Advice on buying and selling a home

Do you have queries about how to buy accommodation? What guarantees do you have? You will find all the information about housing regulations here.

Rights and obligations in buying and selling property

Housing discipline is a relatively new concept that appeared with the 2007 Right to Housing Act. This law provides a clear framework concerning the rights and obligations of the different parties that interact in the property market.

This concept allows for clear guidelines that define the concept of decent housing. It also establishes a series of rights and obligations for people who own a dwelling.

Do you want to know your rights and obligations for buying and selling a home?

You will find the most relevant advice for buying and selling property here, with information about the rights and obligations of each and every party involved.

Check the state of the dwelling

Before buying a flat, it is essential to make a thorough inspection of both the flat and the building. One aspect to be taken into account is the age of the building and the general state of the facades. If these are not in an optimal state, you should check whether the community of property owners or the City Council are planning to carry out renovation work, and how that may affect the general state of the flat.

It is also a good idea to make sure that there are no cracks in the walls, check that the roof is well sealed, the state of the building's installations (lifts, central heating, etc.) and the quality of the materials used.

Look out for any possible warping in the roof or the floor, the quality of the woodwork and paving, the heating system, the state of the services, the toilets and kitchens.

Size and distribution are determining factors for comfort. The size of a dwelling can be measured in useful square metres or constructed square metres, the latter being about 15% larger than the former. Knowing about this difference is essential when looking for a flat. Apart from that, it is a good idea to see if the layout of the rooms is appropriate for your needs.

You also have to check the state of the features that directly affect your quality of life. Natural light, low levels of noise pollution, thermal protection and the cleanliness of the environment are key factors for the comfort of a home.

One of the most important aspects, especially for second-hand flats, are the water, electricity and gas installations. 

Check ownership

Nobody can sell a flat if they are not the legal owners of the property. In order to verify that the person who is selling you the flat is the legal owner, you must check in the Property Register. The first name and surnames of the owners of the flat have to coincide with those of the person who is selling it.

Property Registry addresses in Barcelona:

Property Registry Number 12
Carrer de Provença, 275
08037 Barcelona
Tel. 932 151 442

 

The other registries
Carrer de Joan Miró, 19-21
08005 Barcelona
Tel. 932 212 499 

Check the planning status

A dwelling's planning status is crucial, as it can limit the types of work that can be done and even make getting a mortgage impossible.

To find out the planning status of a property, you have to make an appointment at Barcelona City Council's Department of Documentation and Urban Planning Information.

If the dwelling is affected by an urban planning project, it is a good idea to get the details in order to assess its advantages and disadvantages.

New dwelling: charges and payments

The buyer has to assume the following costs:

  • The price of the dwelling.
  • VAT, in the case of a new building (10 % of current housing).
  • From 1 January 2013, VAT will be charged at 10 %, except for social housing or public promotion housing, which will remain at 4%. Further information at the Tax Office website.
  • Stamp duty. Further information at the Tax Office website.
  • Costs arising from the constitution of the mortgage (notary public, property registry, administration and taxes) and/or costs of cancelling the mortgage in the case of mortgage subrogation (notary public, property registry, administration and taxes). Costs arising from documented legal acts are exempt. The form must be presented).
  • Notary public fees, corresponding to the granting of a public deed and copies thereof.
  • Registration in the Property Register, which does not usually exceed 1%.
  • Regarding administration, the costs arising from processing documents at the Tax Office, payment of taxes and registration of the deed of sale at the Property Registry.
  • Contracting services: electricity, gas, water, etc.

 

In the case of constituting a mortgage, you have to assume the costs of an insurance policy that covers, as a minimum, risks from fortuitous causes or force majeure, and damage to third parties. It will also be necessary to negotiate the costs of the mortgage with the corresponding financial institution (opening, partial cancellation, etc.).

