Despite all the scare stories and TV programmes recounting personal financial disasters, many foreign property buyers in Spain still spend hundreds of thousands or even millions of pounds or euro without having an expert look over the property for defects. Sometimes the buyer then ‘repents at leisure’ afterwards, both because defects are found or, as often happens too, the ideal property they reluctantly discounted because of imagined serious flaws, turns out only to have superficial easily remedied problems. Compared to the cost of the property or even just the costs of repairs or checking the legal status, the cost is small for the reassurance provided by an RICS survey.

Many more buyers have surveys carried out in UK, and in the Nordic and some other northern European countries such building surveys are required by law. The systems and information sources may be more accessible and reliable there, which can make the process simpler for the surveyor than in Spain. So what, for example are the major differences for the surveyor between carrying out property valuations and building surveys in Spain compared to the UK?

Spanish Surveys

  • Spain is larger and less densely populated. This means greater distances to travel and more time required to conduct a survey.
  • Property values, on which the fee is normally based initially, can be reduced because of remote locations, but the same amount of work has to be done.
  • Title Registry information is often unreliable; historically due to people trying to evade tax and it means that property descriptions and prices can be incorrect.
  • Many properties have been constructed and/or adapted either legally or illegally over the years. These modifications are often not registered on the title description or are likely to result in fines, demolition or even just unsalable properties when discovered by the appropriate authorities.
  • Surveyors of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) working in Spain have to research and gain detailed market knowledge in order to assess the price of a property and make many more significant comparisons than their UK counterparts. This is necessary in order to judge information as to its accuracy and reliability. In the UK reliable, previous sale prices from the title registry are available on many commercial internet sites.
  • RICS surveyors in Spain value properties on the over-wall floor area as that is the system used in the Title Deed (escritura) descriptions and in the Catastral (Tax) descriptions. Often, actual measurement can find the information from these sources to be incorrect for a variety of accidental or deliberate reasons.

UK valuations

  • Reliable Title Registry sale prices can be obtained on the Internet in the UK.
  • Given the density of population and housing, a large number of surveyors in the UK are work within a very small geographical area, which means they can visit a property quickly.
  • They sometimes have multiple surveys in an area and so can assess a number of properties in one journey. This means that the costs and time allocated to each survey can be shared and reduced. Often over the years the same property can be inspected and valued many times.
  • Due to the standardisation of building types, reliable market information on comparable properties is much easier to find and compile. Despite the difficulties, RICS surveyors in all countries have to be thorough and conscientious in working for their client. This takes time and therefore in Spain it can be a little more expensive than their colleagues are able to work to the UK.

Remember, though it is possible to reduce fees by having a less detailed report, you always want a conscientious, knowledgeable, trained and experienced surveyor to carry out a full survey of the property and not skimp on that.

If you have any questions regarding property valuations or building surveys in Spain or would like to speak to a RICS surveyor, please contact Campbell D. Ferguson, FRICS, who has been advising buyers on what’s real and what’s not for more than 10 years on Costa del Sol and for 40 years throughout UK and Europe. The Survey Spain Network, arrange valuations, building and structural surveys anywhere in mainland Spain, the Balearic and Canary Islands, and Gibraltar.