This article is an explanation of how to buy property in Barcelona. It covers each stage of the process: the property search, reservation, official deposit payment (Arras) and the final signing and exchange of the deeds (Escritura).
The first stage is to know your budget and to allow enough money to cover the expenses of buying a flat or house in Barcelona. You will have to pay a tax of 10% of the purchase price of the property. You should also allow costs for your lawyer, notary and fees for the various document registrations.
If you need a mortgage, there will also be fees associated with that too: an arrangement fee, a survey fee. Your notary fee will be higher too if you require a mortgage.
You must have an NIE (Spanish identity number) in order to purchase property in Spain.
Searching for a property to buy in Barcelona
There are various online portals for property sales and rentals in Spain. A quick search on Google will list them for you. The majority of estate agents in Barcelona use these portals for advertising their properties, as well as their own websites. The smaller local agencies tend not to maintain their own websites.
Knowing the area of Barcelona where you want to buy is important, and it will help you in the search process. If you know where you want to buy, it’s worth walking around that area and checking out the local estate agents. Either browse what they have for sale in their windows, or register your details with them to receive emails.
Viewing property for sale in Barcelona
It’s useful to try to see a few flats in one day. If you don’t live in Barcelona it’s a good use of your time, but it also helps you to compare properties as they’re fresh in your memory.
Once you’ve viewed a property, have a walk around the district, preferably at different times of the day. See how you like the area, the general vibe and how noisy it is. Interior flats (flats that don’t face the street, but face the space at the back of a building) can be surprisingly quiet even if on a busy road.
The estate agency fee should be paid by the owner. However, there are some agencies in Barcelona that also charge a fee to the buyer. It’s important to find out early on if the agent intends to try to charge you a fee.
Once you find a flat or house to buy, you may want to have a survey done before proceeding further. The agent will pressure you to make a reservation so it’s good to know of a surveyor in advance, so you can move quickly. If you decide not to buy, you will lose any reservation fee that you’ve paid.
If you require a mortgage, your mortgage company will probably want to do their own survey.
Reserving your flat or house
Depending on the purchase price of the property, a reservation fee can be anything from €1,000 to €3,000. A reservation document is signed by both parties and should state the agreed terms and the amount you’ve paid as a reservation fee. If you don’t speak Spanish it’s very important to have the reservation document checked before you sign it – by someone who does speak Spanish or by your lawyer. Never use a lawyer offered by the owner or agent.
It’s important to understand that this reservation agreement doesn’t stop the owner from selling the property to another buyer. It’s more like a gentleman’s agreement to get the ball rolling. However, the agent and owner should tell any new enquirers that the flat is reserved, but properties are often marketed with more than one agency. If the owner does sell to someone else they must refund your fee.
The Arras (10% deposit)
Your lawyer must check the Arras document. A date is agreed to sign the Arras and 10% of the purchase price is paid. This money can be paid by bank transfer or by a guaranteed cheque.
This is the point of no return. If you fail to fulfil your duties by the time of the final deed signing, you will lose your 10% deposit. If the owner fails to fulfil his or her duties by the final deed signing they have to pay you 20% of the purchase price.
The Escritura (Final Exchange)
Your lawyer and the owner or agent will be in correspondence leading up to the final exchange to make sure all documents are ready and checked. If you require a mortgage, this must also be organised in time.
A date will be set with a notary, and both parties will be present as well as the estate agent and your lawyer. You should pay the final outstanding amount with a guaranteed cheque. The owner needs to pay off any outstanding mortgage on the property and declare that the property is debt free.
At the final exchange you will receive the keys to the property you’re buying, and the process is complete.
Barcelona Property Finder
I run a property finding service helping people buy and rent property in Barcelona and the surrounding areas.
People hire a property finder for various reasons. If you don’t live in Spain or Barcelona, it’s very difficult to source flats or houses. It’s expensive to keep travelling to Barcelona in order to view property. If you don’t speak Spanish it’s problematic to arrange viewings and find out details about properties. If you’re a busy person, the search process and arranging viewings can be time consuming and frustrating. I also give clients as much information and help with the whole process as possible, from recommending banks, builders and contacts to get your required NIE.
Whatever the reason, hiring someone to source property for you saves you a significant amount of time. The service saves you money, not only on travel and hotel expenses, but because I know the market I can access the local agents (who tend to be cheaper) and negotiate for you on property prices.
I can also save you money on lawyer fees and survey fees. As I recommend many clients to my own lawyer and other contacts that I have in the property market, such as an architect and surveyor, these professionals give my clients a discounted rate.