Property Surveys

Why do I need a survey? Unfortunately, there are many examples of residential buildings that have been built with poor construction details or where quality control has been lacking during construction. Structural defects in domestic buildings are not uncommon, even those built in recent years. There are also many new properties which have stood empty for several years as a result of the worldwide economic crisis. In Spain the residential property market has perhaps been the most affected and many properties remain incomplete or those that remain unsold have not been maintained in the intervening years.

The majority of overseas purchasers do not bother with a survey and are not encouraged to undertake one by many agents. In our experience many agents will actively discourage the use of a surveyor or even deny that we are present in Spain. Do not be dissuaded – we can usually arrange for a Chartered Surveyor be undertake a survey within three working days of the appointment and to produce the associated report within three days of the inspection visit.

It is essential when buying in Spain to have a survey undertaken. We strongly advise that this is undertaken before a deposit is placed to reserve a property (unless the deposit is fully refundable in the event that an adverse report is obtained). The report will provide a general opinion on quality and condition of the fabric of the building and will highlight evident defects. This information is essential in making an informed decision on a purchase and can often assist with price negotiations.

It is also important to understand how a survey can assist your legal adviser during the purchase. It is not uncommon in Spain for the legal documents relating to a property to be incorrect or out of date. For example, in the past a builder may have been have been tempted to under-declare the true size of the property that was constructed in order to pay less tax on the declared building cost. Conversely, in recent years developers have sometimes constructed smaller properties than specified when they were originally bought off-plan. A survey can help to identify obvious errors relating to the property descriptions which may not otherwise be detected during the normal legal checks.

It is also not uncommon for extensions or swimming pools to be added to properties, perhaps without the correct legal authority, and a survey can help to highlight such discrepancies prior to purchase.

Types of Survey

There are essentially two types of survey available. Both options will be explained to you so that you can select the most suitable option to suit your particular circumstances.

The ‘Homebuyer’ style Survey Report.

This survey is loosely based on the standard RICS Homebuyer Report which is widely used in the UK, although adapted to suit the typical construction practices in Spain. This form of report is suitable for the majority of properties which have been built in recent years, which are of a conventional construction and are in an apparently reasonable condition. This report is presented in a standard format and covers the building both inside and out, the services and the site. It focuses on the defects and other problems which in the judgement of the surveyor are urgent or significant. It also covers

– The general condition and particular features of the property

– Particular points which should be referred to your legal advisers

– Other relevant considerations concerning for example the location, the environment or perhaps insurance.

Where the client has a particular concern, the surveyor will keep this in mind during the inspection. A valuation can also be provided with this report, if required.

The Building Survey

The second type of survey available is a full building survey. Although the general form of domestic construction in Spain is simpler than in the UK (in modern construction there is virtually no timber used in the structure, for example) a full building survey is recommended in certain circumstances. This type of survey is a bespoke service suitable for all residential properties and provides a full detailed picture of their construction and condition. It is likely to be needed if the property is, for example, of unusual construction, is dilapidated or has been extensively altered, or perhaps where a major conversion or renovation is planned. Building Surveys are tailored to suit your particular requirements and include technical information on the material and construction as well as details of the whole range of defects, major to minor.

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