Forget about the way conveyancing is done in the UK, just forget all of it!
Buying and selling property in Spain is altogether different from what you might be used to.
Spain can seem as if it's going at a much calmer speed, and conveyancing is no different.
Aside from the all-important legal issues surrounding your purchase, your key focus should also be on a realistic time in which to conclude everything and get your new keys.
It is vital that an entirely independent lawyer represents you, so ensure you enter into a written agreement with them and have a full and mutual understanding of the process, timescales and their fees.
You will be required to provide your lawyer with copies of documentation evidencing your identity and your UK address.
Obtaining other necessary paperwork like your NIE number should also be addressed at this early stage.
To have your lawyer complete the purchase on your behalf, you will need to grant a power of attorney authorising them to do so.
Beware, completion dates can evolve and change, depending on a number of factors that can't always be controlled.
However, this guide highlights most of the important parts of the process and the timescale in which you should expect things to resolve.
Stage One – Agreeing a price and starting enquiries
Settling on a price isn't even the start of the journey.
Before you hand over a penny in reservation fees or deposits, you must check to see who exactly owns the property and whether there are any debts registered against it.
One must also ask whether such debts will be removed upon completion, whether the property is lawfully built, and what ongoing fees may be payable like communal charges etc.
Even this early stage can take a week or more in Spain, depending on the cooperation of the vendor, their agent and their own legal representative.
However, each or every one of them SHOULD have that information at their disposal, already.
One must also factor in the possible turnaround speed of local council, especially if such information hasn't even been requested yet.
If you are buying a remote finca or a non-standard property, then this early stage is likely to take even longer, if the information hasn't been sought already.
This is simply because more documentation is needed to establish the planning status and the legality of a rural or unusual property, against the likes of modern apartments and townhouses.
Stage Two – Formal agreement
Once you have obtained AND reviewed satisfactory reports and considered any of the
associated risks, you can proceed and make the purchase "official".
With the aid of your own lawyer, you will enter into a private agreement with the bendor and forward the agreed deposit.
Any terms within the private agreement will also address issues arising from the initial enquiries made.
Depending on further issues raised by either party, this stage of buying a property could take anything from days to weeks.
A final date for completion will then be agreed, typically one or two months from that date.
Stage Three - Completion
Completion documents will be produced and signed before a Notary, here in Spain.
At least the purchaser, or their representatives, will attend the signing.
The vendor may also be present, if they wish.
Once the balance is transferred to the seller, the buyer should receive the keys to the property.
Completion of the purchase is usually from one to two months from the date of signing the agreement and paying the deposit.
If the property is being purchased "off-plan", the actual completion date may be a year or more in the future.
Regardless of timescales and schedules produced for you by the vendor or their representatives, be prepared for delays.
Stage Four – After completion
Once the transaction is complete, purchase tax must be paid by you and the property will then be registered in your name.
Even this stage can take some weeks, but it won't prevent you from moving into your new home.
If you are buying with a mortgage, make sure you have an offer in principle in place before making any offers.
If you are a cash buyer, make sure that your funds are readily available, so that you can transfer the deposit quickly and, in due course, for completion.
Make sure that everyone involved is aware of your target completion date.
Contact is key, so ensure your lawyer has every telephone number you can be contacted on.
If your purchase is conditional upon the results of a survey, make sure that the surveyor prepares his report at the property and tells you when his findings will be ready.
Given that the conveyancing protocols in Spain are pedestrian (at best), this gives the buyer and seller the time to ensure that all documentation and funds are in order, that there are no outstanding planning issues and no outstanding legacies or debts.
It is VITAL that you are not pressured into completing a purchase before all of the above is rendered satisfactory.
Be careful to read all correspondence and reports from your lawyer, so you can assess any potential risks before making one of the biggest decisions in your life.
Be careful, be thorough and be patient. After all, this is Spain!