of living

You might think that the UK is an expensive place to live, but in global terms, except for property, the UK compares quite well. Countries like France, Italy, Australia and the USA are all more expensive to live than the UK. But not Spain. In Spain your pension goes much further and your holidays are cheaper. Prices undercut those in Britain by around 30% in restaurants and 16% in the supermarket.

5. Flights

While seaside areas of countries like Greece virtually shut down for the winter, there are affordable flights to Spain from even the most out of the way airports. You can get to just about every corner of Britain to every corner of Spain with ease, all year. It also offers the chance to drive, take the train or even a ferry once in a while.

Can you still move to Spain after Brexit? Yes! You can buy property in Spain before or after Brexit, so don’t let that stop you.

Not set on Spain? You might be interested in the rest of our overseas buying guides and advice, for countries including France, Portugal and Italy.

A Spanish notary gives keys to British couple

How to buy: The buying process in Spain

The buying process in Spain is likely to take around six months. When do you want to be in your Spanish home by? For the summer holidays, for Christmas, for your other half’s birthday, your retirement? We’re starting off by choosing your end date and then working backwards. It’s a great way to focus your plans and keep you on track.

Six months to go

  1. Define your search by thinking about why you want to move, looking at the best places to buy, and thinking about what type of property you want.
  2. Build your professional team by choosing an estate agent, lawyer and currency specialist. You might also want to hire a mortgage adviser and independent financial adviser.
  3. Finalise your budget.

Five months to go

  1. Start your detailed search of property for sale in Spain.

Four months to go

  1. Shortlist the areas or properties you would like to see and go on a viewing trip.
  2. Reconnect with your professional team to finalise all arrangements. It will mean you’re able to act swiftly if you see the perfect property on your trip and don’t want to lose out.
  3. Make any additional viewing trips, if required.

Three months to go

  1. Get your NIE number.
  2. Make an offer on your dream property, making sure to consult with your professional team.
  3. Book a survey for the property.

Two months to go

  1. If required, sign a reservation contract.
  2. When the lawyer is ready, sign your deposit contract and pay your deposit.
  3. While your lawyer is contracting the notary and conducting searches, plan removals and decoration.
  4. Ensure all your utilities are going to be connected on time.
  5. Sign the sale contract and make your final payment.
  6. Receive your keys and your new life in Spain is ready to begin!

Things to consider

If you’re tempted to move to this beautiful country, the sooner you get started, the better. But even before you begin to hunt for properties in Spain, you need to define what you want. Often, we have vague ideas in our heads, but setting them out helps to crystallise things. The best way to that is through these key five questions:

What are your reasons for buying?

Analysing your thoughts about why you want to buy property in Spain will help motivate you, so write down your ideas. These could be:

  • My pension will give me a better life in Spain than the UK
  • I want to enjoy sunnier, warmer weather (more often!)
  • I want somewhere for the whole family to come and enjoy
  • I want to invest in property before prices reach pre-2008 levels
  • I don’t want to regret never having tried moving abroad

What do you intend to use your home for?

Are you looking to buy a holiday home in Spain? Or will you be moving to Spain permanently? Perhaps you’re buying to let? Whatever your reasons, think carefully about how and when the property will be used.

For example – you might like the idea of nipping back to the UK for a weekend, but if it is unlikely to happen because of work, don’t lose out on a property you love because it’s a little further from an airport. Equally, if you’re looking to rent your place out, make sure you’re looking in high-yield areas with lots of interest, rather than at specifically what you’d want yourself in a home.

How much can you afford?

You can find different ways to raise more money (or you can buy with family). However, in general, you still need to have a strong idea of your budget from the start. Don’t just think in terms of sterling, but also euro. Remember that you won’t get the interbank rate (what you see on the news). It’ll normally be a percentage point above or below that. Do also budget for around 10% buying costs.

To find out more about how to budget in the context of constantly changing exchange rates, have a read of our Spain finance guides and Smart’s Property Buyer’s Guide to Currency.

What are the most important ‘pluses’ for a property?

Now for the fun bit! Decide what your must-haves for your dream home are. Do you want a period property in a pueblo blanco, or a modern villa right on the coast? A turnkey apartment with low maintenance? We’ve got information to help you decide where and what type of property to buy.

What are the biggest ‘minuses’ for a property?

Equally, do make sure to decide what you definitely don’t want. Would a pool be too much maintenance? Would you rather a flat than a house? Open-plan instead of separate rooms?

The best places to buy in Spain

Spain is a varied country geographically, with wonderful beaches, mountains, cities, inland villages and countryside offering various types of property. This can make it tricky to decide where to buy property in Spain.

After introducing you to the regions of Spain, we’re going to look at the best places to buy in Spain, including:

Map of Spanish regions

The regions of Spain

Spain has a wonderful choice of locations and property types, so we are confident that you will be able to find the home that’s just right for you and your family. It’s just about analysing what you need, how close you want to be to a town or shops, whether you want to drive or not, and how much the overheads will be. To help your decision, we’ve put together an overview of all the different regions of Spain, including their property prices and main attractions of each area. Happy house hunting!
Golfer in warm weather, Spanish golf resort

East Spain

The eastern coast of Spain is where Spain’s modern tourist boom took off in the 1960s in – you guessed it – Benidorm! The coast divides into two regions, Murcia and Valencia, but most people think of it as the northern and southern Costa Blanca, which more or less divides at Alicante. The north is cooler, greener and tends to attract more year-round residents. The south is warmer (maybe we should say even warmer!), super-easy to reach from Alicante Airport all year, and a little more built up.

The entire coast, however, is popular with second-home owners (including plenty of Spanish holiday home owners) and retirees from all over the world. Why? Because it’s warm, with around 320 sunny days per year, welcoming, affordable and there’s plenty to do.
Luxury yachts in Puerto Banus Marina, Marbella, Spain

South Spain

The southern coast of Spain is entirely within the region of Andalusia. It’s the classic Spain of flamenco, bullfighting (although less so these days), tapas and long hot summer days. Packed in summer, it’s pretty popular in winter too, these days. The Costa del Sol enjoys about 3,000 hours of sunshine each year, around double the typical number of sunshine hours in the UK. In winter you can still expect to be sitting outside on the seafront, or playing golf in your shirtsleeves!

But there’s much more to Andalusia than just the coast. Check out the mountains of the Sierra Nevada and its glorious foothills in the Alpujarras (read Chris Stewart’s Driving Over Lemons series to see how idyllic life can be just a few miles from the coast). There’s art and culture too. That includes the ancient, such as Granada’s Alhambra Palace, and the modern – do take an hour or two to check out the Picasso Museum in Málaga when you’re house-hunting!
Stone houses and fishing boats, Tossa de Mar, Costa Brava

North-east Spain

The closest region to the UK and other colder parts of Europe was one of the first places to attract tourists – the Costa Brava. It’s on the Mediterranean coast just across the French border, where the Pyrenees mountains meet the sea in glorious headlands and sandy beaches.

Catalonia is the region most associated with north-eastern Spain, with its capital the uber-trendy city Barcelona. However, a little further south, the Costa Dorada, Costa Azahar and the city of Valencia are increasingly popular with property buyers. Inland too, regions such as La Rioja are becoming better known.

So why buy here? The north-east of Spain is known as being the cooler (in every sense), more sophisticated end of Spain. It’s famous for fashion and design, trendy restaurants, movies by Almodovar, and art from Dali and Miro. It’s famous for sport, including football in Barcelona of course, but also for skiing and climbing in the mountains and was a long-time training base for cycling teams.

It’s the beaches that most of us love. The north-east’s seaside resorts such as the Bay of Roses, Sitges and Salou are rightly famous. But most of us buy in the dozens of fishing villages that sit like pearls along this glorious coast.
Seaside, friendly small towns and mountains; San Vicente de la Barquera, Cantabria

North-west Spain

Expats who choose to relocate to this part of Spain are attracted to the close links to Portugal and the proximity of the Atlantic – and the beaches and seafood that this ensures. It is generally one of the cheapest places to live in the country, and offers an authentic and rural Spanish life – those Brits who live here do so integrated with the local community, and without the cloaks and whistles you would find on the Costa del Sol or the Costa Blanca.
Cliffside houses in the historic, walled city of Cuenca, Castilla-La Mancha

Central Spain

Slap bang in the centre of the Iberian Peninsula, you will find the regions of Castilla-La Mancha and the Community of Madrid – home, of course, to the country’s capital. Two very different lifestyles can be found here: a vibrant, busy life in Madrid, and a quieter, more authentic Spanish lifestyle as you move further into Castilla-La Mancha. The historical significance of these two locations is enormous, and architecture and sights across this part of the country reflect this.
Idyllic fishing village harbour of Cala Figuera, Santanyi, Mallorca

The Balearic Islands

The Balearic Islands of Mallorca, Menorca and Ibiza are among the best areas to buy in Spain. As well as the well-known ‘party’ resorts, people make the Balearics their home because of the ease of getting there, excellent climate, wonderful beaches and unique history. Although one of the more expensive parts of Spain to buy a home, few people ever regret buying here.

Mallorca has something for every taste and budgets above around €150,000. Idyllic villages such as Valldemossa and Deia, the wealthy shops and nightlife of the capital Palma, with its medieval old town and cobbled alleyways around the cathedral, family-friendly resorts along the south-east coast, beautiful country homes inland, and then the raucous (but fun) nightlife of resorts like Magalluf.

Many people prefer Menorca, “the Jewel of the Balearics”, for its quieter and more relaxed atmosphere. There are hints of Britain’s colonial rule in the 1700s, in some Georgian architecture and the British have tended to feel at home here (well, where don’t we?). The island’s main draw is its beautiful coastline, with more beaches than Mallorca and Ibiza put together. Menorca is harder to reach in winter, but prices are lower than in Mallorca too.

Ibiza, “The White Island”, may be more famous for clubbing and hedonism, but wander off from the coastal strip and you’ll find it’s a wooded island with lovely peaceful rural areas. It also has a spiritual undercurrent, mixed in with the hedonism. Property is pricey, as you might expect, but has enormous rental appeal in summer, so it’s an excellent option for sheltering from the British winter then renting your place out all summer.

