The Ultimate Guru Guide To Relocating To Gran Canaria

Complete guide to relocating to Gran Canaria

Unless you try to drive over, relocating to Gran Canaria isn’t really any harder than moving anywhere else in Europe.

That said, the more information you have before you move to Gran Canaria the easier things are. Here’s everything we can think of that you need to know about relocating to Gran Canaria. Read More


The Guru Guide To Gran Canaria Schools And Education

Guide to Gran Canaria schools for expats

Guide to Gran Canaria schools for expats

So, you’re moving to Gran Canaria with the kids in tow and wondering about schools. Here’s our Guru guide to Gran Canaria schools and education.

Choosing a Gran Canaria school

The first decision you have to make about Gran Canaria schools is what type of school you want the kids to go to.

If you’re moving to Gran Canaria permanently, it may make sense to put the kids in a school where they meet and interact with local children and learn about Canarian life.

If you are on the island for a work contract, chucking the kids into the State system for a couple of years may not be the way to go.

Another important consideration is budget. The international Gran Canaria schools are expensive, especially if you earn a Canarian salary. But to a certain extent you get what you pay for. Especially if you want your kids to go to a foreign university.

Most of the options beyond local state schools are in and around Las Palmas city.

Here’s a guide to the main schools in Gran Canaria.

International schools

Gran Canaria’s big four English-language international schools are the British School, Canterbury, Oakley College and the American School. The first three focus on a British-style education while the last does things Yank-style (and has igloos instead of classrooms).

All have decent reputations and charge like they know it. Expect to pay 600 euros per month per sprog, plus extra for transport, food, uniforms, etc. They provide a decent education and modern teaching methods but don’t be surprised if class sizes are higher than they are in expensive private schools elsewhere.

If teacher happiness is a measure of a school’s quality, then the big four do well as their staff tend to be loyal and to stick around for years.

The big four international Gran Canaria schools are all based on the outskirts of Las Palmas about 15-minutes drive from the centre. The British and Canterbury also have infant schools in the south so the little ones don’t have to slog up the motorway every day.

The Canterbury and Oakley are for-profit schools while the British School is a foundation.

Then there’s the Heidelberg and the Deutsche Schule focusing on German, and the Liceo Francés de Gran Canaria doing French.

Anita Conrad School in Las Palmas goes all-in with a trilingual education in English, Spanish and German.

Since Gran Canaria’s Norwegian colony is based in the south, the Norwegian school is in Patalavaca.

 

Bilingual schools

Schools like the Hispano-Ingles and Colegio Arenas offer bilingual education for people who can’t quite make the full international school fees or want their kids to have more of a grounding in the Spanish education system.

While many parents are happy with them, English teacher turnover is higher than it should be. They have a bit of a reputation for asking for long hours and for having large classes.

In south Gran Canaria, Colegio Almas teaches lessons in Spanish, German and Chinese. Colegio Arenas also has a south school.

See this complete list of bilingual schools in the Canary Islands.

Concertados

A step up from state schools, colegios concertados are funded by the state but run by private organisations (in many cases the Catholic church or orders of nuns). They receive the same amount of money per pupil as a state school and then try and find innovative ways of getting more (everything from fundraising BBQs to extra charges for bilingual classes and online pupil reports).

Most concertados manage to offer a decent education and cost parents about 1000 euros per year in assorted fees, plus extra for uniforms, after-school classes, and food.

Examples of concertado schools in Gran Canaria include Claret,  Maria Auxiliadora Salesianas, and Teresianas. They are run by the Catholic church but have to follow the Spanish curriculum when it comes to things like evolution, etc. However, they are religious schools and can be a little heavy on the Jesus stuff.

Públicos

Spanish state schools vary from the grisly to the decent, depending on location and on how they are run. They offer the Spanish curriculum and most still focus on remembering stuff rather than being creative. To assess the colegios públicos in your area, ask the locals and other foreign residents. And make sure you get your application in on time (see below).

Note that while public schools are free, you do have to pay for school books and equipment. Order the books as early as possible as textbook publishing in Spain is a complete racket and there’s always a slight shortage to panic everyone into not noticing how expensive they are.

Montessori schools in Gran Canaria

The alternative crowd in Gran Canaria clamoured for Montessori schools for years and then a load opened up, at least for young kids. There’s the Montessori Gran Canaria in Vegueta, the Ludus and Escuela Montessori in Tafira, and the Casa de los Niños in Arucas.

Homeschooling in Gran Canaria

Homeschooling is in a legal grey area in Spain. The constitution guarantees freedom of education but all children must attend a school from the age of six. Some foreign residents do ignore the law, but the authorities can a dim view of it. It’s only recognised officially in Catalunya.

Se this article for more details.

There’s a Spanish homeschooling community on Facebook.

Nursery schools in Gran Canaria

There are lots of private nursery schools in Gran Canaria but the quality varies. Some sell themselves as early learning centres, some focus on Montessori-style activities, and some are basically daycare barns. The best way to research them is to ask both locals and foreign parents for referrals. Nurseries in Gran Canaria are cheap compared to most European countries.

