The property market in Spain is starting to pick up as confidence returns and buyers look for bargains. However, the market has changed and most purchases are now looking at resale properties and an increasing number are looking at more rural areas.
Buying rural property in Spain has it’s own set of issues to think about which don’t generally come about with the more typical property purchase.
The first issue is that in the more rural areas things have often not been done correctly from a legal point of view. Inheritances may not have been registered in order to save legal fees and taxes and therefore the property may be in the name of somebody who died some time ago rather than the seller. Similarly because of the inheritance rules in Spain you may find that there are actually several different “owners” to the property and they all have to give their consent to the property being sold. Neither of these issues are necessarily a problem but will require extra work and time to resolve – i.e. to accept the inheritance first and also to obtain the consent to sell from all the owners.
Another issue is that sometimes rural plots are divided up into smaller plots or the boundaries changed but these changed are not registered at the land registry or the Catastral Registry (a sort of secondary land registry held by the local authority). The effect of this is that what you are buying may not match up to what is registered and the boundaries may not accurately reflect the actual situation. This will require the correct size and shape of the property that you are buying being correctly registered before you can buy and may also require a surveyor to accurately mark out the boundaries.
Outbuildings can be a potential issue. Sometimes outbuildings have been built without planning permission or are converted from one use to another without planning permission. It is therefore vital that all the properties that are on the land are reflected in the land registry.
Of course in the more rural areas the question of rights of way arises as sometimes there is a right of way over your land. However, there can be other potential rights over your property which may not be anticipated such as the right to hunt, extract water or even the right to pick fruit from trees.
Obviously in addition to the above all the usual checks should be carried out on the property to make sure that the sellers own the property, that there is no charges or mortgages on it and so on. It is also important to understand what obligations you have after you have bought the property such as taxes and so on.
None of this should put people off buying rural property – after all there are some great bargains out there at the moment and most of the issues are easily identifiable and resolvable. The important thing is to get independent legal advice to assist you with the purchase and if there are any issues to work with the seller to resolve them.
Peter Esders is a solicitor at Judicare Legal Services Ltd and is a Board Member of the Association of International Property Professionals (www.aipp.org.uk). He can be contacted on 01438 840258 or firstname.lastname@example.org www.judicaregroup.com