How Best to Search for Spanish Property?

The gathering strength of internet resources have made property searching from a distance so much easier and informative; but, as with most forms of ‘progress’ it is far from the ‘be all and end all’. More importantly – can it replace that ‘human touch’?

Not so long ago, to search for property (or anything of any substance) one would refer to advertisements in the printed media, and then enquire to those which initially appealed, by telephone, letter or email. This process automatically introduced the human touch, which provided the client with their first impression, and more importantly, their first opportunity of the elimination process.

The initial decision is usually one of  location: which country, which region or Costa, which part of that area, and maybe even which small selection of towns/resorts. In our personal experience, most folk who have targeted the Moraira area of the Costa Blanca – north, did so either by way of introduction from a friend with property here, or by discovering the area whilst holidaying here. For those without that personal introduction to a particular area, research is the best policy. Specialist magazines like Living Spain, guide books for Spain and its specific regions, and of course the internet, will handsomely reward the curious and studious! So far, so good; this has, thus far been factual and objective research, devoid of any personal (or commercial) influence.

Now things get a little more complicated…. Human contact time!

Firstly, one can immediately eliminate the bulk of both magazine and web advertisers with just question and three issues: is their advertisement and/or website designed to INFORM or IMPRESS you?

Do they claim to ‘specialize’, then proceed to list a hotchpotch of random areas of Spain, or (even worse) various countries – how on earth can they be ‘specialists’?

Are they personally based in Spain - i.e. practicing what they preach, and on hand to personally provide ongoing help and support, or based in the U.K. or elsewhere? Consider; would you use a Spain based agent if you were looking to buy a property in Barnsley or Guildford? The people best placed to advise and guide you in your quest for your ideal Spanish property have to be those based in, and committed to Spain, themselves

Does their advertisement or website state clearly who you are dealing with? Does it clearly offer their names, full office address, landline telephone and business registration number? Or are you dealing with Del Boy and his mobile in some dark and smoky bar, or a ‘Phantom Agent’ promoting the properties of other agents, without the knowledge or authority of the owner/vendors?

You may be surprised to see how few of your original listed agents remain, having passed the above test. The next issue is a three-way option: do you:

Option a). This is a piecemeal, one dimensional approach. The developer (or private owner) will only be preaching the virtues of their specific property, there will be no balance, no options or alternatives offered and, most importantly, no impartiality! Generally, the two main reasons for owners to bother to offer their property privately is that they insist on asking a price beyond that which an agent will have advised them to market it at, or there is some kind of flaw or serious shortcoming which they feel they need not disclose.

Option b). It is important to make clear here, that by ‘Spanish registered’ I mean an agent based in Spain, trading as a properly Spanish-registered business. Away from British political correctness, I can freely claim (I hope!) that there are serious cultural differences in terms of business approach, ideology, methodology which may or not match conventions or expectations of British buyers. So maybe British buyers will avoid any cultural divide, by sticking with agents of their own nationality. Having said this, I would only suggest using a conventional Estate Agent to those already living locally in Spain.

Option c). The Relocation Agent (Relocation Agent) option might best be suited to those potential buyers currently based outside of Spain. The Costa property market is a little more complicated and convoluted than the UK market. Often, a property here is offered by a number of agents and, beyond this, unofficially added to the listing of unauthorized so-called ‘agents’ who load up the price to enhance their own margins, usually without the knowledge or consent of either the originating agents, or the property owners; it is a key part of the Relocation Agent’s role to ensure that their purchasing clients’ properties are sourced at the lowest (and official) price. Beyond this, the entire level of service and support offered by a Relocation Agent will be greatly in excess of that offered by the average conventional Estate Agent (regardless of what they claim to offer).

All knowledge is power, and if you really have the time to spend to wade through hundreds or even thousands of properties, within your chosen area, please bear in mind that this information is only two dimensional. You really cannot beat ‘being there’; local knowledge will trump any amount of research from afar. Only an experienced, locally based practitioner will be able to judge the relative merits, desirability and relative values of different locations within any specific town; he is also best placed to reliably identify, perhaps 50 to 100 properties from every 1000 which are hopelessly overpriced or seriously flawed in some way, which may not be so obvious to a potential buyer, 1000miles away. Likewise, a responsible and experienced Relocation Agent will be well-placed to advise at all stages of the search and purchase procedure, and will work relentlessly to introduce you to the very best solicitors, surveyors (yes, we strongly suggest you use both in Spain, as you would in the UK), together with banks, builders, doctors, gardeners and pool cleaners, in fact everything from restaurants to plumbers!

Please ignore well-intentioned (or otherwise) advice from ‘barstool barristers’ and suchlike. There will be no shortage of random and often eccentric opinions from all and sundry. If you personally know someone who can make reliable recommendations, from their own direct experience, within your chosen area, then that should be trustworthy enough. Otherwise, the next best option is to ask your targeted Relocation Agent for testimonials from past clients and for telephone numbers from any who might be prepared to directly elaborate on their experiences of that agent. That should sort the wheat from the chaff!

Currently we have the best buying opportunity for property in Spain for twenty years; fortune favours the brave so don’t procrastinate! Buyers from northern Europe and the Scandinavian countries are returning to the market in strength. But do be selective, seek out sound guidance and advice, and when you find your dream home, don’t dither, agree that price and reserve your choice, otherwise, dear reader, someone else will!

Author:  Chris Garwood – Partner, Estate Agents Moraira, Select Villas of Moraira
March 2011
Property Catalogue Moraira
View our online
property catalogue

or click here to visit
our website to view
properties for sale
in Moraira, Benissa,
Javea and surrounding
areas.