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Lawyer Raymundo Larraín Nesbitt explains what snagging is and how to go about it after taking delivery of newly-built home in Spain.

Written By Raymundo Larraín Nesbitt

Snagging is an informal expression used within the construction industry which is used to describe the process of defect identification and resolution on buying off-plan properties.

However, even with the best will in the world, sometimes things are overlooked only to be found faulty later. Ideally, the inspection should be carried out before you move in so that the developer will have time to address all the problems before you complete. The main reason for this is that Lawyers can practice a retention on completion (using the funds as leverage) until any flaws or pending works detected during the snagging are carried out to your approval. If you hand over all the monies at completion you lose your leverage to have the flaws fixed. Which is exactly why it is in your best interests to hold back your cards in this game and have the withheld funds acting as an ‘incentive’ to get the job done (to your satisfaction). This allows you to maintain the upper hand on negotiating.Empty house and blank room, the repairman checking list for looking the point to repair or prepare the home to the buyer.

It should be noted that Lawyers do not carry out physical inspection of properties (snagging lists); we only examine the associated legal paperwork. Which is why I always strongly advocate clients to engage the professional services of a reputable surveyor. I have badgered relentlessly in previous articles on the usefulness of hiring a chartered surveyor. In my opinion, it should be mandatory when it comes to purchasing off-plan or rural property (in fact, any kind of property in Spain). Ideally, your surveyor should be a fellow of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), so you are guaranteed they work to British standards. You should know that Spanish survey reports are very different from our own.

The cost of a valuation survey will be largely offset by the problems that are picked up by a seasoned professional. This valuable report can be then used by a Lawyer to know what weak points to watch out for and which are likely to give problems down the line. The Lawyer will then use this insight to his client’s advantage knowing what should be negotiated and worded into a Private Purchase Contract, prior to completion, to better protect the buyer’s interests or else to practice a retention at completion and withhold funds to secure the satisfactory resolution of the spotted flaws.

Off-plan Snagging Checklist

  • Check for damp patches. These will become hands down the number one enemy of your Spanish property.
  • Check for mould growths.
  • Check for mismatched tiles.
  • Check for leaking faucets.
  • Check for flaked painting.
  • Check for damaged appliances.
  • Check for unsuitable drainage.
  • Check that any shutters you have are secure, and if electric, that the switches work.
  • Check for scratches and scrapes on the windows and on the walls

Below is a list of questions that you may want to ask yourself before completing on any new-build property:

  • Is the plasterwork finished well and without cracking and is the paintwork complete?
  • Do the doors and windows open and close properly?
  • Do you have electric, telephone and internet points as specified on the plan?
  • Have all the electrical appliances that you agreed to buy, or that were to be included in the price, been installed?
  • Has the tiling, grouting and painting been finished to your satisfaction?
  • If your water has been connected, check that all the taps (including showers, baths, sinks and exterior taps) work and that the toilets flush correctly.
  • If you have irrigation, does it work?
  • Confirm whether water and electric will be and if not what date can you reliably visit the property with services connected. Most utilities cannot be contracted until after legal completion of the property and service providers vary as to when they can make the connections. Do not assume you will be able to use your property on the day of legal completion.

Take a record of any faults that you find and inform the developer as soon as possible, or alternatively ask your Lawyer to raise any problems you find directly with the developer. Don’t forget to take a notepad and a camera, if you have one, on any snagging inspection so that you have a reliable record afterwards unless you follow my advice and hire a professional such as a chartered surveyor.

To close, and speaking strictly from personal experience alone, anecdotal evidence would seem to suggest that waterproof insulation standards in southern Spain (read against rainfall) are seriously found wanting when I compare them to their UK counterpart. I lived for five years in Edinburgh (read non-stop monsoon) and never once did I have damp patches or problems with rainfall. In southern Spain, on the other hand, where rain is scant, damp patches sprouted after heavy rainfall especially in the fall. Take it from me, you may want to keep a close eye on roof insulation in Spain in new-builds.

Our law firm can provide you referrals of trustworthy chartered surveyors that work to UK standards. Ask us.

Larraín Nesbitt Lawyers is a law firm specialized in taxation, inheritance, conveyancing, and litigation. For more information e-mail, telephone (+34) 952 19 22 88 or complete their contact form

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