Normally anyone buying a house would use the services of a surveyor to inspect and survey the house they are going to purchase for defects.
But when it comes to buying property on the Costa Blanca coast of Spain, the vast majority of people do not use a surveyor to perform a house survey on their future home or investment.
Why don’t people use a surveyor to inspect their potential property purchase?
The most obvious reason for not having a house survey in Spain is the fact that people feel out of their depth because they are in a foreign country and therefore rely much more heavily on those guiding them rather than trusting their own gut instincts.
Typically people will be shown a property by an estate agent and will be told that the common practise in Spain is not to have a house survey done at all!
Reasons given will most likely be that the building is still standing after all this time and if there were any problems they would be obvious and that the cost of the house survey is a ‘waste of money’.
Of course most people will take this information as gospel and not question it. Do realise that the estate agent is pushing for a sale and they won’t want to jeopardise their commission by you having a house survey carried out and finding out there are problems with your ‘dream home’.
If you were told the same information in any other country you wouldn’t hesitate to dismiss it and get your own house survey done!
Using a property surveyor in Spain can save you a fortune!
You would realise that using a property surveyor may cost a fair bit but if you are buying a house with problems you may be stuck with repair bills in the thousands!
It is even more crazy when you consider the fact that for a long time the building standards in Spain have been considerably lower than for Northern Europe and many of the houses have been badly built with problems that may only be about to manifest.
What problems can a surveyor in Spain spot?
Many of the potential problems of property in Spain are of course similar to elsewhere i.e. minor defects, damp, wood rot, water damage etc that wouldn’t necessarily be too costly but in Spain there have been many examples of horrific problems.
These often involve problems such as walls not being strong enough and people’s swimming pools and gardens disappearing down the mountainside – or cracks appearing in walls where the foundations have not been built strongly enough for the structure and houses literally collapsing.
These are serious problems that involve huge expense and could easily have been avoiding by using a Spanish house surveyor. These problems could just as easily apply to newly built houses – it often takes a bit of time for these problems to appear. In many cases people have found the builders have disappeared or refuse to deal with the problem.
When you are in a foreign country a serious problem like this suddenly becomes even greater unless you are fluent in the language and have knowledge of legal possibilities.
Advantage Building Surveys
Mark Paddon BSc Hons Building Surveying. MCIOB.
Costa Blanca Surveyor for buyer’s Structural Surveys, defects advice, expert witness reports. Valencia, Alicante, Murcia.
T: 0034 962807247
M: 0034 653733066
Free 17 page property buyer’s guide available from website
How much will a survey cost?
House surveyors on the Costa Blanca or elsewhere in Spain typically charge around €775+IVA for a villa (for a written report), €295+IVA (accompanied survey no report) for an apartment or €395+IVA (accompanied survey no report) for a villa.
A basic service from a surveyor on the Costa Blanca would be an inspection to see if there are any obvious problems and the possible costs in fixing these. A more advanced property survey would be providing a report on the structure and services.
If there are problems arising from a property survey then you can use this information to potentially negotiate a discount with the seller or you could just accept the defects knowing the potential cost in dealing with them. If a seller is unwilling to be flexible or the problems are just too big then you at least can walk away from them having avoiding a potential nightmare.
Don’t put down a deposit until you have had a house survey because in Spain once you have put down the deposit you are committed and if you pull out you will lose your deposit which is typically 10%.
If you are experiencing some of the problems above then you may be wise to contact a Spanish property surveyor for a professional assessment of the situation, likely remedies and costs.
Hopefully this information informs you on an important part of buying property in Spain whether or not you use a property surveyor in Spain, but if you don’t, be aware that we might be seeing you soon on one of those TV shows where it all goes horribly wrong!
While some properties in Spain need obvious improvement others may look like they are in very good condition, but have hidden defects that have been ‘faked’ over or other serious issues that are not obvious to the untrained eye.
New properties in Spain can also include serious defects as well as the normal smaller ‘snagging’ issues. Unless the vendor knows that the property has significant defects, (and knows that you know), they will probably stick with a ‘what you see is what you get’ attitude and hence be unlikely to budge significantly on price.
When choosing a Spanish property either as an investment e.g. to rent out or sell on, or as a permanent or second home, it is valuable for the buyer to :-
• Understand the condition and build method of the structure and building fabric.
• Have an idea of likely repair/renovation costs and implications.
• Be able to make a justified offer which takes account of these defects/costs, or at least be able to assess the asking price against the building condition.
By ensuring the above, the buyer will normally save significant amounts of money and is far more likely to end up owning a true asset in Spain rather than an impractical liability.
Mark Paddon Interview
Mark Paddon is a surveyor based on the Costa Blanca of Spain who has consulted for Channel 4’s ‘Selling Houses Abroad’ and ITV’s ‘Homes From Hell’.
