About building surveys in Spain

As most clients have already viewed the property and have agents’ sales information, surveys tend not to describe the location, building, structure, accommodation, services or facilities in detail, but to concentrate on defects and any other matters of particular relevance. However clients can request the more details as necessary.

Surveys can address the following issues:

Plot/land boundaries

In the time available for a survey, it is impractical to measure the land boundaries and calculate the areas. Also this can involve significant effort due to irregular shape, mature plants or steep slopes. Any way, to be accurate it needs to be prepared using appropriate instruments, but this can all be arranged if required.

Nota Simple

This is an extract of the title deed for a property as held in the property register in Spain. A very efficient Internet system enables these to be obtained in 24-48 hours as long as the land reference is available. The nota simple provides the registered description, owner and debts recorded against a property in Spain.

Inaccuracy in the description, both in accommodation or floor area, is important and should be rectified by the seller prior to the sale. It can indicate that improvements of the property have been carried out without permission, as all licences have to be shown before the Registrars accept changes.

Inaccuracy may also mean that a mortgage valuer for a Spanish lender or insurer could have to value on a reduced basis, as they are obliged by law to use the lesser of the actual area or that recorded in the title. Outbuildings such as garages, stores and even swimming pools should be recorded.


Conventionally, the overall (construido) area is the one used for the nota simple and is therefore usually the one quoted in most sales details. Occasionally the internal (util) area is also quoted, but that is different from what could be described as the ‘carpet’ floor area of a house. A survey will normally provide comment on the constructed areas quoted. More detailed room dimensions and plans can be provided if requested.


As a general rule measurements given in surveys of Spanish properties are based on the metric system. Where requested, they can be converted to the imperial system (acres, feet and inches) All measurements must be re-confirmed on site.


Damp readings are made with an electronic meter. Experience also enables a surveyor to know the signs of likely problems. However, during long dry periods it is often impossible to identify faults that will become problems when the rain starts again.

Climate and Building

Generally speaking, throughout Spanish areas such as the Costa del Sol, but especially in higher mountain areas, there is a need to remember that whilst the three to four summer months are dry, the remainder of the year has a ‘normal’ climate of occasional rain and wind and sometimes even frost and snow. Unfortunately, many architects and owners appear to ignore this, thus leading to ventilation, water penetration and draught problems with many Spanish properties.

Neighbouring area

A large part of the value of a house is due to its neighbourhood and outlook. These issues are included in the report.

Road access and parking

The access road to a Spanish property can also significantly influence its value. If it is not the responsibility of the local Ayuntamiento (Town Hall), neighbours will probably have to agree and share the costs of maintenance and/or improvement. If there is no immediately adjacent parking area, the carrying of heavy shopping or the like to and from the house will be inconvenient, with removals being especially difficult. Similarly, vehicle security may be a concern.

Water Supply

A survey will identify if there is a public water supply and also if there are significant water storage tanks, which can be essential if there are water restrictions due to pipe failure or drought. It is also noted if there is an irrigation system in place in the garden.


Identify if the house in Spain is connected to the public sewerage system or whether it has a community or private septic tank. If connected to a septic tank, it will restrict the use of certain chemical cleaners and inorganic debris should be removed every 5 to 10 years, which may involve a cost.

Machinery and Equipment

A modern Spanish house contains many items for machinery from heating and air conditioning systems to digital intruder alarms and kitchen equipment. Whilst every effort is made to check their functioning, a survey cannot check all items nor guarantee that any work effectively. The survey alone should not be relied upon with regard to such items. Arrangements can be made for any items to be checked by appropriately experienced technicians.


It is not possible to confirm whether there is efficient ‘draw’ or that the fires function effectively in all weather conditions. However note will be taken of whether the fireplaces have been used and whether there is evidence of smoke ‘leaking’ from the fire and chimney into the living space.


Many properties in Spain have concrete pitched roofs, covered by fired clay roof tiles. These tiles protect the lower impermeable surfaces from contact, sun and water damage. The water gullies created between the tiles have to be kept clear of debris to stop water backing up or being drawn over them by osmosis and thus percolating through the roof structure and into the house. As the roof tiles get older, they become more delicate and care has to be taken not to cause more damage than one is trying to prevent. It is also uncommon for guttering and down-pipes to be fitted. This can cause dampness in the lower walls. If down-pipes are installed it is best that they be connected to an underground drainage system rather than being left to spill the water collected onto pathways which can again cause water to collect and damp problems.

Web Search

Surveys include an Internet search for items relevant to the Spanish property being surveyed. Due to practical time restrictions, it is not possible to use every search engine or study all reference discovered, sometimes being many thousands. Therefore, comments must be looked upon as a headline guide rather than detailed research.


