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Spain is Different articleCampbell D. Ferguson of Survey Spain Chartered Surveyors, recently had an article published in ‘Spain is Different’, which looked at the importance of using a surveyor when buying property in Spain. There can be issues such as incorrect legal paperwork, where a property owner may have carried out improvements legally or illegally that could be recorded inaccurately. Physical defects with the property may not appear to be problems at first, but can often result in serious implications further down the line. Concrete decay, damp, insect attack, subsidence and earth tremor are just some of the problems that affect Spanish properties. The variable climate means that it is very important that property is adequately maintained. These are some of the issues that can be evaluated by a surveyor.

It is worth spending a little extra, when you are planning on buying something as important as a new home. This could save you a lot of money and stress in the long run. Buyers are often told by estate agents looking to make a quick sale that ‘surveys are unnecessary in Spain’ or ‘there are no surveyors in this area’. Often buyers are rushed in to purchasing a property. Contrary to popular belief, there are a number of RICS qualified British chartered surveyors living and working throughout Spain.

Too many people focus their attention only on finding a reputable lawyer, which is essential, but how many people also use a surveyor? Read this article to find out more:

In marketing, everybody has a secret that they are just dying to tell you about. My secret is that sometimes lawyers don’t visit the properties for which they are completing the purchase documents. No matter how conscientious they are, and how complete and thorough the paperwork, if the property is not inspected you could be the ‘perfect’ owner of problems. In the boom times, when buyers said that they wanted to make their purchase subject to survey, they would be regularly told that, ‘there are no surveyors around here’ and/or ‘the guy behind you in the queue does not and so by the time you have your survey the property will be sold to him’. And so the buyer was rushed into the purchase, with many finding to their cost that the property was physically not all that it appeared. Thankfully, for the prudent buyer at least, things are not like that anymore.

Problems can be associated with the legal paperwork, as often owners have improvements carried out, legally or illegally, and these are not recorded on the title (Escritura). Accordingly, there can be problems if the buyer takes these on and then finds that they have to obtain the permissions at their cost, in money and stress, in the future or, worse still, can’t get them and have to demolished all or part of the property. Also, when Spanish banks’ valuers carry out their work, they are obliged by law to provide a valuation based on the lesser of the floor area stated in the title or the measured floor area. So, if you want an additional loan in the future or are selling and a buyer wants a mortgage, there could be a nasty surprise waiting for you. Similarly, if the Catastral description is not correct, it can be an indication that the missing parts of the property do not have permission. It also probably means that IBI and other tax has not been paid on these missing parts so that if they are ‘found’ by the authorities, perhaps denounced by an aggrieved neighbour who wonders why your taxes are less than his, then you can be responsible for the last five years tax bills and penalties, no matter whether you were the owner or not at the time. Yes, the solicitor may have confirmed that there are no tax bills outstanding when you buy, but these bills won’t have been raised at that time if the missing parts are only discovered by the authorities thereafter.

And then of course there are the physical problems with the property. When most buyers go around a property, they are usually accompanied by an agent or the owner or both, with dogs and children and lovely paintings and furniture and views all distracting. They pick up the ambience of the property and the accommodation, but will probably feel awkward about poking around in hidden damp corners, opening cupboards to reveal undecorated cracking and testing services. Sometimes, even the most obvious problems are overlooked in the enthusiasm of the anticipated purchase. On the other hand, sometimes properties have been lost because of concerns about imagined problems, which turn out not to be serious at all. An independent, educated and experienced eye can find what is there, its cause and possible solutions.

Contrary to estate agents assurances, there are a number of British qualified RICS chartered surveyors working throughout Spain, with many of them having been here for 10, 20 and even 30 years. We carry out building surveys prior to purchase and when a defect is found or occurs thereafter. In addition, much of our work relates to market valuations on behalf of potential buyers and also for British and other courts where the owners are involved in value differences with regard to matrimonial or inheritance disputes or valuations relating to tax and even seizure of criminally acquired assets. Most of these surveyors can be instructed through the Survey Spain Network, with the reports being in English and independent of bank, developer, town hall, estate agent or any other influence. The value figure given, after considerable research and visiting, is what the experience surveyor truly believes the property can sell at to a willing buyer. What we see is what you get!

So, whenever you read an article about it being essential that you use a conscientious solicitor, which is absolutely correct, always add ‘and a surveyor’. It may be a small extra fee, but when you’re spending hundreds of thousands of your own money and taking on a substantial personal loan mortgaged against the property, it could save you many thousands or even tens of thousands of euros. You’ll know what you’re buying and that’s reassuring.

Campbell D Ferguson, FRICS, Chartered Surveyor in Spain. www.surveyspain.com