A short Spanish-English glossary of real estate vocabulary

I am not a linguist. Neither English nor Spanish are my mother tongue (it is French, but I am no French neither…). This Spanish-English glossary has no legal or academic value. I am making this lexicon to help, if it can. It is aimed at European readers looking for a Spanish-English glossary of real estate vocabulary. Should you be looking for American English - American Spanish vocabulary, your favorite robot will lead you to good lexicons on the web.

Should you find mistakes and wish to help me to improve this document, any suggestion for a correction will be welcome. My e-mail is at your disposal. And should you be looking for a Spanish word related to real estate not mentioned below, you also may send me an e-mail. I will give you the translation, and… add it to this glossary.

J. Gaillard  

oh… and yes, here, you will find a short guide to the pronunciation of the Spanish alphabet (opens in a new window)

© 2005, by INSERT and partners, Madrid - Last updated: January 9th, 2013

Abbreviations and shortcuts
The vocabulary has been divided in many categories. They are: On another hand, you will find here some commonly used abbreviations:

Spanish-English real estate vocabulary
alta darse de… to subscribe a service (gas, electricity, water…)
baja darse de… to stop a service, to be removed from a subscription list
caduca expires, is mature
caducidad fecha de… expiry date, day of due fall
despachar clearance (of goods, formality)
documento nacional de identidad D.N.I. Spaniard's identity card. For aliens, there is a similar document called N.I.E.
Exmo. or Excmo. Excelentísimo Excellence (deprecated); higher than ilustrísimo
gestión management, administrative steps, formality
Ilmo. Ilustrísimo illustrious (deprecated); lower than excelentísimo
índice de los precios al consumo I.P.C. prices index
inspección técnica de vehículos I.T.V. compulsory motor vehicles technical inspection, which has to be proceeded periodically, the period being determined by the age of the vehicle
mañana tomorrow (but you knew that, didn't you ?)
M.I. Muy Ilustrísimo most illustrious (deprecated); thus anywhere between ilustrísimo and excelentísimo
reforma repairs
renovación renovation
repaso light repairs, fixings
restauración restoration
retoque retouch
How bad is it ? So, "repaso" may be translated by "needs a coat of painting"; "retoque" with "a coat of painting and some electricity and/or plumbing works"; "reforma" and "renovación" with "complete restoration" or "refurbish" and "restauración" often with "bring everything down and build again".
trámite formality
adosado refer to chalet adosado
apartamento small apartment
ático attic, penthouse
ático duplex two floors attic / penthouse apartment
azotea roof terrace, sun roof
bajo 1. low. 2. ground floor
balcón this is no balcony, but rather a hole in an outer wall, from ceiling to floor, closed by a French window and a barrier. Also refer to terraza
bungalow in two floors (generally terraced) houses, this is either the ground floor apartment with a small private garden or the top floor apartment with a private roof terrace.
carmen (m.n.) in Andalusia, mainly in Granada: detached house with a garden.
carport shelter for car, without walls, and sometimes without roof neither…
caserío refer to finca
chalet (chalé, chale) individual detached house with one or more floors, with or without cellar
chalet adosado 1. Semi-detached house. 2. Sometimes also terraced house
chalet agrupado large terraced house
cigarral in the Toledo area: detached house
Climalit (registered trade mark) insulating glazing
cocina americana open kitchen; kitchen integrated in the living room
cocina separada separated kitchen, by walls
cortijo refer to finca
despacho simple office space; also refer to oficina
desván garret
duplex frequently used Spanish word for a terraced house with at least two floors
estacionamiento plaza de… parking space, sometimes in a collective garage, sometimes on the proper plot of land
cortijo (Andalusia)
masía (Catalonia, Aragon)
caserío (in the north of Spain)
cigarral (Toledo)
1. Small farm with a large piece of land 2. (only "finca") In a title deed, the word "la finca" is used to point out the property, be it a house, an apartment or a plot of land
masía refer to finca
garaje (garage) separado individual garage
mansión gentleman's residence
manzana 1. apple - 2. in Madrid and Castilla La Mancha: block of houses
pasa má (Catalonian) open, uncovered hall in a roof, dividing the roof in two parts, and sometimes giving access to garrets
patio backyard, courtyard
patio andaluz decorated courtyard, in (more or less) Andalusian style
patio lavadero small laundry room in a courtyard
piso (large) apartment. The piso is larger than the apartamento. The word piso also sometimes is used for "floor" (primer piso = first floor, etc.), but the correct expression for "first floor" is primera planta or planta primera
planta 1. plant - 2. floor, stair
planta baja, bajo ground floor
respiradero air-passage, ventilation way
semi sótano partly underground
solar 1. something related to the sun: energía solar = solar energy - 2. plot of land
sótano underground (cellar, garage)
superficie construida built surface; the walls allways are included. The roofed terraces also account as fully built surface, and half of the open terraces are considered built surface
superficie construida total as superficie construida above, but the terraces, open or roofed whatsoever, and the swimming-pool are included in their totality
superficie construida útil built surface which can be used, including storeroom or courtyard
superficie construida vivienda built surface of the main housing, where the terraces account as in superficie construida
studio apartment with one room only and integrated kitchen; the bathroom is separated
techo ceiling
tejado roof
terreno (plot of) land
terraza anything from small balcony to large terrace
trastero storeroom
villa 1. villa, cottage, detached house with at least two floors. 2. Official designation of a municipality, a town
vivienda dwelling
abogado lawyer; he is working in a bufete de abogados (lawyers' office)
administrador de fincas administrator of the joint ownership, of the property owners association
alcalde -sa Mayor (of the town)
apoderado authorized representative, attorney with power; also refer to poder
arquitecto municipal Town Hall architect
asesor consultant, adviser, tax adviser, accountant; he works in an asesoría. Also refer to gestor
arquitecto técnico project superintendent; he is responsible to check the construction in each step
butanero the (bottled) gas deliveryman
contratista building contractor
fiscal 1. public prosecutor - 2. which has to do with taxes; tributario is also used.
gestor tax consultant, accountant; he is working in a gestoría. Also refer to asesor
notario notary
procurador attorney at law representing the lawyer in a justice court
propietario owner
representado the person who is represented; often the customer of a lawyer; also refer to poder
representante representative; also refer to poder
vecino/s neighbour/s; in the plural form ("los vecinos"), usually designates the property owners association
alcaldía refer to ayuntamiento
apoderamiento refer to escritura pública de apoderamiento
apostille Legalization note (8 cm. × 8 cm.) with legal effect. Acknowledgment of public documents between member states. Depending upon the country, different authorities are responsible for their delivery.
ayuntamiento Town Hall
bando decision, publication of this decision (of the Mayor)
BOE, Boletín Oficial del Estado Official Journal of the State. In addition, each Province has its own official journal, which sometimes can be consulted on the web. The reasons of this "sometimes" are not always clear. A search on your preferred search engine with keywords such as "Boletín oficial provincia […]" and some more words may help. Here is the Official Journal of the Alicante Province: http://www.dip-alicante.es/bop/.
cargas y gravámenes charges, obligations, liabilities affecting a property such as a mortgage or easements; they can be consulted on a "nota simple" (extract from the Property Register)
carnet or carné document, membership certification; when nothing else is specified, it most of the times means driver's licence or identity card
casa de la villa refer to ayuntamiento
casa consistorial refer to ayuntamiento