Apartments with pool and sea views, Tenerife, Canary Islands

The Canary Islands

A Spanish corner of the Atlantic, the Canary Islands are a paradisiac Spanish archipelago found just off the south-west coast of Morocco. The main islands here for expats are Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote and Fuerteventura. Like the Balearics, it’s their touristic appeal that brings people here on an annual basis and causes many to look for new lives (or at least second homes here). The subtropical climate helps of course!
Mother and young children walk along Spanish seafront in sunshine

The Spanish costas

Along the coast (costas) of Spain, you will find numerous villas of different styles and sizes, with beautiful views of the sea – that comes at a high price. The properties along the coast are often second homes that are used during the summer months when their owners escape the big cities in the rest of Spain, and indeed Europe. If you are looking to purchase property in a seaside complex or urbanisation, it’s important to remember that these carry community charges; make sure you look into the terms and costs carefully before you commit to your purchase.

These properties are often let out to tourists when their owners are not using them, to help pay the maintenance costs or mortgage. You should be aware that those who do this are now required to apply for a licence to take lettings bookings – and these are not always approved. Get your lawyer to check with the local town hall about any policies on letting to tourists. In Barcelona, for example, the Generalitat (city council) is now able to oversee all tourist letting, and is attempting to crack down on illegal ones following complaints by locals about noisy tourists.

Here are some other things to consider when buying property on the Spanish coast:

  • How close to the ‘strip’? Most large Spanish resorts have a ‘strip’. It’s normally a pedestrianised street, or streets, lined with cafés and restaurants. There will be the occasional shop and also – crucially – late-night bars. Often this will be on or near the beachfront, perhaps overlooking a seafront promenade. Aside from the beach, the strip is where holidaymakers, especially younger ones, spend much of their time. That can go long into the early hours of the morning, especially in Spain, where many people won’t even head out until after a normal British bedtime!For obvious reasons, most people buying a home to live in choose to be out of earshot of the strip. A 15-minute or more walk away, perhaps a 5 to 10-minute drive, should be enough. Wherever you find a property you like, before making an offer it’s worthwhile visiting the area at night to gauge noise levels.
  • Beach: As a rule, the further inland you live, the quieter your surroundings and usually the cheaper the property. Part of picking your ideal location is knowing how close you want to be to the beach and centre of your resort. Many long-term residents realise that being able to walk to their nearest beach is less important and leave those properties to the tourists. Instead, they’re happy being a short drive or bus ride away. Bear in mind too, that walking even a short distance to the beach isn’t much fun in Spain’s scorching summer months. Especially when laden with beach gear! So have a good think about what you deem ‘walkable’ in practice before signing on the dotted line. Note how hilly an area is too. Quiz your Spanish estate agent and other residents to find out more.
  • Public transport: Most large Spanish resorts operate reliable and cheap bus services. So residents can often avoid needing a car for day-to-day living. This can be a godsend in high season, when traffic levels skyrocket and parking anywhere central can become an expensive nightmare. Consider your nearest bus routes when looking at a property. Another option is to get yourself a bicycle! In recent years, Spanish resorts have become friendly towards cyclists and pedestrians – you’ll notice lots of cycle lanes and pathways.
  • Shopping and amenities: Chances are, wherever you live in a town or resort, your neighbourhood will have a small commercial area. This is typically a parade of shops that includes a small supermarket and a café and/or bar/restaurant. Think about walking time to your local amenities and check out bus routes. Another key consideration should be proximity to healthcare, so check where your nearest doctor and hospital are.
  • Seasonality: All tourist resorts are quieter outside of high season compared with the busy summer months, when they overflow with holidaymakers. The question you need to ask, is just how quiet? The trick is finding a resort with a large enough resident population, ideally a mix of expats and Spaniards, to ensure there is enough going on there whatever the month. Your resort needs to be an enjoyable place to live year-round. As a rule, the older part of towns or resorts, where Spaniards tend to live, remain lively throughout the year. Things that indicate year-round activity include a busy fishing harbour, a major shopping centre, large outdoor markets and even golf courses. Communities with a high proportion of resident expats will have clubs and social events happening throughout the year.

Read on to learn more about the eight Spanish costas:

Costa Brava

Wooded cliffs lead down to pretty bays. Around each headland is another gorgeous view and a road leading down through the pines to a classy village with a sandy beach and maybe a marina. We’re in the Costa Brava, where the Pyrenees meets the Mediterranean.

The Costa Brava is cool, classy and cultural. Part of Catalonia, it’s a hard-working area with a strong sense of style – the land of Gaudi, Dali and Miro. The weather is perfect for summers but chillier than the more southerly costas in winter.

Alternative lifestyles are celebrated in resorts like Sitges. With just a two-hour flight from Barcelona to London or Manchester and advance fares as low as £20 each way, ‘euro-commuting’ is a real possibility.
Golden beach and palm trees in Sitges

Costa Daurada (Costa Dorada)

The Costa Daurada (Costa Dorada) is a 300km section of the Golden Coast featuring the cities of Barcelona and Taragona and resorts such as Salou and Roc de Sant Gaietà. Most people come for the beaches, the nightlife and the entertainment such as PortAventura, the huge waterpark near Tarragona with Europe’s highest freefall waterslide. The hinterland is beautiful too, with vineyards in the foothills of the mountains. The River Ebro, one of Spain’s mightiest, provides diverse wildlife and outdoor entertainment.

Property is cheaper than in most costas, but off-season the coast is very quiet and it’s colder than the more southern stretches. Learn more about the cheapest places to buy property in Spain.

Costa del Azahar

The Costa del Azahar (“Orange Blossom Coast”), or Costa dels Tarongers (“Orange Tree Coast”) in Valencian, has been hiding its light behind an orange bushel for too long! Although largely ignored by British house-hunters, it is at least as beautiful as the northern Costa Blanca that borders it. It also has the city of Valencia, with its dramatic modern architecture and a rich cultural life. The food is pretty good too – Valencia is generally credited as the home of paella.

Coastal towns along its 250km length include Alcossebre, Benicassim, Peñiscola and Gandia. Houses are affordable and you avoid the British expats who tend to stop at Denia, a little further south. Partly that’s down to the lack of flights – Alicante is a couple of hours drive south and there are fewer flights into Valencia Airport.

Costa Blanca

Whether you want an adventurous retirement of golf and sailing, a holiday home just a short hop from the airport, or a permanent home with an easy commute back to the UK, the Costa Blanca (“White Coast”) is an easy and affordable option. The sun beats down for 320 days of the year on both the residential apartments of Benidorm and Torrevieja, and the inland villages.

The Costa Blanca is an affordable choice for property, with apartments available from little over €40,000, and the savings continue into its golf courses and amenities, reasonably priced compared to Spain’s more blingy costas.

Alicante airport has flights from every corner of the UK, all year. Drive north from the airport and, after skirting the tower blocks of Benidorm shimmering in the heat haze, the countryside is greener, with pine forests and palm trees. Former fishing villages and small towns like Jávea, Moraira and Dénia combine historic castles, rural beauty, pretty coves, beaches, mountains and excellent fish restaurants. They are still traditional Spanish towns that have thriving and fun expat communities too, being far enough from the airport to turn off the long-weekenders and appealing more to permanent residents and retirees.

South of Alicante, the weather is warmer and the countryside is flatter. The beaches are pristine, property developments have been kept low-rise and there is highly accessible local entertainment for every age group, from golf courses to water parks. Torrevieja and Orihuela continue to attract large numbers of British property buyers.

We think the Costa Blanca is one of the best places for a Spanish holiday home.
Swimming in calm La Manga at sunset

Costa Cálida

With year-round flights and year-round warmth, this long stretch of coast is holiday-home heaven. Highlights of Costa Cálida (“Warm Coast”) include the small town of Águilas, curving around a couple of beautiful sandy bays. Apartments go from €50,000; resort-style property out of town around 50% more than that.

Almost in the centre of the Costa Cálida is the Gulf of Mazarrón: 35km of beautiful sandy beaches and fishing villages. It has a lively expat community of whom the British are the largest group. Even stunning-looking modern villas with pools are available for under €150,000 and getting here is easy, being just 45 minutes’ drive from San Javier Airport.

Further west is the region’s largest city, Cartagena, with many grand buildings in Spain’s distinctive modernist style (with renovated two- or three-bedroom apartments for under €100,000). Cartagena has a thriving economy based on ship-building, but the authorities are promoting the port as a major tourist attraction with bars and restaurants on the quayside. Outside of town there are resort-style developments with communal pools for a similar price, and villas from around €125,000.

La Manga and Mar Menor are some of the best places to buy property in Spain. Europe’s largest saltwater lagoon, El Mar Menor (the small sea), is the perfect place to learn water sports such as wind surfing, sailing and diving. The narrow strip of land called the La Manga (“the sleeve”) separates it from the Mediterranean. This thin stretch of land, 24km long, is packed with apartment blocks and superb amenities including marinas, supermarkets, sailing schools, leisure centres, shops, bars and restaurants.

The resort of Mar Menor is rather special, with golf courses, superb tennis facilities and all the luxurious touches you would expect from Spain’s most famous gated development. Within the local area there are, however, some delightful villages which are off the tourist track and retain their own traditional lifestyle, bars and restaurants. These are becoming increasingly popular with British buyers too, looking for authenticity and affordability more than spa and beauty treatments on the doorstep as in La Manga.

Costa de Almería

The Costa de Almería is in Andalusia, the huge region that covers the bottom third of Spain and gave us flamenco, bullfighting, Picasso and tapas. Almería is at the far eastern part of the region, and is relatively inexpensive. You can buy a villa with a sea view for less than €150,000. Almería includes well known resorts like Roquetas de Mar, Almerimar, Carboneras, Mojácar and Vera, all with pretty harbours or long sandy beaches.

Fans of the Costa de Almería say it is more Bohemian and alternative than its neighbouring coasts. Vera is famous for naturism, Almanzora for cave homes. There are still resorts though, including the Desert Springs golf resort, where Ian Botham and Daley Thompson have been homeowners. There are lively British expat communities in Mojacar in particular.

You can get there via Almería airport with easyJet and Ryanair from many UK airports.

