Last article we looked at UK estate agents and what they do. This article we will look at their Spanish counter parts.
What is different about Spanish Agents.
Generally they speak Spanish. I say generally but a lot of them didn’t when I first arrived – but most these days have a rudimentary understanding which most potential buyers don’t. .
Secondly most people buying a house in Spain don’t know where they want to live, they may give generic info like – Costa Blanca but CB is a very big place. The catchment area here is a lot bigger than in the UK. For example we cover an area from Moraira to Valencia, – two hours drive from start to finish. And within that area are probably 100 times as many agents. Javea alone has 300 agents.
The process of buying in Spain is more complex than the UK. So agents have to be better informed than their UK counterparts (that’s not to say they are). Typically after helping the client choose an area – which involves driving round the area pointing out important hospitals, schools etc, the agent will arrange to obtain their NIE number – and open a bank accounts for the client. There’s about a day gone already.
In the UK most agents operate exclusively, meaning they have a certain time period to market the property. In Spain most sellers go to 4 or 5 agents at least. Do you think this improves your chances of selling a property? Possibly through more exposure? However do you really think the agent is going to push the boat out when he has a one in five chance or less of selling your property?
What about finding the clients? Clients don’t just drive to an area and see a for sale sign. They are in contact with an agent well before they come out here. Some times they need to be picked up from the airport a round trip of 220 kms. Often they need accommodation arranging, airport transfers or car hire booking. Most do this themselves but not all.
When an agent in Spain sells a property they (should) do basic checks – is the seller of the house the actual owner, is the house what it states, etc. All things which a UK agent doesn’t have to do. Where agents fall over here is allowing the client to decide the value of their property. Everyone thinks their property is worth more than it is. A good agent will give you a fair and realistic valuation of your property and explain to you the chances of selling it in the current market.
Agents often collaborate with other agents both locally and with agents in the UK – something which the UK market frowns upon let alone endorses. Also the norm in Spain is to use correodors – intermediaries, usually Spanish, who find the properties from locals that are for sale.
Once the sale is agreed the work starts. Agents organise the private contract and arrange a mortgage. The majority of buyers do not have pre arranged finance and it isn’t as straightforward here as it is in the UK.
The contracts are translated into English and you have to have all documentation signed in Spanish, both the private contract so unless you speak Spanish you will need a translator and most agents provide this service. At the notary someone has to also translate – organised usually by the agent. And then there is the matter of transferring all the bills into your name – imagine a UK based agent doing that for you mmm mmmm.
Afterwards – well many agents tend to try and forget you once the ink dries and their commission is in the bank. But not all do. They will also help with such things as registering kids in schools, helping you register with local hospitals, obtaining residencia, and other such matters.
In the UK if you want to buy a car – you find the yellow pages go out and visit a few used car showrooms, buy a car and that’s that. Not so simple here in Spain. It is completely different and the agent usually helps out here. Need a builder to do some remedial work – yep you got it Mr Agent is there for you. What about where to go for electrical goods – pop in and see friendly mr agent. Need to work and register for social security – you know where to go.
A decent agent will be with you for a long time and will probably be your friend for life. I know we are not alone in that concept – there are others out there with the same ideals. .So as you can see, to compare what a UK agent does with what a Spanish based agent does, is not quite as cut and dried as it seems.
OK so we have painted a picture of nirvana, the ideal agent, but are all agents like this? – Sadly no.
Although most are hard working, honest people who have your interests at heart, many set up because it seems like the easiest way to make money. After all you only need to open an office, get a phone and a computer, put properties in the window and you’re off. If only everything in life was that simple.
Whilst these types of agents mean no harm (I am sure) their lack of knowledge can cause damage later
The fact that they don’t understand the escritura and how to interpret whether the property is legal or not, whether there is one seller or a whole family full, that some of the sellers may not be represented and can cause problems later, means they may tell you all is OK and genuinely believe it, but later you find you are not the legal owner, that the building isn’t legal, or that your land is about to be expropriated to make way for a swanky new golf course, that somehow the agent neglected to tell you (or probably didn’t know about). So it really is buyer beware.
One other thing I am sure nearly everyone has experienced. Black Money.
A person close to me recently sold their house through another agent (hey I am glad they sold it so quickly – cant always be first to the starting gun). When they went to sign the private contract the agent asked how much did they want to declare. They were met with derision when they said they wanted to declare everything.
Apart from the fact it is fraudulent – which means it is against the law, it is also being stamped on heavily by the hacienda who are currently issuing fines for people under declaring their property. Worse still most agencies (whether they realise it or not) are under investigation for money laundering due to the white whale fiasco – a money laundering fraud in the Costa Del Sol based exclusively around property sales. It may have been Marbella but it is naïve to think the government is concentrating its efforts solely there – where is the next big area outside CDS – oh yes the Costa Blanca. Especially when the EU has openly criticised Spain and threatened sanctions for its blatant disregard of EU money laundering law – of which this is flagrant fraud..
Agents have a responsibility to make sure their clients do not commit fraud – but unfortunately a lot don’t really care. And who is left to pick up the pieces? Give you three guesses – if you need them.
So in summary then a Spanish based agent should do the following
1. Speak Spanish
2. Value your property (though seldom do) and Conduct basic checks (though seldom do)
3. Find clients through various means including collaborations, window displays, internet sites and advertising locally and in the UK, will probably maintain a list of clients looking and have a newsletter
4. Pick the buyers up from the airport, arrange accommodation car hire or many other services
5. Show buyers the area and point out various important factors
6. Arrange viewings for you
7. Assist in the negotiation
8. Organise private contract (though this should still be done or checked by your lawyer)
9. Arrange NIE numbers, Bank accounts and mortgages for the buyer
10. Translate contracts and/or offer translation services
11. Arrange the Notary signing and accompany you
12. Change the bills into your name (this could be done by your solicitor)
13. Assist in registration in schools, hospitals, residencia, padron and cars
14. Help you find builders, tradesmen, cars and any number of other things
15. Help if you are in trouble and generally look after you – not
16. Do all this for 3-6%
Next issue we will take a look at the very emotive subject of estate agents charges – do they push the price of your property out of reach of buyers.