How long does it take to buy a property in Tenerife Spain?

I often have clients that are buying property in Tenerife, asking me how long it takes from them making a decision to buy one and actually owning the property of their dreams.  

The time it takes from deciding to buy a property in Tenerife and signing the paperwork at the notary to complete your purchase and actually receiving the keys will vary, it’ll depend a lot on the type of property as well.

For example, if you’re buying a country house that’s quite old, there will likely be a lot of work involved in confirming that the property and land surrounding it, is in fact legal and also owned by the people who are selling it.

It wouldn’t be the first time that a country house sale didn’t go through because the lawyer working for the buyer has found an error in the paperwork or that the property is still owned partially by the previous owner because the paperwork wasn’t done correctly on the previous sale.

Buying a modern apartment or villa

If you’re buying a house or apartment in a complex or for that matter a villa built since 2000, as an example, completion times from putting down the deposit to collecting the keys can be, in comparison to some other countries, extremely short…in fact, it can be a matter of a few working days if everything falls into place.

For example, if you’ve ever bought property in the UK before, you’ll know that it can take three to four months to complete your purchase, but here in Spain, although you might not think it because you hear that everything in Spain is “mañana mañana”, it’s actually possible for it to be a very quick process.

If the buyer and the seller are both in Tenerife at the same time and the buyers have their money in place already, then really the property transaction can take as little as several working days. 

In fact, that’s my record in Tenerife, at that time both the buyer and seller were here on the Island at the same time the buyer was ready to move, the seller was already out of the property, and everything was signed, sealed, and delivered within five working days. 

When you’re buying a property in Tenerife, obviously the legal checks need to be done by your lawyer and these are done electronically. So once you’ve decided on which property you’re going to buy, your lawyer will start to check the property by getting a “nota simple” from the local land registry office and this is obtained online, very often within 24 hours.

This nota simple will detail the owners, the property address, the size of the property, and also if there are any outstanding debts on the property. 

Effectively what they’re doing when checking this property out is to make sure that it is free of any debt, it’s registered with the land registry, it’s recorded with the measurements, so that helps you confirm what you believe it to be and that it’s actually owned by the people that are supposedly selling it. 

There’s still loads more to do after that as well, but this initial check speeds up the process so much more than it does, for example, in the United Kingdom where a lot of that is still paper based.

After checking the nota simple, the lawyer will also need to make sure that all of the town hall bills, such as IBI (council tax) and rubbish collection as well as the utility bills are all up to date and if the property is situated on a community or a complex then they need to confirm that the community fees have been paid and up to date as well. 

This will entail the community president and the administration company getting together and signing a certificate to confirm that the community fees are in fact up to date  by the owners of the property being sold and that there’s nothing outstanding. 

What if there are outstanding debts on the property I buy in Tenerife?

If the lawyer finds that there are some bills outstanding, it’s not the end of the world, they can make a retention holding back the amount of outstanding money.

Some owners feel that they would rather pay the bills off themselves, just on case the buyer’s lawyer doesn’t, but it’s very often much easier for the lawyer to hold back the money and do it, because firstly, if there outstanding debt isn’t paid, then it’ll be attached to the new owners and secondly, if the seller does it, it may take time for the payment to go through the utility company’s system, so may not be able to be proven that it’s paid and therefore hold up the sale.

Also, another important thing is to make sure that there’s no mortgage or embargo of any kind on the property you’re buying. Again, if there’s an outstanding mortgage or embargo, there’ll be quite a bit of paperwork for the lawyer to organise, but simply put, the money will be held back by the lawyer and the mortgage will then be paid off using your money…effectively not giving the seller all of their funds…it’ll be what’s left over after all debts have been paid.

What I would say is that just because a property purchase can go through quickly, it doesn’t mean that the lawyer is skimping on work. If you’re from the UK, you may think that it should take 3 to 4 months to complete…but in reality, the Spanish lawyers have a much better system to work with here and on top of that, everything will be double checked at the notary office when you go there to sign the deeds.