Spanish Property Conveyancing Buying Or Selling – Pitfalls – Do You Need to Instruct a Solicitor?

Spanish law and the Spanish conveyancing procedures for buying and selling property in Spain are different from those in the UK. There are potential pitfalls.

Unless you speak Spanish and also know the Spanish law procedures, I recommend that you should always instruct a qualified solicitor/lawyer to act for you in the conveyancing of selling or buying a property in Spain. Achieve safety.

In the end, it is usually a false economy to try to do the “legal job” yourself, or, to rely on someone who is not legally qualified or experienced, to act for you.

It is so easy to get carried away by the excitement and to rely just on what the Sales Agent tells you. That comment is not intended to be a criticism of Sales Agents. It is a case of “horses for courses”. The discipline of Sales Agents is that of selling. The discipline of the solicitor is to check out, independently, what you have actually been told and to do the best to ensure that you actually end up with what you want – or to advise you of any problems. Also to provide you with full, clear information as to what will be involved.

It is a common myth that the Spanish Notary’s duty or function is to act for you and to advise you. That is not his duty

Let me share with you a real life case of what happened when a purchaser did not bother to use a qualified lawyer.

Let us call him ” Steve Save a Penny”.

Steve attended at the Spanish Notary and signed the Purchase Deed and the Mortgage Deed for what he thought was a 3rd floor apartment in Block 4 of a new apartment, taking on a mortgage of 175,000 Euros with a starting interest only period of 2 years.

He decided not to instruct or have a qualified, independent lawyer with him, nor even a qualified translator. The documents ran to some 80 pages and were of course all in Spanish.

He was handed the keys at the Notary’s office and then went with much excitement to his new holiday home. The only trouble was he could not get in – the keys would not work. He tried to speak with the site manager but he knew no Spanish, so that didn’t work.

Steve then contacted me. I obtained the paperwork. I saw that he had bought an apartment on the ground floor (not the third floor, he thought) of Block 2 (not Block 4) and the mortgage did not have any interest only period at all. Most serious of all, this Block did not have any planning permission or a Licence of Occupation. There was a risk that it could be demolished. In the end, he was lucky but it took two worrying years to resolve and cost him about £5,500 to remedy, compared to about the £1,500 it would have cost him in the first place.

Others are not so lucky. Just look at the TV programmes. Nearly all those nightmare stories could have been avoided if the purchasers had used a qualified, independent, competent solicitor. The cost to them of what they face, goes far beyond just “money”.

A solicitor will charge a legal fee for the conveyancing work, just as in the UK, but it is a small fraction of the total outlay. Is that worth it, for the peace of mind and safety of buying or selling a property in Spain, in a foreign country with foreign laws and procedures?

The cynical amongst the readers of this article will simply say it is designed to be purely self-serving for the benefit of lawyers. I understand that. However, that is not the intention. I merely suggest a positive answer to a question that may colloquially be called a “no- brainer” question which is often put to me, as set out in the title to this article.

In future articles I will provide information about what is involved in the Spanish procedures and what a solicitor who is instructed by you should be doing for you.

Jonathan Ogley

© Copyright Jonathan Ogley 2010. Any unauthorised use, copying, or dissemination of this article, in whole or in part, is prohibited.

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