Top Ten Tips For Americans Moving to Spain

Year on year we get more American clients coming to Valencia (We get a lot of Canadians too). The system for buying a property in the States and Canada is very different to Spain so expectations have to be managed before and during a property search. Not only about the process of buying a property though, also about money transfers, where to find information, who and what to trust online and a whole lot more. As a result we find ourselves explaining the same things over and over so thought it was time to put these things into a post which we can refer people to right from the start. Some of these things are important for everyone coming to live in Spain though, especially the first point, so it's worth a read for everyone. Oh and there are eleven not ten... and a bonus ball extra for all of you Facebook fans out there.

Sell Your House Before Becoming A Spanish Resident

The most important thing is that you sell your house before becoming a Spanish resident as if you don't you might well get a whacking great tax bill. Don't come and live in Spain in the first half of a year in which you complete on the sale of your house in the States otherwise you are likely to be liable for tax in Spain as a Spanish tax resident (this is applicable to all nationalities by the way).

Therefore if you think that at any stage in the future you might be selling your house bring that forward and put off your move until the deal is done. If you sell in the first half of the year then delay your arrival until mid July and remember if you have been here for any length of time in the first half of that year then those days count too. So you may need to delay until August or even September to be on the safe side.

Equally, if you still haven't sold but expect to before the end of the year then that's ok too but make sure to do everything to complete before the year's end after arriving in the second half of the year because if not and your sale goes into the following year you are already a Spanish tax resident at that point.

This is probably the number one most important thing for people coming over to live in Spain from any country and selling up in their home country. If you don't know about this beforehand and make a mistake the cost can be huge. Even if you don't have a tax bill in your home country due to the property being a primary residence for example you may still get the bill here.

There is no MLS in Spain

Here at Valencia Property we act as a personal MLS or a personal property shopper for our clients because there is no MLS here in Spain. (If you don't know what an MLS is then you are not North American) When you see properties advertised on portals, individual agency websites and social media that is the selling agent who is advertising them and they will happily take your money too as a commission while really looking after the interests of the seller. In Valencia both buyer and seller pay the agent just like with the split commission in the States to the buyer's agent and the seller's agent. Other parts of Spain are often different depending on the area.

In order to have the greatest choice of properties and an agent who is representing you, the buyer, without any conflict of interest you need an agency that knows your requirements, knows the market, knows the pitfalls and traps and looks out for you. Here at Valencia Property that's what we do. The company was designed right from the start to be your partner in getting you as a buyer exactly the right property at the same time as giving you the greatest choice available.

Individual agencies may have just one property that suits your needs, or none as mentioned in our post a couple of weeks ago about the increasing difficulty of finding a property in Valencia which you can read here, but they continue to advertise sold properties as they have no stock. Here at Valencia Property if it's out there we'll find it for you.

Stop Worrying About Taxes

So the first point above is about a tax you should be worried about, the other taxes not so much. For example, stop worrying about the wealth tax, It's not going to apply to 90% of you and if you are in the 10% then maybe you don't need to worry about it either.

The day to day costs of living in Spain and the yearly costs of big ticket items like healthcare, community fees, property taxes and more are so low compared with the States that you will likely be better off here in a tangible sense as well as all of the intangibles. You can read more about this at this link.

What are the intangibles? Things like going out and feeling safe, being in a climate that suits, getting off the hamster wheel of having to make money just to keep up, having amazing scenery around you and having time for your family and friends.

But even the tangibles are cheaper than you might think. When you go out to eat then the meal costs what it costs and that is relatively cheap even for Michelin style meals. It doesn't cost what it costs plus 20% for tips. Yes, leave a tip if you want but just round the amount up, on a 66 euro meal just leave 70 if you want to tip, but it's not obligatory (For example you don't get the option/obligation to add the tip onto card readers here. If the service is awful then don't leave anything.)

Valencia is Small, You Are Never Far Away From Anything

You don't have to be in the centre. You don't have to be by the beach. You can be almost doing both at the same time because Valencia isn't big. The centre of the city is almost slap bang in the actual centre. The furthest you can get away from the Plaza del Ayuntamiento and still be in Valencia is 4.9km at the Port end of Nazaret. So just over three miles. The Malvarrosa beach is 4.6km to the east, the end of Benicalap to the North is 3.85km, the new riverbed at the end of Avenida del Cid is 3.8km to the west and the new La Fé hospital to the south is 3km. Essentially Valencia is 8.5km wide and 6.5km north to south. Essentially at a brisk walk you can be anywhere in Valencia from the centre in under an hour. On a bike maybe half an hour and similarly on a bus or metro. Therefore you don't need to be in a particular area to get everything from Valencia as a city although obviously there are areas that are more attractive to be than others.

