Having recently looked at buying and selling a property in Spain, here’s the first part of a short guide to buying land to build your own home…
ALEJANDRO Giménez Ferrer is the principal of Alejandro Giménez Architects; the developer of the San Diego urbanization; and a good friend of Terra Meridiana. We had an chat about what prospective purchasers of plots should look into, and be prepared for, in Spain.
“The first thing is find out what kind of plot is being offered,” Alejandro says.
Traditionally, land here is classified as urban, urbanisable, or green belt. The latest Land Act, passed in 2007, changed the definitions a little, but, in practice, the only land you can legally build on is an urban plot. This means it must have, at least: vehicle access, power, water and sewage connections, and street lighting.
“If the basic infrastructure is not in place,” Alejandro points out, “there could be problems.”
Neither green belt (which is protected, for scenic, historic, scientific or cultural reasons or due to environmental risks, public-domain issues, or agricultural or natural importance) nor urbanisable land (which is not protected and could be transformed into urban land, if town planning and infrastructure are developed) can be built upon.
The next step is to ask the local town hall for a planning certificate (certificación urbanística) that determines what can be built on the plot. This will confirm the type of land and detail any requirements, such as: minimum plot size and separation boundaries, maximum built area (expressed as a ratio of plot size and only including square metres above ground), floor area (again, a ratio of plot size), roof height, and any style restrictions.
You can request this yourself from the town hall or ask an architect to produce a technical report, for which they will be legally liable, detailing what will be permitted on the plot in line with the general town plan (Plan General de Ordenación Urbana).
You should also ensure there are no development restrictions in either the town plan or the Property Registry (Registro de la Propiedad), due to proximity to the coast, rivers, or highways, third-party rights (like power, water and drainage connections) and other rights of way. Any of these could mean a building license will not be issued and, if work begins without one, could result in it being halted, demolition ordered, and fines levied.
Once you’ve confirmed building on the plot is possible, Alejandro says the basic things to think about are: the direction the house would face (south-facing being the best), type and topography of the soil (if it’s rocky, unstable, or on a slope, construction costs climb), the view, and any existing or potential neighbours.
After all, if you plan on building a house in Spain, you don’t want your dream home turning into a nightmare in the future…