Planning a Self-Build – Catalonia

Spanish Property Insight Forums Spanish Property Forums Property Questions & Answers Planning a Self-Build – Catalonia

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    • #54314


      I’ve just found his site and forum while trying to research about self-building in Tarragona province and would appreciate any advice or guidance.

      My wife and I are investigating the possibility of taking a year out to buy a plot and build a property ourselves. We’re thinking of this as a lifestyle choice rather than a money making thing although we obviously don’t want to lose money. At the end of the year, we’d probably have to return to the UK for me to work and build up more funds. We’d want the property to be rented out as a holiday home after that to pay for most of the costs associated with it.

      We are thinking of a budget of 100 – 120 000 ukp for the plot and build and this would not be mortgaged. Is this a viable amount for a reasonably sized plot (acre or two) within about 20-30 mins of the coast? I’ve seen plots on websites with prices seemingly at a level suitable for us.

      If we plan to do the actual build ourselves, does anyone have any advice on the pitfalls, stuff we need to consider? What about costs? How does an architect charge if the build isn’t going to be done by a builder? What about the taxes etc that are a %age of the build cost?

      We do plan to get tradesman in for some stuff but want to do the lions share of the work ourselves. We plan to live onsite in a static caravan during the build. How much do they cost in Spain? In the UK you can get a 2nd hand one for 3/4 000 ukp.

      As the market is doing too well right now, we’d be looking at actually buying the plot late spring next year and spend a year building from then. I’m hoping that the prices will drop a bit in that time (and the pound will start doing better against the euro).

      Is there any issues with developers nicking land and charging you for it like in Valencia?

      What about areas? Around Tarrgona seems nice and has good prices and proximity to the airport. Almost sounds too good to be true so what are the downsides?

      Are there any online resources that you could point me to or blogs of someone who has done a similar thing?

      We’re in the early stages of planning this and are eager to learn and plan this properly so will appreciate any guidance or advice.

      Many Thanks

    • #86201

      Hi. Some thoughts to be going on with!

      Plots of land are classified according to whether they are buildable-on or not: rustico/urbanisable/ non urbanisable etc. You need to ensure that the plots you are looking at are urbanisable otherwise the chances of you getting permission to build are very slim. If you are considering rustico land ( the cheapest) there are minimum plot sizes (typically 30000m2 i.e. a lot more than a couple of acres) before there is any chance of gaining planning permission. The regulations vary from area to area and so you would need to ascertain the prevailing regs in the area you are looking at.
      Assuming you find an urbanisable plot of land my advice would be to engage the services of a local architect immediately to work on your behalf to ensure that all permissions etc are granted legally. There are many potential pitfalls.

      There are recognised m2 new build rates that each college of architects uses to determine fees. They are published on their websites.

      The purchase process and then the planning permission process can take many months so don’t believe you will be able to commence building any sooner than about 6 months after purchase. maybe longer. Unless you buy a plot with all permissions and plans already in place.

      You need to consider utilities because if the plot isn’t serviced, these can take months to procure. They may not even be available at all in which case you would have to look at alternatives (well, solar etc). All new builds now must have a percentage solar hot water provision. I suggest you get yourself an up to date copy of the Building Regs (available in book form from FNAC for example). You will also need a geotechnical survey (site investigation).

      I am not familiar with the area you are considering but down here, the rental market is saturated so, unless your area is different, don’t bank on rental income for anything.

      That’s my input for starters, I think there are some contributors on here who have done similar and will be more au fait with the area so I’m sure you’ll receive lots more info in due course.

    • #86202

      I have limited knowledge of Tarragona – but it is close enough in places to Barcelona o be relatively pricey for anything remotely attractive. I doubt if Β£120000 is anywhere near enough for plot & build. I also would doubt the prospects of any significant rental income up there unles you are close to either Barcelona or coast – which of course would put up the price massively.

    • #86203


      quote I’ve seen plots on websites with prices seemingly at a level suitable for us. unquote

      Not in Catalonia but we did a self build and like you searched and found many desirable and affordable plots for sale on the www.
      However the reality is somewhat different.

