This is similar to exchanging contracts in the UK buying process. Within this time your lawyer should complete all the searches on the property - confirming that the seller own the property being sold, there are no mortgages or charges and that planning consents are in order.
Once both parties sign the main contract, it is binding. The arras contract or full private contract will usually require a 10 to 20 per cent deposit to be paid. The buyer is then committed to pay the balance of the price, and the seller once the money has been paid must transfer ownership to the buyer. If the seller pulls out of the transaction he must return double the amount of the deposit received by way of compensation.
If the buyer pulls out he will lose the deposit paid. This will happen at their office and be accompanied by the agreed final payment and all the relevant purchase taxes. The Escritura is then presented by the Notary to the Land Registry for registration and the property is passed to the new owner. Final registation of the title deed can take several months. With a new-build property, obviously completion can take a lot longer, and the payments are split over stages of the build process, and the developer should provide bank guarantees against each payment.
This protects your payments in the event the developer fails to complete the property or goes bust. Finally, make sure that you have insurance for your property, ensure all service contracts are in your name telephone, water, electrics etc.
Just as in the UK, you can authorise someone normally your lawyer to act on your behalf with regard to your legal matters in Spain. This is often wise, as travelling to Spain to sign documents can become inconvenient or mean that you miss an essential signing date through ill-health or travel disruption.
A Power of Attorney can be either general or limited to a specific function for example, the signing on your behalf of the escritura Deeds to your intended property. So, apply for this as soon as you start looking for a property.
Currently, you must apply for your NIE number in person although the rules on this tend to change from time to time; your estate agent or lawyer, who should help you. You can purchase Spanish property very quickly, if you are a cash buyer and you have an NIE number. Certainly, it is not unknown for the Spanish in particular to see a property and be the owner with full access later on the following day.
However, this is not the way to proceed for any foreign buyer and you should never rush to buy — or be rushed. Rather, you must always allow your lawyer and building surveyor ample time to do their proper investigations. A good estate agent will help you in your search for a property but it is important to remember that just like in the UK, they represent the seller.
You need your own representation in the form of an independent lawyer that you choose. Needless to say there are many estate agents operating in Spain, of all nationalities, with British agents or agents with English language ability common in most coastal areas.
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