16 Jun 2022

How to Buy a House in Barcelona – 12 Step Guide

Published in Barcelona, Real estate, Barcelona Property Investments, Buy a house in Barcelona

Our 12 steps tell you how to buy a house in Barcelona – from calculating costs, to the best areas to buy property and the buying process itself.

This 12-step guide on how to buy a house in Barcelona takes one thing for granted.

That is: you already know why you want to buy a house in Barcelona.

If you’re still looking for inspiration, read our articles on how housing prices in Barcelona have recovered dramatically after the COVID-19 pandemic. We’ve also put together five reasons to invest in Barcelona property in 2022.

None of these will convince you to buy a house in Barcelona as much as actually spending time here, however. We find our Barcelona relocation clients are wooed by the splendour of Antoni Gaudi’s masterpieces (e.g. La Sagrada Familia or Park Güell) as much as by a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice in a lively, sun-baked square in the historic Gothic Quarter.

A dip in the Med never hurts either.

(Don’t forget to bookmark this guide if you do decide to visit in person!)

But assuming you’re already hooked, here are 12 steps explaining how to buy a house in Barcelona.

1. Can foreigners buy a house in Barcelona?

We’ve covered the question can foreigners buy property in Barcelona? in a dedicated Q&A-style article.

Here’s what you need to know in short:

  • Foreigners can buy Barcelona property. Yes, you can buy a house in Barcelona, rent it out and then seller without ever becoming a Spanish resident.
  • You’ll need a tax ID number. All you’ll need is a NIE number (the Spanish tax identification number for foreigners) which costs as little as €10. That is, unless you use an agency specialising in Barcelona relocations like Lasose Properties & Investments – we can get you a NIE number without you leaving your home country.
  • Annual tax returns. You will file a tax return to the Spanish authorities regardless of whether you earn rental income, have business interests in Spain and are a Spanish tax resident or not.
  • Annual taxes to pay. You will need to pay income tax on any rental income, imputed income tax if your property remains empty for all or part of the year, wealth tax if your property or net worth is worth over €500,000 (if you do not become a Spanish tax resident, your foreign assets are not included in wealth tax calculations) and the annual Spanish property tax.
  • Barcelona property tax. The Spanish property tax (Impuesto sobre Bienes Inmuebles, or IBI) is 0.66% of a property’s rateable value in Barcelona. The rateable value is called the valor catastral in Spain – it is separate to a property’s market value and ideally 50% of it. An example: Your buy your Barcelona house for €400,000, it has a rateable value of €200,000, so you pay €1,320 a year in property tax. Read more about deductions and paying your property tax in instalments in our article on calculating Barcelona property tax.
  • Income tax & imputed income tax. Income tax on rent can be 24% for non-EU/EEA foreigners, while imputed income tax is usually 24% of between 1.1% to 2% of the property’s rateable value. An example: your Barcelona house cost you €400,000, you leave it empty it for a whole year, and can expect to pay between €528 to €960 in imputed income tax.

You are considered a Spanish tax resident if you live here for more than 183 days in a calendar year. This is typically corroborated with electricity bills, or similar.

If you intend to gain Spanish residency, and are not an EU citizen, then read our guide on how do I get a TIE card in Spain?

2. Mortgages for non-residents

If you have Spanish residency or not, you’re only considered a Spanish tax resident after you’ve filed a tax return for the previous fiscal year.

In Spain the fiscal year runs from 1 January to December 31, though you might not receive your tax return (declaración de la renta) until the campaign ends on June 30 each year.

This is important: mortgages for non-residents will have significantly different terms to mortgages for Spanish tax residents.

We cover these in full in our article on mortgages for non-residents in Spain.

Here’s what you need to know in short:

  • Shorter mortgage repayment terms. Non-residents will be offered a maximum mortgage repayment term of 20 years – compared with up to 40 years for residents.
  • Lower loan-to-value. Non-residents will be able to borrow up to 70% of a property’s purchase price – compared with up to 80%, and even 90% or 100% for residents.
  • Fewer options. Non-residents will be offered fixed-rate mortgages with higher interest rates – compared with variable rate mortgages, hybrid mortgages and fixed-rate mortgages with lower interest rates offered to residents.

