6 ways to have a great experience of buying a property in Spain
When we’re looking to buy something, we always go into it feeling confident that we know what we want, that it’s out there and we will inevitably find it. Unfortunately years of collective experience tell us that this is very rarely the case.
Research suggests that people, after spending some time in the process of searching, get increasingly confused and frustrated. Quite often in the end one of 2 different things happens: either they give up on the search, postpone it and plan to come back to it later (in many cases they don’t) or they make a bad decision and choose something just to get it over with. The reason for that is simple – decision-making is a tiring work, being presented with multiple choices drains our energy the same way as any other activity does.
Buying a property in Spain is (or should be) a happy thing. It’s a holiday home or a permanent residence in a friendly and unique cultural environment, with great climate, relaxed and stress-free lifestyle, and in a location with a similar infrastructure and legal framework to other European countries, which makes the transition much easier.
Yet often I hear from my clients about bad experience they or their friends have had in the past. After compiling all those reasons and doing additional research on relevant subjects, we put together the 6 main reasons why people have bad experience looking for a property on the sunny Spanish coast, and how to avoid them.
1. Define your needs and establish an area
It always surprises me that people are convinced they know what they want, when they actually don’t. This is mainly because once we decide what we’re looking for, we create a vision in our minds and look for a match. Problem is, that vision often has certain features that are not really essential for us, but misses some things that absolutely are. Another thing is – that vision is based on our past experiences. If we’re looking for an apartment in Spain, having lived our entire life in London or Stockholm, the “ideal property” in our mind will likely look like something we’ve seen before, but the construction style and and the patterns in which the areas are built upon in Spain are different, which makes it practically impossible to fulfill that “ideal” image.
The advice is – take a little bit of time to really think about the parameters of the search. Make a list of features you want that property to have, from that list select 3-4 that are an absolute must, and all others are preferable, because it is likely that you won’t find a property that ticks all the boxes, and knowing what features are a must, and which ones are optional, will make your life much easier.
2. Choose an agent, qualify him hard and early
Many people start the search by sending out a ton of inquiries, often – about different properties from different agents. Every agent will reply (or they should) and follow-up. If you find 5 properties on the Internet and send out 5 inquiries – you will have 5 different agents following up with you. Since you’re most likely still back home, working during the day and dealing with personal things after hours, this will mean that your phone will keep ringing with a Spanish country code on display, and your email will get flooded with offers of properties that all those 5 (or more) agents think you should absolutely take a look at. This will make the whole process extremely complicated and unmanageable right from the start.
To avoid this – after defining the parameters of your property, you should choose an agent. Speak to 2-3 different agents on the phone. They will qualify you hard and early, as they don’t want to waste their time and they will want to know if you’re a good lead – why shouldn’t you do the same? You don’t want to waste your time either dealing with many people pitching you properties of no interest.
Ask the agent as many questions as you can: what area he’s working in? Does he collaborate with other agents? How does he make sure the property is priced well? How does he make sure the property has no legal issues or embargos? 5 minute conversation will go a long way in telling you how professional the agent is.
This will have another bonus side effect: once you qualified an agent and decided you can do business with him – the agent will also assign a higher priority to you knowing that you are a good lead and you’re not working at the same time with 10 other agents wasting everyone’s time. When you have a higher priority as a lead – you will get more attention, more honesty
and transparency and more valuable information. Don’t worry If this particular agent doesn’t have a lot of properties that interest you from the start – professional agents always collaborate with one another and that means that this one agent can show you all 5 or 10 of those different properties you inquired about, with no cost for you, and without having to deal with 5-10 different people.
3. Communicate your needs to the agent profoundly, try to have clear parameters but little expectations
Most people, when asked, what kind of property they’re looking for, say a type, amount of bedrooms, sometimes an extra parameter like a communal pool, and the budget. This is an important information, but this is just the very basics and not even close to being enough. If a buyer tells 5 different agents this much, they will often rush to searching through their properties for anything that matches. Later you discover that your mailbox is flooded with properties of no interest to you, you get disappointed and frustrated, it becomes hard to manage so much information and the agents assign lower priority to you since you are hard to reach and satisfy.