Costa del Sol

The Costa del Sol (“Coast of the Sun”) is 160km of sun-drenched pleasure, which is why it’s one of the best places for a holiday home in Spain. The quality of the beaches goes without saying, but the seaside fun includes every family-friendly entertainment you can imagine, great shopping opportunities, Michelin-starred restaurants, championship golf courses, marinas and spas – everything for the well-heeled him and her.

The hills overlooking the beaches are thronged with multimillion-euro villas, but alongside the upmarket resorts such as Marbella, Puerto Banús and Estepona, there are more affordable neighbourhoods like Torremolinos, Mijas and Fuengirola too. All are easy to reach from the airport at Málaga – you’ll appreciate the savings on car hire – and with so many flights that weekend trips really are doable.

Don’t forget the inland appeal. There are “white villages” that retain their age-old traditions and beyond that the rolling hills of olive and almond trees, with affordable country homes in the campo. The Costa del Sol has exciting cities, most notably Málaga, but with Granada, Seville and Cordoba all within reach.
Wooden walkway in Bolonia beach, Tarifa, Andalusia, Spain

Costa de la Luz

The stretch of coast that leads from Gibraltar up to the Portuguese border is known for wide, empty beaches, full of windsurfers in summer but empty in winter. The huge Doñana national park is in the middle of Costa de la Luz (“Coast of Light”) – you could see the lynx, Europe’s only big cat there. Property is more affordable than in the neighbouring Costa del Sol and Portuguese Algarve, despite it being unspoilt by development. This makes it one of the best places to buy in Spain.

It includes the city of Seville (Sevilla), a little inland, Andalusia’s largest city and one that has proven popular with long weekenders as a (whisper it) classier alternative to the likes of Marbella. Seville is famous for its Feria de Abril, sherry (drunk dry and ice cold), tapas and its Moorish feel. The art, culture, food and wine is a rich combination of North Africa and Spain, with a distinct taste of the exotic in cities like Cadiz.

The eastern Costa de la Luz is famous for windsurfing and the party lifestyle that windsurfers love so much. The beautiful seaside city of Cadiz is here too. The western side is “Spain’s Algarve”, with large-scale resorts such as Isla Cristina. Inland are historic towns like Jerez and Medina Sidonia. You’ll find reasonably priced country properties inland too.

Four airports in the region have flights from the UK – Gibraltar, Seville, Jerez and Faro, over the border in Portugal.

The best cities in Spain

With Spain’s economy on the up and memories of the financial crisis fading, the country’s biggest and best cities are back in the spotlight not just for investment but for jobs too. Each has its own culture and character. Each high street is individual, each residential district has its own particular idiosyncrasies.

While most British people head for the beaches in Spain when looking for property, others might want to move to a city where jobs are available and where life is busier. Spain is fortunate in that it has some wonderful cities, offering good communications, excellent choice of schools and plenty of culture, attracting people from all over the globe.

If you do come to Spain to work or look for work, renting may be the best option here, at least until you have learned about the area and had time to look around for a property to buy. However, rentals are quite expensive in the main centres of Madrid and Barcelona.

Madrid

We have to start with Spain’s capital city. Madrid has a lot to offer in every respect. It is an elegant city with plenty of green spaces, a first-class metro and bus service, an international airport and wonderful museums and art galleries. It also has a great music scene offering everything from classical concerts to late-night jazz.

People work hard in Madrid but they also play hard, which makes for a good work/life balance. Every nationality is represented in this cosmopolitan city, as demonstrated by the wide variety of restaurants and food available, not just in the city centre but also in residential districts. There are several British schools in the city as well as international ones, and they offer education to children of all ages. (Read our guide to learn more about education in Spain.)

The climate is typical of inland locations: cold in winter, very hot in summer. However, with global warming, Madrid has seen some milder winters of late. The summer heat tends to be dry which makes it more comfortable.

Barcelona

Barcelona, the capital city of Catalonia, saw a regeneration in 1992 when it hosted the Olympics. Since then, it has become one of the world’s largest tourist destinations and has attracted hundreds of international businesses.

A modern, vibrant city by the sea, Barcelona has a huge port capable of welcoming the largest cruise ships and container ships afloat. There are also several pleasant beaches on which to relax. It is probably even more cosmopolitan than Madrid and its residential districts are leafy and comfortable. The centre has a wealth of wonderful architecture thanks to Gaudí and his contemporaries.

Transport connections are excellent and the metro is very efficient. El Prat airport has two terminals and direct flights to every corner of the world. There are cycle lanes and wide boulevards (as in Madrid) and life here is very enjoyable. There is also a strong work ethic. The city offers many opportunities for foreigners, particularly in the hospitality sector but also in education, marketing and import/export.

The Mediterranean climate is ambient, with mild winters and hot summers which can be quite humid. There is a lot on offer culturally too, with some of the biggest names in the entertainment industry making regular visits to the huge Palau Sant Jordi arena.

Valencia

The third city of Spain, Valencia, lies a few kilometres from the sea and also has a large port area as well as a lovely promenade lined with bars and restaurants. The city centre seems quite small, although very pretty. Following a disastrous flood in 1957 when the river Turia which flowed through the city burst its banks, the riverbed was drained and rerouted. Eventually, the citizens demanded it be turned into a park for the residents, rather than a construction site. Today there are 14km of glorious parkland to be enjoyed with various locations dedicated to relaxation and sport.

The historic centre is a maze of streets and little squares, the largest being the magnificent Plaza de la Virgen at the top of which is the wonderful cathedral. A city of food, there are tapas bars to suit every taste, good restaurants and two specialities – Paella a la Valenciana and Agua de Valencia. The latter is made from fresh orange juice, cava and a dash of vodka or gin.

Valencia has to be one of the most relaxed places to live in Spain. Property here is cheaper than in Madrid or Barcelona but there are some upmarket districts overlooking the river park. As with the two larger cities, there are British and international schools. The climate is typically Mediterranean with mild winters, warm springs and long, hot summers.

Málaga

Málaga, the capital of the Costa del Sol, has seen a transformation in recent years. It is now an elegant city with newly built promenade and seafront, some excellent museums and galleries, and a very strong music scene (Pablo Alborán, probably Spain’s most popular singer/musician/songwriter comes from Málaga, where he received the best music tutoring).

The historic centre is condensed into a small area and is an absolute delight, renowned for its tapas bars and restaurants. The outlying residential districts are pleasant, with few high-rise buildings, plenty of greenery and lovely views.

With regard to work opportunities, transport and logistics is an expanding sector here but traditionally the city caters to tourism, construction and technology businesses. An average of 300 days of sunshine makes Málaga and its province one of the most sought-after areas of Spain and, as a result, property isn’t cheap in the most desirable areas.

Attractive apartment buildings and cafes in Zaragoza’s old town

Zaragoza (Francesco Bonino / Shutterstock.com)

Zaragoza

The city of Zaragoza, in the province of Aragon, is often overlooked by British property buyers. This is a pity as it is a delightful place to live. It is the fifth largest city in Spain and much of the centre is pedestrianised, allowing residents to enjoy it without having to dodge traffic. It is an inland city and as such has very hot and dry summers, while winters tend to be cold. It is also a windy place but the comfortable way of life here more than compensates for that.

There is a lot of industry on the outskirts, which offers employment, and its central location means very good communications to Madrid – 90 minutes on the AVE fast-speed train and a similar amount of time to Barcelona. Inside the city, the bus service is frequent and cheap, and Zaragoza airport serves several Spanish destinations.

The people here are particularly friendly. El Tubo is one of the best tapas bar areas in Spain and Zaragoza boasts two fabulous cathedrals in the same square, Plaza del Pilar. Pilar is the patron saint of the city.

Property here is comparatively inexpensive, around half the price of other large cities.
Mountain village in Aragon, Spain

Inland and mountainous regions

Many would-be expats are attracted to the pretty inland towns and villages that are surrounded by vineyards and steeped in history. You will still find urbanisations in the country areas, but it is more likely that you will come across typical village houses, either of natural stone or, as in Andalucia, painted white. Village properties are generally cheaper than the bigger towns (unless it is a village which particularly attracts tourists such as Mijas, Andalucia or Pals, Catalunya), but they are more likely to need some (if not total) renovation, and the running and maintenance costs may be quite high. These properties are nevertheless popular, especially when the village offers a bar or two, shops, chemist, etc. as everything is within walking distance, and life is at a slow pace.

And let’s not forget the mountainous regions of Spain. Skiing and winter sports are widely practised here, as is hiking and bird-watching in the summer months. The mountain ranges of the Pyrenees, the Cordillera Cantabrica, Sistema Central, Sierra Morena, and the Cordillera Subbetica all offer attractive properties, many with a rental income. Homes in the better known and smarter resorts are inevitably more expensive, but there are numerous little towns and villages offering good value for money. If you are thinking of buying something in these areas, we suggest you visit the region both in summer and in winter – that way, there won’t be any nasty surprises when the snow falls and roads are blocked.

The cheapest places to buy in Spain

You certainly don’t need to spend a fortune to enjoy the wonderful Spanish lifestyle. Although the economy has been steadily climbing upwards for a number of years now, property is extremely affordable. If you know where to look, you can find homes thousands of euros below the average property price. Keep reading to discover where to find the cheapest homes in Spain.

Almería

Almería is often overlooked by international home buyers, which is a shame as it’s charming and very affordable. Its gently winding cobbled streets and bustling central market – aimed at locals rather than tourists – gives it a ‘lived-in’ feel.

You’re spoilt for choice here beach-wise: the Playa de San Miguel-Zapillo is right in the centre, while the district of Nueva Almería also has its own beach. Alternatively, make a day of it by heading out to the Playa de Mónsul. This is a huge beach completely free of development, due to its location in the Cabo de Gato Natural Park.

Speaking of natural parks, Almería is surrounded by fantastic nature. Did you know that you can ski in Andalusia? You’re just two hours’ drive up into the Sierra Nevada to the Sierra Nevada Station. The Sierra Alhamilla is just an hour away, with plenty of unspoilt hiking trails. Finally, for culture-lovers, the magnificent city of Granada is just under two hours’ drive away. And all this with some of the cheapest homes in Spain!