If you do decide to take out a mortgage as a foreigner in Spain you’ll need time to find a bank that either speaks English, offers you a reasonable deal, doesn’t require you to take out additional products with the bank, or all three.

Come prepared with proof of your income as many banks will set higher thresholds for non-resident mortgages.

3. Cost of buying a property in Barcelona

Whether you’re planning to pay in cash or with a mortgage, you need to know the costs of buying a property in Barcelona.

Buyers pay between 11 to 15% of the property’s purchase on top. These costs are paid when you sign the deed, or contrato de compraventa in Spanish. A breakdown of the costs of buying property in Barcelona are:

  • Impuesto sobre Transmisiones Patrimoniales – 10%. For a second-hand home in Barcelona, you’ll pay an extra 10% of the property’s purchase price to cover the property transfer tax, or conveyance tax. If you’re 32 years of age or younger, earn under €30,000 annually and meet other requirements, this is reduced to 5% in Barcelona. Otherwise you’re paying full whack.
  • Public notary – €350 to €2000. The final property deed or contrato de compraventa in Spanish is usually signed before a public notary. Notaries are trained legal professionals, though their role is purely administrative in order to verify public documents and allow the buyer to inscribe their name into the relevant property register as the new owner. An online survey put the average cost of a notary at €343 – other websites say the cost can go up to €2,000 in Barcelona.
  • Property register – €500. Once you have a contrato de compraventa or property deed, you will need to register yourself as the new owner with your local registro de la propiedad or property register. There are 30 offices in Barcelona and the process can cost €500.
  • Accountant or specialist – €500+. You can contract the services of a gestor or specialised agency to pay the 10% property tax, register the property deed with a relevant property register and other related services for a minimum of €500 in Barcelona.

Aside from the immediate costs of buying a property in Barcelona above, be prepared for more long-term payments.

These include the annual property tax (IBI, see above)). You may have community fees for repairs or maintenance of facilities in your apartment block, like a lift or elevator, a doorman, a swimming pool and more. These community fees can cost between €1,000 to €2400 a year.

Spanish property portal Fotocasa has an infographic on property prices, updated monthly. At the time of publication this showed the average price of Barcelona property was €4,271/m² with an average total price of €422,815. The most common property on the Barcelona market was a flat, on the 3rd floor, with three bedrooms and a size of 70m².

Properties over 100m² in size had an average total price of €740,722, while properties under 100m² were on the market for an average total price of €276,674. Properties with on-site parking sold for an average price of €5,054/m².

In short:

  • If you’re planning to pay cash when buying a property in Barcelona, you’ll need 11% to 15% more than the purchase price.
  • If you’re planning to secure a mortgage when buying a property in Barcelona, you’ll need 31% to 35% of the purchase price as a resident and 41% to 45% as a non-resident.
how to buy a house in Barcelona
65% of Spanish citizens live in apartments – the second-highest figure in the European Union.

4. How long will it take to buy a property in Barcelona?

It’s rare – but not unheard of – to go from zero to your own property in Barcelona in five weeks.

If you don’t know how to buy a house in Barcelona, however, expect the buying process to take three to six months. During this time you might need to secure a mortgage – this alone can take up to 30 days. You might also need to shop around until you find a mortgage which suits you if you’re not contracting the services of a mortgage broker.

You may also spend weeks finding a house for sale in Barcelona that fits your desire.

We recommend you start a relationship with a real estate agency in Barcelona like Lasose Properties & Investments. The property market in Barcelona moves fast, and if you are specific about your requirements (what floor apartment, what area, what distance to public transport, etc.) your real estate agency can show you properties that aren’t even on the market yet.

It’s worth also contracting a legal firm specialised in real estate law to oversee the purchase. They might find outstanding debts on the property, issues with the seller’s documentation, and anything else which could delay the process later on. In some cases, you could save thousands by having a legal specialist organise you taking over an existing mortgage on a Barcelona property.

Lastly, a real estate agency can help you quickly write up a reservation contract (more on this below) which – if agreed to – will take the property off the market immediately.

