For anyone buying a home in Spain, a property survey is a must. It means you can plan wisely and surprises won’t crop up just when you don’t want them. But what can you expect from a survey, and how do you choose a surveyor? Spain Property Guides spoke to Campbell Ferguson, founder of Survey Spain and RICS Spain’s first Vice-President, to find out.
Why is a survey necessary?
Buying your dream home is a big step and you want your move to go as smoothly as possible. Spain’s building codes have regular updates and, generally speaking, new sees a higher quality of finish than previously. However, you don’t want to leave it to chance that corners haven’t been cut if you’re buying a new home - and, if you’re buying a resale, you don’t want to find out you’ve inherited someone else’s problems.
A survey helps you to understand straight from the beginning the condition of the property, and will cover areas many non-specialists wouldn’t even think to look at. In other words, it stops you from going in blind - and gives you peace of mind that everything is as it should be, or gives you the knowledge of how to make it that way.
What are the main types of property surveys in Spain for house buyers?
For someone looking at buying their dream home here in sunny Spain - or thinking of purchasing an investment property to rent out - there are three main types of surveys: building surveys, valuations and investment/development appraisals.
A building survey provides a deep-dive look into the condition of a property you’re looking at purchasing. As Campbell tells us, 'We make our clients fully aware of the condition of the building and give advice on which defects are serious and which are not - plus how they might be corrected. We provide a detailed report in English, normally within one week of the inspection, based on what we call "ECC". This is finding the Evidence of defects, determining the Causes and suggesting the Cures. In doing so, we act 100% for the client and not the seller. Our advice helps our clients make informed decisions and, as an investment, often saves them many more times than the cost of our services!’
A big advantage of using a specialist here is the sheer breadth and depth of their expertise and experiences. They’ve seen it all before, and know exactly what to look out for. 'We have a tailored approach to your individual needs, finding out what you need to know - but we also look to find answers to those essential questions the average buyer doesn’t necessarily know to ask,’ says Campbell.
The survey also goes beyond just the physical fabric of the building. 'Survey Spain’s reports give an in-depth insight into the home. We perform extra due diligence checks, as we often find big discrepancies in the paperwork between tax or title descriptions and the physical property. These can only be found by detailed inspection and measurement of the building and comparing that with the legal, tax and other paperwork.’
A good valuation report gives you an unbiased, independent and accurate insight into the property’s market value. Campbell says that a quality valuation report should, like at Survey Spain, be carried out by a Chartered Valuation Surveyor following the standards of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and International Valuation Standards Council. It should also be reviewed by a second valuer.
A big advantage of using a specialist here is the sheer breadth and depth of their expertise and experiences. They’ve seen it all before, and know exactly what to look out for.
Many buyers use Survey Spain’s RICS Chartered Valuation Surveyors in addition to the 'tasaciÃ³n’ Spanish reports, as these often tend to be inaccurate. This can be because of a variety of reasons, such as 10% deductions in value because part of a complex - but not the property itself - is within a protected zone, or based on an estimation of a property’s external size having only measured it internally. Survey Spain’s independent valuations, however, are historically within 98.5% of known purchase prices.
Buying properties for investment - or renting out your holiday home while you’re not there - is an increasingly popular option for overseas buyers. Here again, a survey can be crucial to making sure everything’s as it should be. According to Campbell, 'We would carry out a physical inspection and due diligence on existing investments. This includes making sure it complies with the current lease and we provide advice on actions to take to secure the income. We can also give guidance on how the property and income can be improved. With 18 years in the market, we also give you an analysis of potential alternative use and tenant and market changes. Recent changes in legal requirements have made compliance and knowledge of the consequences essential before signing a lease.’
More and more popular, especially on the Costa del Sol and Costa Blanca, is development for investment. In this case, your surveyor will need to adapt their approach. 'For development appraisals, we advise on current site value and end market value. Additionally, we carefully analyse the proposals and give guidance on likely market progression throughout the construction period, which can be particularly useful for buyers in the early stages. That way, you will understand likely value changes right through the construction period up to completion and sale.’
How do you choose a property surveyor in Spain?
Your property surveyor needs to be trustworthy, ethical, reliable and, above all, experienced. In Spain, you’ll also likely want one who is bilingual, so they can deal with local Spanish administration, but can also present the results to you in understandable English. Survey Spain individual surveyors who inspected the property can often be consulted directly for any 'follow on’ questions.
Your property surveyor needs to be trustworthy, reliable and, above all, a specialist with a superb level of attention to detail. In Spain, you’ll also likely want one who is bilingual.
Survey Spain has helped many of our readers over the years and, in addition to the excellent feedback we receive, we have always been happy to recommend them precisely because of the high quality of their surveyors. As Campbell, himself the first Vice-President of RICS Spain, says:
'All Survey Spain’s Network of Surveyors are RICS or equivalent professionals, instructed and controlled to work to the highest ethical standards. Every Report or Valuation is reviewed by a second RICS surveyor. We are continually updating and enhancing our knowledge and skills through formal Continuous Professional Development courses and by understanding the changing conventions in the local market. All our clients are protected by a formal complaints handling procedure and we have a strict code of conduct.’
'Many of us have experience in both the UK and Spain, and have been new buyers ourselves, so we understand the special nature of dealing with overseas property. We are fluent in English and Spanish and have won an Overseas Property Professional Award for Excellence, and an Association of International Property Professionals award for "Most Outstanding Example of Customer Service".’