Applying to Gran Canaria schools

The island’s international and bilingual schools are easy to get into provided you can stump up the cash. It can be harder to get older kids into a particular international school as they are popular and spaces don’t open up that often.

The bilinguals will always find a way to jam an extra kid into a class.

Overall, it’s harder to get kids into popular concertados and públicos than into the private schools. You are competing with lots of budget-conscious local parents who all want the best for their Juans and Marias.

Admission to state schools and concertados is via a points system where your address, financial situation and all sorts of other esoteric details count. You have to choose three schools in order of preference, then hope for the best. The closer you live to your school of choice the better but be careful with putting a relative’s address as popular schools do check.

There’s an official application season for state and concertado schools; it’s called the matrícula. The dates are announced on the Consejeria de Educación website and vary depending on age group.

Miss it at your peril!

In 2016, the matrícula for infantil and primaria (3-12 years olds) was June 10-20. For secundaria and bachillerato, the 2016 matrícula was in May.

School hours

There’s a lot of variety with some schools starting at 08.00 and others at 09.00. They break up at 13.00, 14.00 or 15.00. Most state and concertado schools have breakfast clubs and after school food (comedor) and activities (actividades extraescolares) to help parents working split shifts. These are pretty affordable.

School holidays

The Canarian school year starts around the 10th of September and is divided into three terms.

Christmas holidays don’t start until the 23rd or 24th of December but go on until at least the 7th of January after Reyes. School lasts until June, but the exact break-up date depends on age and the school.

Schools all take off official Spanish and Canarian fiestas and also have a few days a year that they can choose as holidays. Often they use them to make a Tuesday or Thursday fiesta into a long weekend.

Written by Laura Leyshon: Las Palmas’ resident property and relocation Guru.


Renting Out A Gran Canaria Property? The Taxman Is Watching

Gran Canaria tax: The Spanish tax man is watching people who rent property but don't declare the income

Gran Canaria tax: The Spanish taxman is watching people who rent property but don’t declare the income

Hacienda is cracking down on undeclared rental income all over Spain. Here’s what it means for Gran Canaria property owners.

Online crackdown on undeclared income

Spain’s tax authorities have warned that they now monitor property rental websites for owners who rent out property but don’t declare the income.

The Hacienda drive also targets people offering services online. Teachers, translators and handymen can expect to get letters too.

People advertising their property or services but not declaring the income on their annual declaración will receive a written warning.

Hacienda will cross-check information from rental websites with water and electricity consumption data from the utilities to identify active rental properties.

What it won’t be able to find out is how much a property is rented out for.

Paying tax on rental income in Gran Canaria

Resident property owners who rent out property in Gran Canaria have to declare the income on their annual tax filing and pay tax on the income.

Non-resident property owners have to pay 25% income tax on any money earned in Spain, even if the money they earn from renting a Spanish property doesn’t enter Spain.

Short-term rental rules and taxes

While you don’t need a license to rent property on a residential basis (for a period longer than 90 days), you do need a license to rent to tourists.

Short-term rental is only legal in areas that are residential (it’s illegal in resort areas).

To get a short-term rental license, you have to go to the island’s tourist board, known as the Patronato de Turismo, register the property, and get a blue plaque and ID number.

Do I need to be autonomo to rent out a property?

You don’t need to be autonomo to rent a residential property unless it is your main source of income.

You don’t need to be autonomo to rent a tourist property unless you offer hotel-style services such as cleaning and laundry. It’s fine to clean between stays, but if you clean while a set of guests are renting, it changes the activity and means you’d need to be autonomo.


The Guru Guide To Renting Out Your Gran Canaria Property

Renting out Gran Canaria property

Renting out Gran Canaria property

There are three ways of renting out Gran Canaria property;

Short-term tourist rentals

This is perfectly legal if your property is on land classified as residential (everywhere except the tourist resorts). In resort areas, it is more complicated as you have to have a tourist license or rent it out via a central management company.

Until recently you needed a Tourist Rental License to do this and only certain properties were eligible (rural houses, villas, etc). However, the law has now changed and any residential property can now be rented to tourists on a short-term basis (anything under three months).

You do not need the permission of the Comunidad to rent out  a private apartment (although a Comunidad can vote to ban all touristic rentals in a building or complex) and you don’t need a plaque or license. All you have to do is pay tax on the income you receive and advertise it honestlyRates vary depending on location on

Rates vary depending on location and property specifications. Cleaning costs are often added as a one-off extra charge for tenants.

NOTE: Please speak to a quality estate agent before buying a rental investment property in Gran Canaria’s resorts. The law for resort properties is currently in flux and you need expert advice.

Long-term residential rentals

Renting out property in Gran Canaria is fairly easy. You can either do it privately by advertising in the local papers or on websites like Segundamano and FotoCasa, or by advertising it via an estate agent. Agencies traditionally charge the tenant one month’s rent, but some are now asking the property owner to pay this fee, or to split it with their new tenant.