5. Should I buy an apartment, a house, a duplex or a penthouse in Barcelona?

A massive 65% of Spanish citizens live in apartments. This is well above the European Union average, which suggests 46% of residents live in an apartment block, and significantly above figures in Germany (56%), Italy (53%) and France (40%).

In Barcelona, the vast majority of the city’s 10 districts are home to apartments with a size of 60m² to 90m². In certain locations around the city centre, the average size of a house reduces to between 30m² to 45m². There are roughly 47,000 apartments of this size in Barcelona representing 7% of the total.

According to the most recent government figures, in 2011 just 3% of properties in Barcelona measured over 150m².

These figures come as a surprise to buyers from the United States, the United Kingdom or Ireland where the majority live in houses and not apartments. If extra space and panoramic views are a priority then you should consider looking at penthouses or duplex apartments. Read more about the pros and cons of living in a duplex.

6. Should I buy a house near Barcelona?

In our report on housing prices in Barcelona at the end of Q1 in 2022, average house prices were at €3,972 in Barcelona.

But the useful guide on the website of Spanish property portal Idealista shows this is much higher than in the province of Barcelona as a whole – an average of €2,727. Some of the regions surrounding Barcelona offer a much quieter life, with the potential for a garden, while maintaining close transport links to central Barcelona city.

For example, the beachtown of Sant Pol de Mar on the stunning Maresme coast has one of Cataluña’s top-rated beaches, while being just a 40 minute drive from central Barcelona. Average house prices in Sant Pol de Mar are just €2,304 despite also being home to its own collection of modernist buildings and architecture for which Barcelona city is famous.

There is so much to discover from Badalona up north and along the Maresme coast, along the Costa Garraf south towards Sitges, and even inland towards the mountains and stunning wine regions of Barcelona province.

It would be easier for us to share the leading Barcelona property portals with you (not to mean exclusive listings of houses for sale in Barcelona at Lasose Properties & Investments) but you’ll be going in circles until you can nail down the precise area you want to buy property in.

If you’re not sure you want to buy within Barcelona, then put your attention towards buying property near Barcelona instead.

how to buy a house in Barcelona
Average property prices in the 10 districts in Barcelona city at the end of Q1 in 2022.

7. best areas to buy property in Barcelona

To get a grasp of the best areas to buy property in Barcelona, it’s vital to first understand the 10 districts that make up the city.

At the end of Q1 in 2022 our report on housing prices in Barcelona revealed the following property prices in each of these 10 districts, from most expensive to least expensive:

  • Sarrià-Sant Gervasi. The most expensive district in Barcelona, Sarrià-Sant Gervasi unsurprisingly boasts the highest per-capita income in Barcelona and the lowest unemployment rate. The district is the most inland with part of the Collserola mountain and where the Tibidabo hill and Sagrat Cor church enjoy panoramic views of the city.
  • Les Corts. Les Corts borders Sarrià-Sant Gervasi, and is the least populated area of Barcelona. The Camp Nou stadium within its borders is home to Barcelona FC though the district retains a village atmosphere with many one-storey and two-storey houses and open spaces.
  • Eixample. The stylish and central Eixample district is famous for its grid-like structure which was designed in the late 19th century by legendary urban planner Ildefons Cerdà. The district is home to many Gaudi masterpieces including the basilica of the Sagrada Familia. Property prices have risen the fastest among all Barcelona districts coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Gràcia. The fourth most expensive district in Barcelona – Gràcia – is best known for being home to Antoni Gaudi’s Park Güell. It’s also a very popular area full of bars, restaurants and culture.
  • Ciutat Vella. The old town of Barcelona. This most central district is home to the oldest parts of Barcelona, and retains medieval-era winding streets, the entrance to the port and the famous La Rambla thoroughfare. Here you can find the Barcelona city hall, the Catalan Parliament and old buildings that retain their period façades.
  • Sant Martí. This buzzing district is located just north of the Ciutat Vella, and boasts a long seafront promenade. It is the second most populated district of the city and home to the Poblenou which during the 19th century was the epicentre of Catalan and Spanish industry.
  • Sants-Montjuïc. – The largest district in Barcelona, Sants-Montjuïc is located south of the Ciutat Vella and home to the famous Montjuïc Hill offering a stunning viewpoint over the city. The district is home to the Olympic Stadium where the 1992 games were held, and has many gardens, pine-filled parks and a cable car connecting it to the city and the harbour.
  • Horta-Guinardó. This district offers biking and hiking routes through the Collserola hills, while its name itself references the traditional Catalan farmhouses which today host upscale restaurants. The region feels somewhat different to downtown Barcelona and is popular with many young families.
  • Sant Andreu. One of the the northernmost districts in Barcelona, and is popular with families seeking a more quiet and peaceful life away from inner-city Barcelona.
  • Nou Barris. This district is the cheapest in Barcelona, offering many residents the most affordable place to live in the city.

