16 May, 2009 @ 08:01
1 min read

My Off-Plan property nightmare


Buyer loses tens of thousands after buying unbuilt property through complex web of agents and a lawyer who wasn’t interested

A BRITISH man has spent a year trying to unravel an off-plan property scandal that has left him and others tens of thousands in debt.

William Bell and friends lost 30,000 euros investing in an off-plan scheme through Viva Estates in 2004.

Now they have been told that the development in Zahara de la Sierra, Cadiz, is not going ahead and Viva Estates has ‘gone into administration’.

“They tell me that if I sue them they will go bust and I will never get anything back. It is very unfair”

In a complicated chain of events it emerges that up to four different developers and estate agencies were involved in the scheme, which collapsed last year.

Despite not having planning permission for the El Azahar project, developers took a down payment of 30,000 euros, which has since disappeared.

It is understood they took large amounts of money from other buyers.

Now, after chasing the three companies involved, Bell has either received no reply or had veiled threats that he can’t take them to court.

“They tell me that if I sue them they will go bust and I will never get anything back. It is very unfair,” said Bell, who lives in the UK.

Bell, who desperately needs the money to help with his mortgage, has been chasing it since last summer.

“It is tantamount to robbery,” said Bell. “I was promised my deposit was protected. “Now I find it has mysteriously disappeared.”

Bell – along with his business partner and her parents – put down deposits for five houses in El Azahar.

He was assured by Viva that his deposit, paid to developer Anglo-Span, would be kept in a secure account and fully refundable if the project didn’t go ahead.

But four years later he discovered that the deposit had in fact been paid to a third company Espasierra.

Right Mess

Despite frequent calls and emails to representatives from all three companies he has never received a reply from Espasierra and has only received increasingly threatening emails from Viva and Anglo-Span.

In one, Anglo-Span representative Ray Allon wrote: “We are in a right mess with very little chance of recovering your deposits, although you are legally entitled to that.”

His legal firm, who were involved in the deal with Viva from the beginning, have also not responded to Bell’s increasingly desperate pleas for help.

“But because it’s fallen through and there is no money for them, they have lost interest.”


  1. Ah yes, Viva estates.

    I remember queueing at Malaga Airport, back in the good old days (late 1990’s) and at the passport control there was Viva Estates, trying to flog properties by handing out leaflets to people arriving in Spain. Talk about “in your face marketing” from which one could not escape.

    One time they even had a whole group of dancers all kitted out in Flamenco costumes! They really tried hard, too hard I thought, and I always viewed them with suspicion. Nothing in the article surprises me.

    A deposit should always be put in an escrow account and never be paid to a representative of the company you are buying from. Better to put it in the lawyers account subject to completion, mind you many lawyers are on the fiddle too…

  2. You only had to look at Viva Estates marketing and agressive tactics to know that they should not be touched with a barge pole.Glossy monthly brouchures full page advertising had to be paid for somehow.So many offices who was paying for all this (you )
    I feel sorry for those who have been caught up in this, but in this case 5 properties they were buying?,hardly a retired person coming over to live. You were i am afraid lured by the off plan and make money.Whilst this works in boom times a recession quickly shows the cracks in all these get rich quick schemes. Viva estates was an unsustainable business like the construction industy it has hit the buffers.
    The sad fact is that the money paid to these people is not protected however i should imagine that this money funded the magazines offices and advertiseing to keep the money coming in .Contrast this with the Mandolf share scam exactly the same as long as new money is coming in its ok when the money flow stops ,crash there are no reserves to fall back on . All the newspapers were happy to take his massive adverts. “Pack of cards all comes tumbleing down”
    El cinico

  3. You should always do your homework on the developer and agent you are using and never skimp on any legal support/backing that will help if things get hairy later on. Personally I would never buy anything that hasn’t been built already.

  4. I agree Megan. There’s been a lot of posts on the Olive Press recently about this sort of thing amd most times you have to say thta this wouldn’t have occurred if people had done their homework properly.

  5. It is better to take off-plan property. But so many people are facing problem by this because of cheaters. Off- plan property left thousand of people in debts. Take care while opting for an off-plan property.

  6. Don’t buy off-plan property because the new PGOU’s aren’t going to get any bigger. Safest bet is to buy anything within the boundaries and which is 10-15 years old. IF you wan’t to buy a property outside this, you’re looking for trouble

  7. Any purchaser currently suffering from Spanish Off Plan Property Bank Guarantee Abuse please go to:


    And join the petition.

    Kind regards


  8. An investor’s desire to make money often overcomes the practical need to do “due diligence” – who puts down a deposit for 5 units without legally verifying that the project even has approved Planning Permission, all legal documents/bank and insurance accounts are verified, large part of final payment only due at Transfer WITH First Occupancy License granted, etc.
    Moral at present – stick to buying existing property that’s in a good location and 10-15 years old.

  9. Good advice from Joe. Of course, due diligance is what Spanish lawyers are paid to do, and their inability to do this properly has resulted in many of the problems we now see. Lawyers of course will blame the local authority and the Junta, and that too is justifiable. Buyers are by far the innocent party in the case where a lawyer and notary were involved, and yet Spain penalises them. That is a breach of human rights and will tarnish Spain forever unless they sort this mess out properly i.e. compensation.

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