Self build vs buying off plan ?

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    • #197323



      Does anybody know what could be the potential money savings for finding and buying a plot and then building a new home on it vs buying a home off plan from a developer in Marbella area or outskirt towns around there.  Would the savings be worth the extra headache to build your own home I wonder.  Anybody have experience with this?


    • #197339

      Did this 12 years ago. Cost was more than double that of buying through a builder.


      Regardless of what one is told one is never 100% sure the plot can actually be built on until an expensive Spanish architect has submitted the plans, for unlike UK, the town halls don’t necessarily have all the required  paperwork.. Plus lawyers here don’t specialise in any particular area of law so things can be hit and miss.

      Individual plots are more expensive as are the cost of providing the utilities plus as you, as the ” developer”,    are required to take out mega insurance.

      Without the language skills, knowledge of how the system works or where to locate building materials one has to employ the services of a project manager so any possible discounts end up in the pockets of others.

      Plus side

      Far better quality of build and one that is unique to yourself.

      Good luck with whichever route you choose


    • #197899

      Bought plot and built a villa-never again, there are so many ways you can get overcharged and we did loads of research , my advice don’t go off plan, buy a second hand property every time.

    • #198122

      When building plots were so cheap I thought of buying one as I saw someone in San Pedro had built two luxury prefabricated wooden villas.  I was warned by a well known Madrid developer/estate agent with offices here that Spain was light years behind in such constructions. Then a wealthy Spanish friend who has built his own homes here and elsewhere in Andalucia warned me not to do this unless one has unlimited finances.

      The comments above all have validity too.

      The local councils have the ability to interpret the building laws to suit, or change them at will, and I find it hard to believe that the overworked justice system can help much presently especially buying off plan.

    • #198278

      I have been living in the costa del sol for several years (in Sotogrande) and I have looked extensively for plots, re-sale houses and off-plan from developers.

      Key learnings;

      • In general, you will get less for your money from a developer in terms of plot and house size, spec quality, location. You need to ensure that you will not lose your money in the event of the developer going bankrupt/disappearing. There are ways to do this.
      • It is definitely not recommended buying a plot which is not already connected to gas, electricity, water located in a legal ‘urbanizacion’.
      • There are places in the Costa del Sol (e.g. Sotogrande) where if you buy a plot already connected to utilities, it is guaranteed that you will be able to build legally. Planning permission will take a few months (2-4 even 6) – you will get it though. Using a good architect is necessary if you want to build a good quality house. Architect Fees can easily be in the region of 25,000-30,000 euro for a 300m2 house/project and for the whole quite long process. Famous architects cost much more.
      • Like in all countries, there are good and bad lawyers. The average lawyer is well… average. You need to take your time to find the right advisors.
      • I would hesitate to do self-build if I did not reside in the same location except if you have a really big budget.
      • I would hesitate to do self-build or renovation without extensive local knowledge of the area and local builders. After over 3-years of living here and having spent a lot of time learning/travelling and talking with permanent residents, I feel quite comfortable with the idea, but the first year I started living in spain, the self-build option was unthinkable/too risky. If you have a very large budget, go for it! I know somebody who built last year a 800-1000m2 villa in one year here in Sotogrande but the overall cost of the project was over 3.5mln euro I would think, likely more, if we believe the rumored price of 1.8mln euro for the plot.

      On buying a re-sale house:

      • Buying a resale property indeed can be less of a headache especially if you are not picky. But if you are picky, most houses feel very dated (and often are not well-built). I have looked extensively in the costa del sol, Valencia and Barcelona, and 90% of re-sale houses need a degree of renovation, and in many cases complete refit. For a fairly extensive renovation, you will need min. 600euro/m2 and for better quality at least 800 excl. taxes. Personally, I would budget min. 1000euro/m2 excl. taxes. Again, it depends on your budget and circumstances (holiday vs year-around home).
      •  By the way, dealing with the town hall of Marbella in order to obtain planning permissions for self-build has been tricky the last few years and several people have warned me against it. The town halls of Estepona, Benahavis and San Roque (Sotogrande) are ok.

      – it is not easy to find the right plot, at the right price, flat vs slope (ie expensive to build), in the right neighborhood. Most ‘good’ areas are already mostly built.

      Hidden costs: Most plots in the costa del sol are sold with 21% vat charge added to the selling price because owners have structured them as companies. People who will tell you that as a private individual you can recover the VAT easily and legally are not well-informed – except if you are a property developer or own a property portfolio with value over 1mln euro, perhaps much more.   In others parts of spain I am investigating (e.g. Barcelona coasts and Valencia) plots are sold with a 8-10% tax added.

      It is difficult to write everything I have learnt on the topic – I will need to write a book or set up an advisory service like Mark. If you need more information, I can talk on the phone.

      All the best with your project!


