23 Apr, 2014 @ 22:56
1 min read

What to consider when purchasing a plot in Spain: Part 1

spanish property for sale

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…

Adam Neale (Columnist)

Adam Neale is the owner of Terra Meridiana, a real estate agency based in Estepona on the Costa del Sol covering areas such as Marbella, Estepona, Sotogrande and Benahavís. Adam has more than a decade of experience in the sales and rental markets and, as Property Insider for the Olive Press, will be providing useful advice for buyers, sellers, tenants and all those interested in living in southern Spain. You can contact Adam by phone at +34 951 318480, pay a visit to his office at 77 Calle Caridad, 29680 Estepona (Málaga) or just visit his website at www.terrameridiana.com


  1. It might go right too. Do it if you can afford the gamble. It will more than likely turn out just fine.

    Posters on here would have you shaking, scared of living, and back in your ‘secure?’ uk house.

  2. Derek, people want to have far greater assurances than “it might go right too” and “likely turn out just fine”. They do not want to gamble with their hard earned money and why should they? Look at what has happened with the barking mad Junta de Andalucia and their beloved program of property demolition. I bet all the thousands of people affected by these demolitions wish they had read an OP type comments section and they probably also wish they could turn the clock back.

    I for one wish I had never bought property in Spain and my house is as legal as any house in Andalucia can be. The advice has to be proceed with extreme caution and if in any doubt about anything, don’t do it. Better still, wait until the property laws have been radically reformed and the Junta have had the proverbial boot up their “backsides”.

  3. wow Derek is chipper

    a high stakes poker player
    roll the dice
    win or loose all

    some people have lost Hundreds of thousands of pounds which
    they can never get back
    They will live in reduced circumstances for the rest of their lives

    What Derek attitude says is like the sales pitch of a time share salesman or Dodgy Financial Advisor

  4. Derek,
    “it might go right” – people don’t want to ‘gamble’ like in a casino, they want absolute security – it is hard to believe that anyone could be so stupid to write a comment like that.

    Rob, you are nearer the truth than you think. The way he discards the horror, especially for older people of demolitions, zero compensation and in all probability a huge fine on top with ‘apart from the demolitions’.

    I really do hope he finds himself caught up in one of the many nightmares that can befall not only foreigners but ordinary Spanish people who are’nt enchufargo.

    I wonder why he keeps posting when we can all clearly see that he is a self obsessed, self important little man, who is abusive in the extreme – on many other forums he would have been banned long ago.

  5. Don’t be scared people. Get advice, but don’t be scared of crossing the road like Fred.

    It is a bit of a gamble moving to Spain, putting your trust in estate agents and lawyers. But for 99% of people it works out. You just need to talk to as many locals as possible who live here. You’ll soon find out who the cowboys are.

    The other option is to stay in the congested grey skied uncultured uk?

    You have a choice.

  6. Stuart, when you buy any house, in the uk or in Spain, it’s always a gamble isn’t it? Maybe more so in Spain, but the only thing you can do is get as much advice as possible and cross your fingers. I am also selfless and hope for the best for people as you obviously don’t.

    You’re an extremely mixed up really abusive SICK poster. I can’t believe the Olive Press allows you on.

  7. What a load of poppycock Derek to say for 99% of people it works out, if you believe that figure then you are an agent mis-selling.

    Where do you get that figure from?

    Cowboys are all over the place in Spain, ripping off naive Brits, Estate agents, developers, in house lawyers, town halls, land grab, Police, Banks, Government, Juntas, etc etc

    Uncultured UK? You’re having a laugh?, Grey skied? Plenty of sunny days in the UK’s rising property market with much lower transaction costs and property deals you can trust in a market that is more demand than supply, the opposite of Spain’s huge glut of unsold and often poorly built properties which have little comeback for buyers!

    Yes, we have a choice, your UK property will never plummet 50% as Spain’s has, and you will never have to pay exorbitant buying and selling costs which mean you have to make up 20% just to break even (no profit.

    Derek, you could seriously mislead new buyers! Get real and get a conscience! 2.25 million unsold properties in Spain says it all.

  8. Derek, I can hardly be accused of being scared of crossing the road when I’ve already purchased three homes in different parts of Europe. And everyone will have noticed that you didn’t answer my simple question and tell us about all the illegal builds in the UK, or indeed elsewhere. This is because they don’t exist.

    The fact is that no other European country has this enormous issue of illegal builds like Spain does. It is unique to Spain. Purchasing a home (especially a rural home) is most likely safer in every other European country. So yes, it is a gamble purchasing a home – in Spain – but not anywhere else to my knowledge. You clearly have a vested interest in talking up the market Derek, because noone could be so foolish in their commentary otherwise. You have become the person to totally ignore for advice on this blog.

  9. I’m not talking up the market for any reason at all Fred, simply saying that for most people Spain WORKS OUT. Sorry if this offends anyone. If I know that a lot of places are selling at the coast. Why does this make me an estate agent? ha ha. People are out for an argument on here if you say anything progressive at all about Spain.

    More than definitely uncultured YOUTH with not much respect for others or families in the UK Angie. That’s why we left. We were sick of being shouted at in the streets late at night, coming from a ‘nice’ town.

    On the whole the uk isn’t that safe is it.

  10. Derek, perhaps people shout in the street at you because you are a known troublemaker? The village I come from in England has lovely people, a great community and neighbours. You just frequent the wrong places, obviously.

  11. Actually, from a lot of experience in Spain, I rather think Adam’s advice is competent, sensible, helpful ( even after I’ve bought four different kinds of places in Spain, with a steep learning curve ) and remarkably impartial. And his other articles equally seem to me on the ball ( he obviously sells a few people / connections to make it worth his writing – that seems entirely reasonable to me if you’re writing free for a local paper ) Overall, thanks very much for useful advice…

  12. My Brother purchased some land, had a conversation with the local Mayor before doing so, spent thousands on the plans after buying the land etc and then when it came to the Town Hall to approve the plans they then put a lot of blockers in place as they had a new Town Planner arrive in the middle of all of this so he gave up after spending £4k on fees. The new Town Planner does not approve anything so the local Villages stand still and there is very little work going on for the locals even though they have some good skills here. It has been like that for years. I also gave up on an extension that was going to cost €83k as they wanted the Mayor’s building Company to be involved in building Roads on my land etc. You know the planner never even left his office to view the site, my advice would be don’t waste your money on a building plot. As for Derek, ”cross your fingers”, never take his advice, it will cost you a lot, his words should come with a health warning, I just hope you do not come a cropper listening to him, what else did he say, ask the locals, worst mistake you could make, but his underlying message that you may enjoy the sun and lifestyle will be welcomed by many.

  13. The only fly in the ointment is that you could go through all the steps recommended above, get all the relevant paperwork, comply with all the relevant laws and then, de repente, the authorities pull a Prior on you…

  14. Remind me how many homes in Axarquia are illegal (most of them owned by Irish and British) think it is about 30,000. Doesn’t matter how careful you are you can’t beat a corrupt system that changes the rules in retrospect.

  15. I often see lend for sale in Spain advertised as “rustic land” – what categorization would this fall under? urban, urbanisable, or green belt? And can it be built on?

    Location : Andalucia

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