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CASE STUDY: Buying an apartment in Madrid from USA

This is a case study of a recent purchase I helped someone make in my role as a Real Estate Buyer’s Agent in Madrid. My client was in the USA and didn’t need to come in person to Madrid to complete her purchase.

Vanessa lives in the United States, and her son had been admitted to the prestigious IE school in Madrid for a two-year master’s degree. She decided that instead of renting something for him, she would invest in an apartment that her son could use during his studies, that would be easy to rent later on and that would be a good store of value.

The project involved several phases:

Launching

When Vanessa first got in touch with me, she wasn’t sure what to buy and where, nor how much financing she could get from a Spanish bank.

Therefore, the first thing my team and I did when she hired us and we started working together was to define the project, based on her needs and our knowledge of the market:

  • We first helped define the global budget by putting her in touch with a mortgage broker who analyzed her financial position and helped determine her total budget based on her existing savings and her borrowing capacity for a mortgage. Banks in Spain don’t offer the same conditions to non-residents as to residents, so it’s really important to get a mortgage proposal from a bank before starting to look for a property. A mortgage broker is very helpful in this situation because they know which banks are more likely to give the best mortgage conditions for a client’s particular financial profile.
  • We also gave Vanessa a rundown of the documents she would need to get and steps she would need to take to be able to complete the purchasing process. For example, she did not yet have a NIE number (foreigners id number, a must-have if you want to buy property in Spain), so we explained the different ways it could be obtained so she could choose the most convenient.
  • Vanessa had been to Madrid a few times but didn’t know many areas and neighborhoods, so next we helped pinpoint the neighborhoods that were the best fit in terms of value for money, good atmosphere, and easy access to the IE campus on foot or by public transportation. These areas were the ones we would focus our attention on during the search.
  • Last but not least, we helped translate Vanessa’s wishes and expectations to the reality of todays’ real estate market in Madrid, in other words what kind of apartment she could expect to buy in the selected areas and within her budget.

Searching for and filtering apartments

Once we had the project well defined, we started to look for the ideal property.

We looked online and also reached out to all our contacts who might have properties on sale in the selected neighborhoods. We filtered everything that was on sale in each of the neighborhoods, and selected the most promising ones to view.

We went to view those apartments, and made a video walk-though of each of them, plus an unbiased report with the pros and cons, for Vanessa to consider. Vanessa viewed the videos and reports from her home in the USA, and gave us feedback of what she liked and didn’t like about them, as well as about the neighborhoods. This way we could narrow down the options even more, until finally we found the absolute best fit that Vanessa could feel really excited about.

 

 

Negotiations and Due Diligence

The asking price was a bit above budget, but we managed to negotiate the price with the sellers to bring it down to a number that fit Vanessa’s budget and which the sellers were willing to accept.

We also ran a legal and technical due diligence on the apartment and the building, by having the lawyers from our legal department review all the documents requested from the seller, making sure the property was free of any liens and encumbrances, and would be legally mortgage-able. Our technician also made sure there were no major flaws in the apartment that would be costly to fix for Vanessa as the new owner, and that the building itself was well maintained, considering it was an older construction. Finally, we looked into the building’s HOA to make sure it was not a conflictive or excessively troublesome community.

Once we had all green flags and the seller’s agreement to the price, we negotiated in Vanessa’s name the terms of the 10% deposit (in Spanish called “arras”) contract and helped her with this crucial step in the process.

Closing!

Once the 10% arras contract was signed, the next step was to finish formalizing the mortgage and prepare the signing of the purchase deeds. Vanessa wasn’t going to be able to travel to Spain at the time when the deeds were to be signed, so she asked us to help her sign remotely. To sign the deeds in her name we needed a POA written in terms that would be acceptable for Spanish Notaries. We helped Vanessa sign a correctly drawn up POA with an international (bilingual) notary from her home, have it legalized with the Hague Apostille, and have the physical copy sent to our office in Madrid – all within a fortnight!

Once we had the POA, we used it to open the bank account in Vanessa’s name at the bank that was going to grant her the mortgage. Not all banks will allow a client to open a fully operational account without ever seeing their client in person, so it’s important to know which banks to go to.

Once the bank account was open, Vanessa could transfer the funds needed for the down payment and closing costs. For this we put her in touch with a forex broker that got her an incredibly good USD/EUR exchange rate, all the while giving her personal service and helping her pass the bank’s anti-money-laundering filter, which is very important if you want to make sure the bank doesn’t flag and block your incoming transfer.

The final step in the process was of course the singing of the deeds. We worked together with the notary and the sellers to make sure all the documents were received and reviewed by the notary’s office in time, and a few days before the signing date we reviewed the draft of the deeds clause by cluse with Vanessa to make sure she understood everything. We also went to the notary prior to the signing of the deeds to sign the “transparency act” in Vanessa’s name, which is a legal requirement for mortgagees since 2019.

That’s me in the photo above, having just signed the deeds in her name, with the seller and bank representative with me.

Once the deeds had been signed, we helped Vanessa put all the utilities on her name, install an alarm, and make sure the building’s administrator had her contact details.

By the time Vanessa’s son came to Madrid to start his studies, he could move in to a beautiful, fully functional and fully equipped apartment!

Vanessa made a great long-term investment in Madrid, as the apartment is in a good neighborhood and will very likely increase its value over time. If she decides to rent it after her son finishes his studies, she will get a good return on her investment. And she could get all this done from her home in the USA, stress and hassle free!

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