Building your ownhome
Josephine Quintero reports
If you want to be far from the madding crowd, you can buy a plot of land (parcela) and have an individual architect-designed house built to your own design and specifications or to a standard design provided by a builder. However, building a home in Andalucía isn't recommended for the timid. Spanish red tape and the eccentric ways of doing business in Spain can make building your own home a nightmare and it's fraught with problems.
The cost of land varies considerably depending on the area, e.g. from 30 - 120 Euro per square metre. Building costs range from around 300 to 700 Euro per square metre in resort areas, depending on the quality and location. The cost of land and labour have fallen considerably in recent years in many areas and it's possible to buy a plot of land and build a bigger and better villa for less than the cost of a secondhand property. You can not only design your own home but can ensure that the quality of materials and workmanship are first class.
When planning to build your own home, take into account all the associated costs including the cost of extended services such as water, electricity and telephone to the property. Note that most quotes are estimates only and that the cost can escalate wildly due to contract clauses and changes made during building work. If you want a home built in Andalucía exactly to your own specifications, you will need to personally supervise it every step of the way or better still employ a technical architect or engineer to do it for you.
You must take the same care when buying land as you would when buying a property. The most important point when buying land is to ensure that it has been approved for building (land classified as a finca urbana can usually be built on). In the past, it was accepted practice to build without obtaining the necessary licence in advance. A fine would subsequently be imposed which was a relatively low sum. This situation has changed and fines these days can run into thousands of Euro.. There is also a possibility of the authorities embargoing the property or even knocking it down, so this risk is definitely not worth taking. Ensure also that the plot is large enough for the house you plan to build. Check also that it's suitable for building as it may be too steep or require prohibitively expensive foundations. Always obtain confirmation in writing from the local town hall that land can be built on and approval for road access. Discuss your requirements with a surveyor or architect and your legal advisor before signing a contract or paying any money. Some companies offer a building surveying service for around ten per cent of the building price.
Foreign architects from EU countries can now work in Spain and there are a number operating in the main resort areas of Andalucía. Note that if planning permission is flawed, you may find that you're responsible for improving roads, adding pavements, street lighting, electricity installations and sewage disposal. Spanish law requires a builder to guarantee his work for 10 years following construction and an architect is also responsible for 10 years for defects due to instructions given to the builder or problems relating to a plot of land, eg. subsidence. However, if you do have problems you must usually be extremely patient and persistent to obtain satisfaction. Your best insurance when building a property is the reputation of the builder. There are many excellent builders in Spain who will build an individually designed house on your plot of land, or will sell you a plot and build a house chosen from a range of standard designs.