Land Survey, not to confuse with the Property Register ("Registro de la propiedad"). The catastro is responsible to register the limits of a real estate property, and the possible tax liabilities. There is a Land Survey Number, mentioned on the receipt of the I.B.I. ("impuesto de bienes inmobiliarios"), and this number is not the same as the Property Register. The unbuilt plots of land, in particular those designated as agricultural plots, are not liable to pay taxes.

Thus, if you inherit an agricultural plot in Spain, and do not know where it is located, you are in trouble: you have the "Escritura" (title deed) in your hand, but since taxes never have been paid for this plot, you do not know the Land Survey Number, which should enable you to find your plot on a map. Only a detective work can help; some property agents will do it for you, but not all of them.

cédula de habitabilidad habitability certificate; it is delivered by the Town Hall on the basis of the reception of works certificate of the architect, usually after a (sometimes very short) visit by a civil servant
certificado final de obra reception of works certificate
constructible constructible
copia simple notary record of a contract; the "first copy" of the escritura (contract of sale); the original always stays in the notary's office.
declaración de obra nueva declaration of a new building, on the basis of a notary record, then transmitted to the Property Registry and the tax authorities
comunidad de propietarios
[…] de vecinos
property owners' association
división horizontal official record of the way a commonly owned real estate is divided; if this division has not taken place, you usually buy a part of the community, but not an individual property. In this case, the banky normally do not grant a mortgage
edicto refer to bando
embargo preventivo provisional seizing of a real estate
empadronamiento, empadronarse to be registered, to register in the inhabitant survey of the Municipality; the Town Halls give a great importance to this procedure, since the inhabitants survey defines the subsidies received from the State
escritura, la

Contract signed in front of a notary. Escritura de compra-venta: contract of sale signed in front of the notary. In a real estate matter, it is the title-deed of the property.

