After what may have been a long search for the home of your dreams, you've found a place you want to buy. Great, so what's next?
At this stage, if you're a cash buyer who is fully aware of and satisfied about the property's legal situation and tax issues, you can simply sign a public title deed (escritura) and complete the purchase. For most buyers, however, there are additional steps before completion that usually require the services of a Spanish lawyer:
Prior to signing, your lawyer will need to examine the title deed, ensuring the seller is the registered owner and has no impediments to sell; verify that details in the Property Registry and Land Registry (Catastro) match and there are no outstanding taxes or other charges; and confirm the town hall (Ayuntamiento) has no planning issues or other charges.
Once the legal situation is clear and the vendor's right to sell is confirmed, you can sign a private contract.
Prior to completion, you, or your lawyer, should also ensure the following taxes are all paid up to date: Municipal property tax (IBI) and rubbish (basura), for the last four years (ideally, get a certificate from the town hall stating there are no unpaid debts).
Withholding tax (retención), if the seller purchased from a non-resident Special lien (gravamen especial), for the last four years, if the seller is a non-resident company Municipal land tax (plusvalía), if the seller is a non-resident individual, as the Tax Office (Hacienda) can claim this from the buyer.If the property is in a community, you should ensure the seller does not owe any fees, by obtaining a certificate from the president stating no outstanding payments are due. If not, you may be liable for the current and previous three years.
To complete the sale and become the new owner, you also need a NIE number (número de identificación extranjera). This is the foreign identification number necessary to pay taxes and do paperwork with the Spanish Inland Revenue. Both parties need to sign the public title deed before a notary, who testifies to their identities and sets out the terms of the sale, including the description, price, and payment details. Once this is signed and payment made, you will receive the keys to your new home. Finally, you need register the transaction with the Land Registry to have maximum protection against claims by third parties.