Malaga is a city where tourism has skyrocketed over the last 15 years. It has practically reinvented itself to become one of the most sought-after short-break destinations, with great exhibitions, new museums and a totally renovated port. Add to this great weather, that Mediterranean light, its almost tropical winters, welcoming, friendly locals, a very affordable cost of living, the sea, the beaches… and it’s no surprise that property in Malaga has also taken centre stage.
Many visitors and tourists are tempted to buy or rent a property in the city after their stay or business trip whether it’s to relocate to Malaga or invest in the city. But before you take the plunge, take a look at this list of 10 things (basic and legal) to think about before you look at property in Malaga, compiled by someone who was born in the city, lives there and better still, is a lawyer.
Think about your reasons for buying property in Malaga
Think about why you like Malaga. How do you see yourself in the city? Will you stay temporarily and let your property for the rest of the time? Spend just a couple of months in winter or summer? Or live in Malaga for the whole year? Invest in an old apartment and restore it for rentals? Let it for long-term to residents or short-term lets to people on holiday in Malaga?
Decide where to buy property in Malaga
The next step when thinking about property in Malaga is that all-important location. Choose the area of the city that you like or want to invest in. Malaga is a city that has grown considerably and offers areas that are very different to each other. With different transport links, services, infrastructure and life styles.
Just about any part of the city makes a perfect place to live except those that are a long way from the sea, those with poor transport connections and parts of the north that are run-down. Think twice too about the old quarter, which in spite of its stunning architecture can be problem if you don’t choose your location well because of noisy bars and restaurants.
Get the right legal advice
When you know what sort of property you’re looking for and where, get a good lawyer. Preferably one who is independent and not associated with any estate agents to ensure that he/she will defend your interests ONLY. Choose one who speaks English so everything is explained clearly and you have no doubts or queries left unanswered. It’s also easier if your lawyer works or lives in Malaga.
Get ahead with the paperwork
Make the most of your visits to Malaga to get the paperwork you’ll need to purchase property. Go to the National Police (policía nacional) to get your foreigner’s identification number (NIE in Spanish) that is essential if you want to buy property in Malaga or a car, for example.
Open a bank account too so that you can issue cheques to buy the property and set up direct debit for all maintenance costs, utility bills, council taxes, etc.
Take care with agents
Be on your guard with estate agents. The profession isn’t regulated properly in Spain where almost anyone can open an estate agency and start selling property with little real training. Dozens have opened in Malaga (and there are hundreds of online agencies offering property for sale in the city too). Make sure you use a reputable agency or one that comes recommended.
Don’t believe everything they tell you
Even if you choose a reputable agent, don’t believe everything they tell you, particularly when it comes to legal matters. Get your lawyer to check these. Always.
And never let the agent rush you. Being in a hurry is the buyer’s worst enemy and can be costly. Andalusian Lawyers recommend that you don’t sign a reservation document and hand over funds (usually between €5,000 and €10,000). This is a common practice among agents who claim that this is the only way a buyer can secure a property in Malaga. It’s actually their way of ensuring their sale and commission. Whatever you do, check with your lawyer before you sign and/or pay anything.
Don’t agree to anything
Never agree to anything verbally or written without consulting your lawyer first even when you’re looking round the property with the agent. These agreements could be used literally by the agent and/or the seller. When you find your dream property, tell the agent that you will be instructing your lawyer to get in touch with them. Don’t rush – everything will fit into place in good time.
Have funds ready
Have 10% of the price ready for when you sign the private purchase contract after your lawyer has carried out the appropriate the legal checks. You pay the balance between 1 and 3 months later once your lawyer has prepared the title deeds and finished the legal checks. Factor in another 10% for taxes and fees (including your lawyer’s).
Leave the rest to your lawyer
Your lawyer will usually organise not just the payment of taxes and the registration of your property in Malaga at the Registry Office, but also direct debit for all utilities and local taxes. And finally, it’s worth thinking about making a will once you own a property in Spain because not having one can be a bit of a nightmare (although not for you!).
Once you’ve bought your property in Malaga, come and visit as often as you can… It will change your life.
This article has been written for Guide to Malaga by Jose Maria Sánchez from Andalusian Lawyers, an independent legal firm with over 25 years of experience in Spanish property law. You can get in touch with Jose Maria here.