WHEN buying property in Spain, it’s all too easy to fall in love with the dream and forget about the reality of what may lie beneath the postcard-perfect image. Having a survey done means never having to say, “I’m sorry I bought the place.”
If you’re from northern Europe and have ever purchased a property, at home, you almost certainly had a survey carried out, to ensure an expert told you what you were looking at and what you might need to look out for. Sometimes, however, buyers skip the survey stage in Spain, only to discover, too late, what they wish they’d known before buying.
To take a closer look at what you should be looking at when buying in Spain, we spoke to Michael Millgate, a partner of Belilos, the Gibraltar-based firm of civil and structural engineers that has worked on some of the Rock’s biggest projects over the last quarter century, like King’s Wharf, the territory’s tallest building and the new, 600-unit Mons Calpe public-housing scheme.
In the last five years, Belilos have conducted more than 50 structural conditions surveys in southern Spain, from Cádiz to Murcia, offering clients expert opinions on what they may find behind those lovely whitewashed walls and terracotta tiles. Michael, who is qualified as a structural engineer in Spain and the UK, has over 30 years’ experience in the sector and remains “passionate about providing excellent service at good value.”
Michael admits some buyers here, including a lawyer in recent memory, seem to leave their common sense on the plane, especially when they think they’ve stumbled upon the last cheap cortijo in the campo. What they don’t realise, until they notice their pool is heading downhill fast or the town hall comes knocking with a summons for planning infractions, is that having a survey done can save hassle, and money, in the long-term.
“Our clients are mostly first- and second-home buyers from the UK and the north of Europe,” Michael explains, “but we also act for, and against, insurance companies and, increasingly, for communities. Our structural work concerns the fabric of a building, from skin to foundations. We inspect the property, diagnose problems, identify remedies, and value the cost of repairs to make things good.”
Under Law 38/1999, on building planning, better known as the LOE, Michael notes that buyers of properties built after 2000 are “fairly well-protected”, with a right of recourse against architects, builders, and developers for structural faults: “The LOE saves the gullible from the worst that can happen,” he says.
Moreover, Michael points out the fact that projects built post-2000 must be registered for 10 years with the architects’ and engineers’ societies in the province where a property is located, provides another guarantee for buyers of new and recently built properties. Older properties, however, and those in rural areas often do not offer the same security should something go wrong.
A structural conditions survey – which normally costs between 750-900€ and takes a maximum of two weeks to complete from the first contact with a client, to commissioning the work, to inspecting the property, and producing an in-depth report – represents a very reasonable expense for a prospective purchaser. After all, how much is your peace of mind worth?
“Most of us live in an economy where the largest, single investment we make in our lives is our home,” Michael concludes. “The price of a survey is negligible when buying a property that can be upwards of a million euros, but the cost of repairs can be significant. That’s the real value of what we do.”