How to build a house in Spain: the definitive guide for 2022

So you’re ready to start the process of realising your dreams of a villa by the sea, but the question of how to build a house in Spain only leads to more questions…

How much is it going to cost? Do I need an architect in Spain? Can you find English-speaking help? What are the dangers and pitfalls?

Building a house in Spain when you don’t know much about the landscape, culture and regulations is not only a daunting task to take on alone, it can actually be quite risky.

Eco Vida Homes has more than a decade of experience helping people build beautiful, energy-efficient homes in the Costa Del Sol, Costa Blanca, Costa Tropical and Costa De la Luz – and because we know it’s difficult to know where to begin, we put together this handy guide to help ease your mind.

Here’s a brief overview of how to build a house in Spain…

How to build a house in Spain: The first step

Before you start working out your budget, scouting locations and putting your design and construction team together, you need to make sure that this is what you really want to do.

Building a home in Spain that’s custom-designed to fit your lifestyle is one of the most rewarding things you’ll ever do – but it’s not for the faint of heart…

Even with an experienced team behind you, things can (and very probably will) go wrong.

That’s not to say it’s not worth doing, because it absolutely is! Problems can be resolved, crises can be averted and experts can step in to lend advice when it all seems a bit overwhelming.

Before you start, it’s best to get a good understanding of how the process works and how building a house in Spain is different from other countries.

Still up to the challenge? Good for you! With an expert team behind you, the excitement of seeing your dream villa come to life little by little is a thrill like no other…

Start making a list of what your dream house looks like

Villa in Spain at night

While a company like Eco Vida Homes can help you look at locations, make design decisions and lay out your budget, it’s your house at the end of the day.

Put together a list of potential locations and look at some real estate websites (Idealista is a popular website for buying homes in Spain) to get an idea of the kind of house and features you want.

While listing prices aren’t going to reflect the cost of building a house in Spain, the price per square metre is useful as you can compare it with your eventual quotes.

If you genuinely want to know how to build a house in Spain, get in touch so we can show you some example projects and their price breakdowns.

Setting a budget for building a house in Spain

You may have a rough budget in mind, but without in-depth knowledge of all the regions in Spain you’re considering, it’s hard to know exactly what you can get for your money.

To make the whole process a lot simpler for you, Eco Vida Homes created the Back Of The Envelope Guide (get in touch and we’ll send you a copy), which sets out the basic arithmetic of how to calculate the total costs, including site preparation. Bear in mind that on top of the design and build, you also need to allocate budget for professional fees and taxes.

Based on the result, we can help you calculate the residual valuation of the plot in order to have an informed negotiation on the land purchase and ultimately the financial viability of the project.

Without expert help, getting to grips with how to build a house in Spain is likely to be one of the most stressful things you’ll ever do and you risk going over budget. Eco Vida Homes can take a lot of the hassle out of your home build by properly evaluating your land, designing plans and financials so you can be sure you’re making the best investment decision.

Finding land to build a house in Spain

Land in Spain

While there may be a few locations in Spain that you’re considering for your build, eventually you’ll need to start narrowing it down.

It goes without saying that the closer your plot of land is to major cities like Madrid, Barcelona, or Malaga, the more expensive the overall cost is going to be.

However, if you don’t need the business and leisure benefits of the metropolitan areas, or you could actually do without the hustle and bustle, there is a wealth of more affordable land for sale in quieter areas offering stunning natural views.

You’ll want to consider the aspect of the land, vehicle access, borders with neighbouring land and, in some unfortunate situations, the neighbours themselves (disputes over land can sometimes arise and need to be properly mediated).

There are plenty of websites listing land for sale in Spain that allow you to browse online and make a shortlist. But finding a plot of land in Spain is one thing, being able to build a house on it is another thing altogether.

Once you have assessed and identified the plot, you need to be sure you can do what you want on the plot legally, practically, and within your budget before you buy.

