Checks Before Buying a Property in Spain

Buying a property is a significant investment, and to avoid future problems, it’s crucial to perform a series of checks before making the final decision. Below are the essential verifications you should make before and during the first visit to the property. This post focuses on buying single-family homes that need renovation or have already been renovated, as there have been many poorly constructed houses in Spain over the years, making it necessary to check numerous details.

May you don’t know us yet, let’s have a quick introduction: we’re ERA architects.
Actually, I’m Esther Rovira, architect and passive house designer in Barcelona and Catalonia building and renovating passive houses and positive houses.
In this post ‘Checks Before Buying a Property in Spain’, you’ll find information to help you before you start your renovation in Barcelona.
I hope it helps you! Let’s start exploring.

1) Before the First Visit: Key Documentation

Simple Note of the Plot

Request a simple note of the plot from the seller. This document, issued by the Property Registry, will inform you about the existence of any charges or debts associated with the property. It is crucial to ensure that the property is free of mortgages, liens, or other encumbrances that could complicate the purchase.

Urban Certificate of the Plot

Ask the seller for an urban certificate. This document specifies the permitted use of the land, building conditions, and any urban planning restrictions. It is essential to know if you can carry out future constructions or renovations.

Deed

Request the original deed document to confirm who the legal owner is. Make sure that the person selling the property is indeed the one listed on the deed 100%, as sometimes the seller may own only 50% if there are co-owners, or even 25% if there are siblings. It’s important that you don’t waste time talking to someone who doesn’t own 100% of the property.

Executive Project and ‘As Built’ Plans of the Renovation

If the property has been renovated, ask for the executive project and the ‘as built’ plans of the renovation. These documents detail the modifications made and ensure that the legal and technical procedures were properly followed.

2) During the First Visit: Physical Inspection and Surroundings

Initial Chit-Chat and Consultation with Neighbors

Upon arrival, engage in an informal conversation with the seller and, if possible, speak with some neighbors. Ask about:

  • How are the neighbors? For example, if any are problematic (in Spain, many people worry more about what others do wrong).
  • Noise levels. For instance, are there nightclubs, or neighbors who throw parties every night, generators, or dogs barking at night?
  • Temperature and wind. For example, is it very windy in the area? Is there fog every morning in winter or high humidity levels in summer?
  • Is it a zone where archaeological remains are easily found? This is NOT a joke; in certain areas of Badalona, you can’t even dig 10cm in your garden without finding remains, which requires you to stop construction.

Utilities

Verify that the property has all essential utilities: water, gas, electricity, telephone, fiber optics, and municipal sewerage. Ask the seller:

  • How much are the annual utility costs?
  • How much is the property tax (IBI)?
  • Are there any additional expenses, like parking fees? How much are the parking fees?

The Original House

Ensure that the house was built with the appropriate permits. Ask about:

  • Who was the architect? Are there plans and construction systems in the municipal archive that the seller can provide?
  • What structural system was used in the construction and with what foundations?

It’s very likely they won’t have this information, so you will need to visit the municipal archive yourself to request these plans. Sometimes these plans do not match reality, as for many years builders ignored plans to save costs, and no one ever made ‘as built’ plans of the differences. If you don’t know how to make an appointment with the municipal archive or don’t understand plans, it’s best to hire someone to do it for you. Usually, an architect can give you their opinion on whether the house was built according to the plans, and if not, whether the construction makes sense and doesn’t have serious pathologies.

Subsequent Renovations

If the property has been recently renovated, check the following points:

  • Were the original foundations inspected and improved?
  • Was a geotechnical study conducted?
  • When was the renovation carried out? Did it comply with the regulations of that year?
  • Was the renovation done by an architect? Which architect? Are they still active?
  • Which construction company handled the renovation? Does this company still exist? (If it doesn’t, run fast and never look back!)
  • Was the renovation done with a building permit? If so, review the licensed project and verify if any extensions or additions were registered in the cadastre (many do not usually do this).
  • Were structural reinforcements made? If so, where, and was additional foundation needed? (This will give you clues about the original foundation’s quality).
  • Check the sewer system. Is it municipal or does it have a septic tank? If there is a septic tank, ask where it is located, how often it needs cleaning, and if it is functioning well.

Sustainability

Sustainability is crucial in modern homes. The European Union has enacted a law stating that by 2033, you will not be able to rent or sell any property that doesn’t have a D in energy efficiency. Therefore, it is VERY important to ask about:

  • Is there gas? What systems operate on gas? (By 2040, gas boilers will no longer be manufactured in Europe).
  • What is the energy efficiency of the house? Is it officially registered? Does it match the actual construction and machines?
  • Were improvements made to the airtightness? Which ones? Was the final airtightness value verified?
  • Ask to see a gas bill from a cold winter month. This will give you many clues about the house’s construction quality. If the gas bill is very high, the house is poorly constructed, with no insulation, many leaks, and thermal bridges, and other issues from unscrupulous builders. To transform a poorly constructed 200m2 house into a sustainable home that saves energy, expect to invest at least €200,000 in renovations (remember that VAT is 21%).

Comfort Systems

Verify the comfort systems of the house:

  • Hot water: What system is used? Are the hot water pipes insulated? Is there a recirculation system?
  • Heating: Gas and radiators? Or heat pump? Or underfloor heating? (Does it work?). Check the unit, ask if there have been problems, and request to see the monthly winter expenses.
  • Cooling: Check the installation year of the unit, ask about maintenance frequency, and if there have been problems. Request to see the monthly summer expenses.

Windows

Windows are crucial for energy efficiency and comfort. Ask about:

  • Are they airtight? (If they are sliding windows, they must be liftable). If they don’t know, ask if air leaks in on windy days or put your hand on the joint.
  • What material are the frames made of? If they are aluminum, verify that they have a thermal break.
  • Do the windows have an air chamber and/or solar protection film?
  • Are the floor-to-ceiling windows laminated? (They must be laminated according to safety regulations, but many installers still don’t know or install them).
  • Are there shutters or solar protection on the East, South, and West faces?

Conclusion

These are some of the checks you should perform before and during the first visit to a property to save yourself from many future problems and unexpected expenses. Do not hesitate to ask for all the necessary documentation and ask all the key questions. It is VERY likely that they will not give it to you or say that it is not their job to provide all this information. And it’s true, in Spain, the seller is always on the seller’s side and is not obligated to give you all the property information. This is why you have to do this work and ‘due diligence’ yourself, or if it seems too overwhelming, you can hire a buyer agent or an architect to do it for you if you don’t have the time or desire to do it yourself.
Remember that buying a property is one of the most important decisions in your life, and being well-informed is the key to a successful purchase without unpleasant surprises.

Next Steps

If you think all this is too complicated and you need help with this preliminary inspection or even to find opportunity properties before they are listed; check out this interesting case study on how we are currently helping a family of 8 members and a French bulldog find their positive home 🐶.

If you are sure you need help, click here to book your diagnostic session with our experts. We will help you find a property to transform into your unique and positive home that not only meets your needs but also fulfills some of your wildest dreams.

Not ready to start yet? No problem, subscribe to keep learning and be super prepared when the time comes!

I hope this post ‘Checks Before Buying a Property in Spain‘ is helpful and allows you to take the next small step. Did we miss anything? Any burning questions? No problem, leave your questions below in the comments and we will answer to keep helping you!

Best of luck on your buying property adventure.
See you on the next post,

architectBarcelona

Founder of ERA architects

P.S. Wanna get FREE tips for your project weekly? Yas! or follow us on Instagram and Facebook