"I thought once I had paid the deposit I would never hear from Martin again. That had been my experience in the UK. Instead Martin Bright, and Tropicana’s staff, came with me (and at no extra cost!!!) to help me buy all the white goods for the house and sorted out all manner of issues dealing with moving into a new home in a country where, as yet, I still do not speak the language well. I tell all friends who consider buying in this part of Spain; forget the rest, Martin is the best."
N LYTTLE - MONDUJAR, NEAR GRANADA
|Rural or urban land: the rules|
Perhaps you have thought about buying a piece of land and designing your dream home yourself, away from the coast further inland where it is said to be cheaper. However obtaining planning permission might not be so easy to arrange. You need to be aware of the differences between rural and urban land, first; and second to be sure not only the local planning build ratio but also the regional definitions.
All too easy these days many foreigners buying land in Spain think, and believe, that what the locals says goes – the problems arrive when you come to register the full build of your new dream home; especially on rustic or agricultural land. In Spain, every regional government has its own system of dealing with new build developments, whether they are defined as rustic or urban. In Valencia and Andalucia there have been many changes in the last two or three years.
In Valencia the controversial 'Land-Grab' issue has been overruled much to the relief of the many homeowners, amongst them many foreign owners. The Andalucian government has realised the trend for foreigners to buy cheap land so they have started to pressure town halls to be stricter with granting planning permission. Thus leaving buyers of land often left waiting for months for permits, which can be extremely frustrating for those keen to get on with their projects. Here, at SpainCostaTropical.com I am often asked the question… "Am I free to build on this or any other land? "
The short answer at first is no, before you buy any land you must check that it will be eligible for a building permit. Any plot classed as a 'finca rustica' has been zoned as agricultural or rustic land and that means that it will fall into any one of the three categories of Protected, Restricted or Building land.
Urban land is simpler to define as it is land that is within the local planning scheme approved by both local and regional government. As a general rule of thumb, in our area the present cost is between 200 to 400 Euros the m2; depending on location, services available, sea view, etc. However in order to grant building permission the proposed building must comply with certain criteria and again here there is variation. Generally the plot should be able to connect to utilities, drains, water and electricity. The building must comply with certain European directives, including 10 year build guarantee, and more recent (from September 2007) should be at least 20% energy self sufficient to encourage the use of solar and wind energies. Finally you should check with the local planning authority the ratio of build to land – town centres for example allow up to 100% while outland districts may only allow 25%. Your Spanish lawyer and architect will be able to advise you.
Rustic land however is far more problematic. The golden rule here is to remember that it is the regional government directives that dictate the land registry protocol and not the local town halls especially if you are registering your new dream home in the countryside rather than converting an existing registered cortijo "in ruin". The Junta de Andalucia (regional government) states that (new) buildings built on rustic plots are minimum 7,000m2 of land to a ratio of 100m2 built property (and this is below 300m above sea level) – above this then the land required increases to as much as a 30,000m2 plot for the same build volume. Other issues too affect the qualification of the rustic lands status; dry land, irrigated, olive or almond groves, fruit trees, agricultural use and so on all compromise the registration of your building. Rural plots in our area start from 6 Euros the m2 (for dry land) to as much as 60 Euros or more for fruit farm land. It is, at this moment in time, not uncommon to find that in certain cases in order for the owner to register their dream country property they may have to prove their employment status as a farmer or agricultural worker in Spain. A situation that entails a whole set of economic and social issues that affect your legal, fiscal and residential status both in Spain and your home country.
While local town hall authorities can give permissions at this time for new builds on smaller plots usually around 3,000m2 to 4,000m2; as in Jete, Otivar, Itrabo; the problem arises after when the land registry declines to stamp approval of the licence, since by the Junta directive there is insufficient land in order to justify the registration of the full build. It is our understanding that in Spain, wooden/timber homes are considered as temporary dwellings – however recent changes suggest that local town hall planning discretions are in play. In Almunecar, for example, permission for timber homes on rustic plots is granted but only as an 'apero' (agricultural use dwelling or storeroom for tools) and the maximum registered size of build is just 50m2 to get the licence endorsed.
You need to be a realist when you buy in rural Spain - mortgage problems (bank valuations of country properties are much lees than urban properties), rights of way, hunting rights and septic tanks are some of the other issues that need to be considered. Also you need to find a good architect, preferably one that has been recommended locally. The architect will put together the plans of your proposed home and help you to submit these plans with the application and the fee to the town hall, using your lawyer as a point of contact. This application will cost between two to eight per cent of estimated construction costs, depending on the town hall. Generally inland authorities are much cheaper. The average time span for the application is between three and six months after applying, assuming that all is in order and compliant with building regulations and local directives. You don't see brightly painted or decorated houses in the traditional Andalucian white villages.