Buying Property in Spain as an American

Buying Property in Spain as an American

As lockdowns lift around the world and the United States becomes ever more tumultuous some Americans increasingly think about leaving and experiencing daily life in other countries. One common place Americans choose is Spain because of the following reasons:

  • Homes, apartments, and property are generally cheaper than in the US
  • Beautiful landscapes, bustling cities, and wide-open beaches
  • Straight forward rules and laws for purchasing a home or property for foreigners
  • Spain’s Golden Visa Program
  • The Spanish quality of life

Spain is often considered one of the best places for Americans in the European Union because it is so easy to buy a home there. It can often be a long process, but it is fairly simple once it has begun. It is normally easier to buy a property if you have the means to than to rent an apartment long-term as an ex-pat.

FAQ

Can an American buy property in Spain?

  • Yes, it is a fairly straightforward process for an American to buy any form of property in Spain. Many businesses are built specifically around buying property in Spain for foreigners.

Average House Cost in Spain?

  • Buying property in Spain costs an average of €1,429 per square meter with the average sale price being around €442,993.

Moving to Spain, What Items are Duty-Free?

  • Spain like many western countries has duty-free items and this includes differing amounts and volumes of cigarettes, cigarillos, cigars, wine, beer, and spirits. Other goods are duty-free up to a value of €430 for air and sea travelers, including €175 for children under 15.
Prices of Homes in Spain
courtyard in spanish city. Valencia, Spain

Prices of Homes in Spain

The cost of buying a home will generally depend on the type of home you want and where in the country it is. Spain has a wide variety of climates and cities to choose from. Common locales that Americans often choose and their average cost per square meter include the following:

  • Barcelona
    • €3,861 per sq. m.
    • A 24-hour bustling city with more than 5 million people living in the province and it is the weekend vacation destination of Europe.
  • Madrid
    • €2,965 per sq. m.
    • The capital of Spain is known for being a favorite locale for many foreigners and has a high percentage of the population that can speak English fluently.
  • Costa Brava
    • €2,811 per sq. m.
    • Located in the province of Catalonia it is between the Pyrenees mountains and the Mediterranean Sea.
  • Costa del Sol
    • €2,968 per sq. m.
    • Centered around the city of Málaga and known for having more than 2,500 hours of sunlight throughout the year.
  • Costa Blanca
    • €1,363 per sq. m.
    • It contains the two major cities of Valencia and Alicante is one of the top tourist beach destinations.         
  • Andalusia
    • €1,800 per sq. m.
    • Located inland from the Costa del Sol, it is a more rural and authentic Spanish locale and is not famous for being a tourist destination.

It is estimated that an American moving from a city in the United States will save up to 80% when moving to a city in Spain. This amount changes down to 71% for the average cost of living between a US city and Barcelona, which is one of the most expensive cities in Europe.

Types of Property Contracts

Types of Property Contracts

Spain has at least five different property contracts that a foreigner needs to know about when purchasing property in Spain. All of the provinces in Spain have a broad form of autonomy that allows them to adjust the required contracts and regulations. One important thing to remember in Spain is that you always want a written contract or agreement, never accept a spoken agreement.

Option Contract (Contrato de opción de compra)

This is between you and the vendor, where the vendor commits to sell the property to you at the agreed-upon price within a set time period. This will often include a fee between 5% and 10% of the cost of the property. This contract is very favorable to vendors and you should only sign it if you are 100% sure you are going to purchase the property.

Reservation Contract (Documento de reserva)

This is very similar to the option contract and requires you, the buyer, to pay a deposit ranging from €3,000 to €6,000 to reserve the property for a specified period of time. This contract also favors the vendor or estate agent.

Deposit Contract (Contrato de arras penitenciales)

A deposit contract is almost identical to the option or reservation contract but has some added protection to the buyer. If the vendor or estate agent backs out of the deal then they owe the buyer double their initial deposit.

Down Payment Contract (Contrato de paga y señal)

This is related to the deposit contract but stipulates that the only way to cancel the contract is if both parties agree. This means that the deposit would be returned and the vendor or estate agent would look for new buyers. If both sides do not agree to cancel then the sale will continue through to completion.

Private Purchase Contract (Contrato privado de compraventa)

Similar to the down payment contract except a deposit is not required. This means that the full amount is due at the signing of the contract before a notary. Very few foreigners will be offered these, but it is not unheard of, because there is no proof of an agreement until the sale is complete.

Requirements to buy Property in Spain

Requirements to buy Property in Spain
The house with palm by the water at the resort in Spain

The most important requirement to purchase property in Spain is to ensure you have a financial number or NIE (Número de Identificación del extranjero). This will be used throughout the entire purchasing process and be included throughout any documents or contracts that are signed. It is not difficult to obtain because Spain wants foreigners to invest in the country. It can take a long time for a foreigner to get their NIE; ranging from 2 weeks if they are EU citizens to over 2 months for non-EU citizens.

Other than having an NIE there are almost no requirements for purchasing a property in Spain. It is recommended to have an international bank account or an account located in Spain to bypass a lot of banking formalities.

The final requirement by law is that you obtain a tax representative if you are a foreign citizen. They are there to ensure that all of the taxes are paid in full and on time.

Buying Process

Any buying process is going to be different depending on the individual and property involved, but here is a general step-by-step guide.

  1. Budget planning
    1. Know how much you can spend and plan for taxes
  2. Decide on a location
  3. Get your NIE
    1. Contact the Spanish consulate if you are not in Spain or go to a police station if you are in Spain.
  4. Search for properties where you want to live
    1. You can do this yourself or contact an estate agent for help
  5. Get a representative like an estate agent
    1. This is highly recommended for foreigners but make sure they fluently speak English
  6. Preliminary contract
    1. This can be any of the ones listed above; work with your estate agent to know which is best for your situation
  7. Have inspections done
    1. This is to ensure that it meets all regulations and you will not have to pay out of pocket to fix anything after the purchase
  8. Obtain a mortgage if necessary
  9. Sign the contract of sale
    1. In Spain this will be done before a notary, if you are not in Spain a solicitor will do this for you
  10. Acquire a tax representative and pay the necessary taxes
  11. Move into your property or begin the process to rent it out

Fees and Taxes

Taxes generally make up anywhere from 10-20% of the final cost of buying a property in Spain. This can be broken down into the following amounts:

Property Transfer Tax

  • 6 – 10% for resale properties
  • 10 – 14% for new properties

Notary Costs, Title Deed Tax, and Land Registration Fee

  • 1 – 2.5%

Additional Taxes and Legal Fees

  • 1 – 2% including other taxes

Conclusion

Spain is an excellent place for Americans looking to live abroad, whether they want to permanently relocate or just purchase a vacation home. Many American’s buy property in Spain to rent out and this follows the same steps as above but will have added costs and taxes on income from those properties. Spain wants foreigners to invest and the government estimates that around 25% of properties in Spain are owned by foreigners. They also encourage outside investment through their Golden Visa program that is offered to anyone who invests more than €500,000 in the country. The Golden Visa program makes it easier for foreigners to stay long-term in the country instead of just 90 days every 180 days as is standard across the EU.

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