How to avoid fraud and deception in Spain

1. Work with professionals

Work only with real estate agencies or agents) registered with the Official College of Real Estate Agents (Colegio Oficial de Agentes de la Propiedad Inmobiliaria).

While the profession was deregulated in Spain several years ago and now anyone is able to act as a real estate agent without being a member of the official body, it is best to work with those businesses and professionals that have the approval of the Official College of Real Estate Agents.

Among other concerns, the processing of malpractice complaints can be done with greater agility and confidence through the Official College than with a non-affiliated agency or agent.

2. Become a cooperative member

Be well-informed about housing cooperatives (cooperativas de viviendas).

Any person wishing to acquire a cooperative-sponsored home can become a cooperative member by contributing the required fees. When the purchase plan is done, it is the cooperative that is responsible for construction.

This eliminates developer costs so the members can obtain their housing at a lower price. This, however, is not without risks, as some projects have been paralyzed over time due to a lack of funding or due to obstacles set by the local government. Therefore, before deciding to enter into a housing cooperative, it is advisable to be well-informed about the project before signing the contract.

3. Verify the absence of debts or liens

Check that the home is free of charges.

In the case of second-hand housing, it is advisable to verify that the property has no outstanding debts or liens. For this, it is only necessary to request a simple note about the property from the Land Registry (Registro de la Propiedad). This procedure can be completed by any person in Spain, and can be easily done by a real estate agency, agent, or administrator.

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4. Verify who owns the property

Check that the seller of the home is really the owner.

Similar to the above, the simple note about the property acquired from the Land Registry (Registro de la Propiedad) can also verify who actually owns the property. This is a way to avoid the fraud committed by a person trying to sell a property that does not belong to them.

5. Get more information about property

Check that the property is not part of any municipality-approved urban plan.

Another circumstance that should be avoided is buying a house whose land is integrated in an urban plan which has already been approved by the local government, thereby affecting the property’s habitability or size. For that reason, it is advisable to visit the local Office of Urban Planning (Oficina de Información Urbanística) to request more information about any property before buying.

6. Consult the Local Coastline Service

Check that the property is not subject to easements and does not form part of the maritime-terrestrial public domain (el dominio público marítimo terrestre [DPMT]).

If a property is subject to an easement for the protection of the coasts, there will be legal limitations that the new owner will have to comply with. For example, they will not be able to carry out new construction on the land, or alter the volume, height, or exterior of the existing housing.

If a property has become part of the DPMT, this means that the owner has ceased to own the property, and ownership was transferred to the state. Both of these problems can be avoided by consulting the Local Coastline Service (Servicio Periférico de Costas), which can confirm the layout of the DPMT and corresponding easements.