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Be Prepared

"From a property finder’s perspective looking at specific properties should be the last step in the buying process."

I was prompted to write this blog after seeing a video clip on social media featuring property buyers from the US complaining that, in spite of contacting multiple estate agents in Spain prior to their arrival, only one had responded. They went on to say that selling agents in the US are no good at following up leads so I’m not quite sure why they thought it would be any different in Spain. It left them starting from scratch once they arrived in Málaga. A much more productive approach would have been to work with their own agent, a buying agent/property finder. 

I think it’s true to say that most estate agents prefer to have someone sitting in front of them before they get too involved. A potential buyer in their office is much better than a distant lead who may or may not actually turn up at some time in the future. And to be fair, estate agents are working for sellers and may receive 100s of online enquiries. Sifting and sorting through them to get to the handful who will be serious buyers takes a huge amount of time. Of course, many agencies will have back office staff to make the initial call back but that is no substitute for a face-to-face consultation. It often means someone who hasn’t seen any of the properties being targeted talking to someone who doesn’t really know what they want or where they want it. On an average day a selling agent may be out of the office for hours, showing properties, valuing or taking on new listings, and fielding calls from sellers who want to know why their gem of a property hasn’t sold in a year (hint: usually the asking price is too high).

Overseas buyers are often on quite a tight schedule and if they don’t get it right on the first go, multiple repeated trips waste more time and money. Perhaps not a major problem for those in Europe who can fly in at very short notice on a relatively inexpensive flight lasting little more than a couple of hours but quite different from further afield, which is much more common in today’s Spanish overseas property sector, it's much more global than previously. So, the time between a buyer getting serious about a property purchase and getting their feet on the ground needs to be put to good use and that means more than staring at thumbnail images on agents’ websites. Over the years, I’ve worked with buyers who have spent months and, in a few cases, years going round in circles but with us on the case for a couple of months they’re sorted and satisfied. 

Two issues stood out for me while I was watching the video clip. Firstly, the buyers knew the US real estate industry very well, in fact, they were realtors themselves. And secondly, they needed a mortgage to finance the purchase but hadn’t done any research prior to finding a property. However, and this is very common with buyers from overseas, they hadn’t really opened their minds to the fact that the buying and borrowing processes wouldn’t necessarily be the same in Spain as in the US or whatever the home country is.

From a property finder’s perspective looking at specific properties should be the last step in the buying process. If a loan is needed get that sorted first, talk to a broker or bank, submit all the required documentation and at the very least get an informal, verbal offer.  Choosing a property and then trying to get the finance arranged is definitely the wrong way round, it’s pointless leaving this all-important issue until you’ve found a property you like and negotiated the price, assuming the loan will be forthcoming. It might not be. 

On several occasions, properties I had inspected and shortlisted for different clients went under offer before they could view. Only then did the various potential buyers go looking for a mortgage - and failed. Whenever this has occurred my clients have been able to step in and purchase. And in those cases where they also needed a loan this had been part of the preparation process and they had an offer agreed in principle so no nasty surprises. From the sellers perspective they were the same as a cash buyer and could proceed without delay. 

In contrast, these American buyers found a property and actually made a trip intending to complete the purchase but several brokers were unable to get them to the next stage, by which time the sellers had pulled out. Finally, with another broker and a different property, they got there in the end but unnecessarily stressful, all because they hadn’t done it the right way round. If you’re planning to buy a property in Spain and need a mortgage, don’t be like them. One of the first things I ask when talking to potential new clients is whether they are cash buyers or if they need finance. If it’s a yes, I will put them in touch with a broker or a bank at that stage, well before we get stuck into a property search. Get prepared and be confident that by the time you are actually viewing specific properties they will have all be checked out by us and you’ll be ready to go as soon as you choose which one is right for you.


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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