Most owners ask for a month’s rent as a deposit and return it once the tenant has left, minus any costs for repairs (reasonable wear and tear cannot by law be deducted from the deposit).

One advantage of renting via an agent is that they handle the contract, but you can download example contracts.

If you are a non-resident, some agencies will manage your property (they arrange for plumbers if there’s a problem, etc) for a monthly fee of around €50.

Renting out Gran Canaria property the middle way

Many owners take a middle road between touristic rentals and residential lets by renting their property to people who spend several months a year living in Gran Canaria. They are often retired Brits and Scandinavians escaping the winter back home (known as snowbirds) but digital nomads are also flocking to Gran Canaria.

The benefits of renting to snowbirds are that you can charge more per month than for a residential let and don’t have to handle frequent keys and cleaning.

To advertise your property to snowbirds, post it on websites like AirBnB and specify a long minimum stay.

Renting and taxes

Non-resident property owners pay 24% income tax on rental income of all types while residents have to pay income tax. Residents pay income tax.

Most non-residents use a local Gestoria to handle their tax and paperwork.


The Guru Guide To Property Taxes in Gran Canaria

Gran Canaria property tax guide

Gran Canaria property tax guide

Buying a property in Gran Canaria costs about 10% of the price you pay once you factor in taxes and fees. Selling a property involves some costs but these only add up if you profit from the sale. The annual tax burden of owning a property in Gran Canaria is low.

Annual property taxes in Gran Canaria

IBI

An annual property tax set by the local Ayuntamiento that is between 0.5% and 1% of the official value of your property (much lower than the market value). The IBI rate in Las Palmas is currently 0.73%.

Other ongoing costs

IBI is the only monthly tax cost that you have to pay in Gran Canaria (there is no council tax). However, if you live in a building or a complex you have to pay a monthly communidad fee which is your share of costs like communal electricity, lift and pool maintenance and insurance.

The amount varies depending on the building and the facilities and services it offers.

Non-resident property owners must pay income tax on any rental income, plus IGIC (VAT) if they rent their property on a short -term basis. Even if a non-resident property owner doesn’t rent out their property, they still have to pay a small annual tax.

Article on non-resident property taxation in Gran Canaria.

Gran Canaria property taxes at  purchase

ITP or re-sale purchase tax

Buyers of re-sale property (as opposed to a new build) are required to pay the Impuesto de Transferencia de Propiedad which is 6.5% of the price paid for the property.

New Properties purchase tax

This is currently 7% if the house is finished or is being built at the time of the purchase. It is paid by the buyer.

A property buyer only ever has to pay one of the above two taxes.

Other fees

While not strictly taxes you also have to pay Notary fees (around 300 euros for most properties, more if you buy with a mortgage) and Property Registry fees (around 300 euros). Most buyers use a Gestoria to handle the paperwork associated with a purchase (they charge around 250 euros).

Along with the  10% taxes and fees, you’ll need a minimum  deposit of 20% if you get a mortgage (30% for non-residents) and 300 euros to pay for a valuation of the property you want to buy. Spanish banks also insist that you take out life insurance and property insurance at the same time as the mortgage.

Gran Canaria property taxes at sale

Plusvalía municipal 

Paid by the seller to the Ayuntamiento where the property is located, this is also called the impuesto sobre el incremento de valor de los terrenos de naturaleza urbana (IIVTNU).

You pay plusvalia on the increase in value of the land that a property occupies during the period that you own it (capped at 20 years) and the amount varies depending on the period of ownership and the rates set by the Ayuntamiento.

Incremento patrimonial 

Capital gains tax paid to the Spanish Treasury; Based on the difference between the sale price and the price paid by seller when he/she originally purchased the property (you can offset costs of improvements so keep your new kitchen and bathroom facturas).

As of 2016, the capital gains tax rate in Gran Canaria is 19% for the first 6.000 Euros, 21% from 6.000 to 50.000 Euros and 23% from that last amount upwards.

However, one advantage of the fall in Gran Canaria property prices over the last 10 years is that few sellers have to pay capital gains tax.

Tax exemption

Avoid paying capital gains tax by reinvesting the money from the sale of a main residence property  into another main residence property within two years. EU nationals, even non-residents, can also avoid this tax if they buy a new main residence property anywhere in the EU within two years.

To claim the exemption you need to be able to prove that a property has been your main residence. A good reason to get a ‘certificado de empadronamiento’ certificate from your Ayuntamiento as soon as you buy your house.

Mortgage cancellation fees

If you cancel a mortgage when you sell a property, expect to pay 1% or more of the outstanding balance for the privilege, plus up to 1000 euros to register the cancellation at the Notary and Property Registry. The fine for abusing a bank manager is significantly higher.

This Guru Guide was written by Laura Leyshon, our favourite Las Palmas estate agent.


