Tips for buying a renovation object in the Spanish countryside

Jos Deuling,  Friday, 19 April 2013

Carpentry ruler 

Starting a renovation project in the Spanish countryside

In the Spanish coastal provinces, there are currently a lot of houses for sale. New villas and apartments on the Costa Blanca or in southern Spain are offered at knock-down prices. Spoiled for choice. But in the Spanish countryside the situation is different. Lately, especially foreigners are increasingly interested in authentic and cheap houses. They are mainly interested in renovation objects. But this kind of houses, depending on the state in which they are, are harder to find than new homes. And a Spanish agent is also not too keen on renovation objects. He has to spend a lot of time on these properties. He must ensure that the seller is really the owner, he must determine whether there are debts on the home. No quick sale. New constructions are easier for him to find than renovations projects. If you are planning to start a renovation project in the Spanish countryside, then you need to have patience and a motivated estate agent.

Is it wise to to renovate an old house?

The renovation costs can be high. Many of these houses have no plumbing, water or electricity. This was for the original inhabitants often one of the reasons to leave the house. You should ask yourself how much it will cost to modernize the property. If the cottage is very remote, it is still questionable whether it can be connected to the water supply and electricity. How much time will the renovation cost, how long do you have to wait before you can move.

If you have little experience with renovating a house, then the dream house that looked like a bargain can become a nightmare. Both financially and mentally. After the purchase, the real work begins. You need to hire an architect and a contractor. You must arrange all permits. Time, patience, perseverance are required. And money. You should be aware that the cost of a renovation amounts to 30-35% of the purchase price. People who have experience in renovating an old house recommend reserving an additional reserve of 15% of the purchase price for setbacks.

Which precautions should you take?

Before you start, you must carry out a property survey in order to determine whether it is worthwhile to renovate the building. Maybe the house is so affected by rotting that it would be a better option to demolish it. If this is the case, then you have to inquire at the Building and Housing Department if you may make changes in the original drawing of the house. Find out beforehand what is allowed and what is not allowed.

The title deeds of a property in the countryside can be a big problem. In the worst case, they are absent. In that case, you better cancel the sale because it’s too risky. There may be legitimate claims that have never been recorded in an official ownership document. The court must decide in that case. This is called an expediente de dominio. Such a procedure can take up to two years. The advice here is : do not start an expediente de dominio procedure.

You can also end up in a 205 procedure. This means that the official ownership papers are missing. Although the house is put in your name, others can claim the house within a year. If nobody has claimed the property after one year, you will be the legal owner.

It can happen that the plot does not match the specification in the ownership papers. Usually this can be solved privately prior to the sale. But you have to take action before you buy the house, after the sale it's your problem. It's not nice to have a conflict with your neighbors right from the start. And if you have an orchard or olive trees on the plot, it is useful to know whether you are entitled to the harvest. And do you have rights on the water on your property? Do you have right of way? All these issues you need to figure out in advance. You should also check if there are plans to build roads, reservoirs, irrigation canals, factories or mines in the area.

Another question is whether there are any existing debts on the property. In Spain, the repayments of the mortgage and the local taxes are associated with the property. As a new owner, you are responsible for the arrears.

Ask at the town hall for the building codes. Which changes are allowed when you renovate the house. Can you break it down and replace it by a new building? Are there any restrictions on the size and height? In a town or city the rules often stricter than in the countryside.

If you are going to renovate, then you should get one of the following licenses: a Licencia de Obras for a complete rebuild, a Permiso the Obra Menor for small renovations and Permiso the Obra Nueva for a new development. Hire a lawyer to sort this out. You can do everything yourself of course. This seems cheap but often turns out to be costly. There are a lot of English speaking lawyers working in Spain that specialize in this kind of business. Here’s a short list :

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