Buying a plot and building your own villa is less common in Catalonia than in other parts of Spain for a simple reason – there are fewer golf developments and urbanisations geared up to offer overseas buyers this option.
Because there are fewer foreign buyers there are also fewer architects and builders who can deal with overseas buyers in English. More obstacles to going down this road mean that fewer people do. All the same a small but growing number of people do choose to do so every year. However the number who do so will not grow rapidly because, unlike in other parts of Spain, the supply of plots on Golf developments and urbanisations that target foreign buyers is not set to grow rapidly in Catalonia. Also there are far fewer estate agents in Catalonia focusing on overseas buyers. This means that the ‘channel’ for overseas buyers is far less developed in Catalonia than in other parts of Spain – another reason why the build your own is less accessible to overseas buyers.
Nevertheless a small but growing number of overseas buyers do buy a plot and build their own in Catalonia, either on one of the excellent golf developments or on one of the coastal urbanisations. Catalonia tends to attract a different kind of buyer to the costas down south. It offers more than just the beach and golf combo, the countryside is more varied as are the seasons and the summer heat is not as fierce. This attracts more upmarket buyers with an interest in culture and architecture. Catalonia has a great reputation for architecture – a reputation that Barcelona certainly enhances – and compared to for instance the Costas Sol and Blanca, Catalonia offers a greater variety of highbrow architecture and architects. Therefore if you want to build your own property in Spain and you are interested in architecture and design – if you value these things – then Catalonia is increasingly recognised as the place to be. Talk to anyone in the know about contemporary architecture and they will tell you you have a much greater choice in Catalonia.
The obvious advantage of build your own is that you have great control over the design, layout and functionality and end up with a property that is exactly to your tastes and needs. Many properties on the market have surprising design or functional faults – those that don’t tend to get snapped up very quickly. Building your own with a good architecture means you end up with a tailor-made property and that is always more likely to be perfect for you.
The problem is the headache that you might have to go through in the design and build – can be a genuine nightmare if you don’t have a good project manager on the ground who speaks your language, understands your needs, knows about planning permission and how to get round the problems they cause, and most importantly can manage the builders and get the build done on time and budget. Many projects will overrun on both these critical issues if great care is not taken.
Also when you build your own there is the risk that you have difficulty articulating your ideas and turning them into reality, working through architect and builders. You might end up with something quite different to what you had in mind. At least when you buy a ready built property what you see is what you get.
If you have the time and resources there is no doubt that designing and building your own property can be one of the most satisfying and rewarding ways to buy a property in Spain. From an investment point of view it can also be interesting, as you won’t end up paying a developers commission, which can reduce the cost to you. However going down this route can cause you a great deal of problems if things go wrong – problems you wouldn’t have to face were you to buy a resale of newly built property. The key to success is a good project manager who looks after your interests, knows where the main risks lie, solves problems for you and gets it done more or less on time and budget.