You will choose a property type and layout that best suits your requirements. Evidently you will have to do this ‘off plan’, that is based on nothing more than some documents provided by the developer and, with a bit of luck, a show home to help you visualise the property you are buying.
It always amazes me how blasé many people are about buying off plan, and how little attention they pay to the plans and specifications provided by the developer. In many cases people have bought of plan without even seeing an English translation of the specifications.
Don’t let yourself get carried away with wishful enthusiasm fuelled by the persuasive talk of developers and estate agents. Take your time, insist on detailed documentation that you can understand (and that forms part of the contractual obligations you sign with the developer), and scrutinise it until you know it back to front (remember how much money your are spending). You want to push the uncertainties to the minimum and the better the documentation the closer you will get to achieving this. Thorough documentation also reduces the incentive for a developer to cut corners. Time and effort spent at this stage could save you serious agro in the future.
You need plans and layouts that indicate scale, provide room dimensions (metric scale in Spain), and show the precise location of fixtures. Plans should also indicate what the total built and usable surface areas will be, including those of porches and terraces. When looking at plans think about functionality, practicality, utility (living spaces in which it will be a pleasure to be), privacy, natural light sources, and orientation towards wind and sun. When looking at plans people often fail to appreciate the reality of room sizes that correspond to measurements on the plans – usually on the side of disappointment at how small they turn out.
Detailed specifications that list exactly what is included with the property (fixtures & fittings in kitchens, bathrooms, alarm systems, etc., providing brand names where appropriate), the quality of materials to be used, surfaces, colour schemes, and so on.
When buying a detached property with pool and garden pay just as much attention to how exteriors are covered in the plans. On delivery will the drive, garden and other exteriors look like an abandoned building site or the Garden of Eden? The spec should detail to what extent landscaping will take place. When buying a property with communal gardens and pool ask for plans and a description for these areas as well.
A note on show homes
If a show home is used in the sales process then clarify the relationship between the quality of the show home and the property you are buying. I know of cases where clients have been shown an exquisite show home, finished to the highest quality, tastefully decorated and kitted out with the latest home technology. Buyers were lead to believe that their property would be delivered in the same condition (without the furniture but with the home technology). Having fallen for the show home they merrily signed contracts, only to be devastated when the property was delivered and bore no resemblance to the show home. Beautiful show homes can intoxicate buyers and lead them into a false sense of security. In many cases the developer is not trying to deceive clients, just impress, but in the process expectations are raised and disappointment is inevitable. So long as you and the developer know exactly what is expected of one another problems of this nature will be avoided.
© Mark Stucklin (Spanish Property Insight)