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This guide is about buying a new house or apartment in Spain. By a ‘new’ property, we mean one that has already been finished but which has not yet been lived in. However, many of the points referred to will also apply if you are buying a property that is only a few years old.
It is supplemental to our main guide about Buying Property in Spain, so you should ideally read that before reading this. This guide deals only with the additional issues specific to buying a new property.
It does not cover buying a property still under construction. For this see our Guide to Buying Off-Plan Property in Spain.
It describes, in particular, how to buy a new property in the area of Andalusia/Andalucía – which contains the Costa del Sol. See a map here. Please note that certain aspects of the law in Spain vary from one “autonomous community” (comunidad autónoma) to another.
Many people prefer to buy and own new property. There are a number of reasons – some good, some bad:
- They will be the first owner of the property. No-one will have used the kitchen or bathroom before. Strangely, this is the most common reason why I am told that people like to buy new property! It is probably the worst reason. It is also probably not true. Your builders will almost certainly have been making their tea and eating their lunch in your kitchen and their bottoms will have been upon your toilet seat.
- Repairs costs should be very low for the first few years. In fact, the property will come with a guarantee against any major defects for the first five or ten years (depending on the nature of the defect)
- Running costs and, in particular, energy bills will be much lower than in an old property. This is because of ever-improving building standards and, in particular, insulation.
- New properties are better equipped than properties a few years ago. Many will now come, as standard, with properly-fitted air conditioning and kitchens and bathrooms are a far higher calibre than they were even five years ago.
- New property is very popular, especially with investors. What are the special things to look out for when buying a new – previously unoccupied – property in Spain? How do you guard against the risks? Of course, in five years, tastes will have changed and your house will look as old-fashioned as the one built five years ago does to you today.
- Depending on when you agree to buy the property, you may be in time to get design changes incorporated into the property. For example, you may be able to choose the style of your kitchen or bathroom or to have one bedroom converted into a purpose-built study.
Video guide to buying newly built real estate in Spain
You can get a quick overview of buying new property in Spain by watching this video interview (below) with Spanish lawyer Miguel Manzanares. Learn more by scrolling down and reading the guide he has written with us.
The potential problems of buying a new house
There are three main problem areas when buying a new house:
- Every new house has teething troubles. As it dries out, plaster will shrink a little and small cracks will appear. You may get drips from taps. There will be bits of painting that have been missed. And so on. These are not a disaster but they do need to be fixed.This process is called ‘snagging’ and you need to make sure that your contract sets out a clear procedure for dealing with these problems.
It will usually be the responsibility of the builder or developer to fix these problems (see below) and, on the Costa del Sol, they will generally be fixed quite quickly but it can be a problem if you’re buying a new house as a vacation home. This is because you will not be living there and so it may take time for you even to identify that the problems have occurred. There is a danger that, by the time you discover the problem, the ‘snagging’ period specified in your contract will have already expired. It may also take time for you to liaise with the builder and then for you to arrange to get any problems fixed.
This shouldn’t necessarily put you off buying a new property, but it is a factor to take into account.
- Bad developers and builders. Fortunately, we do not have too many rogue developers or builders on the Costa del Sol – but we do have some who go bust.The process of obtaining a licence to build a new home in Spain and then a certificate that it is habitable means that properties must be built to a certain standard and that compliance with the rules is checked by officials in the local municipality.The problem if the developer or builder goes bust is that it is they who are responsible for sorting out all of the little problems referred to above. These are not big enough to be caught by the guarantee.
Happily, these problems tend to come to light quite quickly and so – with a bit of luck – the developer or builder will still be around to deal with them! If not, you are likely to have to bear the cost yourself.
Note that these risks will be included as standard in your homeowner’s insurance.
- Falling prices. The moment you turn the key in your door, the price of your new house will fall in value. This is just like a car. It will usually happen even if the general property market is rising in value.This is because of people’s liking for brand new property. They’re prepared to pay a premium for buying it.The extent of the fall in value will depend upon the type of property and where it is located.This is such a significant factor that some wealthy investors will buy investment property and then keep it, empty and un-let, until they see an opportunity to sell it on at a profit. This way it will still benefit from the ‘new property’ premium.This fall in value may come as a surprise to you.
You can guard against it to a certain extent but you can’t eliminate it.
It is worth quantifying the loss. Check out in your area how much properties that are, say, 12 months old are selling for and compare it with what you are paying. You can often do this online.
Until about two years ago you could approach the developer and strike a hard bargain on price, so making a big dent in the loss. With the improving property market there is now much less opportunity to do this. Nonetheless, it’s worth having a go to see whether there is any movement on the price.
Guarantees for new properties in Spain
These are sometimes called warranties.
By law, the developer is responsible for fixing any major defects that occur within the first ten years from the date when the property is delivered to its first buyer.
‘Major’ is defined by Spanish law. Basically, it means any structural defects. In other words, if the house begins to subside (sink) or it develops major structural cracks (rather than tiny little cracks from the plaster drying out) or if the roof is defective, the developer will have to fix it.
This will apply both to the main structure of the house and to any ancillary buildings such as garages or swimming pools. It will not apply to things such as garden walls.
The developer will also be responsible for fixing any snagging issues during the first year after the property was first delivered. For more serious defects which relate to the structure, there is a three year period.
Serious defects are defects that are less of a problem than major defects but still more than you would expect from routine repair and replacement.
Serious defects do not include things caused by routine wear and tear, by soiling or by damage outside the builder’s control. So, for example, if the outside paintwork of your house becomes grey and discoloured this will not be covered. If the central heating stops working because you allowed the pump to run dry, this will not be covered.
These guarantees are transferable when you sell the house.
You either like new property or you hate it. It is usually that, rather than any logical analysis, that will determine what you buy.
If you are buying a new property, your lawyer should make sure that your contract contains all of the necessary clauses protecting your position.
The main thing you will have to think about – if you are not permanently resident in Spain – is how you’re going to deal with the problems associated with any snagging.
Please contact the author if you would like any further information. See the sidebar for their contact details.
You may also want to read:
The Pros and Cons of Buying a Newly Built Home (Trulia) – A quick look at the good and bad things about buying a new home