The Guru Guide To Getting A Gran Canaria Mortgage

Getting a Gran Canaria mortgage

Getting a Gran Canaria mortgage

The process of getting a Gran Canaria mortgage can be long and Spanish banks have become cautious since the crisis.

However, after several years of shell-shock, they have started to lend again and competition is beginning to heat up in the mortgage market.

Getting a Gran Canaria mortgage

To get a mortgage you must have a 20% cash deposit (plus the 10% in cash that it costs to buy a property in Gran Canaria) and prove to the bank that you can make the repayments. In general, they only lend if your liabilities (existing loans, mortgage payments) represent less than 35% of your monthly income.

For example, if you want to take out a mortgage which will be 350 euros a month, you must earn 1000 euros a month and not have any other loan payments. They will check your ability to pay by requesting the following documentation…

  • wage slips from the last 3 months
  • bank statements for the last 6 months
  • If you are self-employed, copies of your last 3 years of accounts (with an auditor’s stamp) and copies of you last 12 month’s business bank statements and your last 6 months personal bank statements).

As always, you will need to feed the photocopier with your ID, residencia and the one piece of paper you didn’t bring with you. 

Banks in Gran Canaria do NOT take future rental income into account when calculating the amount of money they will lend you to buy a property.

Spanish banks currently offer mortgages of 60-80% of what a property valuation firm says that it is worth (you pay about 300 euros for this valuation as part of the mortgage application process).

Most banks offer variable rate mortgages that last from between 12 and 40 years.

2017 update: Residents can now borrow up to 90% of the purchase price from the right bank.

Gran Canaria mortgage interest rates

Interest rates in Spain vary, but are generally a little lower than in the UK. The rate is set using the EURIBOR interest rate published by the European Money Market Institute.

Your mortgage rate will be expressed as EURIBOR plus a percentage (eg. Euribor más 0.75%) and varies depending on whether the EURIBOR rises or falls. With the rate currently negative, mortgages in Spain are at rock bottom levels.

It is always worth applying to several banks (you only have to gather the paperwork once) as the rate, property valuation, and other conditions vary considerably between banks and you never quite know what headquarters in Madrid (all applications are sent to Madrid for approval) will say.

There is no harm in playing the banks off against each other.

Ask for a copy of one bank’s offer and then take it to a different bank to see if they can improve the offer – they often will. Then take the improved offer back to the original bank – you may get a pleasant surprise.

 Gran Canaria Mortgage costs

During the mortgage application process, you have to pay for a valuation by a professional valuation firm (200-300 euros) and you will also pay a gestoria (bureaucracy consultant/paperwork company) to handle all the paperwork (around 250 euros); your bank will assign one, you’ll pay for it.

Spanish banks have a habit of attaching other products to their mortgages to boost their profits. For example, you will have to pay for annual life insurance that covers the entire mortgage, and property insurance that covers its replacement value in the case of a fire, etc. Often you get the best interest rates if you agree to their add-ons.

Non-resident mortgages in Gran Canaria

Non-residents need a minimum deposit of 30% plus the 10% in fees and taxes that you need to buy a property. That’s a minimum of 40% of the value of a property befoe you can get a mortgage as a non-resident.

You may also be asked to provide an aval (guarantor). This will be somebody usually based in Spain who agrees to pay in the event of you being unable to.

New Build Mortgages

As well as paying slightly more IPT tax (7% rather than 6.5%), buying a new build property has the disadvantage that the constructor (builder) or promotor (promoter) often has a mortgage deal agreed with a particular bank. The rates and conditions are fixed and you have to accept them.

Changing mortgages

With rates as low as they are at the moment, there is rarely much benefit to changing your mortgage provider as the process is long and expensive (fees are around €3000). However, if you are locked into a mortgage with high rates, it is worth looking into.

The Clausula Suelo

Spanish banks used to put a floor under the interest rate on their mortgages which basically locked in their profits if interest rates dropped. However, the EU has ruled this floor, known as the clausula suelo, illegal and told the banks to scrap it and TO RETURN ALL THE EXTRA, ILLEGAL INTEREST THEY COLLECTED.

If you have a mortgage in Spain with a clausula suelo, you are entitled to go to your bank and demand that they return all the excess interest you paid over the years.

These sums can be substantial so don’t expect your bank to hand it over without a scrap; They aren’t exactly falling all over each other to obey the courts.

Rather than give you the cash, the bank knocks what they owe you off the outstanding mortgage debt.

For the latest on this story, please read this article.

The best Gran Canaria mortgage banks

Mortgage offers change all the time so we recommend that you shop around extensively and apply at several different types of bank…

  • The traditional Spanish banks such as BBVA and Santander
  • The local banks such as Bankia and / or a Spanish caja (equivalent to a building society and just as endangered).
  • A foreign bank such as Bankinter and Deutsche Bank
  • An alternative bank such as EVO.
  • Online banks such as ING Direct.