      Without exception these “inexpensive” plots were only accessible across the land of another, usually the vendor πŸ‘Ώ , or high in hills accessed only via periliously narrow dirt tracks. One photo was actually a composite of many different plots ❗ ❗

      NONE had planning permission. Although we were told that as the agents knew the right people this would be sorted πŸ™„
      Of course one HAS to buy the land first…yeh right.

      “Water close by” was the biggest laugh.
      “Close” in this context, according to Estate agents, could be miles away !!

      Without a well it could cost your entire budget (presuming you were legal) to have water pipes laid and constantly tankering water in would also become mega expensive and of course as it is a plot there is no electricity either !! Solar panel or generators could solve this but IOHO building was totally impractical on the “cheap”plots we were shown.

      Even in this market if the price land prices are still high on legalised plots. Whereas those in the campo appear affordable because they are neither legal and/or easily accessible.

      Finally, presuming everything was legal, for paperwork and plans to go through it would be about a year before any building could begin

      Have know desire to dampen your dreams…been there and have the tee shirt…… but suggest, as you are able to take a years’ sabbatical, you come out and check the practicalities for yourself.
      Good Luck

    • #86239

      Thanks for the replies. Its good to get the view from those more experienced.

      We wouldn’t rely on rental income too much as it won’t be mortgaged. As there is a glut of property at the moment and the general markets turning downwards we undertand that. We’d hope however that there would be some kind of recovery by the time we completed building which would be around the middle of 2010 according to current plans.

      The point about the time it takes to get permissions etc was noted and gratefully received. We’ll need to plan that in and maybe delay the move out there whil this is being done. A little more time earning cash in the uk, although not wanted, would enlarge the pot of money a little which can only be good.

      I was wondering how honest the online adverts were (and the agents per se) and it seems we need to double check everything and investigate properly. Another forum reader sent me a private message warning that you have to be very careful as it is easy to get ripped off. I suppose you mitigate that risk by ensuring that the estate agent, architect and anyone else involved are all independent of eachother and by shopping around. Has anyone got any tips on this front?

      What about the building cost in this area. If I plan to do almost all the work myself, from digging the footings, building the walls, putting on the roof and most of the internal finish (have a family member who will do plumbing and heating & a/c if necessary)..what kind of cost per m2 can be achieved?

      Anyone know of any online resources (in spanish is ok) about self building in spain?

      Thanks for the advice so far, its very much appreciated.


    • #86243


      Can only speak for the area of Spain I live in but building houses here is entirely different to UK.
      If you want I can send you a photograph of the intial stages of our build so you can see.
      The architect is at all times responsible and in control of the build as they don’t have building inspectors as in UK .
      Fee for presenting plans to council was 10% + of building costs.

      Earthquake foundations were required and these and utilites have to be installed by a registered Spanish companies.
      Even a professional UK plasterer would have difficulty here because the technique and material used ( yeso) is entirely different.

      At the end of the work boletins are issued by all the tradesmen involved. These have to be stamped by local and regional councils and then given to your architect who writes up a report and sends a book of works to the council.
      Understandably no tradesman will issue a boletin unless they have been involved in the work.
      The property will then go though the process of legalisiation. Anything from 6 months + and until process is complete one is not legally entitled to reside in the property or have utilities legally connected.

      In reality “self build” in Spain or UK these days means employing professional tradesmen and funding the insurance to cover workforce against injury.
      So whatever your initial budget is add on at least 50%

    • #86314

      Thanks Melosine. It seems the reality and the dream get a bit further apart with every new bit of information! 😐

      I’d love to see the photos of the first stage of your build. Thanks. Are you using builders for everything? Main contractor or are you employing all the trades yourself? If it isn’t too forward can I ask what cost per square metre you have achieved?

      Am I right in assuming that the stages that have to be done by professionals are the things like foundations (which you mentioned), electrics, gas (if you were going to install gas) and water connections? I’d like to think I coul ddig the foundations myself, build the walls, roof most internal work and get the skilled trades in for the bits I have to. Would the bits I’d do be inspected by the architect and signed off or is it worse than I think and I can’t really do much at all?

      The image in my head was to take my time building it with my family around, employing a labourer every now and again and a few skilled tradesmen when either the regs or my lack of skills demanded. Am i just dreaming and this is now impossible? As I said in the OP, we want to do it as a lifestyle thing and get away from the fast paced british life for a bit.

