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Information About Spanish Estate Agency

'Too much for too little' seems to be the common cry of many North European property buyers when they discuss real estate agents in Spain. Stories of huge commissions and dubious professional conduct abound, with the real estate industry in Spain seemingly having little in common with that in Holland, Germany and the UK.

Certainly, it is no secret that real estate agency in Northern Europe is undergoing seismic changes. Battered by a subsiding property market, the industry has been revolutionised by the internet which has newly empowered both sellers and buyers. For agents, one of the implications has been a radical drop in sales commissions, thus making a once profitable business increasingly marginal. This is excellent news for buyers and sellers - but does not reflect the current situation in Spain.

In fact, most North European buyers would be horrified to learn that sales commissions in Spain rarely drop below 3% and can be as high as 18%! However, to do justice to all parties, circumstances in Spain are very different from Northern Europe - particularly with regard to foreign buyers.

Worryingly, for the foreign buyer, can be the appearance of the same property on various web sites for different prices and with pictures that clearly disguise or obscure the outside of the property. In fact, the pictures are invariably a way of an agent (without a sole agency agreement) protecting his interest in the property from both other agents and buyers - who may try to go directly to the seller. As to the differing prices, these are often due to two main factors.

Some types of properties can earn agents, in North European terms, exceptional fees. These are generally, but by no means always, new development properties, particularly those aimed strictly at overseas buyers. These are frequently places which are built on very cheap land, creating an 'artificial' environment far from existing towns and villages. A developer may, for example, construct a golf course and swimming pool complex in this sort of area and surround it with apartments.

In Spain, most agents work honestly and provide a superb, gold standard, personalised service to foreign buyers that would amaze their North European counterparts. It is not unusual, for example, for an agent to provide an after-care service, following the sale of a house, for many months afterward. Translations are often freely performed, paperwork and administration handled and even builders and doctors dealt with. A good agent, who supports a buyer properly, can be a critical lifeline and one that makes any transition to Spain workable and ultimately successful.

On the whole, it is far too simplistic to accept that estate agents in Spain obtain 'too much for too little'. Most provide value for money and earn their commissions fairly. Of course, as in all professions, there are exceptions to every rule - but top quality, personalised service never comes cheaply and it cannot be replaced by the esoteric information of the internet when you are 'on the ground'. And, when you are moving to another country, few things are more critically vital than having experienced professionals calmly sorting out the (sometimes!) bewildering complications of your relocation.