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Guides for International Buyers #3

"This blog covers how we progress once the initial short list is compiled and the viewing process begins. There are some big differences between how this can work with an estate agent and property finders like us."

This is the 3rd in a series of guides to help overseas buyers navigate the property market in Spain. The 1st guide covered the super-important issue of getting the right location for the buyer’s criteria while the 2nd was about how we actually carry out a search. This blog covers the next step once the initial short list is compiled and the viewing process begins. There are some big differences between how this can work with an estate agent and property finders like us.

As property finders we inspect all potential properties we locate, both openly listed and private sales, and submit a detailed written report about all aspects of each property, so our clients know in advance of their arrival exactly what they’re going to be looking at. They will have already seen high-quality images, possibly a video and floor plans when available, included in a written analysis of the property, giving them so much more information about properties than they can get from a thumbnail image and a selling agent’s description on a website. 

Buyers should also be aware that, because of the multi-listing systems that are so prevalent in many of the overseas buyer hotspots, plus the indiscriminate lifting of properties from other agents’ websites, it is not uncommon that selling agents are seeing a property for the first time when they take a buyer to view it. In contrast, we will have dug deep into a property’s background, the reason for sale, legal enquiries and inspected internally. Big difference.

As we stick rigorously to the agreed criteria, the initial shortlist will probably have 6± properties to view although In most searches we will have reviewed many more properties just to find the few that get shortlisted for viewing. In the current supply-side drought it would be very unusual to find more than a handful without including properties that don’t tick all the boxes. However, we do not have a maximum number of properties that we will inspect (some buying agents do) and we’ll continue until the clients are ready to start reviewing their shortlist, even if it’s very short. In my view, it’s always better to have a handful of properties that are exactly what’s wanted rather than waste time trailing around 15 properties that aren’t. I have worked for buyers who had spent weeks, months and even years looking at properties that had few, or none, of their requirements or there was some major negative, such as a main road location, wrong orientation, adjacent building site, etc., that somehow never got mentioned until they were outside the front door.  What a waste of time.

Once we know how long the visit will be we organise the viewing schedule. For the majority of our clients a viewing trip will be between 2 - 4 days, either midweek or over a weekend. We recommend allowing time for 2nd and even 3rd visits and these should always be at different times of the day. So, if the 1st visit was in the morning the 2nd should be in the late afternoon. If viewings are between April and October it can be very difficult to appreciate just how low in the sky the sun will be in winter but this is something we are very good at assessing. If a property will be used in winter, and most foreigners are buying in Spain for regular winter use, it is vital that they understand exactly where the sun will be and when. While east facing properties can be good for breakfast-time sun they can often lose it before the sun is at its warmest and, as a result, it will be too cold to be outside once the terraces, pool and gardens are in shade. 

Repeat visits can also be used to get an idea of likely costs for any work that’s going to be done, updating a kitchen and bathrooms, for example. Obviously, these will only be ball park guesstimates but it’s always best to have some idea before making an offer. If it is unlikely that the clients can make time for a follow-up visit after selecting a property, and many can’t because of business/family commitments or they are very long-distance, then there also needs to be time for talking to a lawyer and other due diligence, such as opening a bank account, applying for their fiscal identification and granting a power of attorney.  While these can be enacted from the home country it is so much easier to do while in Spain. If time is short then, at the very least, you should decide who your lawyer is going to be. 

At the beginning of this blog I spoke about compiling the initial shortlist. That’s because, although the majority of our clients buy one of the properties they see on their first viewing trip, on occasions it does happen that they want to tweak their criteria and ask us to search again. A requirement that was right at the top of the original wish list might slip down few places, to be replaced by something that really wasn’t thought to be too important. For example, during a search I carried out a few years ago  our clients were adamant that a panoramic sea-view was non-negotiable; if there wasn’t a good sea view they weren’t going to buy and I did manage to locate 6 properties for the initial viewing trip, all with excellent sea views. However, after viewing, our follow-up discussions changed everything. While sea views would still be nice they were no longer essential but walking distance to the nearest village went to the top of the list and became the new non-negotiable. In the event, I was only able to locate one suitable property that fulfilled the new #1 requirement and they bought it. It didn’t have a sea view, or we thought it didn’t, but it was only 700 metres from the nearest village, one of Andalucía’s prettiest. However, after a lot of hard work clearing very overgrown land the most magnificent view of the Mediterranean, Gibraltar and the north African coast opened up, so in the end they got it all.

Next time I’ll ago over what happens once a property being identified as 'the one' and getting the keys. In the meantime, do take a look at a selection of our Case Studies, showcasing some of the properties we've found for clients.  In the mix are apartments, townhouses and detached villas and fincas on the coast and inland. The property mentioned above, where the clients changed their criteria ad priorities, is this one.

About the author

Barbara Wood

Barbara founded The Property Finders in 2003. More than two decades of experience and her in-depth knowledge of the Spanish property market help buyers get the knowledge they need to find the right property for them.

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