How to Evaluate Building Plots in Spain (ideally before you buy)

Views

……that’s what you’ll be looking for. Also you will be asking yourself “is it pretty, are there any trees, is the area nice, how far is it to the shops, sea, school” or whatever is important to you? And these are what you should be looking for because…….. if you’re not happy with the fundamentals there’s no point in taking it any further.

Price

…. you’ll be sensitive to that and you may have a budget and a rough idea of what the whole thing will cost and what proportion of your total cost you will allocate to the cost of the land. You may find it useful to read my article on how to assess the financial viability of building a home in Spain.

Slopes

If there is a slope then you will most certainly be sensitive to additional costs of creating a terrace, or building stilts. Quite often the sites with the best views have slopes. So a slope is not at all uncommon.

All this is good but there is more to it that view, price, and slopes. If you are used to solicitor’s legal searches in the UK when you buy property then you need to be particularly attentive because it works very differently in Spain.

The Purpose of this Article:

The purpose of this article is to go beyond these things and tell you the kind of things we look for when we appraise a site. It’s part of our campaign to de-mystify the process of designing and building a home in Spain.
There are three broad areas of enquiry:
1. legal (planning regs)
2. financial
3. physical

You should be comfortable that you can fulfil your vision on this plot by the limitations set in these three areas of enquiry before you buy the land.

If you let us help you we will come with you and visit the plot and provide a short report on these factors.
Here are some of the things we will be looking for. Obviously it’s not a definitive list because each individual plot will vary. We go, as experienced professionals, with our eyes and ears open to any kind of advantage or disadvantage that the land may offer.

Legal/ Planning Considerations

Before we inspect your site we will check on the local authority website for regulations and then see how these will apply in practice when we visit the site.

Even with “urban” land which is pretty straightforward there are often issues. For example the PGOU (local plan) is suspended, as in Marbella at the moment (June 2017), and we have reverted to the 1986 plan. Another example might be there isn’t a pavement so the local authority may acquire by compulsory purchase a ribbon of your land.

Basements are often not included in the maximum square meterage permitted so you get the basement in addition to the maximum permitted and this can be quite valuable. However, if the ground is uneven then issues arise that may need to be settled in a face to face meeting with the town planner such as how big in can be and where, and the amount of natural light allowed. In fact we normally meet with the planning officer after we have met you and inspected the plot to check in a ace to face meeting that everything is fine and if necessary ask for confirmation in writing.

Services

Provision of mains electricity, water, sewerage – often straightforward but if one of them isn’t available for any reason then the solution can be expensive and may affect the design. We check them on site.

Financial / Budget Considerations

This is normally a separate discussion based on your preferences and budget and our experience but we need to start to envisage how your new home might sit on the site and check everything for sense

Physical Considerations
Slopes, retaining walls

How important is t to you that the swimming pool is on the same level as the living room and the main shaded terrace – so what might the cost of such retaining walls be and what is the right material?

Aspect and layout

How might the house sit best on the plot given the shape and orientation? Lifestyle considerations Can we accommodate this within the physical shape and size of the plot – a special corner with a view and the sun behind you for breakfast /sunset; garden for fruit trees; stables…….

Topography

How does the topography affect the aspect and layout? The most valuable part of your new home (and anyone’s villa on the Costa del Sol) is the shaded space in front of the views with access to an attractive looking swimming pool and where you can dine al fresco. If you can do that with style then you have create 90% of the value.

Orientation of the plot

We are looking for the main aspect to be southerly or southeasterly as an ideal (although obviously we can design around anything). This is because of the ferocity and persistence of the Andalucían sun in summer. Western facing elevations can easily overheat because they get the sun all day. In the evening the angle of the sun undercuts any external shade that you may have erected. West facing rooms with big windows (for the view) become uninhabitable unless you block the sun with a shutter or something in which case there is no view. I am afraid I have seen many spectacular and expensive modern villas in Marbella with big picture windows facing west. They have the curtains drawn. What a waste of money and elementary design mistake. In any case curtains wont stop the heat and the air conditioning is unlikely to cope.

Access for works machinery

If your site is up a narrow track or in the town centre then materials may have to be transported in lots of small lorries rather than a few big ones and this will affect the cost. Can we get a crane to the site? Can we get machinery around the back of the site where the extension or whatever it is has to be build? This will affect the costs especially if the solution is labour intensive and materials have to be carried in or the swimming pool dg by hand or whatever.

Access and parking for your car(s)

Is it steep? Do we have to build a ramp? Is the only access in front of the views thus spoiling them or can we design around this and have the driveway at the back?