Price of an average 60m2, two-bedroom property: €69,000

Castellón de la Plana

Castellón de la Plana, or Castelló de la Plana in Valencian, is a medium-sized city of around 170,000. Its main square, Plaça Major, is surrounded by historic buildings, including a gothic cathedral. With more than 300 days of sun a year, there’s plenty of time to sit out in one of the many streetside cafés.

The city’s main beach, Solé Rototom (try saying that quickly), backs onto a beautiful green park, making a change from the built-up nature of parts of this coast. Castellón is famous for its festivals and music, as well as the more traditional Magdalena, a three-week Easter fiesta.

Although the surrounding area is mainly rural, access is simple. You’re just 44 minutes by train or an hour by car to the city of Valencia, with all its shops and nightlife. From there, you can find flights back to Gatwick, East Midlands, Bristol, Manchester and more. Despite all this, it’s one of the cheapest places to buy in Spain.

Price of an average 60m2, two-bedroom property: €70,560

Lleida

Lleida (Lérida), is a popular city in the interior of Catalonia, west of Barcelona. A former capital of culture, it’s dominated by the old citadel-cathedral towering over the town. There are lots of traditional festivals year-round, including Sant Miquel, Festa Major and L’Apec. The ‘twelve giants’ preside over many festivities – the oldest two in use date from the 1800s.

The Eix Comercial, below the Old Cathedral, is the main shopping street. You’ll find all kinds of boutiques and restaurants here. Head to Els Vins to find the majority of the town’s bars. The climate here’s unsurprisingly cooler than Almería, or Castellón. This means it’s perfect if you don’t like extremely high temperatures.

This is a mainly Catalan-speaking area. Essentially everyone is bilingual in Spanish, but locals really appreciate it when expats try out a few phrases in Catalan too. Here’s our advice on learning the language.

Price of an average 60m2, two-bedroom property: €70,620

Newly built homes and pool in Torrevieja

Torrevieja (Alex Tihonovs / Shutterstock.com)

Torrevieja

Torrevieja lies on the Costa Blanca, with fantastic beaches within easy reach. Its location between the sea and two salt lakes gives it a particularly healthy climate. It’s a great choice for golfers. That’s because it not only has some of the cheapest homes in Spain, but also 12 golf courses. It’s a popular resort, so there’s something going on year-round.

The Playa de la Cura and Playa de los Locos are popular beaches and districts for expats. More ‘Spanish’ areas are the Playas de los Náufragos and the Playa del Acequión. However, not all the Spanish residents are from the area – the town’s nicknamed ‘Playa de Madrid’ for the number of Madrilenos who’ve moved from the capital to Torrevieja.

You’re equidistant here from Alicante, Murica and Cartagena – so getting back to the UK’s a breeze.

Price of an average 60m2, two-bedroom property: €94,700
Attractive riverside homes in Najera, la Rioja, Spain

Nájera

Here in the region of La Rioja, you’ve got everything a wine-lover, nature-lover and seeker of authentic Spain could want. The region lies to the south of the might Ebro River. It has produced wine since Roman times – and this is still the main industry. Nájera’s in the middle of the region, on the pilgrim route to Santiago de Compostela.

Life here’s much slower than on the busy costas: everything revolves, one way or another, around wine and rural activities. Property here’s very inexpensive: you can buy a lovely, large house with a courtyard for the price of a two-bedroom townhouse elsewhere in Spain.

Price of an average 60m2, two-bedroom property: €51,800

The best places to buy a Spanish holiday home

There are lots of reasons why people want a second home in Spain. Its fantastic climate for a start, which allows for a wonderful lifestyle. Throw in convenient access from the UK, affordable property, world-class cities and 5,000kms of pristine coastline, and it seems a no-brainer.

Your ideal destination will depend on what you’re looking for in a holiday home: beaches, water sports, golf courses, bustling resort or rural village – Spain has it all. Join us as we explore some of the best places to buy a holiday home in Spain.

Costa del Sol

The Costa del Sol is extremely popular with British buyers, meaning English is widely spoken. It boasts an average of 320 sunny days a year, with Málaga basking in 3,000 hours of sunshine – more than anywhere else in Spain.

It isn’t just the sunshine that makes this stretch of coastline so popular. There are over 60 golf courses to discover and four of them are in the world’s top 10: Valderrama, San Roque, Sotogrande and La Reserva. Don’t forget the watersports; everything from scuba diving to kite surfing.

So where should you look for your holiday home around here? Popular towns by the sea include Fuengirola and Benalmádena. Both are close to Málaga, which offers plenty of culture, great shopping and excellent restaurants.

Prices for larger properties are comparatively high but you can find two-bed apartments for a reasonable price depending on location. Mijas Costa has the best of both worlds but there are almost no “cheap” properties here. Torremolinos is a resort town with plenty of apartment buildings and, if you are not worried about a sea view, you can find nice flats for sensible prices. Estepona is another town which is sought-after for holiday homes, as is La Duquesa to the west of Marbella.

If, however, you’d prefer to live somewhere with a more Spanish feel, then consider Mijas Pueblo or Arroyo de la Miel, a real Spanish village above Benalmádena. Further south towards Gibraltar lies San Pedro de Alcantara, just 10km away from Marbella. Here you’ll find an old town with cobbled streets on one side of the main road and an attractive promenade on the other.

Costa Blanca

Lying to the north of the Costa del Sol is the Costa Blanca, another extremely popular holiday home destination. The weather is also warm and sunny most of the year, but property prices tend to be less expensive than on the Costa del Sol. There are 18 golf courses in the area to choose from and property ranges from rural fincas to resort apartments.

The Costa Blanca varies greatly from north to south, so it’s worth checking out both to see which suits you best. The south is very warm and dry with great beaches on the fairly flat terrain. As you travel north, you will see a changing landscape as mountains start to appear and it becomes much greener. The beaches are made up of little coves with cliffs and are quite rocky.

The south is closer to Alicante and Murcia airports making accessing your holiday home a breeze. The north is very pretty and more peaceful, but property prices are considerably higher.
South of Benidorm is where to look for excellent beaches and seaside resorts. To the north are typical seaside villages lining the green hillsides and if you venture further inland you will find vineyards and orange groves.

Torrevieja in the south is one of the best-known resort towns, offering everything you would want for a holiday home destination by the sea. Other destinations popular with British buyers include Alicante and La Manga, the narrow promontory separating the Mediterranean from the Mar Menor. North of Benidorm, towns such as Calpe, Dénia and Xabìa are good places to head on a viewing trip. These all have large expat communities, and English is widely spoken.

Teulada-Moraira are two towns in one and would be a good choice for people seeking a traditional setting. As would Altea, despite its close proximity to Benidorm.

Mallorca

The Balearic Islands each have their own beauty and identity. The best known and largest island is Mallorca (or Majorca) where many celebrities have their holiday homes. The sheer beauty of this island with its mountains, coves, stunning coastline and marinas is what lures them and countless others. It is an expensive island though, so if you are thinking of buying your holiday home here you will probably need a bigger budget than on the mainland costas.

The north of the island is the most exclusive. In the south and not too far from the airport you’ll discover many delightful coastal towns. Right in the northeast is Port de Pollença, which has a thriving British community. The winters are not as mild as in the south and so many restaurants and businesses close, but you will always find some places open. The port offers sandy beaches and golf courses and is a busy place with plenty going on. Most of the property is new and modern.

In the south-west is Andratx, which has a small but pretty port and a yacht club. This as a typically Mallorcan town, so not as busy as others on the island. In between Pollença and Andratx are the beautiful Tramuntana Mountains, where you’ll find lovely little villages and good connections to the coast. The people of Mallorca speak Mallorquin, similar to Catalan, though on the coast most people speak Spanish and English too. Take a look at our advice on language in Spain.
Ciutadella marina and cathedral, Menorca, Balearic islands, Spain

Menorca

A much smaller and quieter island, Menorca is the ideal place for peaceful holidays. It has encouraged sustainable tourism for years and the gentle terrain makes it perfect for hiking and cycling. There are some wonderful unspoilt beaches, such as Marcarella Cove, which has very fine sand and an aquamarine sea. The port of Mahón is the largest natural harbour in the Mediterranean and apparently the second deepest in the world. It is also home to a quaint old town.

The British and Spanish are the main buyers but recently the French have discovered its charms. Flights to the island are plentiful from Easter to October, but are reduced to one a week during the winter months.

Ibiza

The “White Isle” is known as a party island but that is only some of its story. It is a very pretty island and with the “party side” located in just a couple of places, it’s a great place to spend relaxing holidays. Head into the hills and there are pretty villages and upmarket homes. The areas of Cap Martinet and Can Furnet are both wthin walking distance of Ibiza Town, where you’ll find some great bars and restaurants and a swanky marina.

Costa Brava

In the north east of Spain is the Costa Brava or “wild coast”. The southern part is home to Tossa de Mar and Lloret de Mar, both popular holiday spots. Of the two, Tossa is undoubtedly the more attractive.

The further north you head, the coastline changes to rocky inlets and small coves. Almost halfway up is the town of Sant Feliu de Guixols, a very Catalan seaside spot popular with families. It has two pretty beaches, a small rambla, plenty of bars, all types of restaurants, a pretty pedestrian-free centre and a permanent British community. There is no wild nightlife here – for that you need to go to Platja d’Aro about 15 minutes’ drive away – but there is always plenty going on. It’s about 35 minutes from Girona airport and 80 minutes’ from Barcelona El Prat airport.

About 30 minutes’ drive north of Sant Feliu you come to the three beaches of Calella de Palafrugell, Llafranc and Tamariú. These, together with the hilltop town of Begur, are the jewels of this coastline – small seaside fishing villages with an authentic feel. This part of the Costa Brava is quite pricey for obvious reasons but the views from the rocky cliffs are stunning.

Where to invest in Spain

While the British property market struggles, prices in Spain continue to rise. So, where should you put your money if you’re looking to invest?

If you are looking to invest in Spain in the near future, come to the next Your Overseas Home event. There will be legal and currency specialists, plus gorgeous Spanish homes for sale.

You might also be interested in our guide to renting out property in Spain.

