Buying property in Spain without hiring a surveyor is risky. If you don’t speak the language and don’t know your way around the legal side of things you likely also won’t know who you can trust.
Incidentally, when it comes to buying a home, knowing who to trust is essential. And this is where property surveyors come in truly handy.
A property survey, carried out by an unbiased surveyor, will help you understand if the house you are presented with actually lives up to the promises of the real estate agent and the seller.
In this all-you-need-to-know guide, we will examine the different survey options available in Spain. We’ll discuss what each survey includes and in which circumstances it can be useful to you as the buyer.
To start, let’s take a closer look at what a property survey is.
- What Is a Property Survey?
- What Is a Chartered Surveyor?
- Why You Should Get a Property Survey
- Types of Spanish Property Surveys
- Condition Survey
- Structural Survey, a.k.a Building Survey
- Snagging Survey
- Property Valuation Survey
- Mortgage Survey
- RICS Surveys
- Cost of Survey and Valuation of a Villa in Spain
- How to Find a Surveyor in Spain
What Is a Property Survey?
A property survey is an assessment of a building and the accompanying land by a professional surveyor. It involves doing the technical due diligence, so the surveyor focuses on finding out any existing defects and possible future issues with the property.
Usually, a property survey is ordered by the potential buyer before purchasing a property to make sure there are no hidden surprises and that the value of the property matches the price.
What exactly a surveyor looks at when inspecting a property, depends on both the specific property as well as the type of survey that the client has ordered.
But in most cases, a property survey takes a look at things such as:
- the overall condition of the buildings,
- the conformity between actual property specifications and the information in the nota simple,
- the state of utilities and services like water supply, sewerage, ventilation, etc.
Getting a survey before buying a home can help you avoid serious problems and additional expenses. However, keep in mind that a survey is not a guarantee of condition. Although rarely, a surveyor might still miss a few things. If that should happen, you can talk to them – maybe their professional indemnity insurance will compensate for the undiscovered issue.
What Is a Chartered Surveyor?
When researching the topic of property surveys in Spain, you will most likely come across the term “chartered surveyor”.
Chartered surveyors are professional surveyors that are credited by The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). The organization is based in London but has more than 134,000 members around the globe.
Chartered surveyors differ from unchartered surveyors in that they conform to the very strict set of guidelines, enforced by RICS. The RICS creates a reliable international standard and thus helps establish a common basis for property surveys worldwide.
In general, chartered surveyors might cost a bit more than their unchartered counterparts, but due to their internationally recognized work ethic, you know you’ll get an unbiased and trustworthy result.
Why You Should Get a Property Survey
When browsing real estate ads – in Spain or anywhere else – you will always have to deal with real estate agents and sellers. And it is the sole interest of both of these parties to have the property sold.
Of course, the agent and the owner might be reliable and everything can go smoothly – yet the conflict of interest is always part of the purchasing process.
But take note:
Sometimes, the estate agent or the seller might discourage you from getting a survey. They might argue it would needlessly complicate and delay the deal, or that it’s not customary at all in Spain.
However, this is when you should be especially careful.
If the agent or the seller is trying to persuade you to buy the property without a survey, it might be wise to look for another property.
Normally, however, the seller should agree to a survey.
In that case, the surveyor helps balance the scales between the seller and the buyer. Being hired by the prospective buyer, they act solely in the buyer’s interest and scrutinize every aspect of the property. The survey gives you as the buyer a realistic and unbiased idea of the condition and value of the property.
And more importantly:
A survey will give you peace of mind.
If you order a survey, you’ll avoid buying someone else’s problems.
You’ll be able to find out any unknown and hidden defects as well as the estimated cost of necessary repairs. Even if no defects are deliberately hidden, there can be things that you or even the seller and the agent are unaware of. A professional surveyor will detect these things and help you make an informed decision.
All in all, hiring a surveyor can help you save money.
If the surveyor finds any issues, you can negotiate with the seller so they would do the repairs before selling. Or, you can use the findings in the report as leverage in price negotiations.
In the end, being aware of any issues, large or small, will help you avoid unexpected costs – or enable you to steer clear of defective properties in the first place.
Because of this, we recommend you to get a property survey when buying a home in Spain – the cost is really low compared to the security and peace of mind you will get.