Second-hand housing: charges and payments

Costs for the buyer:

  • Before buying a flat, it is crucial to check that the flat is free of any encumbrances and that the current owner is up to date with payments.
  • The price of the dwelling.
  • Property Transfer Tax (ITP) if the dwelling is second hand. Tax rates in Catalonia:
    • Taxation rates for immovable property transactions:  (Act 1/2013, of 16 July, concerning taxation rates applicable to property transfer tax). If it is a social-housing (HPO) property, the tax rate is 7%, whoever is acquiring it.
    • Taxation rates for the acquisition of a primary residence for large families: 5%, provided that they also meet the requirements established by Act 21/2001, of 28 December.
    • Taxation rates for the acquisition of a primary residence for people with disabilities: 5%, provided that they also meet the requirements established by Act 21/2001, of 28 December.
    • Taxation rates for the acquisition of a primary residence for young people: 5%, provided that they meet the requirements established by Act 31/2002, of 30 December.
  • The costs arising from both the constitution and cancellation of the mortgage:
    • Notary public
    • Property Registry
    • Administration
    • Tax Stamp duty (AJD) at 0.1% on social housing and 1.5% in all other cases.
  • Notary public fees, corresponding to the granting of a public deed and copies thereof.
  • Registration in the Property Register, which does not usually exceed 1%.
  • Regarding administration, the costs arising from processing documents at the Tax Office, payment of taxes and registration of the deed of sale in the Property Register.
  • Contracting services: electricity, gas, water, etc.

 

In the case of constituting a mortgage, you have to assume the costs of an insurance policy that covers, as a minimum, risks from fortuitous causes or force majeure, and damage to third parties. It will also be necessary to negotiate the costs of the mortgage with the corresponding financial institution (opening, partial cancellation, etc.).

Community of property owners

In order to get off to a good start in this new stage, it is important to check that the seller is up to date with payments to the community of property owners. If this is not the case, the buyer will be legally responsible for outstanding payments for up to a period of one year. In order to verify this information, it is necessary to ask the property administrator, or in their absence, the chair of the community of property owners.

If the dwelling is part of a building that is subject to horizontal property regulations, you can consult your future participation in maintenance costs, any possible limitations for use in the property's interior and the regulations for common installations and areas in the articles of association.

In order to check the variables cited above, you can ask the community of property owners for the articles of association, if necessary, and a certificate from the community secretary concerning the situation for community expenses payments.

Basic services

Once you have chosen your dwelling, you have to contract basic services, such as electricity, gas, water and telephone. Contracting these services is the responsibility of the tenant, in the case of rented accommodation, or the owner in the case of purchased properties.

Electricity and gas services can be contracted with any company, given that the market has been deregulated. 

Insurance

An insurance contract must always be formalised in writing. The insurance company is obliged to give the insured person a policy, a document in which the insurance company must identify itself, the insurance broker and exactly what is being insured. The types of risk covered, the objects that are being insured, the amount insured and the cost of the insurance premium must all be specified.

Most banks demand an insurance policy as a condition for conceding a mortgage.

There are three basic kinds of insurance policies:

 

Insuring damage to the dwelling

This is a legal obligation and covers the structure of the dwelling. In the case of total loss of the property, the insurance company pays off the outstanding debt with the financial institution. The remaining amount, up to the total value covered, is given to the policy holder.

The value of this insurance policy can vary between €75 and €100 a year.

 

Multi-risk insurance policy for the dwelling

This policy covers the dwelling's structure (like the previous policy) and the contents (including domestic appliances, jewellery and furniture, and liability to third parties). Although the quotas vary greatly depending on individual cases and the value insured, the price will be around €150 a year.

 

Life insurance or mortgage repayment policy

Although this is not obligatory, this kind of policy is advisable because it covers death, total or permanent disability, although it does not normally cover partial disability. It may cost around €200 a year.

The Building Standards Act requires that promoters contract an insurance policy for material damages or a surety bond (chosen by the promoter) to ensure that they will pay for damage that occurs to the dwelling.

This means that if the dwelling has any kind of structural damage (foundations, columns, beams, reinforced concrete floors, load-bearing walls, etc.), or is showing signs of problems arising from defects in construction or installation features, the promoter (the builder, co-operative etc.) will have to compensate the owner of the flat.

