For many people interested in moving to Spain, buying your dream home can be a daunting and confusing task.
Everyone has heard those horror stories of that couple who got cheated out of their life savings on a bad country home purchase. Illegal construction, sellers hiding fines and demolition orders on existing structures, building on protected land (huge fines and even jail time) all because you trusted the person who sold you the house. In the eyes of the Spanish ¨justice¨ system, the owner of the house is responsible for everything – not the builder (if you´ve done any extensions or renovations), not the guy who sold you the house and who assured you that all would be fine and exactly as you want it…it ALL lands on YOU. So you want to make VERY certain you´re not putting your head in a noose when you sign on the dotted line.
Furthermore, if you are told ¨that´s just how they do it here ¨ when you are recommended to build without a permit and just ¨pay the fine later¨ if something happens, then you should probably think twice. Although this may have been true in the past, Spanish law has caught up with European standards and they are now heavily enforcing violations and have been for some time. Usually this recommendation comes from the builder himself (big surprise) and they don´t even bother to check the status of your land or house with the land registry, city hall, etc….and suddenly the police are at your door telling you to tear the whole thing down and the builder is nowhere to be found.
The worst part is these stories are not just legends. They happen every day and the reason is that the real estate industry in Spain is grossly unregulated and pretty much a ¨buyer beware¨ market when it comes to knowing what you are purchasing.
To be fair, not everyone is a crook and there are many professional and respectable estate agents out there, but even the more established agents (with prominent offices in the towns) don´t collect all the planning and technical information on a property when making a sale – especially for country homes which are the usual type of purchase foreigners are looking for. Agents are motivated to sell and are more interested in your desire to buy than getting all the facts straight. Couple that with the fact that you don´t speak the language and are unfamiliar with the laws and customs….well, you are almost a sitting duck.
Of course, it doesn´t have to be this way.
Safe Landings was created by architect Elena Jimenez of EME Architects www.emearchitects.com. Elena has a Masters degree in Architecture from the Universidad Politécnica de Valencia and has been working throughout the province (and country) for over 13 years managing/designing major projects (several million euros) to minor construction projects through her full-service design studio.
The need for Safe Landings became apparent after running into a series of British clients who found themselves in hot water with fines, criminal infractions and, unknowingly, in bed with shady builders who were overcharging for a poorly done job…and a job done illegally to boot! In some cases, the builders were connected with the agency who sold the property in the first place. Typically this comes from the buyer wanting to do renovations and the seller assuring them that there will be no problem and they can do everything they need to get the property up to speed, or ready to use as a guest house, or whatever they need to say to get you to buy. Sometimes the builder or estate agent is British (aaahhh, so nice to deal with someone in my native language), but that usually means they have even LESS of an idea on how things work here and stumble into trouble (well, it´s actually YOU that gets in trouble) again and again.
But despite these assurances, nobody goes to get a permit (although they might charge you for one) and nobody checks to see if the land you´re building on (illegally) is environmentally protected (building on environmentally protected land can actually get you jail time as a punishment). None of these property investors knew they even had an issue until they received an official letter from the city hall informing them of the infraction. There was even one case where the home owner complained to the builder, and the builder (who was of course asking for more money at the time to ¨finish¨ the project that was already 6 months overdue) threatened to report the home owner to the police for the suddenly ¨illegal¨ construction unless the money was paid.
In most cases, buyers were assured by the sellers/agents that the house was just fine….and then wound up facing thousands (or more) in fines, and in many cases, had to tear down everything that had been built.
So, SAFE LANDINGS takes a close look at this mess and does exactly the opposite.
Before you buy your property, you can have a full, in-depth technical investigation through proper channels to ensure you get ALL the information on your home and what you are buying. Are there any pending fines on the property? Any demolition orders? Do the blueprints in the deeds match what you´re buying or do they even exist? Is there a plan for a highway to pass through your area? What´s the real possibility of connecting to power or water mains (if you´re remote) etc.. There can be a surprisingly long list of things that are VERY good to know before you buy. Did we mention that all this comes to you gift-wrapped in native-English so there´s absolutely no confusion? Elena is a native-level English speaker but also 100% Spanish, so she has the in depth knowledge of the Spanish laws and regulations and can convey these sometimes complex issues to clients in their native language.
And not only is the property fully researched, you get the benefit of the expert opinion on if this investment is everything you are really looking for. Maybe, for instance, it´s your dream to open a bed and breakfast and the property you found would be just perfect with a little renovation and extension….but in reality it´s a poor purchase because there are building/land restrictions and you can´t touch the structure or get permits to run it. Safe Landings could help you discover these problems ahead of time an perhaps recommend a property in an area more suited to a bed and breakfast, better connected and with the end business in mind. This is one of many scenarios where Safe Landings can act as a serious asset and safety net in your dream home purchase in Spain.