Catalonia is one of the regions with the greatest projection in the whole world. It has an enormous industrial, cultural and touristic development thanks especially to the city of Barcelona, but the rest of the nearby cities have also been growing lately with all kinds of events, and a strong gastronomical offer. All this -together with the magnificent weather of the region, has turned Catalonia into an open region that welcomes everyone, attracting more and more foreigners who want to stay for good.
Finding a property in Catalonia
The most common way to find a house for sale or to rent is an through an estate agent, newspaper adverts, word of mouth or online property portals such as Catalan Ways, where you can find a selection of properties for sale around Catalonia. You may also find properties listed on real estate websites based in other countries such as the UK, Germany or Russia. However, these will often be targeted at tourists and may therefore be more expensive.
Estate agents can often provide detailed information about the region or city you’re considering, and many are bilingual and accustomed to dealing with overseas buyers. Therefore, in order to find property in Catalonia and make all the arrangements, it is advisable to use the services of a professional realtor such as Aelite Street Real State Company.
Should I rent or should I buy?
Renting a property before considering buying is a good way to get to know the region of Catalonia and decide which area you would like to live in. However, rental opportunities are now limited in the most touristic destinations due to the growing popularity of short-term holiday lets through websites such as Airbnb. Plus, rent fees have increased by as much as 15% in a year, so if you are thinking to rent a flat in popular cities such as Barcelona or Tarragona, you might find it difficult.
On the other hand, there are no restrictions on foreigners (resident or non-resident) buying property in Catalonia, but the costs of buying a home are around 15% of property value and are primarily paid by the buyer. So, when considering a shorter stay, renting could be a more suitable option if you factor in Spain’s high levels of capital gains tax, which could offset any benefits of buying in the short-term. The final decision, therefore, should depend on the kind of property you are looking for, the place you want to live in, and how long will you stay in Catalonia
The services of a notary are not legally required to complete the sale, but it is advisable and required by many mortgages. The seller is responsible for hidden defects in the property, even if they are not aware of them. Paying the costs and taxes associated with buying a home is the buyer’s responsibility, as well as registering the property. Costs paid by the buyer include: Property transfer tax 6–10% (existing properties) / VAT (or IVA) at 10% (new properties); notary costs, title deed tax and land registration fee 1–2.5%; and legal fees 1–2% (including VAT). The estate agent’s fees are usually paid by the seller, and this is typically their only cost.
A tenancy agreement to rent a flat is valid whether verbal or written. Verbal contracts are generally a bad idea, particularly if you don’t speak the language fluently. Instead, insist on having everything in writing so you ensure you fully understand what you’re signing. To break a contract, the lessee must give at least 30 days’ notice before the end date. When you sign the agreement, you will be asked to provide evidence of employment, ability to pay the rent or a bank guarantee; a tax identification number; you passport, and a deposit of one or more additional payments of rent.
Tips to avoid sales scams
The large numbers of inexperienced foreign buyers searching for a home in Catalonia have provided an opportunity for unscrupulous developers to sell properties which are not legitimate. In some cases, planning permission has not been acquired before building, and properties are eventually torn down by the local government. In others, the quality of the property has not been up to scratch or as indicated, resulting in costly repairs.
While malicious intent is rare, caution is advised when buying or renting a property, and you should take precautions: check the company exists and is officially registered; ensure that the project is registered with the land registry, and that planning permission has been granted by enquiring at the local city hall. You may also ask for proof that you’ll get a refund of your money if the property is not built and ensure that any translation is done by an independent party. And, of course, you must never sign a contract you don’t understand.