      Again, it would be great to hear what kind of cost per square metre we could achieve if we can do as much ourselves as possible?


    • #86316


      There is work that you would be able to do yourself. However as I said the way they construct properties here is very different to UK.
      Shallower foundations but with earthquake proof concrete posts the walls infilled later with blocks. Concrete roofs overlaid with concrete tiles.
      Think you will understand better from my photographs.
      Not sure if I can pm them to you. Will try and if not then we have to exchange email addresses.

      Constructed our 200sq.m build almost 3 years ago.

      Employed an architect and a project manager who sourced the workforce and materials.
      Including the licence fees and fees of 11,000 euros for connection of mains water and electricity ( both were adjacent to plot)!! but excluding cost of plot the basic build was approx 2,500 euros per sq.m.

      Our initial budget, excluding the plot, was half of this !!!!!

    • #86318

      Your foundation type (and therefore ease or otherwise of construction) will depend on the soil conditions (and slope) for your particular site. These will only be known once you have had your site investigation carried out. There are many types of foundations (strip, deep trench, pad and beam, piled, raft etc). All can be designed to comply with the normas sismoresistentes which will apply in your area. Your Architect will (should!) design the most appropriate and cost-efficient solution for your site.

      Of course the Architect’s input doesn’t end with the foundations – every structural element of a building (floors, walls, roof, thermal/acoustic insulation, fire resistance, ventilation etc) has to be designed to comply with the Building Regs and Structural Codes.

      Ideally you should retain your Architect to inspect everything so that the works can be “signed off” and you can get your Cedula de Habitabilidad.

      Re gas, the majority of gas is still bottled not mains in Spain tho mains gas may be more readily available in your area than down here. Installation of electrics is actually very simple and you can get an electrician to issue your boletΓ­n if you’re going to be connected to the grid.

      I’ve just constructed a roof using lightweight Onduline building materials on timber rafters (no wet trades and easily DIY’d) which worked out at 60E per sq m (material cost) inc rafters and tiles, insulation and a plasterboard finish. 2 of us built it in 3 days, start to finish.

      Your overall build cost will depend on the foundation type (as outlined above), no. of storeys (ie height vs footprint area), the quality of finish you decide on plus how much time and effort you can spend on sourcing materials and bargaining! If you were to do absolutely everything yourself (which to me is the essence of self-build), I reckon you could get a good finish for 400-500E per sq m (materials only).

    • #86320

      Sorry forgot to mention the necessary soil analysis for foundations before building can commence because we were fortunate and it had only to be done the once. If memory serves me correctly it was about 2,000 euros ,per anaylsis, going through our architect.
      Agree Hillybilly self build should mean just that and one even might be able to “bribe” a tradesman to issue boletins but in todays economic climate don’t think it would be cheap.
      However ,danjerman, you would probably make a better job of the plumbing than any fontanerio in the whole of Spain πŸ™„

      Suggest, danjerman before you think about this any further you should source plots in your preferred area of Spain.
      Only then will you know if your dream is a viable proposition. Can and will send photo’s though if you want.
      Believe me like you from searching via the www we thought nothing could be easier.
      Building in a country, where you don’t have an intimate knowledge of the language and building regulations (apologies if you do) and know where to source materials and workforce, is going to be more expensive because of your reliance on others, unfortunately

    • #86333

      Hi Guys,

      This thread makes for interesting reading. My wife and i have always thought that one day we’d like to do something similar – though our preference would be to find a ruin (preferably a Finca in Ibiza) and with the help of an architect design something that was contemporary whilst drawing on the traditional stone building and original design.

      The high cost of acquiring sites for such projects currently make the project financially unviable though hopefully as the market continues to cool and property ownership/investment becomes less of an status symbol, opportunities will present themselves.

      Anyway, without getting too sidetracked – i had also assumed that the restoration project would be looked upon more favourably by the planners and with the principle of development already secured, and many raw materials already on site (not to mention water and electric supplies) then the task may be more straight forward in comparison to a new build?

      Obviously the same licenses / permissions would be required as a new build but just wondering if anyone has got any experience of undertaking such a restoration project and what were the ups and downs?


    • #86347

      Theres some great advice and information on here, both in the thread and in PMs/emails. Thanks all for your time an generosity with your knowledge and experience.