All dwelling houses in Spain require completion of work licences and separate first occupation permissions. These are less important for older building, but even in these cases it may be that significant changes of use or additions have been carried out without permission. It is the property owner at the time that is liable for reinstatement if the authorities should discover the works within the prescriptive period, normally 5 years. Your lawyer should insist upon receiving copies of all documents that are available.

Opinion of Value

Where possible, a survey will give an opinion of value in comparison to other Spanish properties in the general area and/or of similar character. If the property is exceptional or without close comparison, it can be valued on the basis of land and building costs.

In forming an opinion of value, and in the absence of detailed information to the contrary, the following assumptions are made:

  • Vacant possession with no leases.
  • No unusual restrictions of use or rights for use of all or part by others.
  • No debts attached to the house.
  • Full permissions for all structures.</(LI>
  • No planning proposals that will directly or indirectly affect enjoyment of the property.

Liability after sale

A private homeowner in Spain can be responsible for hidden defects for a period of at least 6 months after the date of their selling a property.

Builders’ liabilities

New built properties are subject to four continuing liability timetables.

  • First 15 days – The ‘snagging’ period, where defects are noted and the builder has to repair within 28 days. Major alterations or omissions from the agreed specification can result in the buyer being able to withdraw from the contract and receive refund and compensation.
  • First year – the builder is generally liable for all defects reported within this time.
  • Next two years – the builder is still responsible for repairing major defects that affect proper enjoyment of the property, such as defective roofs, ill-fitting doors and windows, etc.
  • First 10 years – the builder is obliged by law to take out seguro decenal, which is a 10-year insurance policy that guarantees the costs of reinstatement in the event of failure of the structure of the building.
  • Inspection Timetable – As the timetables are strict, buyers are strongly advised to note the appropriate anniversaries applicable to these responsibilities and have their building inspected a short while before the end date. That way, any defects found can be registered with the builder before their liability period ceases.

IBI (local rates equivalent)

A copy of the lastest receipt is requested to check that the description is residential. Ideally one should see the last five years receipts as prior IBI debts attach to the property not the occupier, and thus liability will fall on the owner at the time of the charge being pressed, rather than the owner when the debt was incurred. This is not the case with telephone, electricity or water debts, as they remain personal to the account holder when the ownership changes.

Community of Owners

By law, all urban properties in Spain have to be part of a neighbourhood community of owners for the administration of common areas. The direction of the community is by elected owners, with the day-to-day administration normally being by a contracted private firm. You will be obliged to join and contribute financially to the community administration. As the community has powers to charge the owners substantial sums and to change the character of the development, it is very much in the interests of owners to participate in meetings.

Practical limitations of inspection

  • Roof – Not on roof or in roof spaces unless open and easily accessible.
  • Under Floor – Not under floor unless open and easily accessible.
  • Electrical system – Most lighting and socket circuits will be tersted, and a record made of significant shortages or defects found. However, a detailed test of the circuits or supply is not carried out. This can be done if items of concern are found, or if requested by a client.
  • Plumbing – Checks will be done on most taps and heat, pressure and drainage from the receptacle will be noted. Checks are done on most w.c., baths, showers, basins and sinks to ensure that they appear to empty without trouble. However, there are no checks on purity or pressure testing. This can be done if items of concern are found, or if requested by a client.

Caveats and Cautions

All reports will be subject to the following conditions:

  • Reports are prepared specifically for the party to whom it is addressed and no liability can be accepted to any third party.
  • It may not be reproduced in any form without written approval of the author and surveyor.
  • No detailed test of the services, installations or equipment is carried out and thus it cannot be guarantee that they are functioning and/or free from defect.
  • The surveyor will only have seen the documents listed above relating to the property and therefore the report must not be taken as confirmation that the property described is within the legal title or owners/occupiers are or are not responsible for any particular matter. In particular, unless otherwise indicated, it is assumed that all extensions, etc., have all the appropriate permissions and licences and are recorded on the escritura along with an accurate description and floor area, as it existed at the date of our inspection.
  • The survey will not research any government planning or other such matters that might affect the property other than any already mentioned. As no specific enquiries are made the report cannot confirm that the property is unaffected by such issues.
  • The report involoves a brief valuation inspection only and cannot comment on internal, inaccessible or hidden construction details or defects in the property or its surroundings. Any absence of comment on a particular part of the property must not be assumed to mean that part of the property is without defect.
  • A report cannot advise on the existence of contamination, asbestos or other deleterious material within the buildings or on the site. Similarly, no checks are done for any environmental matter within the building or its surrounds that may have an unacceptable effect upon the property or its occupiers.