A man checking for fire damage at a home he bought in a foreclosure auction walked into the living room and found the former owner's mummified body sitting on the couch, Spanish police said Tuesday.

Coroners estimate the woman's remains had been there since 2001, when she stopped making payments on the house in the coastal town of Roses in the northeast Catalonia region.

The body mummified rather than rotted in part because of the salty seaside air in Roses, a Catalan regional police official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The woman, in her mid-50s, was estranged from her children in Madrid and no one had reported her missing.

Police said her death also went undetected because she spent a lot of time in Madrid with her mother, and because her ground-level apartment is in an area of vacation homes with a constant coming and going of travelers.

But they were surprised that bank officials who sold the flat after the foreclosure never bothered to go in and examine it, the police official said.

Buyer Jordi Giro acquired the house last week and went into it Saturday for the first time because a fire in the same building had forced the evacuation of some residents and he wanted to check for damage.

"When you buy a house you don't expect a surprise like this," the police official said.