In our article on the top Barcelona neighbourhoods to live in for foreigners, we suggested the top four in this list – i.e. the most expensive in the city. Partly this is because these areas are where many international businesses have their homes, and where you can best experience all the culture that Barcelona has to offer.

If you’re considering how to buy property in Barcelona it’s important to hone the district in which you’d most like to live.

If it helps your search, we’ve posted a photograph on the average noise levels in Barcelona city. You can find more data and a map of the air quality across Barcelona city on the Barcelona city hall website. Click this link for an interactive map showing all the metro stations, bus stops, services, facilities and districts in Barcelona.

how to buy a property in Barcelona
Average noise pollution levels in the 10 districts in Barcelona

8. Characteristics of Barcelona houses

With so many people living in apartments in Barcelona, the concept of ‘luxury’ might seem peculiar.

According to Fotocasa, a Barcelona property with on-site parking is likely to cost you more than an apartment with a terrace. The same is true when comparing on-site parking with a fully-furnished property and an apartment in a building with a lift or elevator.

The most sought-after luxuries when looking to buy a house in Barcelona are likely to be as follows:

  • Underground parking or on-street parking
  • A 24-hour concierge service
  • An on-site laundry service
  • A communal swimming pool (usually on the roof)
  • A terrace with panoramic views
  • Built-in air-conditioning
  • A lift or elevator
  • Traditional features like a Catalan vaulted ceiling, exposed beams and/or a restored historic façade

Knowing the features you’d like can help you vastly narrow down properties when considering how to buy a house in Barcelona.

9. Documents the seller should provide in Barcelona

To be able to sign a transfer deed on a property in Barcelona, a public notary will require specific documents from a seller.

Many times a buyer will ask for these documents in advance to ensure there are no major issues with the property. Issues can slow down the process of buying a property in Barcelona – and could see you settling unforeseen costs.

The documents you might want to ask a seller before even considering to make an offer are as follows:

  • Nota simple. This document specifies who the owner of a property is, and discloses any charges or debts (including a mortgage) on a property.
  • Energy performance certificate. This document has been a requirement for any property transfer or rental agreement in the European Union since 2013. However, the energy performance certificate can also help you understand how well insulated a property is and how much electricity or gas it is likely to consume.
  • Cédula de habitación. The certificate of habitation is required after a property is built or undergoes significant renovations. It confirms that a property complies with legal requirements for habitation, and is typically valid for 15 years.
  • Inspección Técnica del Edificio. A certificate of technical inspection of a building is valid for at least 45 years in Cataluña depending on the year a building was built. If you are buying an old house or apartment in an old building, it can be worth checking the building has a valid technical inspection certificate and no significant repairs or reforms are needed.
  • Recibo del último Impuesto sobre Bienes Inmuebles. The last receipt confirming an owner has paid the annual property tax in Barcelona is a requirement before signing a transfer deed. This confirms the previous owner is up to date with property tax payments, but can also be useful to understand how much you are likely to pay.
  • Floor plans of a property. The floor plans of a property are not essential for signing a transfer deed on a property in Barcelona. However, they could be useful to visualise how a house is laid out and make measurements for furniture and living space.

If you are using the services of a real estate agent or legal firm, these will likely carry out necessary checks on a property for you. These can smoothen the buying process and help you feel confident with your intent of purchase.