Types of Spanish Property Surveys
In essence, all the different surveys commonly offered by property survey companies in Spain fall under two categories:
- A more general survey on the condition of a property, mainly a visual inspection. Most suitable for regular properties that are in relatively good condition and don’t warrant an in-depth survey in an obvious way.
- An in-depth technical survey on the quality of construction and building materials. This type of survey aims to reveal any structural issues and hidden defects, as well as their potential effect if not repaired. Best for old, renovated, heavily remodeled, or very unique buildings.
Depending on the services of the particular surveyor that you hire, both of these survey types can include additional details, for example:
- a valuation of the property,
- an assessment of how the defects may affect the value of the property,
- recommendations on how to solve the issues,
- an estimation of the costs of fixing the defects.
Following, let’s take a closer look at the most usual survey types in Spain. We’ll examine what the most common survey options are called, what they include, how they differ from each other, and how each one can be useful to you.
A condition survey, or condition report, is the most common type of property survey in Spain. It consists of a visual inspection of the whole property and sometimes a few basic tests, like measuring dampness.
When carrying out a condition survey, the surveyor focuses on more urgent and obvious matters, like mold, damages in the roof, or cracks in walls.
A condition survey is suitable for most buyers. If in general, the property is in good shape, the condition report might alert you of possible inconveniences and maintenance issues you might face when living there, but probably nothing that would be a deal-breaker.
In the case that the surveyor does find signs of larger issues or structural defects, they usually recommend a building survey.
Depending on the services of the specific surveyor you hire, they might also describe the causes and effects of the issues they find, along with the urgency and estimated costs of repairs.
So, whichever surveyor you decide to hire, take a close look at what their survey will include and whether it satisfies your needs.
Structural Survey, a.k.a Building Survey
A structural survey, also called a building survey, is an in-depth survey that helps determine if the property has any serious defects in its structure. It’s carried out by a structural engineer as it’s the most thorough and technical survey you can get. The building surveyor adds comments on the likely causes of the issues, potential repercussions in case the issues are not fixed, as well as recommendations and cost estimations.
In general, carrying out a structural survey is a tailor-made process, which depends on the specifics of the property being surveyed.
But typically, a building survey can include everything that’s part of a condition survey. In addition, the surveyor conducts a close examination of the construction methods, the structural integrity, and the materials used. Plus, some properties might require assessing the land that the house is built on – if the property is situated on a hillside, there’s a real danger of subsidence.
You should seriously consider getting a structural survey if the property you’re thinking of buying is old, in obvious need of repair, or if a surveyor carrying out a less technical survey has recommended getting it. Or, in case the building was built with non-conventional materials and methods, or if it has been heavily remodeled.
A snagging survey focuses on uncovering issues with an off-plan property before the developer hands over the keys. The survey will point out any differences between what was promised in the contract and what was delivered, as well as any defects.
If the surveyor reports huge differences between the plans and the reality, you might have the right to get compensation or to withdraw from the sales contract. In any case, the developer is obliged to fix any defects and deviations from the contract.
Ordering a snagging survey can be hugely beneficial for you when buying an off-plan or new build property:
Firstly, it helps with proving to the developer in an official capacity what issues they still have to fix before you move into your new home.
Secondly, if you get a professional surveyor, you’ll end up with a much longer list of defects than you would on your own. And unfortunately, the defects and deviations may be numerous when buying an off-plan property.
Timing the survey right, is crucial, too – if you inform the developer about the issues before you have made the last payment, they will have much more incentive to quickly fix the problems.
Property Valuation Survey
A property valuation, or appraisal, is a survey that involves inspecting a property to determine its value. However, in most cases, the property isn’t examined as closely during the appraisal as it is during a condition survey.
In Spain, a property valuation is carried out by a specialist called a tasador. When assessing a property’s value, the tasador examines the property’s general condition, location, surrounding infrastructure, conformity between the property and its documentation, and also carries out a market analysis.
The latter is a legally compulsory part of the valuation survey. To get an unbiased estimate, the tasador must compare the property to at least three similar properties from previous transactions that took place within the last year, or to six similar properties that are being sold at the time.
