Buying a new build property in Spain; what you should check before you sign the contract

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Whenever you buy a new build property you expect there to be a number of minor defects. But some people who buy overseas, especially in countries such as Spain, have found the property has dozens of problems. Some have been relatively minor, others (such as leaking roofs and dodgy electrics) have not. What can you do?

Buying a new build property in Spain – the problems

In the UK, many homeowners arrange for their property to be inspected before it’s handed over to make sure there aren’t any defects. But if you’re buying in somewhere like Spain, it’s not something that’s normally carried out.

SAVVY TIP: Even though it’s not standard practice doesn’t mean you can’t get your property inspected – and it could be well worth it. One property inspection company says it finds an average of 35 defects on every property it inspects.

A snagging inspection should be done once the property has had a basic clean (called a ‘builder’s clean’), which is designed to remove some of the cement dust and debris on windows and walls. That way you (or the professional snagging inspector) can see whether there are any scratches on windows or ceramic tiles. The inspection should include:

  • Plot and property size check. Inspection of the dimensions of the property and plot size.
  • Testing of all utilities. (gas, electricity and water) as well as plumbing, the central heating boiler and electrical wiring.

SAVVY TIP: If your property includes solar panels, these will be checked as well. Electrical wiring checks would make sure wiring has been earthed and that circuit breakers have been fitted.

  • Checking of any white goods provided.
  • Testing of floor levels. Including patio flooring, to make sure water can drain away.
  • Checking of finishes. Including tiling and any carpentry work.

SAVVY TIP: You can carry out the snagging yourself or you can hire a professional to do it for you. One company, Inspectahome, charges £280 to inspect a 2/3 bedroom apartment or villa with the price including as many visits as are needed to ensure the problems have been rectified.

Your rights in Spain

Whether you inspect the property yourself or use a professional it’s important to know what your rights are:

  • Before completion. You don’t have the legal right to check your property for defects before you’ve completed on the purchase, although many builders and developers will allow it. If possible, see if you can get it written into the contract that you won’t complete without you or a professional having the chance to inspect the property.

SAVVY TIP: If the property is snagged before completion the snagging list can be included as an exhibit at the Notary completion (a Notary is an official who normally witnesses the signing of contracts).

  • If you find minor problems during the snagging process there’s no right to pull out, even if there are dozens of defects. You can only do this if the property has major problems, such as a ceiling that’s come down or another structural problem.
  • After completion. If your developer refuses to let you carry out a snagging inspection before completion, by law you have 15 days in which to carry out your first snagging and the builder must put right the defects found within 28 working days.

SAVVY TIP: The problem with carrying out your first snagging after completion is that it can be much harder to get the builder to put any problems right once you’ve handed over all the money.

  • During the first year. The builder is responsible for repairing any defects, unless they’ve been caused by wear and tear.
  • During the second and third years. The builder is only responsible for major problems that would make the property uninhabitable, such as no heating or hot water or a defective roof.

SAVVY TIP: If the builder won’t comply, you should complain to OMIC, the Spanish consumer body. It can impose a fine on the builder if it upholds your complaint.

  • First ten years. The developer must take out an insurance policy (similar to the warranty schemes that operate in the UK) that guarantees the costs of repairing structural defects in the first ten years.

Useful links:

Spanish Property Insight: Useful information about all aspects of buying in Spain. It was set up by a property journalist called Mark Stücklin who writes the ‘Spanish Property Doctor’ column in the Sunday Times. a community website for property owners and expats in Spain.

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