You Are Totally Safe Here

As a general rule of thumb Valencia is safe, very safe. You may be unfortunate and get a bag snatched or an unattended phone taken from a table, it's rare but it happens. You most likely won't have to worry about being mugged, stabbed, shot, or dying due to being in the wrong place at the wrong time when an active shooter appears out of nowhere. Valencia is one of the safest big cities in the World and truth is, so are most Spanish cities. Image and stats taken from Numbeo here.

Money Transfers Should Not Be Done Directly

Logic suggests that the fewer entities involved in a transfer the cheaper it will be. Logic is wrong. Don't do money transfers directly from a US bank to a Spanish bank. They will rip you off at both ends, the US bank on the exchange rate they give you and the Spanish bank will charge you for receiving the money from abroad.

You have plenty of options for doing the transfer but currency companies, Wise, Revolut and others are key. However you can save even more by using one specific currency company, Currencies Direct, because they have agreements in place with banks here and also they make it so there are no international transfers involved meaning you don't get charged here for receiving the money and your exchange rate will be better. Up to now the service has been limited to certain States of the US but it looks like very soon it will be possible from every state. In fact I have a meerting with the company about just that later this week.

Trust the Process But Remember It's Not the Same Here

Buying property is an enjoyable process in the most part, at least when you do it with us. The process of buying is rather different though. As stated above there's no such thing as an MLS giving you access to all the properties on the market. Equally, most agencies are selling agents meaning they will only offer you what they have. That's where we come in.

We take you through the whole process from start to finish. Let us know what you are looking for on the form on this post and we can work with you from there. Remember something important though, the further ahead of time you contact us the better the chance we have of finding you the right place or guiding you in the right direction. If you turn up in Valencia without any planning beforehand or give yourself just a weekend to find something it will more than likely not happen.

What is the Purchase Process of Valencia Property

Clean Up Your Credit History

Now we know you buy things on credit in the States because you get "Better deals" and it helps with your credit rating. However, things work differently here if you want a mortgage. You need to show affordability. This means banks and mortgage companies will ask for your income details and outgoings on current loans and mortgages before determining how much or even whether to offer you a mortgage.

If you have car loans, RV loan, furniture being paid for on credit etc... then get rid of these loans before applying in Spain if you can and your affordability check will be much cleaner. Remember that Spanish banks will offer up to 70% of the price of the property in general on quite favourable interest terms but affordability is around 30-35% of net income eg if you earn 3k per month net they will offer you a mortgage repayment of up to 1000 per month, 6k would mean 2k repayment etc...

As an example, a 175K mortgage, 70%, on a property at 250k at a fixed rate of 4% over 20 years would mean a repayment of 1071 Euros per month. If you could pay 2000 per month then it would allow you to take the repayment term down to around 9 years. And those repayments are made up from the start of capital and interest as opposed to interest only.

If you are looking for a mortgage then you can request a pre-approval by contacting mortgage direct. Just click here or on the image below.

Do Your Own Research (But Use Us As Your Primary Resource)

Do your own research. Of course this term has been hijacked by climate change deniers, Covid "sceptics", flat earthers, election truthers and more. What they mean is go down a rabbit hole of conspiracy theories on Youtube until you end up attacking your own capitol building with a bunch of half illiterate racists and rednecks.

When we say do your own research it involves our blog, a serious study of Valencia and the area (or whichever part of Spain you are going to) and some rather long listening sessions to our Podcast among other things.

Know what you want and you are much more likely to get it and the way to know what you want is to know the place, your requirements and what's available. That's what we do here at Valencia Property, the number one resource for information about Valencia and the property market here.

Health Care is Inexpensive (Comparatively)

The possible extra tax cost we talk about above is totally offset by not being put into bankruptcy if you ever get a slight cold by an abusive health care system. Private health care is really inexpensive here compared with the States and you are covered from the start, not just after the first 10k which you pay yourself like there. You pay your insurance and if want to see a doctor, then you go to see a doctor. And remember, State healthcare is good too and free at the point of use if you qualify for it and if you are working here and paying into the system then you do.

