1. Buy land which is zoned for development i.e “urbano”. The planning regulations on this land are clear and you will be able to build. Avoid land which is zoned “rustico”. It is not impossible to build but life is too short. Save yourself a lot of time, money, and heart ache. Call me if you like for a full explanation.
2. Buy a site big enough for a garden (minimum 900 sq m). We are all here to enjoy the fabulous weather and you may want to spend most of your time outside, cooking, reading, playing, entertaining and enjoying the clean air and maybe the views.
3. Check the Mains Services: make sure your plot has all the mains services. If you want to be off grid, even though you could be on-grid, we can do that for you. Call me. For most people life is better if all mains services are confirmed before you even view the plot.
4. Financial Viability: satisfy yourself that the value of your finished development is worth more than all the costs of building your home plus all the costs of buying your land. Negotiate the price of your plot on this basis. We can help you do this. Call me.
5. Beware of loose talk around costs. People talk about building costs as if they are buying apples at the grocery store…this much per square metre and that much. Remember these figures probably exclude taxes, licences, landscaping and swimming pools and all sorts of things you may want. Look for clarity right from the beginning.
6. Design for Energy Efficiency for four very good reasons
- Your home will be more comfortable
- Your home will cost less to run
- The value of your asset is protected: people pay more for energy efficiency; all new buildings in the EC soon have to be carbon zero, valuers take the energy certificate increasingly seriously.
- It doesn’t cost anymore than a conventional building.
7. Find an Architect that Understands what you want: find an architect who can design large open plan kitchen / living spaces with high ceilings where everyone in the house can be together. Then have separate rooms for privacy. All around me I still see new houses that have been designed by, presumably, Spanish architects with a separate kitchen at the back of the house, no real circulation spaces, no thought given to the orientation of the house, and hard marble surfaces throughout.
8. Get the Solar Orientation right: We have all seen the big picture windows facing south into the Andalucian sun with the heavy curtains drawn in midday heat in a hopeless attempt to keep out the heat: madness! Think about where you will sit at what time of day and year. Design for lots of shaded outside spaces. If you have a great view then have a large window facing it and shade it. Equally plan your home to have lots of natural light to create a light airy feel with direct sunlight in the right places in winter.
9. Use Professionals: how many times have we heard about “misunderstandings” about what is included, how much it will cost, how long it will take and who is responsible for what. The “tio Paco” types will promise you everything will be ok and their prices look too good to be true and of course they turn out to be exactly that.
10. Enjoy it! Remember what an amazing place this is to live: fabulous weather and clean air, happy friendly people that just want to have fun, great food everywhere, beautiful beaches and mountain scenery, fascinating history and culture quite different from ours, humming nightlife, lots of motorways that make it easy to get the international airport and safely within a western democracy part of the EU.
Author: John Wolfendale
Bio: John is a founder of Eco Vida Homes and is passionate about bringing modern design and construction practices to Spain. He believes a home which is warm in winter and cool in summer is largely a matter of design and selective use of materials. He is British and a Chartered Surveyor with over 22 years experience living and working in Spain.