10 Things you ABSOLUTELY need to know before building a house in Spain

Building a house in Spain is no easy task – especially when you’re not in the same country as the building site! You don’t know the local language, the laws and regulations are highly different from those of your home country, and finding trustworthy professionals can be a real headache!

Don’t worry because we are here to help.

Here are the 10 aspects we’ll be discussing in-depth:

  1. There are many Spains in Spain – and the prices differ significantly!
  2. Not all land is created equal
  3. The 10% deposit is paid directly to the seller
  4. ‘Pick the right builder’ is an understatement
  5. You can make 10 viewing trips… or 0
  6. Aim for full transparency from your builder
  7. Consider the entire time investment
  8. Plan a realistic budget
  9. Of course there are guarantees
  10. It’s not over ‘til it’s over

Let’s start with aspect number 1.

1. There are many Spains in Spain – and the prices differ significantly!

The first important thing you need to know is that property prices differ greatly depending on the Spanish region.

Here is an infographic with all the Spanish regions and their respective property price per square meter:

The Spanish regions and their respective property price per square meter (infographic)
The Spanish regions and their respective property price per square meter (infographic)

Choose the region wisely based on:

  • your budget
  • the proximity to sandy beaches or mountains
  • proximity to tourist hotspots

Cataluña, the most expensive region

Although it amounts to over 6% of the country’s territory, Cataluña is the most expensive region of Spain. It’s home to the Costa Brava with 220 km of golden sandy beaches, the high alpine region of the Pyrenees, and the bustling city of Barcelona as its capital.

Cataluña is the most expensive region of Spain
Cataluña is the most expensive region of Spain

Cataluña is one of Spain’s most exclusive and desirable residential areas, with more than 60% of home buyers being foreigners. If there’s a place to build or buy a property in Spain, Cataluña is probably the best place to do it.

We are Arkavis, and we help expats build custom Mediterranean villas at the water’s edge throughout the northeastern Spanish region of Cataluña (or Catalonia, as most foreigners call it):

  • Girona region
  • the Costa Brava
  • Figueras
  • Rosas
  • Playa de ARO
  • Calonge
  • Banyoles
  • Olot
  • Palamos
  • Cadaques

Are you interested in building a custom house in Spain? Book a free call with one of our experts.

More than 60% of home buyers in Cataluna are foreigners
More than 60% of home buyers in Cataluna are foreigners

2. Not all land is created equal

In Spain, there are several types of land:

  • urbano: easy to build here as it has all the services established
  • urbanizable: you can legally build here; the land is in the process of being rezoned
  • urbanizado: fully urbanized land with electricity, drainage, street lighting etc.
  • rustico: not buildable, with a few exceptions
  • protegido (protected land): challenging to build here

Urbano vs. rustico land

Contrary to what the name suggests, urbano land isn’t always located in an urban area. Urbano land can also be found in rural areas, outside villages, or in areas zoned for development.

How can you tell whether a land is urbano or not? You can’t, actually. The law differs greatly based on region, so you need to hire a local professional to assess your situation.

Building a house in Spain: not all land is created equal
Building a house in Spain: not all land is created equal

Building a house in Spain is easy when you work with Arkavis! We not only build custom villas for expats in Spain but also advise our clients on choosing the right land. We do viewing trips on their behalf and take care of all the paperwork and legal implications.

Legal aspects to consider before buying land in Spain

There are many aspects that you need to consider before purchasing land, but here is a shortened list:

  • Take a look at the town planning certificate (it mentions the type of building you can build for every plot)
  • Check the local building norms that include the color of the walls, maximum building height, number of balconies, or whether or not you can have surrounding walls
  • Verify the locally applicable area occupancy rules that mention the percentage of buildable area for every plot of land
  • Ask for the disciplina urbanistica at the city hall, which mentions any court orders assigned to the land (your lawyer can do that for you)
  • Take a look at the Catastral document that mentions the planning regulations applied to the land
Spanish land has many strict rules and regulations
Spanish land has many strict rules and regulations

There are so many legal rules regarding land in Spain that it takes work to keep up as a non-professional. We advise you to hire a trusted local attorney or to work with a design-build firm that covers a wide range of services, including the legal aspects of buying land in Spain.

