The A Plus Villas Concept
Building a property in Southern Spain
From a building point-of-view, Southern Spain differs from Northern Spain as much as France differs from Sweden for exemple. In addition, building a property in Spain today is no longer the same as fifteen years ago. In the old days, you could start building just about anywhere, but several highprofile scandals led the authorities to put their house in order to introduce highly complex planning regulations that need to be followed rigourously. In the meantime, the uncontrolled growth of the construction sector has come to a standstill.
The most obvious disadvantages of this evolution are the more complex procedures for obtaining building permits, and the limited availability of materials. However, there are many benefits: better legal integrity relating to administrative aspects, and faster, high-quality execution at more attractive prices, from the technical point of view. Most of the charlatans have been forced out of business and qualified builders are now queuing for potential contracts. On the other hand, the burden of Spanish red tape still has to be dealt with. Respecting the proper hierarchy is key: always mention the right name in the right place and make sure you use the right title when adressing officials.
Applying for a building permit is a typical example of Spanish complexity. The procedure consists of three phases, each with its own documentation and specifications which need to be approved by the colleges of the architect and the so-called 'apparejador' or technical surveyor.
The three phases are:
1. Submitting the 'Proyecto Basico' (basic design outline). This application is similar to obtaining a planning certificate in Belgium. In theory it's not really required but in the Spanish context it's indispensable in the light of the subsequent mandatory phase and the financial loss in the event that the certificate is not granted. What's more, the correct interpretation of the complicated rules that apply for sloping and very steep plots of land is quite a challenge. Starting this phase without the services of a surveyor (for the precise specification of the contour lines) and a geologist (to survey the subsoil and review the seismic risks present in south-east Spain) is not recommended.
2. Submitting the 'Proyecto de Ejecución (detailed desing outline). This documentation is similar to the FULLY detailed construction specifications which are required in Belgium, including all the execution details, the stability survey and all other technical surveys.
3. Applying for the 'Licencia de Primera Occupación'. Once the building is finished, it's time to apply for the first occupier license. All as-built documentation must be submitted, after first being checked again by the college of architects, and an official technical engineer will visit the site for an inspection.
It goes without saying that all this paperwork and inspection requires extra time and money. The taxes levied by the authorities are consequently much higher than in Belgium. In some cases you may also have to take into account the costs of preparing public amenities (the adjacent boardwalks, ...) and a guarantee (up to 75% of the execution costs) that needs to be set aside for this expenditure. All the preceding aspects are generously compensated by lower wages for building in Spain and lower costs to comply with less-demanding regulations for energy efficiency.
The architects supervises the entire construction process and plays a role which is highly respected in Spain. He is assisted by a team of indispensable collaborators who ensure that the architect is able to concentrate on the concepual and aesthetic aspects of the construction project. The team includes the 'apparejador' or technical surveyor who supervises all technical aspects at the building site and manages all the numbers and figures (measurements, data, budgets, etc. ). He reports to the architect and his own college of apparejadores. Unlike in Belgium, the use of a 'general contractor' is encouraged in Spain whith a lower VAT-rate (10% instead of 21%).
In other words, building your own property in Spain still offers many benefits when compared with Belgium but it shouldnt be underestimated. And don't forget that the typical way of building in Spain - nearly always a concrete skeleton structure filled with wafer-thin brick walls and lots of plasterboard - generally does not come close to the quality and refinement that we are used to in Belgium.
However, the right guidance can really make the difference.