    • #198285

      Thanks very much for the excellent comments.  Even though I am fluent in Spanish and experienced with project management the self build looks a non starter given the comments/experience above and my own lack of experience/knowledge of living in Spain.  That leaves off plan with a developer or buy an older villa already refurbished or buy and refurb an older unit myself.  I have visited quite a few older villas over the past few weeks but  cant say I have been too impressed with the designs and quality of whats available for my budget.  I will continue to search!  Does anybody know if you can get a reliable survey done of a property to ascertain the quality of what you are buying and the risk of having any issues in the future?  Some of these properties are +20 years old and I wonder about problems of buying into something without having a proper understanding of any potential issues..

    • #198288

      You don’t say what your budget is bc1050, but if  iro 500€ then my  unique 11 year old designer ( inside and out )property in a fantastic location , could be just what you want.

      Not currently on the market but realise age is not on my side and will have to downsize within next few years. So am taking a punt.

      The quoted price is half what it cost for the total build including the purpose built designer furnishings.

      Obviously will not state where in Spain it is but if you are interested in photos then maybe Mark Stucklin can contact me as I notice there are no longer options for pm’s.



      • #198292
        Mark Stücklin

        Melosine, PMs are still very much an option. You just click on the person you want to message and then click message.

      • #198294

        Hi Melosine,


        I just sent you a PM.



    • #198293

      Thanks Mark.

    • #198443

      A UK timber frame company will be able to supply a full structural kit to your own design, which will include structural calculations and a design drawing package that will comply with Eurocodes 1-5 and also the Spanish Building Code El Código Técnico de la Edificación (CTE). Many will also undertake the delivery and erecting.

      There are several Architects in Spain who understand Modern Methods of Construction and their fees are not high, as MMC doesn’t need the excessive fees associated with concrete and inspections and other money consuming activities associated with ancient masonry methods.

      Also remember, timber frame construction always supplies the highest possible global standards in terms of thermal/carbon emissions, acoustic levels, earthquake resistant design and not to mention the automatic inclusion of DPM – DPC and cavity arrangements – unheard of by typical Spanish constructors.

      Finishing materials such as insulations, modern renders and decent plaster finishes are not available in Spain ( or cost a fortune) and these items can be sent from UK with a kit. Modern materials and methods now make many ‘cover and cosmetic’ operations very much a self-build option, thereby reducing the build costs even further. Globally timber frame accounts for 70% of all low level new build starts…… Spain has around 1%.

      As an example a 300m2 full structural kit from UK erected on your site in Spain should cost between £120 – £150 per m2 – after that YOU control the budget.

      Hope this helps.

    • #198449

      With so many existing properties for sale, and they have had the choice of location, why go through all the hassle and expense of building new? Existing buildings can be modified to suit at much less cost and permissions uncertainty than buying new. Always have an independent project manager working for you. The Arquitecto and Arquitecto Técnico work as a team, but often they are too close to the builder or just don’t supervise the work correctly.

      And as always with investments, consider the ‘out’. What price will you get if you have to sell? We see so many there huge capital losses have been made on building personalised dream houses.  If you buy off plan, consider that if you have to sell shortly after purchase that you will be competing with the marketing strength of the developer. The only way to compete will be to offer at a much reduced price, especially if the developer is also offering discounted mortgages, paying buying cots, etc.

      Much better to look around for the ideal location and if there is a house already there, ring the door bell and ask if they could be interested to sell. The worst they can do is say “NO”. Then get an RICS Building Survey of the property and it’ll be the best deal on the coast!

    • #198840

      Hi All

      First, as a newbie, let me say how useful this site is. On this topic in particular what great and detailed advice, particularly from MCV. It’s great that people are willing to take the time to advise others. On this topic, I too am interested and have done some research. There are 2 wooden/prefab outfits that I know of. One is Minka Houses and the other a-cero in Madrid. The houses are stunning and good value and modern building techniques are finally coming to Spain. Worth investigating for anyone interested. That said, I too am wary about self build. I am looking for an ultra contemporary house circa 800k and really the only houses available (see Panorama or Viva sites) are off plan. So I have another question…is it still dangerous to buy off plan or has anything happened recently from a legal perspective that makes it safer?! Thanks!

    • #198914
      Billy Vauls

      Hi interesting topic and I can see some have had bad experiences and maybe from before the crash. Self build does not seem to deter the Spanish as if so they would not do it in so many numbers. Having a serviced site in a urbanisation is recommended as connecting services gets a tad expensive. Fees are different to what you would pay in the UK but then you are not building in the UK and all fees are negotiable unless maybe you live in the rip off tourist traps where it will be more difficult. We are starting the self build route in Granada province and it is no more painful than building a house or renovating one in the Uk which we have just done. If this is a “forever” hone just get on with it

    • #198917

      Beware timber houses. They are great looking and environmentally friendly, but can be impossible for mortgage and insurance. They can be looked upon as ‘free standing’ and removable so you’ll only get mortgage on the site, services and concrete plinth. May not be a problem for you, but always remember you’ll need to sell and it could be a problem for buyers.

      • This reply was modified 6 years, 1 month ago by SurveySpain.
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