What is a Notary in Spain and how much do they cost?

There aren’t many notaries in the UK and they’re certainly not used as much as we use them in mainland Europe, so, what is a notary in Spain and what do they do?

To give an idea what a notary is, I always say that they’re one step up from being a lawyer and one step down from being a judge.

Basically, here’s the answer to the question – What is a notary? A notary is always used for overseeing important public transactions such as wills being written, arranging a power of attorney, contracts that need to be notarised, personal loans and mortgages being completed and of course, making sure that all of the paperwork is in order when you’re buying a property in Spain.

If you buy a property in Spain, the notary will be the last office that you go to on the day of completion.

On the day of completing your purchase, your legal representative…you’ll remember that I’ve said before in other posts that I highly recommend that you use a legal representative rather than allowing the estate agent to complete the legal paperwork…anyway, your lawyer or legal representative will attend the notary office with you, unless you’re not able to attend and you’ve given them a power of attorney, and that’s where you’ll finish the process of buying your place in Spain.

At the end of the paperwork process for buying a property, unless it’s a new build and the property hasn’t been finished yet, you should be handed your keys and as soon as you’re out of the notary office, you can move in to your new place.

In all honesty, the notary is really just going over the paperwork that’s been done by your lawyer and has been processed by the staff working in the office for the notary.

The property that you’re buying is checked to make sure that the vendors really are the owners and allowed to sell it. It’ll also confirm that any outstanding bills are paid up to date and also that there aren’t any embargos on the property, where perhaps the current owners owe money to someone else but haven’t paid them, hence the embargo.

All of the main work is done by the notary office staff and your lawyer but the responsibility is fully on the shoulders of the notaries themselves. If anything has been done incorrectly, it’ll be down to the person signing the deeds, they’re the one with the qualification…and earning the big bucks.

Now, you might feel a little overwhelmed when you go into the notary office especially as some of the older notaries have loads of those big old dusty brown legal books on miles and miles of shelves, just like the old solicitors in the UK.

Don’t be overwhelmed by them, if you’re buying a property you’re the one paying the bill…ultimately the notary is working for you.

On the opposite side of the coin, you might find that the younger notaries, of which there are many starting to take over the offices of the older generation, are having their offices designed in a more modern way and you hardly see any of those old brown books.

For these office, think along the lines of white desks, glass walls and open plan offices, that’s the idea that’s being used in many of the more modern notary offices these days.

Actually, where I work in Tenerife, there’s one notary that I’ve used a lot and he’s a bit of a hybrid…he’s well over 60, and his office used to be the old brown book type but about 2 years ago they had a total refit and now it’s all modern in the reception area…apart from his own office, which still has shelves with all of the old brown books on it.

What can I use a Spanish notary for?

The main reasons to use a notary in Spain are listed below but if you have any other reason to think that they could be useful, just pop into your local notary office and ask.

The main reasons to use a Spanish notary are:-
Last wills and testaments
Declaration of heirs where there is no will – Cases of intestacy
General contracts and agreements
Purchases of real estate in Spain
Inheritance declarations and requests from heirs
Any type of power of attorney
Loans, mortgages and other debts – even for a small personal loan
The foundation, modification & separation of companies & partnerships
Any kind of sworn declaration or statement
Marriage settlements
Acquittals and the discharge of obligations
Marital status documents

How are notaries trained?

All notaries have to go through university for at least 5 years to pass a law degree and after that, they’ll have further training as a notary.

Once someone has been through university and trained as a notary, they are then chosen to work in an area or town by an authority such as a court.

There are approximately 3,000 notaries throughout Spain and some are even mobile, so bang goes their big old dusty books. The mobile notaries go out to the far flung regions and small villages to do their work.

They can even attend the homes of people who are ill or frail and have paperwork signed, so this can be a great help to the elderly.

They don’t choose where they’re going to work, they get chosen. I think that they’ll stay local to where they’ve grown up, but it’s not as if a recently qualified notary then decides to open a notary office in Madrid..they’ll get chosen for a position if one’s available.

It’s a bit odd, but although they’re chosen by a government office and get told what to charge by the government they actually run their office as a private business…in that way, it’s nothing to do with the government after they’ve been elected to run an office.

Plenty of people think that notaries are an expensive necessity…maybe they are, especially when you realise that you only see the actual notary for 10 minutes for them to sign off a property sales agreement, but in fact, the cost of the notary’s services are set out by the government, so there’s no benefit in choosing one notary over another.

You’ve also got to take into account the staff behind the scenes and the office costs as well.

