Buying a Property in Spain – Public deeds of sale – Escritura pública

You are said to have purchased the property outright when you sign a public deed of sale before a Spanish Notary.  After this, you can have your title inscribed in the land register, the most secure form of ownership as it cannot be challenged by anyone.  Private deeds are only binding on the parties involved and cannot allow you to take a mortgage, only a public deed signed before a notary and inscribed in the records will allow you to.

The date when the public deed must be signed is normally indicated in the private contract. The period is normally between 1 to 6 months later and it’s based on the agreement you have with the vendor.

Preparation for signing the property deeds before a Spanish notary

For the deeds to be signed before a notary, you must either be physically present or use power of attorney which allows your solicitor to sign on your behalf.   The same applies when the property is being purchased jointly, all have to be present or separate powers of attorney must be signed. The vendor is also required to be present or use power of attorney.  You can authorise power of attorney by signing one before a Spanish Notary or through Spanish consulates in the UK or a Notary Public with a Hague Apostille.  

There are some other issues you need to resolve in advance to ensure that the signing and subsequent actions proceeds smoothly.

  1.  Have the required funds in Spain: If you are using a mortgage you have to ensure that you have the money to pay the required taxes and inscribe the title in the property register and that they’ve been transferred to your mortgage lenders account.   Your mortgage lender will advise you what to do.
  2. Agree payment method with vendor: Most of the time, you’ll be required to have a bank-guaranteed check (cheque bancario) issued in Spain.  No vendor will accept other checks or those from abroad as they could cause problems.  Always find out the correct details to include in the check. If the Notary allows it, the best option is to deposit money in the Notary’s escrow account.  Your solicitor should inform the Notary of whichever method you agree with the vendor and you must have all the correct details before making the payment in good time.
  3. Arrange a mortgage valuation. It’s important that you arrange for a mortgage valuation at this point if you hadn’t done so, especially if you need one. no bank will give you a mortgage without valuation. The mortgage lender must also know when the signing of the deed will happen so that they can send a representative.
  4. Remind the vendor that a certificate from the president of the community of owners (signed by both the president and the administrator) is required. If the property is part of a community of owners you need to remind the vendor at least 10 days in advance of the signing to request this certificate of payments from the administrator or secretary of the community of owners. This certificate (certificación sobre las deudas con la Comunidad de Propietarios) will need to be shown to the Notary during the signing.Check the postal address of property. Find out the exact postal address of the property. This may not be the same as the address given in the deeds.
  5. Gather information for changing the utility contracts. You need this information to take over the vendors utility contracts if you’re yet to. Take note of the telephone number and if it has been over 3 months since a status check was made, asks your Real Estate Agent to request for the most recent receipts or payments.   
  6. Keys. Find out how many sets of front door keys will be handed over. Request to be given all the keys for the gates, doors or instructions of where they’ll be left at the property.
  7. Security alarm. If there’s a security alarm at the property, request for the security code.
  8. Confirm date of vacancy.  Ask when the property will become vacant after the deeds are signed. The vendor no longer has rights to the property after your purchase, you can give them some time to vacate and this information should be included in the signed private deed.  . Always try and avoid anything but vacant possession.
  9. Last visit. Where possible, visit the property for one last time with the vendor to know more about the property’s functional systems and its condition.
  10. Local providers. Ask for a list of contact details of useful local providers from the vendor.
  11. Arrange insurance. Make plans to insure the property immediately after signing the deeds so that you’re covered.
  12. Choose a Notary:  As a buyer, it’s your right to choose a notary and if you don’t know any, leave the decision to your solicitor or real estate agent. Get all the required information from your agent or lawyer prior to the signing of the deed.
  13. Set a date for the signing: Private contracts only give a deadline for the deeds and it’s up to you to agree on the rest with the vendor and book an appointment with the Notary. Ensure that the vendor has all the details about the notary including name and address.  
  14. Know which documents to bring to the signing:  Your agent or lawyer should inquire from the Notary which documents you should have at the signing.  On the minimum, you need your passport or Spanish residency card, your NIE number could be needed and others such as Birth certificate, Marriage certificate and their official translations.  Check in advance what your Notary will require.

Signing the property deeds before Spanish Notary

The law requires Notaries to carry out certain checks before they witness deeds of sale.  For example, a notary should ask for information to confirm that the vendor is genuine and the property is available for sale.   

Your agent or lawyer should give the Notary’s clerk all the relevant information needed for the preparation of the deeds.  A day to the signing, you should have a copy of the deed to check for any errors that could delay signing. 

The signing process is very straightforward when everything has been well prepared.  For most British buyers the process can seem hectic especially for one who is not used to such proceedings.  Besides the notary, all parties to the agreement i.e. seller, buyer, mortgage lenders and solicitors must be present. 

You’re also expected to carry your passport with you and any checks for payments.  If you already have your NIE number, carry it along with you even though it’s not necessary, it’s needed for the payment of taxes within 30 days of signing the deeds. Carry some few hundreds of Euros in the form of cash to cattery for petty expenses such as sharing the IBI for the year that may arise and need to be settled immediately.  

The moment you arrive, the Notary’s clerk will ask you for your identity document and then the signing can begin once all the parties involved are present.  Be ready to wait for a while before the proceedings can begin.  

The Notary will check the identity of the vendors and the buyers by scrutinizing their documents. Civil status details such as (nationality, domicile, profession, age etc.), and your marital status will also be checked.  After the verification, the Notary will read out loud the deeds in Spanish, if your real estate agent or lawyer is present; you don’t need a translator otherwise, take along a translator with you.  Some Notaries will not sign any deed when one of the parties does not understand Spanish and doesn’t have a translator or a solicitor present.

The details of the property are described in detail during the reading and the payments made by the buyer are confirmed.   The evidence of the payments should be produced by the buyer and details of any pending payments (the price stated in the deeds less any deposits or down payments already paid).

If you are taking out a mortgage then this will require a separate deed, which the Notary will also read through. The Notary should also check the latest IBI receipt and the certificate from the secretary of the community of owners to ensure that the vendor is up to date with these payments. The Notary will then inform the buyer and the vendor of their fiscal obligations and if the vendor is a non-resident, the Notary will confirm that the buyer pays the non-resident tax retention within 30 days to the Spanish authorities.    

If there are no objections, the Notary will read the deeds and all the parties will sign and you will be handed the keys to the property.  Afterwards, you will pick the unauthorised copy of the deeds (copia simple) from the Notary’s clerk before departing (you will pay for the copies so make the request early on). The Notary will keep the original deeds (copia autorizada) for a few days to record them in the Notary’s register before they can be collected for inscribing in the lands register.       

If you hadn’t made prior arrangements, you will need to settle the Notary’s fees before you leave if no deposit for such expenses has been made prior to the signature.

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