Buying a home in Spain comes with its challenges, not least the possibility of being scammed, getting charged hidden fees or missing key points in the smallprint. Most of these point are checked by a lender during the mortgage process

There are many examples of people’s dreams turning into nightmares after falling into the trap of unscrupulous property developers, real estate agents and lawyers.

They may speak English and seem friendly, they may even tell you that “this is how things are in Spain”, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do your own checks.

Here are four steps to avoid ruining your dream

1. Check the property is legal

Many buyers have a wish list when they search for their perfect home, but before you start negotiations, you yourself can check whether property is legal.

Visit the town hall and ask for all documents about to the house. Compare the drawings from Catastro (land registry) and registro de propiedad (property registry) with the actual position of the house itself and not just the plans you have been given.

2. Does it have a valid residence permit?

One of the most important documents to ask for is the residence permit, either the Cédula de habitabilidad or Licencia de primera ocupación, and check if it is valid. Depending on the municipality, this has a validity period.

But beware, every permit is immediately invalid if the property has been illegally renovated or extended.

3. Do not sign anything before you know that everything is in order

A lawyer is often called in after the negotiations. There are of course costs involved, and these costs usually have to be paid in advance.

If the property is not in order you lose your money. Some real estate agencies also ask for a deposit, so that the house won’t be sold during the process. You will not be the first to have difficulties getting your deposit back if you decide not to move on with the purchase. You should put the deposit on the notary’s account to avoid this pitfall.

4. Have the house inspected thoroughly

You can try to investigate yourself, but the risks are high so get yourself some independent professional advice.

Any real estate agent or lawyer who says you don’t need to do a full inspection might have something to hide.

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