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Buying Property in Spain: 10 Steps Foreigners Need to Take

Deciding to buy property in Spain is a really exciting time. The country has so much to offer those wanting to invest, including great prices, wonderful healthcare, sunshine, culture and amazing food. But starting the process can be difficult, especially as it differs from other countries and, of course, language plays a role. 

That’s why we’ve decided to put together this helpful 10-step plan of everything you need to know about buying property in Spain. It will help to ensure you’re protecting yourself and your money as well as making a great property investment.

10 Steps to Buying Property in Spain

Whilst these are 10 general steps to buying property in Spain, it’s worth mentioning that things can differ between the 17 autonomous regions in the country. Furthermore, depending on your situation, some of these steps may come before or after each other.

Step #1. Decide Where You Want to Buy
It might sound obvious, but it’s really important to narrow down your search. Spain is a huge country and property there is just as diverse as its landscape. Do you want a villa by the sea? A modern apartment in one of Spain’s amazing cities? Or property to convert in an inland village?

Your best bet is to visit the areas you’re thinking about and get a feel for the place. You’ll be able to see local amenities, how well-connected the place is and what the community is like.

Step #2. Look at Your Finances
Before you start looking, set yourself a budget based on what you can afford. Remember to include 10-12% for tax (this differs if it's a new build or a second-hand property). It’s also worth checking with your estate agent, if you use one, as to whether the buyer or seller pays the estate agent fees, which are around 3-5%.

Regardless of where you buy property, there are always some unexpected expenses so it's best to factor these in too.

It’s at this point that you should be contacting banks if you’re looking to buy property in Spain with a mortgage.

Step #3. Apply for a NIE
A NIE, or Número de Identidad de Extranjero, is an identity document that all foreigners need to buy property in Spain. There are some online companies and in-person agencies that can help you with the process or you can fill out the EX-15 Application form online, and make an appointment at your local police station or Directorate-General for the Police in the place you wish to buy property. You can also apply for NIE at the Spanish Embassy if you have one where you live. NIE can be as quick as issued the same day but for most it takes 1-2 weeks.

This is one of those steps that you may wish to do a little later on, depending on how intensively you’re going to be looking at properties. The NIE is only valid a property purchase for 3 months, so, if you don’t find a property within that time, you’ll need to apply for it to be renewed. Getting another appointment may be tricky and may prolong the whole process. Note that your NIE does no expire, the document just has to issued be within 3 months when you purchase a property.

However, if you do find your dream property, you’ll need to have a NIE to make an offer on it. So you should keep that in mind too!

Step #4. Start The Property Search!
Most foreigners looking to buy property in Spain do it through an estate agent. They know the market better than anyone and can really help you through the process. Many estate agents are bilingual too. There are also some online platforms which can be useful in comparing prices in the area and finding new possibilities.

When you find a property you love… it’s now time to make an offer.

Step #5. Signing The Offer Contract with The Estate Agent and Negotiating
Let’s imagine you’re finding your property with an estate agent. Once you’ve decided to put an offer in, you’ll need to sign the offer contract with the estate agent. This is a document that formally states your offer that the estate agent will make to the seller. At this point, it’s common to make a transfer to the estate agent (usually around €2,000) which they’ll transfer back if the offer is not accepted. You can also put it towards their fees if you choose to. Even though you’ve signed your offer, you can still negotiate with the seller.

Step #6. Getting a Survey and a Nota Simple
This may be something you feel more comfortable doing before you put an offer in. And that’s totally understandable. However, Spaniards very rarely carry out surveys on properties they’re thinking of buying (which definitely differs from other countries) and this means that the process is often much quicker. If something comes up in the survey that makes the property a bad investment, you can still remove your offer without losing any money (but at least you had started the process and didn’t get pipped to post by someone else because you were waiting for the survey results).

An essential part of buying any property in Spain is the Nota Simple. If there is any debt tied to a property, it’s transferred to the new owner when it’s sold. The Nota Simple shows up any debts so you can be sure you’re buying a debt-free property.

Step #7. Signing The Contrato de Arras
The Arras Contract is one of the most important Spanish property contracts you’ll sign. Both parties sign the contract and it clearly lays out the terms of the sale. Things such as the property’s description, completion date, penalties and fines, the exact price and any specific agreements should be noted.

You’ll get the contract a couple of days before the date you’ll sign it so you and your legal representative can go through it carefully. 

When you sign it, you’ll be asked to transfer a down payment, which is usually 10% of the property. In some cases, you may be asked to pay this amount directly to the seller or the estate agent (which is very common in Spain). We, however, would recommend transferring it to a safeguarded account.

Even though it’s a large amount of money upfront, it’s there to keep both the seller and buyer safe. If the buyer pulls out, they lose their 10%. But, if the seller pulls out, they have to pay double back to the buyer.

Step #8. Organising a Mortgage and Signing the FEIN
Part of the Arras Contract is agreeing on the date for completion. In many cases, this is 2 months from the date of signing the Arras which gives you time to finalise your mortgage. Your bank will probably require you to have an appraisal of the property to find out its actual value, and they will then give you the corresponding mortgage.

When you accept the terms of the mortgage, you will be asked to sign a FEIN (Ficha Europea de Información Normalizada). This document ensures that you fully understand all of the terms and conditions of the mortgage. 

It’s common to sign this online and you then have to wait 10 days by law before signing the purchase agreement. Before you sign the purchase agreement, you will need to go to the notary to go through the FEIN so that they can be sure you fully understand it.

Step #9. Signing the Deeds!
Both parties need to sign the deeds in front of a public notary. Your lawyer should also check through everything before you sign it. This is when you transfer the rest of the funds and receive the keys to your new property!

Step #10. Registration of Property
Once the property becomes yours, it’s important to register it at the Property Registry (Registro de la Propiedad). Most Notaries will arrange for this but your estate agent or lawyer might manage this, and they may even set up utility supplies for you too.

Buying Property in Spain: Final Thoughts

Buying property in Spain can seem complicated, especially as the process differs from many other countries. These 10 parts, however, help to break it down into manageable and understandable steps so that it feels less overwhelming.

It’s important to find a good lawyer and a trustworthy real estate agent who can guide you through the process with minimal stress so you can enjoy your Spanish home as quickly and securely as possible.


Note that this article is general and is shared as information. Property, tax, finance and other legal topics are personal and can vary not only from person to person but between the different regions of Spain. We recommend that you seek professional guidance if you need advice on matters covered in this article.

About the author

Maria, the Bueno Team

As expats, we know Spain and have experienced the ups and downs of owning property in Spain