Some of the essential requirements when considering a move to Spain …
With the growth of the European Union, one might expect that moving to another country within the EU would be generally straightforward. In an ideal world, basic laws and procedures would be standardised across all member nations, making movement between countries truly free to all. That situation would in no way erode individual countries’ heritage or sovereignty, facts that many people choose to quote when disagreeing with the EU concept. People are more than happy to visit member states for holidays and often expect the same standards to which they are accustomed at home, but when it comes to any form of amalgamation or common policy, they protest vehemently. Quite simply, one cannot have one’s cake and eat it. I believe wholeheartedly in the European Union, not only on the basis of trade between nations, but also as firm allies in what is becoming an ever-increasing violent world.
So back to the subject matter! In simple terms, relocating to Spain can be something of a nightmare. House purchase procedures are quite different to those in the UK and before one can do anything, it is necessary to obtain a Spanish tax number known as the NIE (Número de Identificación de Extranjero). In fact, this number is needed for many transactions including car purchase and the buying and selling of items. The document is issued by the National Police and can be obtained from a variety of sources including in person direct from the Spanish Embassy. Rather foolishly, I left the matter to my Spanish solicitor so it took longer to obtain but at least it was through in time for me to buy a car!
The next requirement is a Spanish bank account. One can forget all about ‘free’ banking of which many British ex-pats will be familiar. The process is very long-winded and has to be done by prior appointment. Proof of identification is required as well as the source of the money to be deposited, and once the account is set up, copious amounts of paper documents are churned out by a printer. Every page of a document then has to be signed even though the majority of people will have no idea what the document is saying. The bank then levies charges which are high whilst the account holder is not officially documented as a resident. Counter service is also abysmal, at least in the branch of my current bank, but it was arranged by my solicitor. In time, I will shop around for a more progressive company as I get the distinct impression that the bank I use is stuck in the Middle Ages!
An initial property search can be undertaken and a reservation made without these essential commodities but they will be needed prior to any legal documentation being completed. If you have not already engaged a solicitor, I would suggest that it would be prudent to do so at this point. It’s also esential that the solicitor engaged has a fair command of your native language so that contracts can be translated. After all, you may think you’re agreeing to buy a modest villa or apartment, only to discover when it’s too late that an entire street of properties has been contracted to purchase! In any event, a good solicitor will be able to help with other matters so it is worthwhile trying to find one who will be both approachable and reliable. Having finances sorted out beforehand will undoubtedly make any procedure less tiresome, and for transferring monies abroad, it is advisable to use a specialist currency broker rather than your UK bank. There are several of these companies in operation including Currencies Direct, Moneycorp and Global Currency Exchange. They all offer a better exchange rate than the banks and don’t levy charges for the transactions. That said, my Spanish bank charged a small fortune to receive the money! They certainly didn’t mention that beforehand and no doubt keep quiet until the deed is done.
Obviously, if you’re moving from one country to another, it’s advisable to do as much property research beforehand. Thankfully, that task is far less onerous nowadays because of the internet but be aware that many properties are in the hands of multiple agents and may actually already be sold. Also, prices can vary considerably as notifications of any change don’t always filetr through to every agent! Once you have shortlisted potential properties which, on paper at least, meet your requirements, area and budget, it is a good idea to liaise with agents and arrange a trip that will maximise your viewing time. The downside to this is potential property overload and forgetting most of what has been seen but it is costly to make repeated visits abroad. It also makes sense to keep accommodation costs down so I would recommend staying at a bed and breakfast. I found an excellent place in the Almanzora area of AlmerÍa run by British ex-pats who made me feel very much at home. Their website can be found here: http://www.alittlebitofengland.es/
The actual buying process works very differently from the UK and once you agree to buy a property, a purchase contract will be drawn up and after being signed by both parties, a 10% deposit will be payable. Subsequent ‘completion’ of the purchase will depend upon the status of the property being purchased when the balance of the purchase price plus taxes will have to be paid. Please note that both the vendors and the purchasers have to be present when documents are signed … this can often lead to lengthy delays. Finally, something that really need not be said but do not part with any money until all legal aspects have been confirmed by your legal representative.