Over the years we’ve gained a lot of experience in advising how to go about buying houses in Spain. At Spanjeplein, we join forces with other experts from the region. Ilonka Dekker of Lex Foris is part of this as well. In this blog, she explains what you should pay attention to when buying a house or land on the Costa Blanca.
Have a look at the land registry
When buying a property in Spain it is important to check that the house is registered in the Spanish land registry. Does it still have a mortgage on it? Has a seizure been placed on the house? Are the registered dimensions of the house and the parcel correct? Is the person who is selling the house the actual owner?
It could happen, for example, that there still is an unsettled estate that applies to the home. In that event, this must be resolved first, so that the property is registered in the name of the current seller. Only then can you buy the house.
The dimensions described in the registries must also be carefully considered. Do these correspond to the actual dimensions of the house and the parcel?
In the Netherlands and Belgium, it is fairly easy to request information about a property from the land registry. This information is usually very complete and reliable. Unfortunately, the Spanish registries are not that well organised yet, although there have been some improvements. In Spain, we work with a national registry (Catastro) and a local registry (Registro de la Propiedad, which literally means register of the owner).
The national registry most closely resembles what we know as a WOZ register. This mainly describes the dimensions of the plot and the houses, usually accompanied by a floor plan describing the situation. The data from this registry is also used by the Administration to levy the property tax.
The local registry is similar to the Dutch land registry. The notarial deeds are included in this registry. Which doesn’t only include the deeds of purchase but also mortgages, gifts, estates, usufruct, and right of way. It also mentions any property seizures.
It would make sense that both these registries would have identical information. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case, so often it happens that the same house or a plot is described differently in each registry.
Description in the Spanish registries
Suppose, you’ve had your eye on a beautiful house with a piece of land on the Costa Blanca, we request an excerpt from the property registry (Registro de la Propiedad) and this shows that the house is 80 square meters and stands on a plot of 2,000 square meters. We then look at the description in the national registry (Catastro). Here the house is described as being 120 square meters with a garage of 15 square meters and having a 21 square meter swimming pool. In this registry, the plot size is suddenly only 1,000 square meters. This is when it becomes important to take a closer look at what is exactly meant.
Past construction or renovations
For example, it may turn out that the seller renovated the house a few years ago and built an extension. There may not be a real garage, but a corrugated iron roof placed on a few posts under which the car is parked. The pool has been there for years. Through the use of aerial photos, the national registry (Catastro) has measured what the current dimensions should be.
In this case, we assume that the Catastro has registered the correct dimensions, but we still have to check that there is no illegal construction. For example, we’ll pay attention to the presence of a building permit, but also to the urban status of the land and the period in which the relevant construction was completed. For example, it may turn out that the extension that the seller built has never been reported to the land registry. We recommend that you have the seller report this before you buy the property. In the past, swimming pools builds were usually not registered, but nowadays they have to be. We also recommend having the swimming pool registered by the owner before the transfer takes place. The fact that the corrugated iron carport is considered a garage is another matter. In many cases, an objection can be lodged with the Catastro. However, this often requires a long procedure.
Check the dimensions of the plot
In addition to the differences in the description of the construction, there may also be a significant difference in the surface area of the plot. If we look into it, it may appear that the home that you desired on the Costa Blanca was part of a larger plot. This plot may have been split into several smaller pieces of land years ago. The land on which the house stands has now been designated as a separate piece of land. You can buy the piece next to it separately. If that parcel turns out to have its own reference number in the national register, it may not be that complicated. Certainly not if it is registered in the name of the same seller, and the dimensions are otherwise correct. But if the second piece of land is still part of another larger plot, which may be in the hands of another owner, it can become a complicated matter.
It becomes clear that receiving sound expert advice and assistance is certainly not an unnecessary luxury when buying a plot or a house in Spain. At SpanjePlein.nl you will find all the experts in one place.