Costs are worked out per page of the document that’s being worked on and signed, hence having a mortgage will make your notary fees more expensive, simply because there’ll be many more pages included in the paperwork for the property…in fact there’s a whole other document for that.

As I mentioned earlier, the costs are set by the government and, for a standard purchase, will normally be in the region of 1% of the property sale price…that’s not a guaranteed costing but will give you a good idea.

The History Of The Notary

Going back years, the notary was actually…let’s say, “the wise man” in the Spanish towns and villages.

He’d be the one with the town’s telephone in his house, he’d be the one that would make sure that if Carlos is buying a house from María, she was actually the owner and allowed to sell it.

Things have obviously come a long way since those days but nevertheless, a notary is still held in high esteem within the town as they have a fair of power….mind you, they’re not above the law in any way, they’re there to uphold the law in many ways and of course they won’t sign off things if it’s against the law and the proposed facts can’t be proven…such as the true owner of a property.

I’ve had a case before, where the paperwork for a property that was going to be bought by one of my clients was taken to a notary office for them to check.

The Escritura – the title deeds – we’re signed by the owners with their ink on their thumbs way back in the 50s…and nobody could prove who’s was who’s.

After the lawyer acting for my buyers had been to consult the notary, my buyers were strongly advised against buying the property…which,although they weren’t particularly happy, they agreed with. the thing is that someone could have come out of the woodwork years later staking a claim to the house.

Are there any notaries in the UK?

There are some notaries in the UK but they don’t fulfil the same types of tasks as the Spanish notaries.

If you’ve ever bought a property in the UK, you realise that you’ve never needed to use a notary before.

In the UK, buying property is dealt with by estate agents and solicitors…No notaries are ever used in a property transaction in the UK.

A quick search on the UK notary society website shows there are 755 notaries within the UK, so although, as I said earlier, people don’t use them as much in the UK as they do in Spain for…there are still plenty of them.

What should I wear when I go to the notary office?

It used to be, a few years ago – although not that many, that when you attended the notary office you were expected to wear a suit and tie if you were a man and if you were a woman, you should be wearing a smart dress and no trousers but these days, most notaries are younger and more modern are quite happy as long you’re wearing something smart…a ragged T-shirt, shorts and flipflops probably won’t be OK.

What happens when I’m in the notary office?

It all depends on why you’re seeing the notary.

If you’re there for arranging a will or a power of attorney by yourself, you’ll be able to go to see one of the staff members and get all of the paperwork arranged through them before seeing the actual notary to have it signed off.

It sounds pretty obvious but you’ll either have to take someone who speaks Spanish or you’ll have to have a good ability for the language…there’s no guarantee or obligation for anyone in the notary office to speak Spanish….they might, but as I say, they’re not obliged to offer the service.

If you’re completing on the purchase of your new place in the sun in Spain, then things could take a while longer…

Granted, if you’ve used a lawyer…or at least some sort of independent advice, they should have sorted the bulk of the paperwork out before you even step foot inside the notary office.

Probably they’ll have already made contact with the staff there a few times sorting out some of the things that’ll need confirmation from you when you’re there on the day.

Now, you could spend half an hour waiting in one of the rooms that are set aside for the signing of paperwork…and generally you’ll be in the same room as the people you’re buying from.

It’s unlikely that you’ll have met them before…or maybe you will have seen them on the property viewing and you may have had a quick chat if they were there but this half hour or so in the notary office can be a little tense.

You’re probably wondering what’s a happening…are the sellers pulling out? They’re sitting there wondering if you’re pulling out…listen, just because they’ve bought a property at notary before, that was likely a long time ago, they’re probably still as tense as the buyers are.

People may be coming in and out of the office asking some questions etc. but normally it’s all part of the procedure.

Once the final draft copy of the contract that’ll be signed has been written, it’ll be printed and brought into the office. You’ll be asked to check the spelling of your names and addresses etc and the contract will be translated verbally to you.

It’ll all be written in Spanish but one of the notary staff will translate it for you.

Once everyone’s happy with the contract, it’ll be printed off on proper notary headed paper and then brought back into the office and now you’ll just have to wait for the notary to pop into the office and sign the paperwork.

When the notary comes in, he’ll want to confirm your proofs of ID and then he’ll probably ask you if you’re happy to sign the document.

You’ll sign, the sellers will sign, the translator will already have signed to say that they’ve translated it and then finally, the notary will sign.

You’ll then need to hand over the cheques or proof of the bank transfer that’s been made to their account.

2 bedroom apartment for sale in El Dorado Las Americas Tenerife

And finally, there’ll be the handing over of the keys, probably with the sellers telling you the last bits and bobs about the property you’re about to call home and then you’re off to see your new place in the sun…enjoy.