Buying a plot
This guide is aimed at giving the client a basic understanding of what is required when considering the purchase of a plot to build their dream home here in Spain. By following closely the guidelines, the entire process from first viewing your bare plot of land to you finally moving in to your beautiful new home can be an enjoyable and rewarding experience. Specific information and guidance will be provided to you by each of the professionals mentioned in this article.
Building the house of your dreams although a very cost effective way of creating exactly what you were looking for, is not for everyone. The entire process requires a lot of patience, perseverance and the solid belief that the finished property will in reality more than compensate when completed. A further consideration is that you will then own a home at a considerable saving compared to what you would have paid if the house was already complete when you bought it.
Generally you should look only at land designated as an Urban Plot, (suelo urbano) these are urbanised, serviced plots with access roads, water,electricity. Each planning zone has its own rules although normally the plot size limitation is between 800m2 and 1,500m2, with the "brut habitable" space being about 20% of the plot. Your Lawyer will advise of the actual size limitation in the area in which the plot you are interested in is situated.
Below we indicate the general breakdown of the money that you will spend from identifying a suitable plot, to the property construction being completed. Making up the total cost, you are likely to pay:
45% to purchase the plot.
40% for the building work.
8% for professional fees.
7% for taxes and licenses. The Certificado Urbanistico*
In each town hall you can ask for a certificado urbanistico* of the plot you want to buy. This is a document signed by the department of urban planning within the local council which confirms the type of plot, the occupation purpose, building space and type of building. When purchasing a property, this is the document that informs you of all the development possibilities of the plot. Your Lawyer will obtain this certificate at the earliest opportunity in order to confirm that there are no negative factors that could affect your wishing to proceed.
*Do not buy a plot without this certification.
All properties fall into one of two categories of planning zone:
1. Rustic (rural) plots (suelo rustico)
The rural land law governs the building rules of rural sites. (LEY 10/2004, de 9 de diciembre, de la Generalitat, del Suelo No Urbanizable.)
Some rural land is protected, all plots fall under one of the two following criteria:
- Suelo no urbanizable protegido. This is special, protected land which cannot be developed for residential homes.
- Suelo no urbanizable común. This category has no special protection and can be developed for residential houses
The development rights and restrictions of a rural plot in a común:
- Plot size: minimum 10,000m2
- Maximum building size: 2% of the plot size
- Floors: 2
- Height: 7m.
For example: with a 12,000m2 plot you can build a villa with 240m2 in the ground floor and 240m2 in the first floor.
Special Restrictions: All rustic plots have aesthetic restrictions with each planning zone having different regulations. Normally you have to build a typical regional-style building. For example you would not be given permission to build an Ibicenco (Ibiza-style) house in Valencia.
2. Urban plots (suelo urbano)
These are urbanised, serviced plots with access roads, water,electricity. Each planning zone has its own rules although normally the plot size limitation is between 800m2 and 1,500m2, with the "brut habitable" space being about 20% of the plot.
The Certificado Urbanistico*
In each town hall you can ask for a certificado urbanistico of the plot you want to buy. This is a document signed by the agency of urban planning which confirms the type of plot, the occupation purpose, building space and type of building. When purchasing a property, this is the document that informs you of all the development possibilities of the property.
*Do not buy a plot without this certification.
The first thing needed to comply with Spanish law is a geotechnical report, to determine the correct type of foundations for your build. Specialist geotechnical engineering companies, which must be registered providers, produce this kind of report.
Depending on the plot, you may want a topographic report to see how your land lies. It might be prudent if your plot is on a slope or with difficult terrain. This is done by a topographer.
From the findings of the above tests, your architect then can design your property ensuring that it’s base and structure are more than adequate for the specific location.
A licencia (building permit) must be obtained before the construction of any building can begin, regardless of whether the structure is to be used as a dwelling, or whether or not it has foundations.
There are two types of building permits:
- Permit for minor works: walls, terraces, and barbecues.
- Permit for major works: new buildings, alterations, and demolitions.
To obtain a building permit for minor works, you need simply request a licencia de obra menor at the Town Hall. Normally this should include a small description of the work to be undertaken and an estimation of the costs. This so that taxes can be calculated. The tax is paid at the end of the job and is normally calculated at around 4 to 6% of the construction cost.
To obtain a building permit for major works you will need:
- Technical dossier (proyecto) created by an architect registered in the Spanish architecture college
- A technical architect (aparejador), The technical architect is the site manager in official control of the building site A builder registered here in Spain.
All three of these professionals have to sign the application.
A notification letter will be sent following the submission with the application number. After an examination confirming that the correct information has been presented, details of the request will be posted in the Town Hall. The application will be verified for compliance with the building rules. A tacit approval may be assumed two months from the date of submission and the permiso de construir (building license) will normally be delivered within that time.
ResponsibilitiesThe building act LOE of 5th November 1999 (Ley de Ordenación de la Edificacion), considers all parties involved in the construction of the building to bare a certain level of responsibility. Without prejudice to their contractual responsibilities, the individuals or legal entities who assist in the building process are liable to the owners and third party buyers of the building or any individual parts thereof, should the building be divided.
The following property damages affecting the building within a specified time, starting on the date of the commencement of the works without reservation or starting on the date of the correction of such reservations:
For a ten year period, any structural damage caused to the building due to faults or defects affecting the foundations, supports, beams, framework, load-bearing walls, or other structural elements which directly endanger the building's mechanical resistance and stability.
For a period of three years, damages caused to the building by faults or defects in the constructive elements or services which result in the building failing to meet the requirements of habitability.
The builder will be liable for damages due to construction faults or defects affecting elements of the finish work for a period of one year.
Each agent is individually liable for their own acts or omission and for those of the persons for whom they are legally responsible according to law. Notwithstanding this, when the liability for the damages cannot be assigned to an individual or group, those involved will be held jointly responsible. In any event, the developer will be jointly liable with all other agents involved to the buyers for the property damages to the building caused by construction errors or defects.
Responsibility of the builder
The builder is directly liable for damages caused to the building due to faults or defects derived from lack of skill, lack of professional or technical qualification, negligence or non-compliance with the obligations of the Construction Manager and the other individuals or legal entities reporting to them. When a builder subcontracts to other individuals or legal entities for the performance of certain tasks or services, they will be directly liable for the damages, due to faults or defects in the execution of such works, without prejudice to the recourse he might have against subcontractors.
The following property damage or surety policies are required as guarantees:
A property damage or surety insurance policy to guarantee for one year compensation of the damages caused by execution faults or defects which affect the finished work
A property damage or surety insurance policy to guarantee for a period of three years, compensation of damages due to faults or defects in constructive elements or services which result in the non-compliance of the habitability requirements.
A property damage or surety insurance policy which guarantees compensation of damages caused to the building by faults or defects originating in, or directly affecting the building's mechanical resistance and stability
Note: No property damage insurance policy is required for a period of ten years.