It used to be that if you were heading to Spain to look for property you would have little choice but to rely on a property agent to guide you through the whole process.
Inspections trips were the most popular way to look for property. You would need the agent to show you around the areas, perhaps translate for you, help find properties listed with small Spanish agents or builders, and basically hold your hand through the whole process.
Inspection trips however are a very restrictive way of searching for property. They mean putting a huge amount of trust in one person. Someone who you had probably never even met before.
This is no longer the case. Technology has opened up many doors that previously seemed to be closed to inexperienced house hunters in a foreign country.
You can do away with the inspection trip entirely and manage your viewing trip entirely on your own, opening up a wealth of opportunities that you may never have become aware of on an organised inspection trip.
Working on your own will give you more freedom to find areas and properties that may otherwise have been off of your radar. Also, by cutting out an expensive middleman, you will place yourself in a stronger position to negotiate a great deal.
In this article I’m going to tell you about 5 free apps that you can use to get the most out of your viewing trips without having to rely on anybody else. They are all very popular apps, but they have features that you may not have thought of using when out looking at properties
APP #1: Whatsapp
You are going to need to make appointments.
Whether the appointments are with agents or private homeowners, I can pretty much guarantee that they will use Whatsapp.
Mobile phone contracts in Spain didn’t tend to come with the limitless free text messages and minutes that you might be used to now. You will also find that most bars and restaurants have WIFI for you to connect to. As a result, Whatsapp, which allows messaging and calling over the internet rather than phone lines is very popular in Spain.
Make sure that you have it on your phone as you will have people wanting to use it to contact you.
It also has a couple of features that are very useful when out lookign for properties.
Firstly; 'read receipts'. You can see whether somebody has received and read the message you sent them.This is a great way of making sure that that a laid back estate agent or builder gets on with things quickly. They can’t make the excuse that they haven’t received or seen your message!
Secondly, it gives you the option to share your location, this is a great help when you are trying to find a property or meeting point with an agent. Have you noticed how it’s hard to find the exact location of properties from the agent’s listing? There are some very interesting reasons for that and I will explain them in a future video. For now, let's just say that it's say that it's very frustrating!
With Whatsapp you just get close to the property you want to view, park up and share your location. Let the agent or the homeowner guide you in the rest of the way or come to meet you. Likewise the agent or home owner can share their location with you, and you can follow the map to them.
Even if they do give you the exact address, I have come across some crazy systems of numbering properties in Spain. I can assure you this feature is a godsend!
A quick tip… mobile phone numbers in Spain begin with a 6 or a 7, fixed numbers with an 8 or 9 so if you see a for sale sign with two numbers on it make sure you send the whatsapp to the mobile number.
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App #2: Google Translate
It’s all very well being able to contact someone via Whatsapp, but what if you don’t speak Spanish and they don’t speak English?
It's not a problem... The Google translate app can do it for you.
It works in three ways:
1. You can translate text in images. So if you see a property for sale on a poster in a Spanish agents window. Open the app, point the camera at the poster and, through some sort of witchcraft the test translates in the image.
2. The app also translates typed text, so, If the property you saw in the window interests you but the estate agent is closed, write the message you want to send them in the translate app, copy the translation, paste it into whatsapp and send it to the agent. Copy and paste the response back into the app and so on. It’s a bit long winded but it will get the job done.
3. If they are open but don’t speak English… the app translates speech. Simply talk into the app in English and the app will translate what you say into Spanish. The person you are talking to can then respond in Spanish and the app will transate back to you.
I wouldn't recommend using the app for any legal or medical translations. It's not perfect, but at this stage when you are just making appointments and any mistakes it makes are more likely to give cuase for laughter than concern!
So you now know how to contact people and communicate in Spanish, but how do you find your away around?
APP #3. Google Maps
It’s free, it’s really powerful and it’s got some uses that you may not have thought of.
First up, obviously navigation, but there is a lot more to Google Maps than you might be aware of...
You can plan multistep routes in advance on your desktop computer. Save the routes to your Google account, or email them to yourself, and then access them from your phone.
If you have several viewings with several agents, then you can organise the whole day and your route in advance, taking the stress away on the day.
Also, it’s likely that you will meet an agent at a meeting point and either jump in their car or follow them to the property. This can make it tricky to remember exactly where the property is. Dropping a pin on the location in Google Maps will help you find the property again and look at the surrounding area in more detail if you need to.
You can use Google Maps to see what there is in your local area, in terms of bars, restaurants, shops, hospitals, doctors etc. Do bear in mind that not all businesses are listed on Google, there might be something close by which is not shown, but it should at least show you key commercial centres and amenities in the area AND give you accurate distance and travel times (on foot and by car).
But it’s not just facilities nearby that you need to look at, Google Maps, in its satellite view setting, might show up something in the vicinity that you didn’t notice on a visual inspection at ground level.
What if the agent timed the viewing of the property specifically to match the timetable of the local airport and avoid revealing that it’s on a flight path?
What if the property is on one side of a small hill and on the other side, out of sight, there is a pig farm that gets more than a bit wiffy in the summer heat??
What if the innocuous looking black door across the street from the property you looked at on a weekend afternoon reveals itself to be the entrance to the hottest nightspot in the city on a weekend?
All of these things have cropped up when I have been accompanying clients on viewings with agents. I flagged all of those issues using Google Maps.
Before you use maps though, be aware that the app uses up a lot of battery life and data. You can download the local maps onto your phone when you have a wifi connection which solves the data problem (and makes sure that you have access even if you’re lost in the mountains with no reception).
APP #4: Your Camera
It’s an obvious one, take as many photos as you can as you go around (although do ask the homeowners permission if they are there).
Also take videos and talk over them to save you having to write notes on the go. If you look at several properties in a day, I guarantee that you will get confused over what feature was in which property. When I have conducted second viewing with clients they are almost always surprised to find that something is in the house that they thought was in another, or vice versa.
But there is another useful feature of your phone’s camera that you may not have thought of.
When you take a photo the phone records the GPS position in the photo's metadata. In most phones you can search for photos on a map, by their location. This is helpful if you didn’t drop a google map pin when you were viewing but also its useful if you are on the go and you see a For Sale sign that you want to check out in more detail when you have more time.
Just grab a quick photo of the house, later you can zoom in and read the number on the sign, use the location data to research the local area on Google maps. If you like the look, contact the owner by Whatsapp, in Spanish via Google Translate if need be, and to an appointment to view it.
APP#5: Google Sheets + My Costs Calculator
If you have Google Sheets installed on your phone - or 'Numbers' on iPhone - you can access my costs calculator which will enable you to work out all of the costs of purchasing any of the properties you see, as well as keep notes to compare them, and even calculate the cost in your home currency.
The associate costs can be a desicive factor when weighing up the benefits of one property against another and there is no easier way to do this than with my calculator.
You can download the calculator below:
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