During the boom times of property sales in Spain the vast majority of people purchasing properties did so “off-plan”. They were persuaded by glossy brochures and liked the thought of being the first owners and deciding the specifications to their property.
When the recession hit many developers went bust and a great many of those people buying have since encountered problems. However, as the market has changed, more and more people are now looking at resale properties. Equally, as more people are now buying for lifestyle rather than for pure investment purposes the attraction of more rural properties has returned, especially as there are some great bargains to be had a bit further inland and away from the coast al areas.
Buying rural property in Spain however has of course a different set of issues that come with it. That is not to say that buying a rural property is any more dangerous than buying a new property, it is just that what you are concerned about is going to be different and you will have different priorities to worry about from a legal point of view.
Problems with title
The first potential problem with buying a rural property is that the formalities that lead to the legal ownership by the seller may not have been done correctly. Often in rural areas things are not done correctly as a way of saving cost. For example, a previous sale has never legally been formalised because everybody will know who has bought it and what taxes may be due. A newer property may have undergone an extension which is never registered and may not have the correct planning permissions.
These types of issues can cause a problem when it comes to buying the property and then of course registering everything correctly. Having said that, in most cases these issues can be resolved. It may take more time for the legal transaction to go through whilst these issues are resolved but it is rare for a legal matter not to be able to be remedied.
Sometimes problems occur when the boundaries of properties in rural areas of Spain are not particularly well defined. The square area that is registered at the Land Registry can be very different from the square area that is registered at the Catastral Registry - which in turn can be different from the actual square area.
We have dealt with many transactions where even the seller isn’t sure about the boundaries of their property as things may have changed over the years and everything has previously been very loose and relaxed. In other cases plots have been subdivided and not registered.
It is obviously important to make sure that the reality of the property is reflected in what is registered at both the Land Registry and the Catastral Regsitry but again this is the sort of problem that can be easily be resolved even if it can take a while.
Occasionally, there may also be outbuildings on the land that have been built without planning permission and which have never been registered. Typically these are storage areas or garages. Again, it may be possible to register these at the land registry prior to your purchase.
Rights of way
On Rural Properties there is more of a chance that there is a historical Right of Way over the property – whether this is registered or not. There may also be a Right over the property such as the right to collect water, the right to collect fruit or the right to collect wood. Over the years these rights may have accumulated and it is important to identify what rights are on the property prior to purchase.
Obviously in addition to the above all the usual checks should be carried out on the property to make sure that the sellers duly own the property and that there are no existing charges or mortgages on the property. It is also important to understand what obligations you have after you have bought the property such as taxes.
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.
If you are buying a rural property in Spain and need a solicitor to help you with the conveyancing you can contact a UK based solicitor in our international property team
Disclaimer – International legal issues are a complex area of law and this information is no substitute for independent legal advice on an individual basis taking into consideration your personal circumstances and legal requirements. This information is provided to provide general information only and was correct at the time of publishing. The legal position in relation to international transactions can change frequently and this page may not have been updated following any changes in the law. You should therefore not rely on this information and should seek legal advice in relation to your personal circumstances.