In the end, the assessment can be a subjective affair, as the market analysis is based on sales prices of other homes, which can be difficult to find out accurately. And, the tasador has some leeway in choosing the properties for the comparison.
A property valuation survey is useful when you’re selling your property, or when you’re buying and want to make sure that the asking price is not inflated.
If you’re financing your home purchase in Spain with a mortgage, then a mortgage survey is required by the bank before approving your loan.
In essence, a mortgage survey is a property valuation survey. The key difference is that a mortgage survey is ordered by the bank or other lender, not the seller or potential buyer of a property. The main reason for the survey is to ensure that the property is reasonable collateral for the mortgage.
Similar to a valuation survey, a mortgage survey doesn’t usually include minute details on the condition, or info on the structural integrity of the house. A mortgage survey is also carried out by a tasador, assessing the neighborhood and conducting an analysis of the property market.
Despite being ordered by the bank, it is the buyer applying for the mortgage that pays the survey fee.
In addition to the types of surveys mentioned above, there is a whole other category:
RICS Home Surveys.
As briefly covered, RICS homebuyer surveys are carried out by chartered surveyors who follow a strict set of professional guidelines.
There are three types of RICS surveys:
The RICS Home Survey Level 1 includes a general visual inspection which makes it similar to a condition survey.
The RICS Home Survey Level 2 has two options: survey only, or survey and valuation. It’s slightly more in-depth than the Level 1 report but in essence, is still a condition survey – either with or without a valuation.
The RICS Home Survey Level 3 is the most elaborate survey you can get. It’s a building survey without a valuation and it includes everything you need when thinking of buying a property that’s old, in poor condition, unconventionally built, or has been heavily remodeled.
Thanks to their international reputation and scope, RICS Home Survey reports are reliable and unbiased. If you hire an RICS surveyor you might have to pay a bit more, but you’ll have peace of mind.
Cost of Survey and Valuation of a Villa in Spain
When buying a villa in Spain, there are various types of property taxes and costs that you’ll need to pay on top of the purchase price. And generally, the survey fee is one of them – unless you have agreed otherwise with the seller.
The exact cost of the survey depends on a multitude of factors, some of which include:
- the type of survey you order,
- the size of the property,
- the number of buildings on the property,
- the number of issues that are found,
- the amount of time it takes the surveyor to gather the data.
And if the property isn’t situated in or very near the city that the surveying company operates in, they might charge extra for the travel.
So, to get an idea of the total amount, you’ll most likely need to request a quote from a surveyor. Nevertheless, surveyor fees usually start at around €500 and can go as high as €3000 and more.
In the end, if you’re buying a villa in Spain, the survey cost will be minuscule compared to the size and importance of your investment. And your peace of mind is something you can’t really put a price tag on.
How to Find a Surveyor in Spain
There are a lot of companies offering surveying services in Spain and choosing the right one can be tricky. Still, there are a few considerations that can be helpful in finding a reliable surveyor.
Firstly, you should find a surveyor that offers their services in English – unless you’re fluent in Spanish. Otherwise, important contract or other details might get lost in communication.
Secondly, you should opt for a surveying company that operates in or very close to where you’re looking for a home. Shorter travelling times help speed up the whole process and avoid unnecessary expenses.
Thirdly, if available, you should read reviews that former clients have left. This helps you understand the quality of service and if the surveyor is reliable in the first place.
Finally, considering the aforementioned points, you could simply pick an RICS surveyor as reliability and professional service are ingrained in their work ethic.
Should you have difficulty finding a surveyor, feel free to contact us here at Majestico – we’ll put you in touch with a reliable surveyor and make sure your villa buying process will go smoothly.
Buying a villa in Spain can be one of the best decisions to make and it’s important to find the home that feels right to you.
However, when you have found the perfect property, you shouldn’t just trust your gut and rush into a contract. Getting a survey before purchasing is vital to ensure that your life in the villa will be as pleasant as you hope.
A surveyor will discover any hidden defects and will notice the things that might hurt your quality of life in the newly bought villa.
If you take our advice from this guide on hiring a surveyor in Spain, you’ll likely find your dream villa and get to fully enjoy living in it, too.
Do you have questions about any property matters in Spain? Get in touch – our team is here to help.