While not essential, you might also want to contract a technician to carry out an independent valuation of the property. This can help you to make a strong offer and suggest reasons why you have offered such a price. With more insightful details, the seller will also have reason to trust you know how to buy a property in Barcelona.

10. How to look for a property in Barcelona

Many people start looking for property in Barcelona through the major online property portals:

At the time of publication there were 18,000 houses and flats for sale on the Idealista website. While online property portals can be a great place to get a feel for the Barcelona property market, they can’t guarantee a smooth buying process.

You are likely one of many hundreds of thousands of people using these online property websites. It’s not always easy to tell if there’s a professional real estate agency in Barcelona behind a listing. As such, you’re largely on your own when it comes to identifying potential issues with a property and understanding its real market value.

It can help you to start a relationship with a specialist real estate agency in Barcelona like Lasose Properties & Investments.

By telling us exactly what you’re looking for, where in Barcelona, for how much, what features you want and more, we can contact our exclusive sellers about an interested buyer before the property is even on the Internet.

11. The process of buying a house in Barcelona

We have left the actual process of buying a house in Barcelona until last.

This is because it is well worth spending your time identifying whether Barcelona is the right place for you – and then where to buy within Barcelona – before you arrive at this stage. After reading this penultimate step in our guide you’ll be more confident than every why you want to buy.

Below you’ll find the process of actually buying the house in Barcelona:

  • Contrato de arras. Once you’ve found a property in Barcelona you want to buy, it’s time to make a formal offer. The reservation contract will outline your ideal purchase price along with all the conditions of sale. These are important to get right, as the contrato de arras will lay the foundation for the final contrato de compraventa (transfer deed). Furthermore, you will pay around 1% of the total purchase price along with this document and lose it if you pull out or do not meet its conditions. If a seller backs out or does not meet the conditions, they will usually pay you back double your reservation deposit. This document is best left to a real estate professional or legal advisor to ensure the wording is correct. While the contrato de arras is not essential when buying a house in Barcelona, it can speed up the process significantly and immediately take the property off the market.
  • Meet the conditions in the contrato de arras. Once the seller agrees to the purchase price and terms in your reservation contract, it’s time to get everything ready. This could mean securing a mortgage or readying capital to pay in cash. You might still need to revise certain documents pertaining to the property. By this point the seller cannot back out without facing the penalty clause ideally written into the reservation contract.
  • Sign the contrato de compraventa before a public notary. The final step will see you and the seller meeting before a public notary to sign the final transfer deed. On this day you will pay the agreed sale price on the house, or have your bank write a cheque to the seller of the seller’s bank. You will also need to liquidate any taxes. Once the deed is signed, the keys are yours. All you need to do is register yourself as the owner of the house by visiting the local property register (registro de la propiedad) – or having your real estate agent or legal professional do it for you.

And there you have it! You have now learned how to buy a house in Barcelona.

12. How to make a Barcelona property investment

Not everyone will want to buy a house in Barcelona and make it their primary home.

If you are a foreigner, you may want the property as a second home. Equally, you may wish to make a property investment in Barcelona and renovate it to make a capital gain or let it out for rental income.

Recent figures from the Bank of Spain (Banco de España) show that annual yields from property investments in Spain recovered to 10% throughout 2021. The autonomous community of Catalunya in particular offered the highest rental returns in all of Spain, with a 6.6% annual yield on buy-to-let properties.

Click here to read more about reasons to invest in Barcelona property in 2022.

Conclusion: how to buy a property in Barcelona

We hope you found our 12 steps on how to buy a property in Barcelona insightful.

The most important aspect is get clear on what kind of property you require, and where in Barcelona you want to buy. From here you can study the actual process of buying a property in Barcelona to make sure you’re not missing anything.

After reading this article, we hope you can tackle this rewarding challenge with confidence.

Lasose Properties & Investments is a leading real estate agency offering exclusive listings of houses for sale in Barcelona. We are experts in individual and corporate Barcelona relocations and offer tailored advice if you’re looking to invest in Barcelona property.

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