In Spain, it still is possible to be the legal owner of a real estate without this document, be it because of an inheritance, or because the present owner never had his situation registered: a private contract is absolutely legal and valid.

However, in the latter case, the new owner must have taken possession of the escritura of the former owner (as far as it exists: the property may have been in hands of the seller's family for over a century, times when the escritura did not exist); else, he will have great troubles to prove that he really is the owner.

Without escritura, the property may even have been sold many times to many people by an unscrupulous seller. This is the reason why you should never buy a property if the seller is unable to present an escritura at his name, completed in the case of an inheritance (for instance: the property is sold by the widow, but the deceased husband is registered as the owner), by another escritura certifying the rights of the heir/heiress.

The owner of the property is in possession of a copia simple de la escritura. The notary always keeps the original. Now, the possession of an escritura is not a proof in itself of the rights of the owner. The cadastral survey (land survey office Registro catastral, not to be confounded with the Property Registry (Registro de la propiedad) must have received the copy of the escritura, and stamped it, before the new owner receives this copy. Normally, the notary takes care of this procedure, but he does not have to.

escritura pública de apoderamiento document recorded by a notary stating a delegation of authority, a representation; also refer to poder.
escritura pública de compraventa refer to escritura
escritura pública de donación deed of donation
escriturado mentioned in an escritura
escriturar to mention in an escritura
habitabilidad habitableness; also refer to cédula de habitabilidad
horizontal refer to división horizontal
impreso printed document, form
información urbanística temporally limited written information of the municipality over soil classification and construction specifications in a subrange of a development plan
ley de arrendamientos urbanos (L.A.U.) rental law
ley para la defensa de los consumidores y usarios (L.C.U.) law for the defence and protection of the consumer
ley regional de actuación urbana (L.R.A.U.) Valencian law allowing, among other things, the partial expropriation of an owner, and which additionally may make the expropriated owner liable to the payment of a part of the expenses of a development. This law applies only in the Valencian Community; it was intended to ease the building of housings for the locals, but has been so badly written that unscrupulous developers have turned it to their advantage. If you have only the shadow of a problem with the LRAU, you must  I M M E D I A T E L Y  consult a specialist , or a property owners' association.
licencia de construcción de obra authorization to build
normas urbanísticas Town Hall building norms
nota simple informativa extract from the Property Register; can be obtained from the Registro de la propiedad
notas marginales margin notes in the Escritura, with informative contents
obra nueva refer to declaración de obra nueva
oficina office, public office; also refer to despacho
oficina municipal de urbanización Town Hall Board responsible for the application of the soil usage plan (I don't know how to say that)
padrón inhabitants survey; also refer to empadronarse
poder power, of attorney (recorded by a notary)
propiedad horizontal refer to división horizontal
registro de la propiedad Property Register, not to confuse with the land survey ("catastro"). The "Registro de la propiedad" is responsible to register the rights of the owners, and their possible restrictions. There is a Property Register number, mentioned on the "Escritura", and this number is not the same as the Land Survey. Normally, you should find this Property Register number in a margin of the "Escritura".
servidumbre easements
usufructo vitalicio life usufruct
arras refer to señal
contrato de arrendamiento lease, rental contract
contrato de compraventa sales contract; the first step in the purchasing process, before going to the notary to sign an escritura
hipóteca mortgage
incumplimiento, incumplir failure to, to fail to fulfill (with the law, a contractual liability, etc.)
señal holding deposit. Should the buyer fail to fulfill his liabilities, he loses the deposit. Should the seller be failing, he must give the holding deposit back, plus a penalty specified in the contract. When nothing else is specified, this penalty is equal to the holding deposit.
señalado reserved; a "señal" has been paid
agencia tributaria local office of the tax authorities, where the civil servants kindly and correctly will help you to comply with your tax liabilities, mostly however under the condition that you speak Spanish…
