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Estate Agencies are a relatively new concept to rural Spain. Certainly, in Spain as a whole, Estate Agents are completely unregulated, so you really do have to be careful that you have all the facts before buying a house.

In the past, and indeed still today, a village house that was up for purchase would simply have 'Se Vende' (for sale) written on the outside of the house, and potential buyers would just call in, or ask around to find out who the seller was. You still see this on some of the houses here in Cuevas De San Marcos. This system has lasted for years, and so has the method of using a 'Corridor' or runner, who would know which houses were for sale in an area, and roughly what the owner wanted for them. They would then take a hefty commission on top of the sale price.

Corridors are still with us today, and estate agents on the coast who advertise inland properties on their websites often have no idea whether the house is still for sale or not, as it is common for people to advertise with multiple agents and Corridors, as well as selling privately. They will probably send their agent out with a customer, who will then meet up with a Corridor and try to sell you a similar house in your price range. If you have your heart set on a particular property, please make sure you confirm with the estate agent that it is still on the market to avoid a wasted flight.

Unlike the UK, estate agents do not use valuers to help try to pinpoint the market value of a house. Often it is just a figure that the owner has decided they want to receive, so a lot of property can be wildly overpriced, and local knowledge of the market and personal relationships with the owners can go a long way to knocking the price down. Also when an estate agent uses a Corridor, generally the estate agent adds their fee to the price, and then the Corridors fee is also added to it. A house can be marketed with several agents at very different prices, often the difference in price depends on how much the estate agents cut is, and whether they have used a Corridor. Often a Corridors commission is 15 - 20,000 euros per property.We try not to use the local corridors around Cuevas De San Marcos, but when we do, we fix them to extremely low commision rates.

When you look at Spanish re-sale properties, particularly properties for renovation, you really need to have an imagination for what the house could eventually look like without all the tatty furniture, piles of wood and dirty tiles it appears to be filled with. It's pretty fair to say that the Spanish have never heard of the house doctor!

A lot of older houses have been in families for generations, and may have been derelict or used as a woodshed for the last ten years. Unlike in England, often a family may own several houses, and they aren't sentimental about them in the same way English people are. It's just walls and a roof to them a lot of the time, and so they make no attempt to tart them up in order to sell them. Sometimes they may not even care too much about whether they sell the house or not. It's a puzzing attitude to us Brits, where our home is our castle, and spare property is at a premium.

Don't lose out on a great opportunity because the house looks dirty and derelict. It is amazing how a house can be transformed simply by plaster and paint, and building materials and labour costs are much lower than in the UK. You just need to have a bit of vision to see your dream house sometimes.