Land for sale in Spain: how to evaluate a plot of land before you buy

When searching for land for sale in Spain, it’s important to be aware of all the pitfalls that can arise for home builders in this beautiful region.

It’s very easy to get caught up in the glamour of finding the perfect spot for your dream villa, but before you sign on the dotted line, you’ll want to get an independent appraisal from an experienced architect.

While Eco Vida Homes’ chartered surveyor can take care of this assessment for you, here’s a breakdown of everything you need to look out for when viewing and evaluating land for sale in Spain.

The big question: What are the views like?

Sea views from land for sale in Marbella

The huge benefit of choosing your own plot is that you have control over the most important part of prime land for sale in Spain: location, location, location!

Can you imagine yourself looking at that view every morning? Is the landscape what you expected? Are there any trees that might block your view from the bedroom window?

Consider that the most valuable area of your newly built villa might be those few square metres where you can sit in the shade in front of the view with a drink in your hand, reading the newspaper or chatting with a friend. Being able to visualise this spot, the views, and the orientation of the villa is a vital part of evaluating the plot.

You need to make sure that the land for sale is going to give you the feeling that inspired you to build a house in Spain in the first place.

Land for sale in Spain: How much does it cost?

You’ll find a wide range of land for sale in Spain, with prices to suit every budget.

Before you start looking at different options, draft a rough budget for your project and make a decision on what percentage you’re prepared to spend on the land (if you haven’t set a budget for your home yet, ask for our back of the envelope cost guidelines that may help you get on the right track).

Assessing the financial viability of building a home in Spain is not an easy challenge to take on alone, so if you’re not sure what you should be paying, consult an expert.

Is the land on a slope?

Villa built on land for sale in Spain

Something that will make a big impact on the final cost of building a house in Spain is whether or not the land has a slope.

It can make a huge difference to which way the villa can face, plans for terraces, pools… but a good architect in Spain will be able to work around it – just be aware that this could incur higher build costs.

Great land for sale in Spain often comes with a slope and can even offer better views than flatter land. However, the house might require building stilts or the excavation of a platform (or both) in order to get all the features you want.

Land for sale in Spain: Legal and financial considerations

The aforementioned land qualities are all things any prospective buyer can assess with the right research and preparation.

But a lot of people trip up over the things you aren’t able to see at a simple viewing of the land (or that may be actively concealed by the seller). It’s these very things that Eco Vida Homes looks for when we appraise a plot in Spain.

By the time you’ve decided to buy land in Spain, you should be confident that you can fulfil your vision despite the many limitations posed by the legal (planning regulations), financial, and physical hurdles you’ll inevitably encounter.

At Eco Vida Homes, we might be able to help you find suitable land for sale in Spain and go along with you to visit plots. If there is a plot you are interested in buying, we can provide a spreadsheet on the costs of building on that plot to help you negotiate the right price. Get in touch on +34 958 990 964 to discuss how we can help you.

Before we inspect a plot of land, we check local regulations and see how these would apply. Even with “urban” land, which is pretty straightforward, there are often issues lurking beneath the surface.

For example, the PGOU (local plan) is suspended, as has happened in Marbella, and we have reverted to the 1986 plan. Or perhaps there’s no pavement so the local authority may be free to acquire a ribbon of your land by compulsory purchase.

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, issues arise that may need to be settled in a face-to-face meeting with the town planner. You’ll need to agree on how big it can be, where on the land it’ll be located, and the amount of natural light allowed. In fact, we normally meet with the planning officer after we have met our client and inspected the plot of land to check everything is fine and, if necessary, ask for confirmation in writing.

Budget for your land in Spain

Your budget for your project is normally a separate discussion based on your preferences and expectations.

But visiting a plot of land that may be out of your price range because of hidden costs you overlooked is only going to waste your time or leave you feeling disappointed.

Eco Vida Homes prefers to start envisaging how your new home might sit on the plot from the get-go so we know we’re on the right track.


Even carbon-zero villas need access to mains electricity, water and sewerage. These provisions are 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 for these services at our first site inspection.

Slopes and retaining walls

A lot of land for sale in Spain needs a little work to get the ground elevation required to bring your dream villa design to life.

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

We can ask these questions and more at the outset.

Aspect and layout of the land for sale in Spain

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

We understand that it’s these little touches that really delight our clients, so it’s worth discussing while assessing the land.


How does the topography (the forms and features of the land surface) affect the aspect and layout?

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

Orientation of the plot

We are ideally looking for the main aspect to be southerly or south-easterly (although obviously, we can design around anything). This is because of the ferocity and persistence of the Andalusian 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.

Western-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 an elementary design mistake! In any case, curtains won’t stop the heat and the air conditioning is unlikely to cope.

Access for works machinery

Digger excavating land for sale in Spain

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, which 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 has to be built? This should all be budgeted ahead of time, especially if the solution is labour intensive and materials have to be carried in, or the swimming pool dug by hand.

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?

There’s more to assessing land in Spain than meets the eye. But with careful planning, research and help from an expert, your dream villa can soon be on its way to becoming a reality.

Worried you might waste time and money looking at land that’s not suitable for your dream villa? Call Eco Vida Homes on +34 958 990 964 and let us simplify the process for you.

Author: John Wolfendale. Eco Vida Homes is a team of Architects, Technical Architects, Builders, an Engineer, and a Chartered Surveyor. We help people design and build beautiful energy efficient homes designed for Mediterranean living in Marbella and Southern Spain. There are two things that make us stand out: a sharp focus on our clients’ needs and everything we do is comfortable and energy-efficient. It’s like Grand Designs, only without the drama!

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