Once you have narrowed down the area within which you want to buy, you should find a lawyer who can act for you. This is a vitally important move, with the services of an excellent lawyer critical to the success of any purchase of a fully legal, sound, Spanish property, devoid of any potential liabilities.
When looking for a lawyer, make sure that you find one who is: fl uent in English; a specialist in conveyancing; completely independent of the seller/developer and your estate agent; and fully insured to a public liability premium well above the value of your purchase (and always ask to see the policy).
Furthermore, always insist that all advice from your lawyer is put in writing, something that many Spanish lawyers are reluctant to do. This concentrates the mind of any lawyer and helps to ensure a higher standard of professionalism.
Finally, always get your lawyer to inspect any paperwork or contract before you sign it, whether it relates to a property or other services (i.e. banking, estate agent, building works etc.).
Power of Attorney
Just as in the UK, you can authorise someone (normally your lawyer) to act on your behalf with regard to your legal matters in Spain. This is oft en wise, as travelling to Spain to sign documents can become inconvenient or mean that you miss an essential signing date through ill-health or travel disruption.
A Power of Attorney can be either general or limited to a specific function (for example, the signing on your behalf of the scritura (Deeds) to your intended property.
Building surveys in Spain
Oddly enough, there is no specific profession in Spain to compare with that of building surveyors in the UK, who specialise in analysing the state of existing buildings. As a consequence, many agents in Spain advise clients that surveys are 'not done' in Spain, despite them being critically important.
In reality, there are British trained building surveyors in Spain, who can undertake a proper survey and you should always use one. However, make sure your surveyor is properly qualified as a building surveyor (as opposed to an architect or quantity surveyor etc.); fully insured to undertake building surveying in Spain; and able to provide a report in writing.
You cannot buy a property in Spain without a NIE number (Numero de Identificación de Extranjero), which is an identity/fiscal number for non-Spaniards. So, apply for this as soon as you start looking for a property.
Currently, you must apply for your NIE number in person (although the rules on this tend to change from time to time). A NIE number is obtained from the Policia Nacional, who have offices in all major towns and cities throughout Spain. Most estate agents and lawyers will help you apply for your NIE number, which is help worth accepting. Although the application process is simple, it can appear complicated, as the application form is in Spanish and the correct office (and queue) can be awkward to find.