Ah. Yesterday I had the first lunch out with friends I’ve had in 4 months. I won’t lie, it felt a little weird to be on the terrace eating with people I don’t live with and without masks so we could eat. Although, I had to do it some time on the street, people we know walked by and stopped to chat and I found myself leaning away from them as they spoke, masked up. Like a reflex now.
After months, I collected the random used books I had accepted virtually, to support the clean up and restoration of the British cemetery here in Valencia. And I was happily surprise Jane Austin was hidden in the mix. My all-time favorite – Pride & Prejudice – greeted me warmly.
It was nice to spend time with other people. But a lunch that would normally have been hours long, stretching until the early evening, was surprisingly short. I found after the main course I was ready to skip coffee and desert and to go home. Not because I wasn’t enjoying myself, but I had this need to get back inside. Weird – I know.
During lunch our conversation turned to real estate. One of the people we know is selling a house she inherited in the UK and she was talking about how it’s going. And it was an education.
In the UK, they have something called ‘chains’ where houses are stuck in this long line of offers and agreed contracts where each house’s sale is contingent upon the the sale of the buyer’s house, who’s contingent upon another seller’s house, and another buyer’s house, etc. There can be an unlimited number of homes in this chain. And there is no time limit as to when this long line of a pyramid scheme has to take place. In the meanwhile, everyone who has ‘agreed a contract’ has their property tied up, including earnest money in escrow at risk if they pull out. Madness. It can take years.
In Britain, they also do the real estate listings like they do in Spain. Where the agent lists the property but the buyer and the seller will need their own solicitors to handle the contracts. And I learned something I didn’t know about purchasing a home here and it will come in handy.
In Spain, as in the UK, we will find a house. Before we make a formal offer – but after we have a gentleman’s agreement about the price with the owner (we had this on two properties before) – we will have a survey done (ours fell through before we completed this). That’s an] home inspection for my US readers. Once that’s complete, contracts are drawn up and exchanged by the buyer and seller. Yes, I knew all that.
But what I didn’t know, in Spain – unlike the UK – there is a time limit on the closing date. So you have to set it at least 3 months out – maybe more just ot be safe – to get everything ticked and tied, because as the buyer, if you miss this date for any reason the seller takes your earnest money. As a seller, if for some reason you ‘don’t deliver the property to the buyer’ you will have to pay them twice the earnest money for wasting their time. One of my friends at the lunch yesterday was the beneficiary of this for a new house here in Valencia when a builder couldn’t deliver on time. She explained how it all worked. Interesting.
In the US, licensed but not legally educated grandmas sell multi-million dollar houses simply by filling out forms. The buyer has their own agent and the seller has their own agent. The agents talk to each other about prices, repairs, etc. The buyer and seller never meet.
Here, estate agents can show houses but the contracts will be initiated and overseen by solicitors (abogados) who are lawyers and legally liable for the accuracy of their contracts – along with the notarias who will physically write up the contract. Notaria is a job for writing up contracts. If you’re a notaria in Spain you are a powerful person. Nothing happens without you and your stamp.
We have to decide, when the time comes, if we will use our Abogado in Valencia or if we’ll retain one in Galicia to help move the the process along up there.
One other thing we have noticed is that if the seller is Spanish and they hear we’re American, the price will sometimes go up. The agent will tell us ‘Oh, the owner says the price has changed.’ Even though they just lowered it on the website. I think it’s because they think we’re all rich. Ha! But I did hear of instances where the sellers said ‘If American’s are coming here now I am probably asking too little.’ Crazy. Sadly, they’ll be disappointed to learn Jeff and I are not trend setting Instagram influencers back in the US. A year later these houses are still for sale.
Only two weeks to go before we start our road trip to Galicia. It’s been a long time coming. Never thought our only ‘vacation’ for the year would be a one week house hunting trip, and that I would lay awake at night and imagine the freedom we will feel doing it. Yesterday, it was nice to see my friends for lunch and I always learn something new when I do.