A guide to residential building and other surveys in Spain

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A guide to residential building and other surveys in Spain, prepared with kind help from Campbell Ferguson, F.R.I.C.S. Chartered Surveyor

99% of Spanish property websites and brochures stress all the important matters concerning the acquisition processes, but so very few mention the house, the thing that all the money is being put into and which is to be the answer to all the hopes and dreams of the buyers. Once it’s bought, people are unlikely to spend years thinking of the pleasures that a proper legal process gave them. No, they want to be enjoying their Spanish property, the ‘bricks and mortar’ that they have bought in the sunshine of Spain. To ensure this and avoid a trail of troubles and possible litigation they should know what they are buying.

Buyers may wonder if they need a survey when buying a relatively new Spanish property that should be covered by the 10-year structural warranty insurance. The answer is yes, because if there are faults buyers will be buying into problems and many problems are not structural. Life really is too short to have the stress of pressuring the estate agent, the lawyer, the developer and the insurance company to live up to what buyers imagine is a comprehensive policy that would cover all the repair costs. Nothing compensates for the worry and uncertainty at the beginning; and the hassle of dust, noise and discomfort when the work, eventually, is being carried out. Surprises like this can be avoided by having the building surveyed prior to buying. At least then buyers know what they are taking on. If there are know problems, the buyer has the satisfaction of knowing that. Usually though, there are some matters that need attention and these can be taken into account in the whole ‘dream buying’ experience.

When you buy a newly built property in Spain, in addition to the 10-year structural warranty, developers of new Spanish property are liable for generally everything that goes wrong or defects found in the first year. For the next two years, making three in all, the developer also has a duty to repair matters that affect the quality of living in the property, such as water penetration, bad electrics, etc. Even vendors of older resale properties in Spain are liable to the buyer for at least 6 months, and some authorities state that it can even be for up to 4 years for defects that are hidden at the time of purchase. So caveat emptor doesn’t apply completely. So why is a survey needed when there are insurances that cover ‘eventualities’?

Surveys are a way of avoiding other’s problems. Even the best intentioned developer in Spain is likely to query any claim that is made and insurance companies appear increasingly to survive these days by making the claim process so difficult that some claimants just give up to avoid all the hassle. It’s better for the buyer to know and plan for a problem, either by getting the buying price reduced in compensation or budgeting for the cost when calculating the offer that is to be made.

Curiously many surveys are initiated by woman as they, perhaps as the worrier in a relationship, want the reassurance of an independent confirmation of their husband’s comment that “of course its alright. Don’t fuss!”.

This guide to residential building and other home surveys in Spain has the following sections:

Campbell Ferguson, F.R.I.C.S. Chartered Surveyor www.surveyspain.com