Other aspects affecting the land’s value

Here are a few other aspects that impact a land’s value:

  • Topography: the deeper the slope, the costlier it is to build (however, the view might be worth it)
  • Geology: carry out a geotechnical survey just to be sure that the land is stable
  • Whether or not there are services connected to the land, such as water, electricity, or sewerage

3. The 10% deposit is paid directly to the seller

This Spanish practice comes as a surprise to many foreigners. In some countries, the deposit is paid to a third party, known as an escrow, a neutral agent holding the funds before they are transferred to the seller.

When you build a house in Spain, the 10% deposit is paid directly to the seller of the land
When you build a house in Spain, the 10% deposit is paid directly to the seller of the land

However, in Spain, the 10% deposit is paid directly to the seller of the land or the building. A local professional firm can help you minimize any risk regarding the safety of the funds.

Here are a few tips for reducing any risks:

  • once you find the right plot of land, conclude a reservation contract that formalizes your offer
  • Once the seller accepts the offer, formalize a deposit contract that documents the terms of the sale
  • Pay the deposit according to the contractual terms

 4. ‘Pick the right builder’ is an understatement

The right builder can save you a fortune. They don’t make costly building mistakes and advise you to avoid building choices you’ll regret later.

Arkavis building site in Cataluna
Arkavis building site in Cataluna

At Arkavis, we pride ourselves on the high quality of our services. That’s why we offer fixed prices, complete transparency, and the highest level of craftsmanship. Our preconstruction services also cover preconstruction consulting (including cost optimization) that will help you save significant resources right from the beginning.

Since you’ll invest a lot of money in building a house in Spain, you’ll need to protect yourself from losing time and money by working with shady companies.

One of our projects: Instituto Josep Brugulat
One of our projects: Instituto Josep Brugulat

Here are a few factors that you should consider when choosing a builder for your house:

  • Accurate pricing
  • Reliable schedule
  • Quality control
  • Full transparency
  • Warranties

Any design-build company should also be able to provide you with:

  • solid references: check out the builder’s previous projects; if possible, speak to the homeowners
  • contact address: a trustworthy company should have a website, a business address, and clear contact details
  • time for an interview: choosing a builder is a big decision, so they should be open to offering you the time to ask some relevant questions before you make sure that they are the right choice  

Pro tip: If you want to build a house in Spain while in your home country, work with a design-build firm that specializes in working with internationals.

We are fluent in English
We are fluent in English

Arkavis is such a company, and here are the factors that differentiate us from a design-build firm that specializes in working only with local customers:

  • we speak fluent English
  • our internal systems and procedures are created to offer full project transparency for international clients, especially while they’re not in Spain (for example, we offer 24/7 live streaming from the building site)
  • our wide range of services covers aspects you can’t handle from afar: viewing trips, submitting paperwork to local authorities and finding the right local professionals (such as lawyers, architects, notaries, etc.)

Click here to discover construction, construction, and post-construction services.

5. You can make 10 viewing trips… or 0

You can combine a holiday with some viewings, but if you take the construction project seriously, you will have little time to relax. Let’s admit it: viewing trips are more work than relaxation, especially for viewing land that has more laws attached to it than a merger and acquisition contract.

When you work with Arkavis, you can make 10 viewing trips… or 0, depending on the time you wish to invest in building your house in Spain.

Arkavis live streams the entire building process of your house in Spain
Arkavis live streams the entire building process of your house in Spain

Hire us on your behalf, and we will help you:

  • choose the right plot of land
  • fully build your custom villa
  • all while having control over the building process with 24/7 live streaming from the building site and a direct communication channel with the entire team

Time is an investment, and we require none. That’s how we make the construction of your new house seem easy – especially when you’re not in the country!

6. Aim for full transparency from your builder

It’s not easy, but we strive for radical transparency. This is what any design-build firm tailored to expats should do!