      Melosine, Thanks for the photos, your villa looks lovely. We’re planning a trip out there to view the type of plots in our price range and see exactly what we can get. I feel more confident that we know what we’d be looking for now.

      I do speak some spanish and plan to do an advanced course before heading out there. Mrs danjerman is doing a Michel Thomas CD as I type! I’ve taken on board the advice on and off board about being careful who you deal with and about making sure that the architect, builder, agent and everyone esle are not connected in any way and there is no conflict of interest.

      Hillybilly, thanks for your replies. Your figure of 400-500 E / sq m is getting more towards what we thought. Melosine, you scared me with your 2500 E /sq m!!! πŸ˜‰ I’ll check out the roofing system you mentioned, hillybilly.

      As for services, if you can’t connect them until its all finished, how do you live on site duing the build? Is it just that they are not ‘officially’ connected untl the end of the process? Melosine, you mentioned a builders elec supply of 2kw….whats that all about?

      If the footings have to be earthquake proof, I guess I can dig the trenches myself and the contractor comes in and does the actual reinforced concreting for it. Is that right? If I do that, I’d probably need to buy/rent a mini digger. I’d prefer to buy one and sell it at the end (as I’d want to dig the pool out myself and do some landscaping)…..has anyone bought one? What are the prices for them compared to the UK? Is this just another opportunity for the Spanish to rip you off?

      Also, what about a caravan. IS there a good market for static caravans that I could put on site in Spain? Any links that could help?


    • #86348

      @danjerman wrote:

      As for services, if you can’t connect them until its all finished, how do you live on site duing the build?

      Generator for electricity! Water deliveries and a deposito for water!
      Until you find your plot, you won’t know what you may or may not have in terms of services or how self-sufficient you’re going to have to be.

      @danjerman wrote:

      If the footings have to be earthquake proof, I guess I can dig the trenches myself and the contractor comes in and does the actual reinforced concreting for it.

      Will depend on the depth/type of the foundations required. Once you have your foundation design, if they are shallow enough you may be able to excavate yourself, get the reinforcing cages delivered prefabricated, place them yourself (will need lifting equipment or lots of labour) and concrete yourself (will need concrete pump, vibrators etc).

      However, it may be that you need rock-breaking equipment (beyond the scope of a mini-digger), shuttering, water-pumping etc. If you excavate the footings yourself and then ask a contractor to reinforce and concrete you can bet your bottom dollar that there will be a problem with your trenches (depth, steps, position, cover etc). If you’re not confident re steelfixing, shuttering etc (because the foundations are the most important part of the building!) then you may be better off contracting out the whole foundation package inc spoil removal.

    • #86349

      @marcoloco wrote:

      Obviously the same licenses / permissions would be required as a new build but just wondering if anyone has got any experience of undertaking such a restoration project and what were the ups and downs?

      Some cons – more of an unknown in terms of cost because you will undoubtedly uncover elements that need replacing that may not have been obvious/budgeted for. Limitations on room layout etc due to having to work within the existing footprint. Old structures suffer from damp and are not well insulated (relying on the wall’s thickness alone).

      Some pros – IMHO it is more rewarding and fun working with an old, existing structure. You would have to be aesthetically careful tho if trying to incorporate “contemporary”! You can often get hold of reclaimed materials quite cheaply (tho I have no knowledge of Ibiza).

    • #86351

      danjernam, thanks for the compliment. Actually amazed me when I worked it out and checked it 3 times to be sure. This did include all fees, initial installation of utilities and licences though. But then ,even in UK , have never found anyone who chooses this particular route to be able to stick to their original budget even when they have done 90% of the work themselves.

      Think it is far cheaper and easier to do a reform actually.

      Re utility supplies ..without good access and without water very close/or on the plot building becomes unviable because tankering water in for a build is not only mega expensive but before you get to this stage you will need a large deposita (8/10 thousand litre) to keep water in and possible a pump to enable to use it.

      So it’s back to locating a suitable legal plot first which is accessable,legal with easy connection to utility supplies.

      2/3 kw of electricity is the norm when a builder is the promoter which is totally useless for habitation purposes. You as the promoter should request a minimum of 10kw.

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