Covid-19 may be preventing us from travelling to Spain right now, but it needn’t stop us buying a home there. Estate agents are doing virtual viewings and video walkthroughs of properties, and lawyers and notaries are all working remotely. Moreover, faced with a potential second summer of lost revenue, some holiday home owners are selling at bargain prices.
Your options include buying simply based on what you can see online, or making an offer conditional on seeing the property within a tight time frame when you can legally fly to Spain.
But just because you can buy a bargain Spanish home sight unseen, should you? What are the risks and how can you avoid them?
One way is to get local help from a qualified and established surveyor to be your eyes.
Campbell Ferguson, owner and director of Survey Spain, tells us how to safely purchase a property in Spain, right now.
How common is buying without a physical viewing?
Buying without viewing wasn’t common before, but lawyers tell us that it’s happening more often now. Certainly, we are being asked to survey properties by potential buyers who haven’t inspected it.
In Survey Spain’s recent market report, we found that demand for overseas property has started to bounce back due to many people finding themselves in a better financial situation after a lack of spending during Covid.
As well as more savings, there has been a big attitudinal shift in moving away from office working. Now, the emphasis is that it’s the people who are the heart of a business, and these people can be based anywhere.
If you can’t physically view the property, make sure you are fully aware of what you are buying by speaking to our recommended Spanish property surveyor today – they can be your ‘eyes’ and organise a building survey or valuation of your property.
What are the potential risks or advantages of buying sight unseen?
The obvious risk is that you might not like the place when you eventually see it. However, that’s unlikely if you have done your research, received a survey report and taken professional advice.
A big advantage is that you’ll have a holiday home ready and waiting for when you can travel and that your ‘dream house’ cannot be bought by anybody else.
So, how do I buy in Spain from the UK?
Carefully! Always remember that you must look after your own interests and act prudently.
Research, research, research
In addition to the actual property, you should research the surroundings and the general ‘tone’ of the area. Is there anything that you want to be near, such as schools, restaurants, beaches or golf courses? Or is there anything that you specifically want to avoid?
Make full use of Google, with its angled views and Street View.
Make full use of Google, with its angled views and Street View. If the exact address isn’t given, it’s often possible to identify the property from the air on Google. The shape of the swimming pool is the best initial guide, although aerial photos and Street View may be a couple of years out of date.
Find a lawyer
It’s best to have a lawyer decided upon as soon as possible. They don’t have to be local and it’s much safer not to use a lawyer recommended by the estate agent or seller, as they may have divided loyalty. Certainly, don’t use the seller’s lawyer “to save by sharing fees”, as if there is a conflict, the lawyer will have to decide whose side he/she is on. It may not be yours! Most people are honest but some will put their own interests before yours.
You can give the lawyer ‘Power of Attorney’ so that they can sign on your behalf. Make sure to restrict the terms of this only to the house purchase and to receiving your written approval before they sign anything.
Spain Property Guides can put you in touch with the very best lawyers, estate agents and international payments specialists in Spain, for total peace of mind. Get in touch with your Golden Three here.
Delve deeper than pretty exteriors
Details of the property from the agent will, of course, show you the best. You would be sensible to get a surveyor to look over the property for you. A building survey report is not ‘sugar-coated’ and will show you exactly how it is, with comments on the general area and the market, in addition to details of the building.
Once you have the survey you can then discuss price and any possible reductions to cover renovation costs
The agent may ask for a ‘holding’ deposit (usually between €3,000 and €6,000) which is normal, and takes the property off the market for a couple of weeks while the professionals do their checks. Do not send the money to the owner or the agent as it should be a returnable deposit if the check results are poor. Instead, send it to your lawyer who will tell the agent/owner that he/she has it.
Once you have results of the survey report you can then discuss price and any possible reductions to cover renovation costs that might be required. That can often save you a lot more money than the cost of the building survey.
What does a survey report involve?
We ask the questions you don’t know to ask. The two principal services are pre-acquisition building surveys and valuations, both of resale properties and new. Remember that just because it’s new doesn’t mean it’s perfect. There will always be ‘snagging’ points and you have to check that the specification promised is what’s actually been built.
Additionally, we can provide video tours of the property after we’ve surveyed it, showing any problems we’ve identified and the outlook etc. On occasion, these can be real-time WhatsApp or Zoom calls.
We are accepted as expert witnesses by courts and tax authorities worldwide concerning financial settlements for divorce, inheritance, tax or any other court proceedings.
What does a survey report protect buyers from?
The information we give covers problems like subsidence, flood risk, building defects and many more. This gives buyers the knowledge to ‘protect’ themselves.
Damp is the problem we find most often and our reports try to identify the cause and suggest possible solutions.
Sometimes we’ve advised our client that ‘they could do better’, and they should walk away
How much will a survey report cost?
Cost is calculated based on our estimate of the time we are likely to spend on the work and the expertise required.
We give firm quotes with all the terms and conditions, all as required by RICS. We are regulated by RICS, the valuers are registered with them, and we have professional indemnity insurance to cover you if we make a major error.
What areas does Survey Spain cover?
All the coastal and inland areas of Spain, from the Portuguese Algarve round to the French border, plus the Canary Islands (Tenerife, etc) and the Balearic Islands (Mallorca, Ibiza, etc), plus Gibraltar and Andorra.
If we can’t do any specialist work we usually know somebody who can. In addition to residential property, we also survey and value commercial, leisure and hospitality properties, plus agricultural and hunting estates.
Imagine endless good times in your own Spanish holiday home once travel restarts! Download your free guide, How to Buy a Holiday Home in Spain.