This kind of insurance policy becomes valid the moment the work is approved and the buyer becomes the owner. However, it should be remembered that this only covers the first ten years, for structural defects, and the first three years for problems or defects that do not comply with building habitability regulations.

Advertising, information and offer

Act 24/1991 concerning housing, regulates, among other things, advertising, information and offer:

  • Surface area: This must refer to the useful surface area of the dwelling, which corresponds to the internal spaces of the property, excluding partition and load-bearing walls. On the other hand, constructed surface area is the sum of all the property's surfaces which in the case of a multifamily building, will also include the part corresponding to the surface area of common elements.
  • Economic offer: the selling price must specify the concepts it includes. If they are not listed, it will be understood that taxes, charges and other expenses that are legally the responsibility of the buyer are not included in the price.
  • Information in the offer: Sufficient information must be provided on the dwelling's basic conditions, such as its size and layout, the construction quality, the degree of thermal and acoustic insulation, ownership, the charges and levies on the property, the conditions of use, available local services, probable maintenance costs, economic and financing requirements of the offer, and taxes the property is subject to. For new dwellings, there must also be information concerning permits and administrative authorisation, construction dates, and in cases where the dwellings are finished, information concerning obligatory guarantees.

Documents for purchasing a second-hand flat

  • Property deed (this can be requested from the Property Registry).
  • Plans of the property.
  • Certificate of ownership and encumbrances. This can be requested with a simple note to the Property Registry.
  • Cadastral certificate for the property.

 

Furthermore, the seller must provide:

  • Occupancy certificate (Article 26 Act 18/2007 concerning housing rights). Article  132 of Act 18/2007 concerning housing rights establishes the possibility of expressly exonerating this obligation, provided that, by means of a report issued by a competent technician, it is certified that the property will be able to obtain the occupancy certificate after the renovation work has been carried out.
  • An aptitude certificate if the building has had to pass a technical inspection.
  • An up-to-date simple informative note from the Property Registry.
  • The declaration of new building and horizontal division and the status of the community of property owners if that has been provided, where applicable.
  • The necessary documents for contracting the dwelling's services and utilities.
  • Guarantees for the property (if the dwelling is under 10 years old, it is obligatory to provide a ten-year policy for structural problems and defects).
  • Documents concerning the constituted mortgage, if necessary (request justification or certificates proving that mortgage repayments are up to date).
  • Sales deed from the seller or, in cases where this is lacking, registration details for the property. If the seller does not facilitate this information, it can be obtained from the Property Registry by indicating the property's address.
  • Payment receipt for the last yearly IBI (property tax) payment, which shows the rateable value of the property, an essential piece of information for paying a number of taxes.
  • A certificate concerning the transmitting party's outstanding debts to the community, which must also show the approved ordinary expenses that are pending.

 

It is also a good idea to ask for the property's urban planning classification in order to verify its planning legality. This can be requested from either the seller or the City Council's urban planning services.

Documents for buying a new flat

  • Final completion certificate.
  • Certificate of Occupancy.
  • First Occupancy Licence.
  • Obligatory guarantee.
  • Connection to the general service network for planned network services.
  • Compliance with the conditions stipulated in the building permit.
  • Building record.
  • Where applicable, the division of the mortgage among all the property's registry operators.

 

When buying off-plan, it is essential to check that the amounts provided by the buyer are guaranteed through a third-party guarantee or an insurance policy. This provides a guarantee for the amounts invested in the property's construction and which will be returned to the buyer in the event of non-compliance or non-finalisation of the construction. 

The contract for the off-plan purchase of a flat must include the following points:

  • The planned date for handing over the property, including a penalisation to be paid by the seller in case of delay.
  • The total price of the property, including all taxes to be paid.
  • Means of payment. Reference must be made to the existence or not of any mortgages, subrogation (if the buyer wishes to take on the mortgage, which they are not obliged to do) and its possible cancellation.
  • The following documents must appear in the annexes to the contract:
    • A plan of the building's location.
    • A plan of the property, with specifications of the useful surface area and its measurements, certified by competent technicians. If there are annexes, the measurements must be differentiated.
    • Building specifications.  
    • A sketch of the electricity, gas and water installations.