This is why it was so important to define your search in step 1 – now it’s time to communicate all that info to the agent as clearly and in as much detail as possible. A professional agent will spend most of his time asking you questions and gathering information – this is good for both of you, so please, collaborate. Answer the questions with as many details as possible, and always answer one extra question – why? You need 2 bedrooms – why? You need a pool – why? You would like a large terrace of at least 15 square meters – why? This is also why it’s important to choose one agent – this way you can have one 10-minute conversation with a professional agent
and tell him everything he/she needs to know – then let them do the work. That’s what they’re here for.
4. Establish a clear timeline and a person in charge of the decision- making
As mentioned before, an agent (at least a professional one) will qualify you hard and early. That means they will want to know what you want to buy, can you buy it, when you want/need to buy it and who’s the decision- maker. The level of priority you will get with that agent widely depends on how this qualification goes. If you say that you’re just looking around and you don’t know if and when – you’re of not too much interest to the agent.
You don’t have to buy soon to be a good lead – but it’s very important to know when. If it’s 3 weeks or 9 months from now – once you give the agent a clear timeline, he will plan the best course of action in terms of how many properties over what period of time it makes sense to send to you, how often he should follow up with you to not interrupt your day too often, etc.
Aside from a clear timeline another equally important thing to know is – who will be making the decision? Almost always it is the case that there’s more than one person involved – a spouse, children, other members of the family etc. This is natural, but the research suggests that decisions are better when they are made by an individual then by a group. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t consult anyone – if you’re looking for a property with your partner or a spouse, they should participate equally in establishing parameters, choosing an agent, and it would make things easier
if you also decided, who will make the final decision, because as written above, the final decision is ultimately better to be left to an individual.
5. Make a list of 6-10 good properties to view
When you finally start receiving properties from your agent it is important to keep in mind that over-flooding yourself with choice will exhaust and confuse you. Of course you want to be able to choose from something – both research and experience suggest that 6-10 good properties on your list are enough. This is why every time you receive a property from your agent – it is important to do 2 things: First, give detailed feedback. What you like about it, what you don’t like, how you feel when you look at the photos of the living room/kitchen, etc. Second – decide if this property should be on your list or not.
Those 6-10 properties will make the list for viewings. This is enough for you to arrange a viewing trip. Don’t worry that it won’t be enough – you’ve already approved those 6-10 properties and they are not random. Besides, a professional agent will always have a few more as a backup, and by now he/she will have a good vision of your ideal property.
View 3-4 properties every day, and take time to reflect. If you’re viewing 6-10 properties in total – that means 2-3 days of viewings. Again, as stated by the research – this is more than enough, as after that all the properties will start melting into a big mess inside your head, the certainty will decrease, both you and the agent will get tired and frustrated. When you are done viewing and reflecting on your list, choose 3-4 best properties for the second viewing and discard the rest.
6. It’s not about the price, it’s about the value
When you have viewed the 3-4 properties you chose for your shortlist – arrange them in order. For every property, decide how much you can pay for it (not how much you want to but how much it would make sense for you to pay for it). This number could even be the actual asking price, or above it, which would mean that the property is already a good value.
Make an offer on the top property from your list. Make that offer slightly below (10-15%) of how much you would pay for it. Always expect a counter-offer – often the seller will just say “no” to an offer, and a counter- offer is your agent convincing them to lower the price at least a bit less than you wanted. Again, in that case, the property is still a good value for you and this way you’re giving your agent the room to negotiate a bargain for you. If you get the price that is acceptable for you (below what you established as a limit you would pay for it) – go for it. If the property was initially priced at more than you would pay for it and you were not able to get the price below that number – move on to the second property from your shortlist. Since a professional agent would only be showing you properties that are well-priced, chances are all 3-4 properties will be a good value at the asking price, and with a little negotiations done right in the end it will be even better.
Hope this information helps you make the search for your ideal property as efficient as possible!
Property Consultant for English-speaking market
+34 662 303 550