Catalonia

Property prices in Catalonia have fallen recently, perhaps due to the push for independence. Barcelona still commands high prices, but even here there are bargains to be found and, if you are considering buying to invest, Barcelona is still amongst the top cities in Spain. The Catalan coast is always popular with Spanish people and overseas buyers.

Andalusia

Both Seville and Málaga are expected to see a growth in property sales. Until now, these cities have not seen the increase in prices experienced in Madrid and Barcelona but are seen, nonetheless, as having great potential. Seville was named the best European city to visit in 2018 by Lonely Planet, which can only boost property sales. Málaga was nominated the best place to live in Spain in 2014 thanks to large-scale investment in its infrastructure. It continues to appeal to a large variety of purchasers and renters.
Gleaming in the sunshine, houses in Frigiliana, Spain

Basque Country

The Basque Country is one of Spain’s most prosperous regions and attracts investment buyers from all over the globe. Bilbao is one of Spain’s most important cities and properties on its perimeter are proving increasingly popular for both investors and those buying a home.

San Sebastian is another city worth considering. It is one of the most expensive cities in Spain as far as the cost of living goes, but has a flourishing restaurant and tourist sector and people are always seeking affordable accommodation. A small apartment here could be an excellent investment.

Tenerife

Tenerife saw price increases in 2017 and this trend should continue. A holiday island with wall-to-wall sunshine, it’s proving very popular with overseas investors. Tourism on the island has been growing for many years and returns on rental property here are high. Beware though, if you intend to rent out your property to tourists you must ensure that it lies within a community which permits you to do so.

Almería

The city of Almería sees prices at roughly half the cost of Spain’s national average, which makes it a very attractive proposition when investing in Spain. It is a traditional Spanish city with a long and interesting history, a very pretty old town, a port and lots of culture on offer. The province of Almería is particularly popular with British people and although not overly touristy, Almería city could be a good place in which to invest your money.

What type of property to buy

Spain really does offer something for everyone. Whatever style appeals to you, you will find it here. You can find apartments, townhouses, villas, masias, fincas, cortijos, white villages, cave homes, park homes

If you’re looking for a new property, rather than a resale, you have the option to buy an off-plan or key-ready home. Those looking for a project could even buy land in Spain.

Here are some things to consider when deciding what type of property to buy:

  • What type of property would you prefer – a modern apartment, villa, townhouse or character home?
  • How big does your property need to be? How many bedrooms and bathrooms?
  • Do you want to be able to redecorate or even take on a renovation project? Or are you looking for something new?
  • Do you need parking?
  • Do you want a garden and/or swimming pool?
  • What type of view would you like?
  • What else do you need from your property?

Apartments/flats

For Spain’s tourist industry, easy-to-clean, easy-to-manage and easy-to-rent-out apartments/flats are the top choice. Most Spanish people live in apartments too, gardens being less important in this frequently parched country.

The positives of apartments include affordability, ease of use and amazing views. They are a lock-up-and-leave option, with no gardens to water or pools to clean. Communal areas will be looked after – although do check the management fees – and that can even include swimming pools, gyms, club houses or even a golf course.

New property developments are now required to have energy-efficient heating and insulation, especially with regards to soundproofing (a real problem in the past). You may have to pay extra for parking, and apartments with a sea view command higher prices, of course. However, you may find one overlooking a park or other green space at a more competitive price. Some apartment blocks have shared swimming pools and gardens.

Apartments don’t have to be new. In the “old town” you will find much older properties, including Moorish and medieval townhouses that have been divided into apartments. Some cities will have elegant apartments from around the turn of the 20th century too: light and airy, with high ceilings, double doors and attractive plasterwork. On the other hand, they may not have a lift or parking.

If you’re looking to buy a flat in Spain, take a look at our property portal.

Townhouses

A townhouse will tend to be a terraced property in a town or on an urbanisation. Like with any terraced house, the front view won’t always indicate how large it is inside, so do look for the size in square metres before you spend time on a viewing. Some are very spacious while others may feel cramped. The gardens are usually quite small but there are often communal gardens to be enjoyed and a swimming pool or two, depending on the size of the development.

Different nationalities tend to buy in the same area, so you could find a townhouse near to other British people. For developments that are occupied all year, there is often a good sense of community and the properties are easy to maintain. Perfect for people who buy holiday homes and who are only in Spain part of the year. There will be service charges to pay which go toward the upkeep of the pool, gardens and communal areas.

If you’re looking to buy a townhouse in Spain, take a look at our property portal.

Villas

When many of us imagine our new life in Spain it’s a villa we picture – our own pool, patio and summer kitchen for outside entertaining. Villas should offer more space than a townhouse or apartment, but when searching online you’ll discover that many smaller properties that would normally be designated a townhouse are trying to pass themselves off as villas!

Most villas have a minimum of three bedrooms and two bathrooms (shower room), and for this reason are the most expensive property option.

Villas built on hillsides with sea views will cost more than those with mountain or town views – the same goes for townhouses and apartments. Extensive gardens can either be a selling point or a drawback, as some people love the idea of space while others don’t want to spend their time maintaining them or paying for gardeners. You will find that property plots have been getting smaller in general, so an older villa could offer you much more land.

If you feel the cold, make sure your villa (or townhouse or apartment) has central heating. Even in the hottest parts of Spain, it can get chilly at night in the winter, and often an open fire isn’t enough to keep a villa warm.

If you’re looking to buy a villa in Spain, take a look at our property portal.
A farmhouse in Andalusia surrounded by olive trees

Masias, fincas and cortijos

The Spanish seem to have lots of words for farmhouse! These imposing country properties can command high prices. Masias are large stone properties which belonged originally to a local dignitary. They are spacious and usually have a substantial amount of land around them. Located in villages or in the countryside, many have become B&Bs, small hotels or restaurants. If you are thinking of running your own business, a masia could provide all that you need.

Fincas and cortijos are farmhouses, some dating back centuries. These used to be small estates and today are sought after by people looking for a tranquil rural existence. Despite being in the countryside, some are not all that far from the sea and these command higher prices than truly rural properties. Usually there are several outbuildings, which many international buyers have found a use for.

You can look at farmhouses for sale using our Spanish property search tool.
Gleaming in the sunshine, houses in Frigiliana, Spain

White villages

Gleaming on many an Andalusian hillside, these picture-perfect villages have stone houses painted bright white, often brightly coloured doors and window shutters and with bougainvillea pouring from balconies. They’re built to withstand the winter cold and extremes of weather, but date from before cars were common so you may have to park some way away. They do have excellent rental appeal though.
They also offer a community, and a warm welcome to international buyers. It seems hard to believe now, but 50 years ago many villages barely a stone’s throw from the Costa del Sol were virtually abandoned. Indeed, in many parts of rural and north-west Spain, they still are. The influx of overseas buyers has led to revived village traditions, reopened schools and new wealth.

If you’re ready to start searching, take a look at our Spain property portal.

Cave homes

It might sound strange to buy a house chiselled out of the rock, but three great benefits of cave homes are affordability, temperature control (they’re cool in summer and warm in winter), and frequently having wonderful views from their elevated position. They may not look like a cave from the outside. Most look like normal villas but extend into the hillside.

The most common areas for cave homes are Andalusia, especially the Granada area or into Almería. These areas are easy to reach all year and with easy access to both mountains in ski season and beach in the summer season.

The British journalist Mathew Parris owns cave house in Andalusia. As he wrote before he bought it: “There are literally tens of thousands of these dwellings spread across mountains and plains, but our interest at present centres on the old Moorish fort town of Guadix. Here there are whole suburbs of cave houses. Few are natural: most are chiselled into soft conglomerate rock or hard clay, and whitewashed within. If the sofa doesn’t fit, get out your mallet and chisel.”

If you’re looking to buy a cave home in Spain, start your search with our property portal.

Park homes

Park homes are generally the cheapest option for home ownership in Spain, with prices from €30,000 for a brand-new, high-quality apartment of up to 100 square metres and half that for quality second-hand.

In southern Spain, where even winter temperatures rarely dip below 10°C, they offer a real alternative to living in a chilly British housing estate or retirement village. You will usually be warmed by the welcome from your fellow park residents too. Many park estates offer vibrant and friendly communities, with facilities such as clubhouses, swimming pools and even golf courses.

Funding is relatively easy, with a bank loan rather than a mortgage, and you also save on Spain’s high buying costs, with often no need for solicitors. Do beware the yearly service charges and ground rent however, as these can be higher than in a bricks and mortar home. The great disadvantage is that, unlike bricks and mortar, your park home will fall in value over time.

If you’re looking to buy a park home in Spain, take a look at our property portal.

Should you buy new, or older property?

Property in Spain is often referred to as resale or new build. New-build property hasn’t been owned by anyone before; it’s essentially brand new, while resale is an older property being sold. New build then splits into off plan, which means it is under construction or may not be built yet, and “key ready”, which is built and ready to move into.

Buying off-plan

If you’re dreaming of a home in Spain, but you can’t find the one you want, or it doesn’t fit your budget, buying off-plan could be the answer. Essentially, this means buying a property that’s either not yet built or still in the process of being built. So, what are the advantages of buying off-plan in Spain?

  • Greater choice: There are plenty of sites under development in Spain, hundreds in the Costa Blanca alone, so you can really find the area that ticks all your boxes. You will also feel that you’re part of the design process. Buyers normally choose kitchen finishes, white goods, colour schemes and so on. It all helps to create the property of your dreams.
  • Rising prices: For the pain of waiting a year or more for your property to be completed, the gain getting much more for your money is the big advantage for many buyers. Generally, off-plan properties are cheaper than completed ones. The earlier you buy, the cheaper it is. You’re helping the developer to get his property off the ground – quite literally – and you’re rewarded for that with lower prices. This means that many buyers see their investment rapidly increasing in value as it’s built.For investors, the rapid value increase as the property goes up means that a healthy return within a couple of years is possible.
  • Payment protection: For those who worry about paying out for a property that doesn’t yet exist, it is possible to safeguard your money. There are a number of crucial areas to consider. You will need a bank guarantee (aval bancario) every time you make a payment. This secures any payment you make when buying off-plan in Spain. It covers the reservation or purchase deposit or any stage payments. Any costs of setting this up should be borne by the developer.You can also get a bank guarantee on any off-plan investment. This is an independent guarantee on money paid, which ensures two things. Firstly, that your money is safe if anything happens to the developer, and secondly that the developer has to deliver the property on the date in the contract.
The purchase process when buying off-plan

Buying off-plan in Spain is a relatively smooth process, but there are a few differences to the standard buying process.