asesoría accountancy consulting bureau
autoliquidación declaration of an income on one's own initiative, without having been asked to do so; there are very few checking procedures, but the tax law may oblige you to do that, and you may risk a fine if you do not.
código de identificación fiscal (C.I.F.) tax identification number for Spanish companies
contribución lit. contribution; in central Spain, often used for the I.B.I.
estanco tobacconist's shop where you also can purchase many official forms.
fiscal 1. public prosecutor - 2. which has to do with taxes; tributario also is used.
Hacienda Spanish Finance Ministry; its delegation in the provinces; provincial finance agency
impuesto tax
impuesto de plusvalía increment tax; the municipality levies with the sale of a real estate a tax to be paid by the seller.
impuesto sobre bienes inmuebles (I.B.I.) real estate tax, levied yearly by the Municipality, usually in september.
impuesto de transmisión patrimonial (I.T.P.) transfer tax; it is applied instead of the V.A.T. in the case of the sale of second hand built properties; the rate is fixed by the province and generally, but not always, amounts to 8% (Valencian Community, 10%).
impuesto sobre el valor añadido (I.V.A.) value added tax (V.A.T.); on Spanish properties, the rate amounts to 10%, for new built properties, by their first sale. Beware: unbuilt plots and complements built later than the house (swimming-pool, garden installation, garden wall, etc.) are taxed at the 21% rate. It is therefore interesting, if you build, to order and buy everything together.
I.R.P.F. refer to ley del impuesto sobre la renta de las personas físicas
ley del impuesto sobre el patrimonio de las personas físicas wealth tax law; for natural persons. Every non-resident owner is liable to handle to the tax authority a yearly declaration and pay this tax. He can be represented by an asesor or a gestor.
ley del impuesto sobre la renta de las personas físicas (L.I.R.P.F.) income tax law; for natural persons. Everyone living in Spain or receiving an income in Spain has to deliver a yearly income declaration. You find the official forms and explanation (in Spanish…) at a very low price at the tobacconist's shop. “Receiving an income”: it also applies to persons owning a property without living permanently in it (second residence). This property “could” be rented, hence producing an income. Thus, even if the owner does not effectively rent the property, he is liable to pay an income tax on a fictitious income. The tax rate is low (a few hundred euro p.a. in the most common cases), but has to be paid, by the way of the autoliquidación.
número de identificación fiscal (N.I.F.) tax code for the Spaniards; also refer to D.N.I. (DNI and NIF are the same number)
número de identificación de extranjeros (N.I.E.) tax code for aliens. This number is the first step for anyone wishing to buy a real estate property in Spain. It can be obtained from the "Policía Nacional". Obtaining this number obligates to nothing, and you should request it, even if you are not sure if you will buy or not.
SUMA local municipalities association that levies the Town Hall taxes in the majority of the Costa Blanca municipalities.
tributar to pay tax (-es)
tributario which has to do with taxes
valor catastral Land Survey value. Basis for the calculation of the I.B.I. In Spain, this value usually is below the market value of the property.
acantilado cliff
alcantarillado sewage system
colindante adjacent
fanega in the Lorca area: 2'796 mm² - 30,084 square feet, a little bit less than ¾ acre
hanegada in the north of Alicante: 831 mm² - 9,006 square feet, a little bit less than ¼ acre
linde, linderos border line between plots
plan general de ordenación urbana (P.G.O.U.) general plan of soil use, can be consulted in the Town Hall
plan parcial de ordenación development plan
suelo no urbanizable not constructible plot, not admitted for building
suelo rústico agricultural area
suelo urbanizable constructible plot, admitted for building, according to the rules fixed in the plan general de ordenación urbana
tahulla in a part of the Murcia province: 1,118 mm² - 12,029 square feet, a little bit more than ¼ acre
urbanización housing estate, settlement, colony, part of a village, of a town; often means a structural development, built in holidays areas often even only by one building company. An "urbanización" can either consist of independent properties or of a property owners association. In the latter case, the owners are liable to pay for the collectively maintained places, such as the swimming-pool, garden, lanes, etc. In most of the cases, the costs involved are very low, and the maintenance may be better than the one that the Town Hall would take in charge.
zona verde green area, no building permitted

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