Planning regulations for building a house in Spain

Buying land in Spain is fraught with complications thanks to the bureaucratic nature of the local authorities here.

There’s one simple question you need to ask about any land for sale in Spain: is the plot urbano or rustico?

In a nutshell, urbano land is zoned for development and rustico isn’t. Sadly, it’s not quite as straightforward as that broad definition. There may actually be a good plot of land to build a house on that’s zoned as rustico, but there are circumstances under which it’s actually possible to build.

Because technicalities in planning regulations can make or break the potential of your villa, it’s best to ask Eco Vida Homes to come along with you to appraise the land so we can give you an assessment. We don’t charge for this and you’re under no obligation to work with us on your home (we actually quite like viewing plots of land in Spain – it’s kind of our thing).

Putting the team together

A technical architect onsite in Spain

The most important thing about building your own villa in Spain is that it’s your villa.

You want an architect who’s going to help you realise your vision and create a villa design that’s conducive to your lifestyle.

You need to find an architect that not only knows the local area of where you’re building, and therefore any regulations they might need to be aware of, but is also prepared to listen to what you want without forcing his own style onto your vision.

Fees for architects in Spain are typically anywhere from 5% to 17% of the build cost.

But you’ll need more than just an architect to make your home a reality. The Facultad Directiva is a team of three construction professionals that you’ll need for the build to be legal: the director of the works, the works manager, and the health and safety officer. The architect is the senior figure that leads the team.

Once you have your team in place, you can get the design process underway.

How to build a house in Spain: The design process

You’ll first need to sit down with your architect and discuss the look and functionality of your house, considering any limitations of your plot of land and budget.

The architect will then begin the crucial initial design stage: the layout, shape, volume, orientation and positioning within the plot. You should be heavily involved in this process until you are 100% satisfied. This can take anywhere from one to four months, depending on how many iterations are necessary, but it’s well worth getting this absolutely right before moving on.

While your architect is busy with the initial design, you’ll need to open up a line of dialogue with the local authorities to check that what you want to build is all above board. If all’s well, we then begin preparing the documentation for the building licence application. Getting the paperwork ready should only take between four to six weeks depending on the complexity of the design.

After you approve the initial design, final architectural drawings will be prepared for submission to the council in order to obtain the building license. As this part of the process is really in the hands of the local authority, you could be waiting a long time for approval – and it varies enormously between municipalities. Marbella and Benahavis, for example, can take as long as two or even three years to grant a building licence (seriously), but hopefully, you’ll only have to wait the standard six to nine months.

While we are waiting for the building license to be approve, we get on with the final stage before building can begin: the full written project (el proyecto de ejecución in Spanish). It considers everything from the structure to the bathroom fittings and must be approved by the College of Architects.

With all the designs, documentation and licence in place, your home can now finally start to take shape.

Let’s start building!

Timber frame house in Spain

You’ll be hard pushed to begin the construction of your home without a construction team.

The project should be put out to tender so you can be sure you’re getting a fair price for the work (contractor quotes can vary quite a bit in Spain).

When you‘ve decided on your team, construction begins under the supervision of the architect and Facultad Directiva, as is required by law.

Once your team has signed off on the construction workers having fulfilled the terms of the contract, your home is finished!

There may be additional interior design or landscaping work to add the finishing touches, but you’re definitely ready to start planning your housewarming party (which we would be more than happy to attend 😉 ).

This is a super simplified breakdown of how to build a house in Spain to give you a broad overview so you know what you’re getting yourself into. Designing and building a luxury home is a complex process and hundreds of decisions must be made every day to keep things moving forward.

But the final result of a home that was built around your lifestyle in a beautiful location in sunny Spain is worth all the hard work that goes into it. Trust us, you won’t regret it.

Ready to take the first step towards building a house in Spain? Get in touch so we can guide your journey of going from not knowing the first thing about how to build a house in Spain to kicking back by your infinity pool with a clear view of the Mediterranean.

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Contact us to discuss building your villa in Spain.