  • Viewing trips: Of course, a natural worry for many buying off-plan in Spain is not being able to see the exact villa, house or apartment they’re buying. However, in most developments there will be a showhouse to see, or the developer will show them a similar property that’s already built. This is a very worthwhile step to take, as it’ll allow you to see the quality of their work.
  • Private purchase contract: Rather than signing a deposit contract (contrato de arras), you will sign a private purchase contract (contrato privado de reserva). This is when you’re 100% certain of wanting this property, and you’re committing yourself to paying the full sales price across a period of time. Your lawyer will have received the contract and reviewed it before you sign and pay any further money. You’ll then put down a deposit.
  • Stage payments: Following on from the deposit, you’ll start paying stage payments. Generally, these will total 40–50% of the total sales price. A typical structure will be 20–30% of the purchase price after 30 days and then another 20% after 90 days, with the balance being paid on completion. Make sure to consult a currency specialist about these transactions.

Buying a key-ready property

If you would rather just buy a brand-new property and have it now, you’re looking at key-ready property.

The big advantage of buying a key-ready property is that you don’t have to wait. Even in Spain’s well-established and, these days, well-protected construction industry, there can be delays. For those still undecided between a resale and a new-build property in Spain, there are plenty of advantages over resale properties:

  • Fantastic communal facilities: The communal facilities in new-build developments will often be of a much higher quality than in older developments. You’ll find many with great pools, a spa and gym – so you’ll really have everything on our doorstep. This is particularly appealing if you want a second home where you can come and go and have all the facilities you need to hand.
  • Energy efficiency: Firstly, most will be built to at least EPC B, known as CEE B in Spain. This is the energy performance certificate, and means the building will be more energy-efficient than normal. A is the most efficient, D the average and G the least.Consequently, you’ll find utilities are noticeably cheaper. According to Ecobservatorio, the median annual costs of heating, hot water and air conditioning for a ‘B’ property are €280, compared to €1,540 for a ‘G’ property. Also, of course, you will be helping to combat climate change.
  • Excellent soundproofing: Apartment living is extremely popular in Spain, and many buyers appreciate the convenience of a properly maintained building. The flipside, however, is that you are in close proximity to your neighbours.The newest properties in Spain have much higher-quality sound insulation than in some older properties. Since 2009, all residential buildings, among other categories, must follow the Basic Noise Protection Document (Documento Básico de Protección contra el Ruido). They must also follow the 2006 Technical Building Code (Código Técnico de la Edificación).
  • Building guarantees: Because you’ll pick everything new, you’ll be able to move straight in without wondering if the air conditioning won’t work, or discovering bodged plumbing later on that costs a fortune to put right. Any maintenance a tradesperson will need to do will be simple and straightforward – keeping time and costs down.Above all, you’ll get an excellent build quality on new properties in Spain, thanks to a tightening of legislation and high standards among developers. Since only the best builders and developers survived the financial crisis, you can rest assured that lessons were learnt and your money is much safer than 10 years ago.
  • Better rental returns: In a competitive market for property rentals, new builds generally earn much higher rental returns. This is not just due to the high-quality nature of the properties – and larger market opportunities – but also because maintenance and cleaning costs should be lower. Take a look at our guide to letting Spanish property.

Getting professional guidance

Purchasing a property in Spain is no simple process. There is much to be considered, and many areas (such as legal and financial regulations) where it is important to consult the services of trusted professional experts. The right information at the beginning of your process will set you on the right path to successfully and safely purchasing property in Spain, and will ensure you have the right expertise by your side on every step on the journey.

So, we recommend getting in touch with an estate agent, lawyer, currency specialist and independent financial adviser at an early stage. Our team can help you find the right experts for you.

Choosing a lawyer

Spain’s property laws have tightened up considerably in recent years, which is a great reassurance for anyone buying a home there. Engage the services of an independent, English-speaking solicitor who is a specialist in property law as soon as you decide to buy, and make sure to include their fees when budgeting for your purchase.

Some estate agents may suggest that you can save the money on a lawyer, as the notary will check that everything is above board. However, the notary is simply checking that the legal processes are followed; they will not be protecting your interests. In the long run, it is certainly worth spending the money for a lawyer.

Among their checks will be that the seller is the legal owner, that there are no outstanding debts or mortgage on the property, that the property complies with planning and building regulations, and if any major construction is due in the area. Your lawyer will also help you to make a Spanish will. They will help you assess the implications and differences between inheritance laws in your region of Spain, compared to your home country.

It is important that whoever you work with is independent of the developer and agent and working for you alone. We can put you in touch with a number of solicitors our readers have written to us to say have provided expert help – either send your requirements to us in our form or call +44(0)20 7898 0549.

After-sales services

Once the sale has gone through, you can retain the services of your independent solicitor for any further advice. For example, your lawyer can help will any plans you have to open a business or become self-employed in Spain, if you want to change your will, or if you need advice on residency or permits. Learn more about legal matters when living in Spain.

The role of the notary

Your lawyer will engage the services of a notary (Notario). It’s important that you don’t confuse a solicitor with a notary. The solicitor will be employed by you alone to protect your interests, while a notary, also legally trained, is employed by the government and therefore does not officially act for either side of the transaction.

The role of a notary is to oversee and rubber-stamp the paperwork in a property transaction, check all necessary taxes are paid and register the property with the Spanish Land Registry. Your independent solicitor will ensure your contract and property are exactly how you – their client – want them, and that you are protected from any charges left over from the previous owner(s), such as mortgage costs, estate or municipal taxes, and any other claims.

The role of a gestor

In the days when many people couldn’t read, they needed a representative to deal with bureaucracy. That person was the gestor. The role still exists, especially if you’re buying off the beaten track. They can be very useful in dealing with Spain’s bureaucracy and organising the connection of utilities when you have bought the property. They should not replace your lawyer, however.
Couple meet a real estate agent in Spain

Choosing an estate agent

The right estate agent will ensure the success of your property purchase in Spain. A bad one can cost you time, money, hassle and heartbreak.

Your estate agent needs to be:

  • Professional: Spain does not require agents to be qualified or regulated, but there are professional organisations for estate agents that require some training and a degree of protection. The best known are the API (Agentes de la Propiedad Inmobiliaria) or GIPE (Gestores Intermediario en Promociones de Edificaciones). You can check that the agent is still a member by looking at the organisation’s website
  • Proactive: Most people only think about an agent when they click on a home that takes their fancy on a property website. But you can make contact with an agent before then and potentially find a property that hasn’t been marketed yet, beating the online crowd.

You’ll want an agent who is proactive and eager to help. Contact them with a brief early on and see how long it takes them to reply and whether the information they send is relevant to your requirements.

  • Empathetic: Your agent should listen to your plans carefully and sympathetically. They should suggest property based on your criteria, without wasting your time looking at properties that are unsuitable or out of your budget.

However, a good estate agent will have helped hundreds of clients and might just have a wildcard property that surprises you. So it is important to build a rapport and to be honest. They won’t thank you for wasting everyone’s time looking at a property that you hate as soon as you walk in the door! Additionally, they should be able to advise you on the wider location and flag up any particular highlights that you may appreciate.

Over the years of helping people buy homes in Spain, we have partnered with a number of reliable estate agents. Get in touch with our team for a recommendation.

Estate agent aftercare

Unlike in the UK, for example, where the estate agent’s main role is to market homes and find buyers for their clients (the sellers), in Spain, good estate agents are far more involved with the buyers. Their service doesn’t end at the point of completion. Not only do they offer guidance through the purchase process, which usually is a bit of an unknown to foreigners, they are also geared up to assist new owners with anything they need once they have the keys to their property.

During the purchase process, first-rate agents will be transparent about pricing and help clients to agree a fair purchase price with the vendor. Once they’ve helped secure a property, they should help a client to open a local bank account, get their NIE (tax identification number) and remind them to contact a currency specialist to start planning how they will transfer euros to Spain. Usually, this can all be done during a viewing trip before a client returns to the UK, safe in the knowledge that everything is in place for their sale to proceed towards completion in their absence.

According to an established estate agent in the Costa Blanca, here are five of the most common ways good Spanish estate agents help out clients when they’ve just taken possession of a property:

  • Insurance: Buildings and contents insurance is a must for property owners in Spain. If the property will be left vacant for long periods – as many second homes are – or let to holidaymakers, owners must ensure they have adequate cover. Good estate agents will assist with insuring properties through an English-speaking, UK-based insurer or a local Spanish insurer. Many will also be happy to deal with insurance claims on behalf of absent clients – for example, if a property is flooded by a broken boiler – as well as help clients set up insurance for a car, scooter or boat.
  • Changing locks: It is not uncommon for security-conscious foreign owners to change the locks of their Spanish property. Efficient estate agents will assist with arranging a locksmith to visit a property or purchasing replacement locks. They will also help with having an alarm fitted or key-holding, both of which non-residents typically choose to do.
  • TV, phone and internet connections: Buyers should not take it for granted that all properties are sold with telephone, broadband or satellite TV connections. As a new owner, your estate agent should help you get connected or put up a satellite dish, as well as suggest suitable service providers.
  • Air conditioning: The hot Spanish summers mean air conditioning is a common requirement for many foreign buyers. If a property is without it or the existing units need replacing or repairing, a good estate agent should be able to suggest a reliable local firm. Buyers of property on a new development may be able to choose whether or not to have it installed.
  • Property improvements: Redecorating, replacing a kitchen, re-tiling the patio or having a swimming pool put in – it’s common for new owners to have improvement plans for their Spanish property. An established estate agent should be able to recommend a selection of local building firms, as well as suggest suitable places to purchase white goods and furniture.

Man ponders exchange rate GBP/EUR graph

Choosing a currency specialist

While a good estate agent can find you a perfect property and lawyer ensure you’re not ripped off, there is another big risk when buying in Spain: currency risk. The exchange rate is constantly changing, not just day to day but by the minute. Every single transfer you make to pay for your property – whether a deposit, estate agent fees, or lump sum for the final purchase – has the potential to cost you more than it should, driving up the cost of your property.

