For those of my friends that follow me online, you may have noticed that I’m currently in the process of buying a flat here in Valencia. While the process isn’t quite over yet, I wanted to give people information on everything that is involved here. I’ll break this out into a multi-part series, the first part of which is this one: how to find a property in Spain.

Looking For A Property

If you’re starting out in a search for a property, chances are you are already looking at some of the more popular real estate websites such as idealista.es or fotocasa.es. For the most part, those are the two websites I used the most when I started searching.

Another good tip for people to find a property is to walk around the neighbourhood they are interested in and simple scan all the windows looking for “for sale” signs. Many older people likely don’t think of using the internet or an agency for their properties, so you may end up with a good deal if you do spot a private sale only listed privately in a window.

Differences Compared To Back Home

The Spanish property market differs in many ways compared to the Canadian one. For example, agents here in Valencia typically represent the seller, and when you engage an agent you typically can only see the properties they have in their collection. So that means if you want to see another property that isn’t in a particular agency’s collection, you need to contact the agency representing that property. The last part is a bit tricky as well, since agents aren’t exclusive here – it means multiple agencies can list the same property at the same time, and whoever shows the property and closes the sale will get the commission.

One of the inherent problems that creates is that every agency will make you sign a document basically agreeing that they will get the commission if you buy that property – so once you sign it, make sure you in fact do buy that property with that particular agency, otherwise you may end up paying commission twice.

While in many parts of Spain the seller pays for the entirety of the agency’s commission, in some other parts of Spain (like Valencia) the commission is actually split between the buyer and seller. That may be a bit shocking, but the argument could be made that the buyer is paying the commission in both cases since the price likely reflects the commission that needs to be paid as well.

Often the document you will sign to visit an apartment (here in Valencia at least) will state the agreed upon commission rate, typically on the order of 3% of the purchase price. If you don’t sign the document then you likely won’t get to visit the apartment, so really the agencies have all the power at this point. While I’ve been told you can negotiate those rates lower, you really don’t have any leverage to do so at the beginning, since you haven’t made an offer and are not in the process of making one.

In my case I was ‘lucky’ in that the property I was interested in was a private sale, so both the seller and myself didn’t have to pay any agency fees. My end of that would have amounted to roughly €5,200, so it’s not exactly chump change.

Once you find a property that you like, the next steps are to make sure you can obtain a mortgage for it (if required), and then make an offer.