Help getting a Gran Canaria mortgage

If you speak fluent Spanish and know the local property market, feel free to ignore this advice and use a local mortgage broker or go direct to the banks.

Use a good local estate agent when you buy a Gran Canaria property: They will help you with the process of getting a Gran Canaria mortgage and make sure that you pay a fair price for your property.

Best of all, estate agency services are free for the buyer as the seller pays all their fees.

In Las Palmas and north Gran Canaria, talk to Laura at Las Palmas Property and read their guide to getting a Gran Canaria mortgage in 2017.

In south Gran Canaria, just go to Cárdenas Real Estate.


Really Useful Tips For Buying A Gran Canaria Property

Useful Gran Canaria property tips for a safe and happy property purchase

Useful Gran Canaria property tips

Property in Gran Canaria is well regulated and most purchases are straightforward (within the boundaries of Spanish bureaucracy). These useful Gran Canaria property tips will guide you towards a happy purchase.

How to buy a Gran Canaria house

Most people buy through estate agents but private sales are legal. We advise anyone buying without an agency to get a local lawyer before signing anything. Never sign a contract in an office: Go to a notary as they double-check contracts for anything fishy.

Estate agent services are free to buyers as the seller pays their fees. It makes no sense to buy in Gran Canaria without a good estate agent. They check all documentation, prepare legal contracts, and know what to look out for.

Gran Canaria property tips

Where to find Gran Canaria properties

Most for-sale properties are now advertised online. VibboIdealista and Fotocasa are the main Spanish property portals. You see a mix of private sales and agency properties.

Look out for signs in windows and ask in locals shops and bars (especially if you are searching in rural areas).

Check estate agency windows or ask an estate agent to search the shared property database for property. Since most agencies pool their properties, this is almost always the best way for foreigners to search for Gran Canaria property.

If you’re looking for a good agency, start here …

In south Gran Canaria, go to Cárdenas Real Estate. They are one of the island’s oldest agencies and focus on south Gran Canaria.

In Las Palmas, contact Las Palmas Property. Laura works for RE/MAX Cony Overseas, one of the city’s best agencies. She specialises in property in and around the capital city.

Agencies provide you with an accurate market price for any property. This is important as there are still owners listing their property at unrealistic prices.

Gran Canaria House Prices

Prices have fallen by as much as 30-40% since the boom years before the crisis.

Property in Gran Canaria is generally cheaper per square metre than in northern Europe. Locations such as Las Canteras in Las Palmas and close to the sea in the south are expensive due to high demand.

Gran Canaria Mortgages

Banks in Gran Canaria are cautious about lending and only lend according to the value of the property.

They get all properties valued by a tasador before they agree yo lend. See our detailed guide to buying a Gran Canaria property for more on mortgages and banks.

What to watch out for

Older and rural property often has extensions that aren’t registered by the property registry. Any changes must be registered before you buy.

Don’t take anyone’s word for information about things like empty plots next to your home. You can check what permits they have at the Ayuntamiento and should do.

Overall, property purchases are safe as long as you get good advice, use your common sense and insist on full transparency from all parties.

Costs of buying a house

The taxes, lawyers fees, mortgage fees etc. will add up to about 10% of the value of the house.

Haggling

Haggling can be effective, especially if for property valued above its market price, or in a low-demand areas. Most owners expect to give a small discount.

Don’t expect a large discount on properties in popular areas like the Las Canteras beachfront.

Overall, we advise all foreign buyers in Gran Canaria to use the services of a good estate agent, and to double-check everything before signing the contract.


The Guru Guide To Buying Property In Gran Canaria

Beach front property in Gran Canaria

Beach front property in Gran Canaria

Buying property in Gran Canaria is a relatively straightforward process if done correctly. The island property registry is excellent, property rights in Gran Canaria are clear, and all contracts must be signed in front of an independent notary.

However, there are pitfalls and we advise all buyers to use a quality estate agent and / or a local lawyer to check their chosen property and contracts.

Estate agents in Gran Canaria

Estate agents in Gran Canaria vary from the average to the excellent with a couple of outlying dodgy outfits (targeting non-resident buyers in the resorts).

Estate agency fees are 5% of the sale price of a property but are paid by the seller. This means that their services are free to buyers; All non-native Spanish speakers should use one when buying property in Gran Canaria.

The risks of going it alone are just too high to bother with as disputes takes a long time and oodles of cash to resolve.

To find a good estate agent in Gran Canaria, look for the following…

  • An estate agency with an office you can visit and a good local reputation.
  • An agency that is connected to the BOICAN shared property database and can, therefore, show you almost any for-sale property in your chosen area.
  • An agent that speaks your language and good Spanish.
  • Above all, choose an estate agent that cares about you, rather than about selling you a particular property.

The benefit  using a good estate agency include their ability to value a property accurately (many sellers list their property at the price they’d like to get rather than what it is currently worth), the help they provide with paperwork, and good relationships with reliable local banks.