In the time between putting in an offer and actually paying, the price will be fixed in euros but constantly changing in pounds. A 1% drop in the value of the pound will change the price of a €150,000 house by over £1,000. In reality, the pound’s value can easily fall by well over 5% during the buying process.

It’s also important to note that you can’t access the interbank rate you see on the news – so budget for a percentage point or so different.

A currency company that specialises in high-value transactions such as properties can solve these kinds of problems. We encourage you to use our partner, Smart Currency Exchange. With a forward contract, you can fix the same exchange rate for a year without any further fees. You can find out more in Smart’s Property Buyer’s Guide to Currency. Smart’s service is ranked 5 out of 5 by the thousands of reviews on Trustpilot.

Choosing an independent financial adviser

An independent financial adviser (IFA) can help you set a budget, organise your finances and reduce your costs when buying property in Spain. Our partner can help with all financial issues, from pensions (including QROPS) and taxation to wills — simply contact our team to find out more.

If you are not paying in cash, you might also need to contact a mortgage adviser. They can also help with life insurance. For more information, read our guide on financing a property purchase in Spain.
Houses on a stack of money

Setting a budget

We have lots of Spanish property finance guides to help you put together a budget and get to grips with all the costs. Here’s a quick overview of the main points to get you started.

The cost of buying property in Spain

When planning your property buying budget, don’t get caught out by the additional costs that will arise during the process. These include legal fees, taxes, the cost of the notary, disbursements and the cost of transferring your money over to Spain. Put together these costs generally add up to at least 10% on top of the purchase price.

When calculating how to buy in Spain, keep in account these main expenses:

  • Notary fees: These are normally split between the buyer and seller, with the buyer paying for the issuing of the deeds. Rates are set by law. Allow for 0.5 to 1% of the purchase price.
  • Land Registry fees: Allow for 1% of the purchase price.
  • Independent lawyer fees: this varies, but allow for €1,500 to €3,000. If the purchase is complicated they can be higher.
  • Transfer tax (ITP): This is for resale property only. This is levied at 8% across all of Spain (including the islands), but in Costa Blanca (except Murcia), this will be 10%.
  • VAT: 10%, instead of ITP if the property is new-build.
  • Stamp duty for a new-build: 1.5% of the purchase price.
  • If buying with a mortgage, add:
    • •   Stamp duty: 1.5% of the mortgage deeds.
    • •   Valuation fees: Around €350.
    • •   Lender’s commission: Typically 1% of the capital loan.
  • Ongoing costs: Remember that costs don’t stop as soon as you get the keys. Make sure to budget for local property taxes, maintenance, utilities and travelling Learn more about the cost of living in Spain.

Tax planning

When relocating permanently to Spain, you will need to be aware of any tax implications based on residential status. After all, you don’t want to end up paying your taxes in both Spain and the UK. There are also HMRC regulations that may be affected by your emigration. As well as taxes on selling your UK home or purchasing your Spanish homes, and inheritance tax. Speak to an independent financial adviser, who can help you navigate through the jargon and ensure all your taxes are considered.

Learn more about tax planning when buying property in Spain.

How to finance a property purchase in Spain

If you have the ready cash to buy in Spain, maybe in savings, from selling a property or an inheritance, buying will be straightforward. But even if you don’t have the immediate funds, you might still be able to fulfil your dreams.

Firstly, go through your assets. Savings, investments you can cash in, pension drawdown, maybe there are items cluttering up the house you could happily swap for a home in Spain! Putting these together, work out the total amount of money you have available to hand. Don’t forget when thinking how to buy in Spain that you can double, triple or more your buying power with joint ownership.

If you don’t have enough to buy outright in cash, then you’ll need to borrow funds. Speak to an estate agent, independent financial advisor, bank or other lender to go through your options. You’ll need to find out how much deposit you’ll need, how you’ll meet the monthly repayments and what you would do if you couldn’t pay (e.g. due to illness). If you have a property in the UK you might be able to release funds, either by remortgaging or by equity release.

Find out more about financing property in Spain.

A plane arrives in Murcia (Sarnia / Shutterstock.com)

Viewing trips to Spain

Booking a viewing trip to Spain will allow you to explore your chosen corner of the country and get a true feeling about the area – and indeed the properties available.

How long should my viewing trip last?

Ideally, you want to spend about 4–7 days on a viewing trip to Spain. Take some time to explore the area, speak to the locals, visit the shops and check out attractions. Give yourself enough time to absorb everything, and make sure you leave time for anything that crops up; don’t feel like you have to rush, because you can always go back!

When should I go on my viewing trip?

We would advise that you book at least one viewing trip during the off season – go over to Spain in winter to see what’s it like when it’s cold and/or dark. This will also be a slower time for estate agents and vendors as well, meaning you should get more attention and may be able to negotiate a lower price. It’s also easier to view properties, as they can all be let out during peak season.

It’s also really important to make sure you look at public holidays before you book a viewing trip; the last thing you want to do is get to Spain and find that nothing is open!

Where should I stay on my trip?

Rather than booking into a hotel on your trip, why not rent a property in the area and get an idea of what the prospective town is actually like? Having to go out and get groceries will allow you to navigate the area, and give you an idea of the accessibility of shops and amenities as well as the cost of every item. You can also get an idea of the noise levels – if there is a nightclub next door that opens at 11pm, or if there is a flight path overhead.

How can I make the best use of my time on the trip?

Your estate agent is the most important part of a viewing trip to Spain, and it’s a good idea to find one suitable for you before you go – that means that you can ensure they know your property requirements inside and out and can find properties for you to view appropriately. They should take you around the properties, and use this time to answer any queries and concerns and any other areas you are not quite sure about.

If you are seeing several properties a day for a few days, it can be really difficult to remember all the details about each one, so we have put together a downloadable property analysis worksheet for you to use. This allows you to rate every aspect of the property, from its general appearance to its location and access to local amenities, for easy comparison. Call a member of the resource team on 020 7898 0549 to receive your copy.

It’s also a good idea to take copious photos at every property – and don’t forget to capture the view for each one!

Should I take multiple viewing trips?

Sometimes it can be a good idea to take multiple viewing trips to Spain – with the first one being merely a leisure trip to explore the area without actually contacting any agents and arranging viewings. You could then take a second trip once you have decided on areas, and spend this one viewing properties with your selected agent.

A police station in Spain

Policia, Spain (No-Mad / Shutterstock.com)

Getting your NIE number in Spain

If you are buying a property in Spain or living there, you will need a special tax number called an NIE number (número de identidad de extranjero). In effect, it is your financial identity in Spain.

What is NIE in Spain?

There are three different tax numbers in Spain, with NIE being one of them. The Spanish have a NIF number, companies have a CIF number and foreigners are required to apply for an NIE number. You will need this to perform any legal or commercial business, including buying a property. It’s a requirement for all non-Spaniards and for non-residents who own a house or apartment in Spain.

A NIE number is made up of nine digits, the first and last are letters. It starts with an ‘X’ to indicate you’re a non-Spaniard (extranjero) and is required for everyone over the age of 14.

Why do I need an NIE number?

It is used by the Spanish tax authorities to calculate tax owed. The Spanish government have linked the NIE number to residence, where the NIE appears on the residence card (tarjeta de residencia), and to social security in Spain.

As already mentioned you must have one to buy property, but there are many other situations which require an NIE number: buying a mobile phone contract, ordering online, paying a deposit on goods, installing a fixed phone, electricity and gas contracts, water contract, national health cover, mortgage application, vehicle purchase, the list goes on. Without it, you cannot function properly in Spain even when you use cash.

When should I apply for an NIE number?

If you come from the European Union (EU), you should apply when you have been resident in Spain for three months. People buying property will need to apply well before finalising the purchase.

If you come from outside the EU, you will normally apply for your NIE number when you apply for Spanish residence.

How to get an NIE number in Spain

There are three ways in which you can apply for your NIE number.

  1. At your local police station if you are in Spain – not all police stations process applications
  2. At your nearest Spanish Embassy or Consulate if you are not in Spain.
  3. By authorising a Spanish resident to act for you through a power of attorney (lawyer, family, notary or friend).

What will I need to apply for an NIE number?

Original copies of the following documents are required:

  1. A signed and completed application form: EX-15 for EU citizens and the EX-18 for non EU citizens. You can get this from the police station and online.
  2. Your passport or other valid ID, plus two photocopies.
  3. Proof of your address. This could be a rental agreement in your name, utility bill or bank statement with your UK address.
  4. The Power of Attorney document, if your lawyer or other person is making the application for you.
  5. Proof of medical insurance – private or your EHIC card.
  6. EU citizens require a Modelo 790-012 form. You can download this.

It is usually necessary to speak and understand Spanish, so go with someone who can translate for you. In certain areas popular with British people, the police speak English but this can’t be guaranteed. You will need to go to a bank near the police station to pay for your NIE, which currently costs €10.71 to be paid in cash.

How long before I receive my NIE number?

This varies from region to region, but as a rule of thumb you can expect to receive your NIE number between two days and two weeks from applying. In some districts you might receive your card immediately.
Man negotiates on overseas property price

Making an offer

Once you’ve been out to Spain on a viewing trip or two and you’ve found your perfect property (perhaps from our property portal!), then it’s time to make an offer. This is a stage where you need to move fast, but you also need to make sure you keep the upper hand. These are our top seven tips to make sure everything goes smoothly when making an offer on a Spanish property.

1.      Know your subject matter

Your estate agent is an invaluable source of information and can help guide you on whether you’ve chosen a fair ballpark to make an offer on a house in Spain. However, don’t solely rely on them – they will be paid more commission the higher price you pay (they represent the seller at the end of the day). Instead, make sure you also do market research and keep up to date with Spanish property news. That way, you can make an informed judgement yourself.

2.      Show you mean business

At the end of the day, you’re involved in a business transaction (or, more accurately, you’re leading it). Don’t come across as too keen, or you may find the vendor tries to take advantage of this. Equally, try not to seem too blasé. Be serious and polite, letting the selling team know that you understand the market and you’ve seen a number of homes.