How affordable is it? Well for my whole team at Valencia Property we pay 320 Euros per month. Not each. That's for all of us.

Sort Out Your Visa

You are allowed up to 90 days with your Schengen Visa in Spain as long as you haven't been in the Schengen area in the previous 90 days but if you intend to stay longer then you need to have another visa of some type. Whether that visa is the non-lucrative visa, the digital nomad visa, the entrepreneur's visa, the Golden Visa, the Student Visa or whatever, you'll need to sort it out mostly before coming over. The exceptions to this can be the Digital Nomad Visa and possibly the Golden Visa which you can apply for whilst in Spain on the original 90 day visa. You can read more about the digital nomad visa here.

Whichever visa you are going to come with you will need to know everything about applying for it beforehand. Read our post about your different visa options if in doubt. And yes, I know it's an eleventh tip but be prepared for another too below.

Your Bonus Big Tip.

Number 12 But Really Number 1

Yes, I know I said top ten tips in the title but there is an 11th above and a 12th here which is also essential to know if you want your move to Valencia or any other part of Spain to be successful.

The number one tip, but for some reason I've left it until last here is never, but never, believe anything anyone writes on Facebook in an expat group. They are excellent for the unimportant stuff like restaurant recommendations, best local Vet for your parrot, where you can find a crispy creme donut shop etc... (You can't) But for the important stuff, beware.

If you get a message saying DM, it's a scam, if someone says I can help you (but doesn't say how on the post) ignore them, it's a scam. If someone recommends themselves but nobody else recommends them, there's a reason.

The truth is we get recommended massively on Facebook by our clients who have used us but it's difficult to tell that when some companies who shall remain nameless post the same message every time someone asks a question about moving to Valencia or Spain but never seem to actually answer questions, weird that isn't it! One of them even says they have 20 plus years of experience in the market when we know they arrived in Valencia just a year ago...

How do you see who's genuine?

I refer you back to number 9 above about doing your own research (In a good way) and then ask yourself the following.

  • Do they have a blog with long form weekly posts about everything to do with the market in Valencia which has been around for two decades in which you can get all of the required information?
  • Do they have a monthly podcast?
  • Do they answer people's questions honestly and fully?
  • Do they offer free calls and consultations?
  • Do they have a five star rating in Google and 4.9 on Facebook? (And yes, I still resent the guy who didn't use us and gave us a 1 star rating because we never answered a message we didn't see).
  • Do they stack up as an expert in the field?

At Valencia Property we do. We're visible and reliable. We live here and we're here for the long term. We don't want to have to avoid you when we see you on the street. So we do the best job possible and get the best results.

Property of the Week

It's highly unusual to find a villa in L'Eliana/Ribarroja that's ready to move into at under 400k. When that villa also has a decent sized yet manageable plot, is pretty modern and allows you to exercise by choosing whether to walk to either of the mentioned towns just 1 mile from both for your morning coffee, bread or even newspaper for those of us still wanting to find out what happened yesterday today then the choice is even more limited.

I've got a bit of Radiohead going through my head looking at the photos of this place, everything in its right place and no surprises but no fake plastic trees or a moon shaped pool. In fact the trees are verdant as is the postage stamp of garden to the front and the rather larger rear garden and the pool is more romanic than moon shaped.

It's a house that won't leave you feeling high and dry though there are a few identikit houses around but it will allow you to go to sleep without thinking I want none of this. You'd wake up to the morning bell here after a nice dream, with two colours in your head, the blue of the endless sky and the green of the garden. On semi cloudy days you'll get great views of sunsets over Ribarroja and sometimes when it's stormy you'd see more colours in rainbows.

So if you say the word we can creep into this house on a visit without the karma police batting an eyelid. The living room might remind you of living in a glasshouse due to the large windows overlooking the garden. But the million dollar question is whether the numbers work for you and whose army will stop you buying this excellent property. Hail to the thief who steals this one.

(And kudos if you get all of the Radiohead mentions in that description, there are twenty in total)

Further Reading

If you found this useful then feel free to click on the images below and read even more useful stuff for our North American buyers and others.

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