In Las Palmas and the north of Gran Canaria, we recommend Las Palmas Property.

In south Gran Canaria, just go to Cardenas Real Estate; One of Gran Canaria’s oldest and most trusted agencies.

NOTE: Do not buy a rental investment property in south Gran Canaria without getting expert advice:

The cost of buying property in Gran Canaria

The total cost of buying a property in Gran Canaria is roughly 10% on top of the price you pay.

This sum includes:

  • Fixed property purchase tax (the exact percentage varies depending on property type and Municipality)
  • Notary costs (a fixed percentage of the value of the property)roperty registry costs.
  • Property registry costs.

NOTE: The 10% figure is approximate. It can be up to 12% if you buy a cheapie under €100,000 and lower if you buy something substantial.

NOTE: Seek expert advice if a seller wants you to pay a percentage of the purchase price in cash under the table. This is illegal and has tax implications as the government knows what property is worth and asks for extra taxes on properties that are bought too cheap.

Ongoing costs include:

  • Monthly Communidad fees (if you buy in a building or complex)
  • A small annual tax on the value of the land your property sits on (known as the IBI)
  • Utility bills.

There are no council tax bills in Gran Canaria.

What you need to buy a property in Gran Canaria

All buyers must have:

A Spanish NIE number; This fiscal identification number, which you will soon learn by heart, is the same number that goes on your green Residencia paper. Getting a NIE is a faff unless you have a job contract or a pre-contract to buy a property (or are a non-EU citizen investing 500,000 euros in Spanish property; Hello Golden Visa).

A local bank account; Opening a non-resident bank account is straightforward. All you need is a passport. Change to a resident’s account once you get Residencia as the fees are lower.

Getting a mortgage in Gran Canaria

Spanish banks learned their lesson rather too well during the crisis and are now cautious about lending money to home buyers. You need a minimum deposit of 20% (unless you earn big money) and a work contract to even be considered (or a long track record of earnings as an Autonomo or self-employed person).

New arrivals often have to wait a year to get a mortgage, even with a permanent work contract. This might seem infuriating, but it’s no bad thing if you consider the number of people who go home after a year in Gran Canaria; not everyone can handle the sunshine and the rum.

Spanish banks currently won’t lend you more than you can pay back with a third of your total income.

Non-residents need a larger deposit (typically 40%) and proof of earnings in their home country going back six months. Spanish banks are unwilling to lend to older non-residents who are due to retire before their mortgage term is up.

Mortgage applications are long-winded (up to three months at some banks) and hampered by top-down management at Spanish banks. Your application is submitted in Gran Canaria but goes to Madrid (it’s always Madrid) by post for approval. Any missing documents cause delays that nobody is accountable for; Be vigilant and don’t be afraid to push as silence is often a bad sign.

The best advice we can give you is to apply to several different banks; They all require the same paperwork so all you have to do is spend a few hours at each one and feed them with photocopies.

At the moment, the best banks are the international ones such as Deutsche Bank and ING Direct, rather than the local banks like Bankia, Santander and BBVA.

International banks are faster, often offer better rates, and are more flexible with foreigners than hidebound Spanish banks.

Renting Your Gran Canaria Property

See this article for details on how to rent your property in Gran Canaria.

Summary

Use a good estate agent

Factor in costs

Apply to several banks if you need a mortgage

Be determined and patient


Shopping In Gran Canaria: The Expert Guide

El Muello shopping mall in Las Palmas

El Muelle shopping mall in Las Palmas

With one of Spain’s top outdoor shopping areas and several well-stocked malls, Gran Canaria (and especially Las Palmas), has become a great place to shop. 

Not bad for a place that only got its first shopping centre in the early 1990s; Gran Canaria now has a good selection of international and Spanish franchise stores, as well as some funky local boutiques and local fashion names.

Here’s our local expert’s guide on shopping in Gran Canaria…

Clothes shopping in Gran Canaria

For hassle-free ‘everything you need under one roof shopping’, Las Arenas shopping centre is the best shopping centre on the island. It has lots of fashion stores, a big MediaMarkt, toy shops, plenty of cafes, and a huge Carrefour.

The city’s other shopping centres, such as El Muelle and Siete Palmas, are ok but don’t have the range of shops. La Ballena is only for the brave.

For  those of you who prefer outdoor shopping,  Mesa y Lopez prides itself on being the main shopping street in Las Palmas, mainly because it boasts the largest El Corte Inglés department store in Spain.  If you can’t find what you’re looking for, try El Corte Inglés; It’s expensive but residents can get a credit card.

For enjoyable, alfresco shopping,  Triana is the place to go. Voted ‘best outdoor shopping area’ in Spain a few years back, it is still an excellent place to go. The big shops are on the main street, the smaller boutiques up the cobbled lanes.

The Atlantico shopping centre in Vecindario is more convenient than Las Palmas for resort and south-Gran Canaria residents and a has a decent selection of shops.