 

If the seller does not fulfil the contract, the buyer can claim and even ask for the contract to be terminated, with prior refunding of the amounts paid.

In the case of non-compliance with the deadline for handing over the property, the buyer can claim for the agreed amounts in compensation.

Certificate of Occupancy

All dwellings, whether they be new or second hand, as well as those that have been extensively renovated, must have a certificate of occupancy, which is the document that guarantees compliance with minimum required standards for a dwelling. Furthermore, in new buildings, the certificate guarantees compliance with obligatory quality controls for the construction of dwellings.

It is essential to have this certificate for contracting electricity, gas and water supplies.

Only a specialist (architect, technical architect or quantity surveyor) may certify the habitability of a flat and issue the certificate. You can look for a professional to carry out this task online:

 

It is important to remember that this document expires fifteen years after being issued. It must be renewed at the end of this period.

Certificates of habitability can be processed at Barcelona Housing Offices.

Application forms for certificates of habitability can be obtained from the Generalitat of Catalonia's Housing website.

Contract and public deed

A buyer legally becomes the owner of a property when they sign a private contract which specifies the rights and obligations of both the buyer and the seller.

The sales contract of a property must clearly identify the following points:

  • Identification of the seller and the buyer, recognition of their legal capacity for signing the contract and in what capacity they are acting.
  • A description of the property and annexes (garage, lumber rooms, etc.).
  • Useful surface area.
  • Communal areas and the articles of association of the community of property owners, where applicable.
  • Geographical location.
  • Possible tax charges.
  • Registration details.
  • Economic situation of the property (tax receipts and payment certificates).
  • Price and means of payment.
  • Applicable taxes (VAT or ITP - property transfer tax).
  • Distribution of economic costs of the sale.
  • Date for handing over the keys.
  • Deadline for presenting the public deed.
  • Conditions of the sale.
  • Conditions for subrogation of the mortgage if this should arise.
  • Penalisation applicable to both parties in the case of non-compliance with the contract.

 

Apart from these points, it is recommended that both parties agree to submit to free consumer arbitration as a way of solving any possible conflicts.

However, the buyer does not become the legal owner of the property until a notary public raises the contract signed with the seller to the status of public deed. In addition to the information undersigned in the contract, this deed must also show the following points:

  • Encumbrances on the property. The notary public has the obligation of making a last check on the registration status of the property. The buyer may forego this last check, but this is not advisable.
  • Proof of payment of the IBI property tax. The notary public must attach to the deed a photocopy of the most recent IBI receipt paid by the seller.
  • Subordination to legal requirements and fiscal obligations arising from the sale.
  • Distribution of the costs of the operation between the parties.
  • Payment of notary public costs, with specific mention of the basis for implementing tariffs, the number of tariffs applied and the corresponding fees.
  • The entire deed must be read in front of the notary public before signing. Once both parties have signed the public deed, it is recorded in the Property Register, although first the corresponding taxes must be paid, especially those applicable to the property transfer itself.

 

It must be remembered that the buyer has the right to choose the notary public responsible for formulating the public deed of the sale.

Before recording the public deed in the Property Register, the taxes applicable to the operation must be paid to the appropriate administration. In the case of second-hand properties this is the property transfer tax.

Registering the property is voluntary, but it is highly recommendable to do this, for protection against possible fraud. Furthermore, it will be needed if the property is transferred again in the future. 

Putting a property up for sale

The owner of a property can sell it directly to the buyer. However, advice from a professional is recommended.

One option is to sell the property through an intermediary. In this case, it must be considered whether the intermediary is given exclusive rights to sell the property or not. The market for property sale intermediaries has been deregulated, and therefore there is no exclusivity for acting as an intermediary for selling properties. However, you must ensure the professionalism and experience of your chosen intermediary.

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