Possession: why you should never hand over your house keys before completion

Some things to remember when handing over house keys / Rudy and Peter Skitterians en Pixabay
Some things to remember when handing over house keys / Rudy and Peter Skitterians en Pixabay

This is the first of a two-part series dealing on possession.

Congratulations, you have found a buyer for your Spanish property! You should now instruct a lawyer to represent you in the sale, particularly if you are non-resident in Spain.

It is an exciting moment for sellers who are giddy after having waited for years on end to sell. However, some devious buyers take advantage of seller’s good faith at this moment of weakness requesting the house keys ahead of completion at the Notary. These buyers have only paid a small deposit (normally 10%), giving you all sort of plausible reasons to access the property before paying the balance.

The excuses given are all assorted (preferably tear-shedding ones that build rapport appealing to lofty values, which always work best on gentle souls):

  • “I am a single parent with young children. I need time to complete the move all by my own” (You care for young children, yes?).
  • “I only need a couple of days to move my stuff in, you can trust me, I’m best friends with so and so, you know him/her” (You can trust a friend-of-a-friend).
  • “I start a new job on Monday, I can only make the move this weekend” (I’m all stressed out, have pity on me)
  • Other.

The fact is that when you hand over your keys to someone, you are handing them possession over your property. This has serious legal repercussions. It awards them an array of legal rights that basically shuts you out of your own home. In order to regain access, you will have to go through a law court.

But what’s worse, they have only paid you, so far, a fraction of the sales price; they never completed things at the Notary! It could take several years of protracted litigation to have them physically evicted by bailiffs from your property. In the meantime, you’ve spent a lot of money in lawyers and legal proceedings, lost countless opportunities to sell to other legitimate buyers and your place has probably been trashed by your would-be buyer. Let alone all the stress and aggravation this has brought you and your partner.

It all boils down to possession.

Pro-tip: you should NEVER hand over the keys to your property before you sign on the dotted line of a sales deed witnessed by a Public Notary and are handed a big fat banker’s draft for the full sales price. Ever.

You are welcome.

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