In the resorts, there are some clothes shops at Meloneras and the new El Tablero shopping centre has a few fashion stores.

Almost all these areas and centres have Zara and/or Mango for the ladies and Springfield and/or  Jack Jones for the gentlemen, along with a variety of other Spanish/Canarian favourites like Natura for ethnic clothes and jewellery, Pull and Bear, Stradivarius and Promod for urban chic, Bijou Brigitte for accessories and Carolina Boix for cheap shoes.

The latest addition to the Las Palmas shopping scene is Los Alisios; a vast, outdoor shopping mall in Tamaraceite just a few minutes drive from Las Palmas. It has over 100 stores and is all outdoors. It only opened in November 2017, but is impressive and will do well.

Local swimwear brand Lenita & XTG is great for skimpy beach wear for anyone who wants to go local on the beaches.

Shoe shopping

It is true.  The Spanish love their shoes.  It will come as no surprise then that there are zillions of shoe shops selling fashionable shoes at bargain prices.  It is not worth listing the possible shoe shops you could browse as you can’t turn a corner without finding yourself in one.  But be warned.  Most of the shoes are made of synthetic fabrics which is why they are cheap.

Leather shoes at affordable prices are harder to come by.  Yes, there are plenty of shops that sell leather shoes but the prices rocket skywards.  Corte Inglés stock quality leather shoes, as do Lopez (Mesa y Lopez and Calle Triana). The sales are your friend.

Sales and the best places to find a bargain

Christmas sales normally start around 7th January and summer sales around 8th July.  Reductions are between 20% and 70% so you can grab some real bargains.  The first day of the sales is normally hellish, but by day three you can browse what’s left on the rails at your own pace.

For year-round bargains try the outlet stores:  Benetton in Alcampo, and Springfield in La Ballena in Escaleritas.  El Corte Inglés has an outlet shop on the top floor of Las Arenas.

Or head to Las Terrazas shopping centre in Jinamar: It has some decent outlet stores and is particularly good for discount shoes. It’s also outdoors and offers free parking. The Mirador shopping centre just over the road has a wider selection of shops but fewer bargains.

You ma also pick up bargains at the Fisaldo shopping fair which takes place in Infecar in Escaleritas every May/June. Local shops empty the previous season’s clothes, furniture and nicknacks into this four-day bonanza.  Please bear in mind that generally there is an awful lot of rubbish to trawl through, but for the very shrewd and very patient you can find some real treats.  It’s a bit like TK Maxx on steroids.

Supermarkets in Gran Canaria

In Las Palmas, you can’t go very far without passing a Spar but for your bigger weekly shop head to one of the big supermarkets.

Carrefour, with a good choice of European wine and cheese, is in Las Arenas, Tres Palmas and the Atlantico shopping centre in Vecindario.

HiperCor in the Corte Inglés is great for treats but isn’t as cheap as other supermarkets. It does have a great wine selection.

HiperDino (a local brand) and Mercadona (Spanish) compete to be the cheapest place for your weekly shop and there isn’t much between them. Alcampo, at the La Estrella shopping park just off the GC1 in Telde, probably is the cheapest supermarket in Gran Canaria and has a huge selection of fresh meat.

You must have photo ID to pay with a card in Alcampo; It’s the only one that hasn’t accepted that chip and pin cards are perfectly secure.

The Mirador shopping centre in Jinamar has an Eroski supermarket but the rumour is that Carrefour will soon buy it out.

Within Las Palmas, most large supermarkets will deliver your shopping for free. In other areas, you need to ask and cross your fingers.

Markets in Gran Canaria

Local markets are the best places to buy quality fruit and veg in Gran Canaria. In Las Palmas, the main markets open every morning but in smaller towns they pop up at the weekends. The best weekend markets ones close to the capital are San Lorenzo (a genuine farmer’s market), Santa Brigida (a big gentrified these days) and San Mateo (huge but not the prettiest).

Furniture shopping in Gran Canaria

You will see a variety of shops selling furniture (muebles) throughout Gran Canaria though in truth most of them are full of shiny yellow-wooded chairs, tables and sideboards, and glass nd metal cabinets, loved by Spaniards the world over.  They aren’t as cheap as you’d think either.

Have no fear, Ikea is here.  We all know what we’re getting with Ikea furniture (apart from an apartment filled with the same furniture as every other apartment rented by someone British).  It’s cheap, cheerful and doesn’t cost that much to have delivered and made while you go to the beach.

Corte Inglés is also worth a visit (especially during the sales) for classic modern pieces.

For imported rustic furniture and imported, Indonesian and Indian furniture try El Rincon (just up the road from old Ikea, Perez Ortega (junction 7b off the GC1 opposite Alcampo) and Perojo (Calle Perojo in Triana).

DIY 

For all your DIY needs the easiest thing to do is to head to vast and cheap Leroy Merlin (La Estrella or Tamaraceite). It has some English speaking staff so if you’re stuck and monolingual you can get help.