A regular contributor over many years to our website, I decided to catch up with him and find out what is going on with the Spanish property market given the massive changes in the marketplace.
Mark, my impression of a surveyor in the United Kingdom would be someone who is employed by 99% of people buying a house – what percentage would that be in Spain?
“Less than 5%”
Given a rather negative historical view of Spanish building standards – why would that be so low?
“Many buyer’s may talk of getting a survey, but they might typically be put off by estate agent’s comments like ‘they don’t do surveys in Spain’ or a survey is not required because a new property has a ‘builder’s guarantee’.
Sometimes it seems that people just don’t want to know what might be wrong with their ‘dream’ purchase, (they typically regret this later!) and be careful guys…
I have had many a man’s wife ask me if a bank survey is the same as a structural survey.
The simple answer is NO (it’s a basic valuation and check on measurements) and the husband’s failure to commission an independent structural survey at the purchase stage has landed many of them in trouble with their better half.”
Is most of your work surveying properties before people buy – or after when there are structural issues and problems?
“Presently about 50/50, those that save on the survey stage at the time of purchase typically have to face bad news and high repair or legal costs later (no property is perfect, or at least I have never come across a perfect example in 10 years).
I much prefer to help people make the right purchase choice. It means for a happier life in Spain and it saves money.”
Is the Spanish legal system an answer to people’s problems or is it a bit of a nightmare to navigate through?
“I have had success in Spanish courts for defects cases and have many pending cases. It is best avoided (by having a house surveyed pre purchase) but it is often the only option when things go wrong later.
Even with a ‘builder’s guarantee’ court action will almost certainly be required to achieve recompense, the process is typically between 2 and 5 years and there is always a risk of losing the case.”
In short, do people get financial redress?
“It depends on the judge or appeal judge (I have had majority success where acting as expert witness for clients) but the amount of damages is not always the full amount and costs are not always awarded.”
What is the one thing people should be wary of when buying a property in Spain?
“Not seeking independent professional advice (survey and legals). Never be put off by interested parties (i.e. the agent, developer or in house lawyer) seek testimonials, and references.”
Any general tips and advice?
“Make sure your surveyor is registered in Spain and insured. You should seek a ‘Building Surveyor’ as there are lots of other types and you certainly don’t want an auctioneer or quantity surveyor giving opinion on the structural condition of your house.
Those qualified in ‘Building Surveying’ are the ones that know how to carry out a structural survey ‘chartered surveyor’ does not automatically mean ‘Building Surveyor’.”
Is a survey obligatory in order to get a mortgage in Spain?
“The bank will check the house in terms of it’s value against money loaned. Many banks refer to this as a ‘survey’ but it is not a full structural survey (it takes around 20 minutes instead of the 2 hours that I would typically allocate for a structural inspection).
I have seen many a house that has been passed for mortgage purposes yet it could have termites, damp, subsidence etc. The bank ‘tasadores’ (valuer’s) will not go crawling under houses like I do.”
Is it a good time to buy?
“Both Brexit and the pandemic have actually increased property purchases in popular areas, such as coastal zones. With construction costs increasing, there are still some very good deals to be had, with many properties selling below cost price (i.e. at less money that it would cost to buy the plot and build). Property has proved to be very resilient when compared to other investments and Spain is seen as a safe and affordable place to live or holiday, so it certainly makes sense to own property here.”
Thanks to Mark Paddon for doing this interview.
Mark Paddon BSc Hons Building Surveying. MCIOB. FAS. CAAT.
Chartered Institute of Building Member No 1470272.
Arquitecto Técnico (CAAT Valencia) Colegiado No 5949
T: 0034 962807247
M: 0034 653733066
Most buyers in Spain know they should have a survey, but some are rushed or smoke screened by agents or simply don’t have time to find one.
Fortunately structural surveys do exist in Spain and Costa Blanca surveyor Mark Paddon has produced a free 17 page buyer’s guide to help increase awareness in the market highlighting common pitfalls and ways to avoid them …
Download the FREE 17 page e-book by clicking here.
After you click on the link you can read the book – if you want to save it onto your computer, you would click on ‘file’ then ‘save as’ so you can permanently keep it to read later on.
The book is in the common PDF document format which most computers have already pre-loaded. If you don’t have it (it is free) you can download it here.
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Property Section Index:
- Mortgages in Spain
- Property Prices
- Free Inspection Trips
- Renting Long-Term
- Repossessed Property
- Property Tax
- Sell Your House in Spain
- Buyers Guide – Costa Blanca
- Buyers Guide – Spain
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Main author and owner of SpainMadeSimple.com which was started in 2004 when I first moved to Spain.
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