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Never assume anything - buying property in Spain

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Never assume anything - buying property in Spain

Did you know that the majority of people coming to Spain to buy property end up buying a house they didn’t want? Why? Because they assumed the process was simple, they didn’t bother to educate themselves about it, they made many mistakes and ended up unhappy and trapped.

 This is a quote from a book by Ian Comaskey. 

And although it sounds unbelievable, I totally agree. This is because I remember a story from one of my clients - a true story.

My client assumed the process was simple and didn’t bother to learn about the process of buying a house here. And she made a big mistake. It didn’t happen in Madrid, it happened in the Marbella region. Now she is involved in legal proceedings, she has had to hire a lawyer, and she is really fed up with the whole situation. The best outcome for her would be to sell her property as soon as possible, but that’s not an option at the moment. That is, if she would like to get a reasonable price for it.

What happened? A Dutch woman, I will call her Ingrid to protect her privacy, fell in love with a property in Spain, somewhere close to Marbella. Great views on the sea, perfect plot with a lot of opportunities and a legal license to build a house. Sounds like a great investment and a perfect holiday home to let to tourists and also to use for her holidays during the year as she was still working in The Netherlands. 

She didn’t speak Spanish – like most Dutch people - and relied completely on the information of a local Dutch person who managed buying and renovating houses for a couple of years and a local estate agent. In the meantime she had some personal problems, so for her there was an additional reason to have the whole buying process delegated.

She trusted these guys completely and because of her eagerness to buy something, she didn't question the process. She bought the plot. It was a great opportunity.

She thought she had a permit to build a swimming pool and a small house on the plot so she went ahead as this is what they told her. But now, after many years the Spanish prosecutor decided to start legal proceedings against her (and her collaborator and constructor). What does the prosecutor claim and want to do? Tear down the house and fill in the swimming pool, because it is illegal, bring the property back to it's original state, because there’s no permit, 2 year’s imprisonment, a fine per day for 20 months and prevent her from building another house in Spain for the next 3 years. 

This case is still ongoing and it's not sure when or how it will end. It will take several years for sure. In the meantime there’s not a lot she can do. Just sit and wait and act, where necessary.  One positive point is that the real estate market is going much better than the previous 8 years. But Ingrid's future is uncertain and she regrets getting involved in the property market in Spain while she was in an emotional state of mind, and not able to focus on learning about the procedures and possible consequences. 

So, what can we learn from this?  

1. Question everything, never assume anything, even if the 'experts' say it. Always ask for written proof, whether it is a written confirmation or a legal document. 

2. Always ask someone with a legal background to advise you in the buying process.  As I used to be a lawyer, I understand the value of these aspects. Someone with a legal view on topics during the buying process can be very valuable. Are you considering hiring someone to advise you in the buying process? Please contact me. 

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