However, for smaller items and local tips on why the toilet keeps making that noise, head to your local ferreteria. It will undoubtedly stock what you’re looking for but unless you know the word for ‘adjustable spanner’ in Spanish you’ll have trouble buying it.

Sportswear

Most shopping centres have at least one sporting goods shop, but for the best range of everything from kayaks to canyoning gear, head to Decathlon. It’s also a good place to buy hard-wearing trousers and gym kit.

Electronics

Start any search for electronics at one of the big shops like MediaMarkt but do be aware that they aren’t always as cheap as they say they are. Check alternatives, like Carrefour and even specialist shops (Visanta and Duke Fotografía for cameras), as they are often better value.


The Guru Guide To Getting A NIE Number & Residencia In Gran Canaria

Example of a green NIE paper

Example of a green NIE paper

 

All foreigners that live, do business or buy property in Gran Canaria need a Spanish NIE number.

Spain has made this harder, especially for non-EU and non-EEA  nationals. Even EU citizens don’t just get one these days.

What is the NIE

The NIE, or Numero de Identidad de Extranjeros, is the number that goes on your Spanish residency card.

It’s a fiscal identification number that allows the Spanish Government to coordinate your affairs. Note that the social security has its own number system and card.

The NIE is the equal of the NIF number that all Spanish citizens have on their DNI identity cards. But, EU and EEA citizens don’t get photo ID in Spain anymore. You can thank a group of British expats for it. They sued Spain in the EU courts for forcing them to carry ID, so Spain stopped issuing them.

This is a serious pain as Spanish law states that you have to carry your passport and NIE paper with you at all times.

What is the NIE for?

If you plan to live in Gran Canaria, you need a NIE to…

Get a job, pay taxes, own or sell property, sign a rental contract, start a business, register with the social security system and sign up for utilities, phone and internet contracts.

You also need it to claim the discount that Canarian residents get on travel. Residents get 50% of travel between islands and to Spain.

NIE or residencia?

This causes a lot of confusion because you need a NIE to be resident, but you don’t need to be resident to get a NIE.

If you are in Gran Canaria to buy a property, then you can apply for a NIE number alone. It comes on a green credit-card sized piece of paper.

If you plan to live in Gran Canaria, apply for residencia straight away.

What does the NIE look like

Your NIE number is the letter X or Y followed by seven or eight digits and then another letter. You’ll learn it pretty fast.

Currently, it comes on a floppy, credit-card sized bit of green paper. This falls out of passports and disintegrates when wet.

You’re not allowed to laminate it.

What you need to get a NIE

Spain used to assign NIE numbers to anyone who asked for one, but this has changed.

To get a NIE number these days,  you need one of these…

  • A work contract: This doesn’t need to be full-time but it does need to be formal. Currently you need a 20-hour contract to get an NIE. The days of getting a few hours teaching works and geting your number seem to be over (for now).
  • A pre-contract (contrato de arras) to buy property gets you a NIE. You get a number on a certificate valid for three or six months. The number stays with you but non-residents need to renew the certificate as needed.
  • Have at least €5000 in your bank account. an income of 600 per month and private medical insurance. The health insurance must cover you to the level  you get from the Spanish health service. However, there are no official guidelines about what qualifies you to. The decision seems to depend more on how your policemen feels on the day than anything else. Look smart and be polite; It helps.

How to get a NIE / apply for residencia

Go to the Extranjeria department of your nearest Policia Nacional station, (Plaza de la Feria in Las Palmas). Fill in and sign an application form (take a pen). Hand it in with your documentation, a passport photocopy and your original passport.

Then you have to go and pay a fee at the nearest bank  and bring back the receipt. You may get your NIE card on the day or have to come back in a few days to pick it up.

EU citizens now have their own queue at extranjeria in Las Palmas with short queues. Spare a thought for everyone else as they sometimes wait weeks for an appointment.

For a NIE certificate, you may need your hotel booking receipt or proof of address.

For residencia, you may need your rental contract or a paper showing your current address.

Getting your NIE at home

If you qualify, you can get your NIE before arriving in Gran Canaria. Phone your nearest Spanish Consulate as procedures vary depending on the country.

Renewing your NIE

The little green cards with NIE numbers don’t expire and the number never changes so you shouldn’t need to renew your certificate unless you lose it. If you do lose it you may need to justify that you still need it and quality al over again.

How to change a NIE

Once you get an NIE number it never changes. But you can change the name on your NIE paper (if you get married or divorced for example).

  1. Passport
  2. Document accrediting the change on your NIE. For marriage, you need a British consulate certificate explaining th custom of changing names.
  3. Receipt from the bank stating you have paid the relevant tax. (get the form when you meet the officer for the first time, pay it at the nearest bank and return.
  4. Social security certificate.

Note: Changing your name causes confusion within the Spanish government and Social Security system. Avoid doing it unless you really love your new partner or can’t stand the old one.

For more info on moving to Gran Canaria, get this ebook: Gran Canaria Living.