Here is how we make sure there is no uncertainty or unpleasant surprises in your construction project:

  • our digital platform gives you access to 24/7 live streaming from the construction site
  • you have full access to project status updates, budget updates
  • there’s a direct communication channel with the project manager, the architect, or the team of builders and landscapers

Transparency is our favorite tool, and we use it to the fullest.

Our digital platform gives you access to 24/7 live streaming from the construction site
Our digital platform gives you access to 24/7 live streaming from the construction site

7. Consider the entire time investment

While the financial investment is quite clear from the beginning in any construction project (or at least it should be), the time investment rarely is.

Before starting to build your house in Spain, ask yourself:

  • How many trips to Spain do I need to make to ensure the construction goes as planned?
  • What happens if there’s a problem in the construction or legal process? Do I have to go to Spain immediately?
  • Will there be any labor challenges?
  • Do I have all the approvals? Does the company handling them have every legal aspect under control, or will there be construction hiccups for months?
  • Is my builder using decent project management software to estimate the completion time correctly?
A one-stop shop like Arkavis requires a minimum time investment on your part
A one-stop shop like Arkavis requires a minimum time investment on your part

The answer to all these questions depends on your builder’s reliability and knowledge. Choose wisely, and also consider your overall time investment in the project.

A one-stop shop like Arkavis requires a minimum time investment on your part. We take care of every aspect:

  • Choosing the right plot of land
  • Obtaining all the constriction permits
  • Handling errors or acts of God
  • Fully furnishing
  • Even cleaning your new custom house

8. Plan a realistic budget for your house in Spain

A poorly defined scope of work is the leading cause of budget overruns, massive delays, and poor customer satisfaction. A professional can help you correctly determine the most essential part of the project: the scope of work.

An accurate estimation must be done to turn your dream home into a reality. It will naturally lead to a precise budget estimation.

A professional can help you correctly determine the most essential part of the project: the scope of work.
A professional can help you correctly determine the most essential part of the project: the scope of work.

Expectation management

When we talk about budgeting, we often talk about expectation management. By speaking to a professional, you’ll know whether your budget is realistic for achieving your construction plans.

Click here, visit our website, and schedule a call with one of our experts. They’ll walk you through the first steps of building a house in Spain and help you come up with a realistic budget that covers your plans.

9. Of course there are guarantees

Arkavis is all about eliminating stress, so why not offer calming warranties?

10-year Quality Warranty

An Arkavis home lasts for a lifetime, but we will cover any costs arising from construction issues. You likely won’t use it, but it’s good to know it’s there.

Arkavis is all about eliminating stress, so why not offer calming warranties?
Arkavis is all about eliminating stress, so why not offer calming warranties?

Timely Completion Guarantee

This one is interesting! We’re so confident in our ability to correctly estimate the project scope, budget, and completion time that we also offer a Timely Completion Guarantee.

This means that whenever you visit Spain after the project deadline, we’ll cover your unlimited stay at a 4-star hotel for you and your family (provided the construction of your house is not finalized).

If you are ready to start building, choose a design–build firm with strong warranties.

10. It’s not over ‘til it’s over

The job is done once the building project is complete, right? Wrong.

[View from an Arkavis house in Spain]. Your pool will always be ready for a nice dip with our 1-year complimentary pool cleaning and maintenance
[View from an Arkavis house in Spain]. Your pool will always be ready for a nice dip with our 1-year complimentary pool cleaning and maintenance

We don’t just leave after we build the house of your dreams!

  • You’ll have a spotless home because we cover the post-construction cleaning
  • Your pool will always be ready for a nice dip with our 1-year complimentary pool cleaning and maintenance
  • And you won’t have to worry about fixing anything due to our 1-year complimentary house maintenance

It’s nice to work with a premium design–build firm, isn’t it?

One of our Arkavis custom homes built in Spoain
One of our Arkavis custom homes built in Spain

Let’s talk

Book a free consultation call if you’re ready to start talking about your new house in Spain.

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