3.      Turn on the charm

You’re buying something that someone as invested a lot of love, time and attention into. If you’re too aggressive with pricing or in your attitude, it could kill off good will. Always negotiate through the agent, but you can still add a personal touch, such as by writing a letter to the vendor, explaining why you want to purchase the property.

Find out more about how to negotiate abroad in our free guide.

4.      Own the negotiations

While you need to turn on the charm, when you make an offer on a house in Spain, you want to make sure you’re the one leading the conversation. Remember that the seller needs the sale, so you’re in a position of strength. You could walk away at any minute and buy something else; the vendor needs to make the money.

5.      Make quick counter offers

Any delay in responding means you risk the deal falling through as the seller can take other offers into consideration. Before you make an offer on a house in Spain, ensure that you’ve already decided on your negotiating room for your budget. That way, you can respond quickly and confidently.

6.      Don’t stress if it doesn’t come through

Some people will make an offer on a house in Spain and see it fall through. It can be difficult, but the best thing to do here is to try not to worry. Many people later end up relieved, rather than regretful – and have found an even better property down the line.

7.      Speak to your currency specialist

Make sure to speak to your currency specialist before you make an offer on a house in Spain. You don’t want to be delayed in transferring funds and see the deal fall through. Changing exchange rates mean it’s hard to judge how much you’ll pay at any one time. As such, our partner, Smart Currency Exchange, recommends to our readers that they use a forward contract, fixing the exchange rate for twelve months for no extra money.
Getting a survey in Spain

Getting a property survey in Spain

For anyone buying a home in Spain, a property survey is a must. It means you can plan wisely and surprises won’t crop up just when you don’t want them. But what can you expect from a survey, and how do you choose a surveyor? We spoke to Campbell Ferguson, founder of Survey Spain and RICS Spain’s first Vice-President, to find out.

Why is a property survey necessary?

Buying your dream home is a big step and you want your move to go as smoothly as possible. Spain’s building codes have regular updates and, generally speaking, new sees a higher quality of finish than previously. However, you don’t want to leave it to chance that corners haven’t been cut if you’re buying a new home – and, if you’re buying a resale, you don’t want to find out you’ve inherited someone else’s problems.

A property survey in Spain helps you to understand straight from the beginning the condition of the property, and will cover areas many non-specialists wouldn’t even think to look at. In other words, it stops you from going in blind – and gives you peace of mind that everything is as it should be, or gives you the knowledge of how to make it that way.

What are the main types of property surveys in Spain for house buyers?

For someone looking at buying their dream home here in sunny Spain – or thinking of purchasing an investment property to rent out – there are three main types of surveys: building surveys, valuations and investment/development appraisals.

Building surveys

A building survey provides a deep-dive look into the condition of a property you’re looking at purchasing. As Campbell tells us: “We make our clients fully aware of the condition of the building and give advice on which defects are serious and which are not – plus how they might be corrected. We provide a detailed report in English, normally within one week of the inspection, based on what we call ‘ECC’. This is finding the Evidence of defects, determining the Causes and suggesting the Cures. In doing so, we act 100% for the client and not the seller. Our advice helps our clients make informed decisions and, as an investment, often saves them many more times than the cost of our services!”

A big advantage of using a specialist here is the sheer breadth and depth of their expertise and experiences. They’ve seen it all before, and know exactly what to look out for.

“We have a tailored approach to your individual needs, finding out what you need to know – but we also look to find answers to those essential questions the average buyer doesn’t necessarily know to ask,” says Campbell.

The survey also goes beyond just the physical fabric of the building: “Survey Spain’s reports give an in-depth insight into the home. We perform extra due diligence checks, as we often find big discrepancies in the paperwork between tax or title descriptions and the physical property. These can only be found by detailed inspection and measurement of the building and comparing that with the legal, tax and other paperwork.”

Valuation reports

A good valuation report gives you an unbiased, independent and accurate insight into the property’s market value. Campbell says that a quality valuation report should, like at Survey Spain, be carried out by a Chartered Valuation Surveyor following the standards of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and International Valuation Standards Council. It should also be reviewed by a second valuer.

Many buyers use Survey Spain’s RICS Chartered Valuation Surveyors in addition to the tasación Spanish reports, as these often tend to be inaccurate. This can be because of a variety of reasons, such as 10% deductions in value because part of a complex – but not the property itself – is within a protected zone, or based on an estimation of a property’s external size having only measured it internally. Survey Spain’s independent valuations, however, are historically within 98.5% of known purchase prices.

Investment / development appraisals

Buying properties for investment – or renting out your Spanish holiday home while you’re not there – is an increasingly popular option for overseas buyers. Here again, a survey can be crucial to making sure everything’s as it should be. According to Campbell, “We would carry out a physical inspection and due diligence on existing investments. This includes making sure it complies with the current lease and we provide advice on actions to take to secure the income. We can also give guidance on how the property and income can be improved. With 18 years in the market, we also give you an analysis of potential alternative use and tenant and market changes. Recent changes in legal requirements have made compliance and knowledge of the consequences essential before signing a lease.”

More and more popular, especially on the Costa del Sol and Costa Blanca, is development for investment. In this case, your surveyor will need to adapt their approach.

“For development appraisals, we advise on current site value and end market value. Additionally, we carefully analyse the proposals and give guidance on likely market progression throughout the construction period, which can be particularly useful for buyers in the early stages. That way, you will understand likely value changes right through the construction period up to completion and sale.”

How do you choose a property surveyor in Spain?

Your property surveyor needs to be trustworthy, ethical, reliable and, above all, experienced. In Spain, you’ll also likely want one who is bilingual, so they can deal with local Spanish administration, but can also present the results to you in understandable English. Survey Spain individual surveyors who inspected the property can often be consulted directly for any ‘follow on’ questions.

Survey Spain has helped many of our readers over the years and, in addition to the excellent feedback we receive, we have always been happy to recommend them precisely because of the high quality of their surveyors.

As Campbell, himself the first Vice-President of RICS Spain, says: “All Survey Spain’s Network of Surveyors are RICS or equivalent professionals, instructed and controlled to work to the highest ethical standards. Every Report or Valuation is reviewed by a second RICS surveyor. We are continually updating and enhancing our knowledge and skills through formal Continuous Professional Development courses and by understanding the changing conventions in the local market. All our clients are protected by a formal complaints-handling procedure and we have a strict code of conduct.”

Many of us have experience in both the UK and Spain, and have been new buyers ourselves, so we understand the special nature of dealing with overseas property. We are fluent in English and Spanish and have won an Overseas Property Professional Award for Excellence, and an Association of International Property Professionals award for Most Outstanding Example of Customer Service.”
British couple signing at notary’s office in Spain

Signing a reservation contract

Once you’ve found your dream home, your agent will normally ask you to sign a reservation agreement (contrato de reserva). This’ll take it off the market at the agreed for price for around 15–30 days, usually. Depending on the price of the property, you could pay between €3,000–€10,000 or more. Again, depending on the terms, the deposit could be refundable or it might not be. If you do want to make sure it’s refundable, a good idea is to make the agreement subject to preliminary legal checks, mortgage loan availability and a building survey.

Your lawyer will then check all of the legalities for the properties, including the building licence and bank guarantees. If you’re ready to go ahead, this is the time to lock in your currency via a forward contract from Smart Currency Exchange.

Signing your deposit contract

Before the 15–30 days set out on the reservation agreement have run out, you will be asked to sign the deposit contract. This commits you to buying the property and the seller to sell it to you. This is a key part of the legal process of buying a home in Spain: there is no chance of gazumping like in the UK. There are various legal ways of doing this, but for most British buyers it will be a deposit contract (contrato de arras), which is sometimes translated as the ‘earnest money contract’.

The contrato de arras sets out the exact details of the property: what it is and what the sale includes, where it is and who owns it. It sets out the price, payment method and when the purchase will be completed.

The buyer normally pays a deposit of 10% of the price at this stage. Although the parties can agree not to include these conditions, the law says that if the buyer now pulls out (breaches the agreement), they lose the deposit. Plus, if the seller is in breach, they must return the deposit doubled. The deposit should be kept in a separate account controlled by the lawyers and not passed to the seller until the final agreement.

Signing the sales contract

Signing the contract of sale (escritura pública) completes the legal process of buying a home in Spain, as it marks the formal handover of the property. You normally sign this at the notary’s office, but you can give your lawyer Power of Attorney if you prefer. The buyer pays the balance and gets the keys in return.

Further reading

As well as this expert guide to buying property in Spain, you can find lots of other helpful resources here at Spain Property Guides:

We also offer lots of free downloadable booklets, including our Spain property guide:

Healthcare Abroad

Taking care of your health doesn’t stop when moving to Spain. Get this one stop shop for expatriate healthcare.

After Brexit Guide

To help you plot your way through a possible post-Brexit scenario, to ensure you can fulfil that dream of a Spanish lifestyle.

Your Negotiation Guide

A handy guide to everything you need to know about negotiating for a property in Spain.

A Property Buyer’s Guide to Currency

A currency specialist’s ‘insider’s guide’ to a successful property purchase, written by the experts.

Speak to an expert

We have Spanish property experts at offices in the UK and Spain who are waiting to answer any questions you have about buying property in Spain. Get in touch on +44 (0)20 7898 0549 from Monday–Friday, 8:30am–6:00pm or email spain@propertyguides.com.

Our friendly team can also put you in touch with all the professionals you will need by your side when buying property in Spain, to give you all the guidance you need and steer you around common pitfalls — particularly during those all-important viewing trips:

  • Trusted estate agent
  • Expert currency specialist
  • Independent solicitor
  • Independent financial adviser
  • Property surveyor

To speak to the right professional service providers for you, contact the Spain Property Guides Resource Centre today or fill in the enquiry form below.

Download your free Spain property guide

Inside the Spain Property Guide

As well as a free online guide to buying property in Spain, we offer a downloadable booklet that will take you through the entire process. This PDF can be saved to your device or printed for future reference. Simply enter your details to download your free Spain property guide, which will help you to:

  Understand Brexit
  Find your property
  Ask the right questions
  Avoid losing money
  Avoid the legal pitfalls
  Move in successfully

Download your free guide to buying in Spain

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