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Property Surveys

25/04/2007

There are a number of types of survey that people can request and need for particular situations.

Mortgage Survey - which is carried out on behalf of a bank or other mortgage lender. These surveys, though paid for by the borrower, really have the lender as the client and are merely to ensure that the lender's money is safe. A mortgage survey in Spain, unless it is carried out on behalf of a UK or Gibraltarian bank, has to be carried out by a tasador acting on behalf of one of the Sociedades de Tasación approved by the Bank of Spain. These companies have to place a substantial 'bond' with the central Bank, which I understand to be a kind of indemnity fund where lenders can be compensated in case of gross error by the tasadores. This central control can lead to the Sociedades being used to influence the market such as recently where they were instructed to undervalue in an attempt to reduce mortgage lending and slow the rise in values. So their valuations deliberately may not actually reflect the price that the property could fetch on the market.

They also tend to be more of a 'box ticking' exercise rather than the more subjective building survey by a Chartered Surveyor. However, I have to say that I am impressed by their reports as far as they go. We at Survey Spain do work in conjunction with tasadores where we incorporate their report within our own, thus satisfying the requirements of the Spanish law, whilst our explanation of the tasadores report and our comprehensive defects report is of more direct use to the buyer.

Building Survey - the most useful kind for house buyers, where the surveyor takes on the role of the buyer and inspects and reports on all those matters that might not have a major influence on the mortgage value, but undoubtedly could affect the buyer's equity and quality of enjoyment of the house.

Structural Survey - only really carried out to investigate the cause of a problem found and can involve, for example, breaking into the structure or foundations to test their construction

Valuation Survey - often combined with a building survey. A market valuation of anything is described as much more of an art that a science. There is no secret magic formula handed down by from generation to generation in secure rooms by people with trouser legs rolled up. No, it's a matter of gathering as much evidence, knowledge and information of what's happening in an area and its economy, the influences on people and places.

This I have to say is extremely difficult in Spain in relation to finding reliable comparative evidence of what price properties have actually sold at - the full money paid. So many envelopes passing around the notary's table and that's not counting those at the unknown meeting in the neighbouring bar before! Sometimes even the escritura descriptions can be a 'work of art', with the sizes and accommodation bearing no relation to what is actually on the land. Yes, one can create appraisals, work out all the details of a property and apply equations and statistics, but at the end of the day the valuer has to look at the result on his computer screen and say to himself, "is that a realistic value?" That's why it's always stated as an Opinion of Value. Nobody can say exactly down to the last centimo what anyone unknown will pay for a property after negotiation.

That's perhaps where I can criticise the tasadores, as they DO have to apply formulas to the statistics of a property, its neighbourhood and location and stick with the results. Whatever comes out of the machine at the end is the stated value. They are bound to do so by detailed laws and regulations which, whilst ensuring standardisation as all properties are treated in the same way, it removes the subjective element, the 'art', and, as I'm sure we've all found to our frustration, can result in figures far from market reality. Having said that, I've found their reports very useful and thorough in considering the facts of a property.

Copyright
Campbell D Ferguson
F.R.I.C.S. Chartered Surveyor
Survey Spain
00 34 952 923 520

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