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PROPERTY

Property in Spain: What’s it like to build your own house?

Many people move to Spain in the hopes of buying property, but what about those who have decided to build their dream house here instead? We spoke to one reader who has done just that and asked him all about his experience.

Property in Spain: What's it like to build your own house?
What's it like building your own house in Spin? Photo: Jerome Cathaud

Jerome Cathaud undertook the mammoth project of buying a piece of land and building his own house in Spain. He decided on a small town around a 25-minute drive outside of Barcelona because of “its proximity to the city, natural spaces and affordable plots to buy”.

Approximately how long did it take to complete the project?

If I start from the time when I started seriously searching for a plot of land, until the completion of the house to a level where it was liveable, then the project took approximately 2.5 years.

The plot search took around two to six months, followed by six months of negotiations and paperwork until the land was mine. Then it took a further six months to draw up plans for the house and apply for the permit.

Construction took nine months as it was constructed using pre-built wood panels. This wasn’t bad at all, considering a lot of it was done in 2020 during Covid.

Property in Spain: The different ways to buy a home (and their pros and cons)

Did anything surprise you about the process of building a house in Spain?

Many things! Firstly, you cannot get a mortgage for the ‘full project’, meaning if you plan on buying a plot and building a house, the bank will only lend you about 80 percent of the cost of the construction, but nothing for the plot itself.

You should have enough liquidity to buy the plot and then enough to kick start the construction. The positive side of this is that it drives the prices of the plots down, as fewer people can afford a house construction project.

What’s it like to build your own house in Spain? Photo: Jerome Cathaud

In Spain, it also is mandatory to hire an architect to build your house, and their fee will range from 10,000 to 30,000, depending on who you are talking to (and where). It is a significant part of the budget for your project.

A lot of plots defined as residential plots (terreno urbano) where you can apply for a permit and build a house, aren’t actually able to be used. This is because your Town Hall may not currently be granting building licences at this time.

You need to triple-check with the local authorities if they are granting construction permits at the time you want to build or if these permits are ‘frozen’.

READ ALSO: The real cost of buying a house in Spain as a foreigner

Pretty much every professional you talk to will send you a quote without the sales tax included (IVA).

It is very frustrating because you need to add either 21 percent (all the consulting fees, such as the architect), or 10 percent for the construction itself (new constructions only have a 10 percent sales tax, which is quite welcome when you launch a project like this).

What were the most difficult/frustrating things involved in building your own house?

Probably the most frustrating thing, and they were many, was the administrative side of things.

Getting all the permits and licences to build the house was very stressful and slow due to the opacity of the system in Spain. Every town has its own way of dealing with it, and the timing of response is very unpredictable.  

READ ALSO – Property in Spain: What I wish I’d known before buying a rural retreat to renovate

Communication was also difficult between the architect in charge of my project and the Town Hall (Ayuntamiento), everything takes a long time and there is a lot of back and forth between the parties involved because there always is some missing documents or small mistakes from the architects which are holding up the process.

‘Your architect may have great ideas, but it’s your house, not theirs’. Photo: Jerome Cathaud

Applying for a building licence is very paperwork-heavy. Our project (proyecto ejecutivo) was about 400 pages, to give you an idea. On one hand, it is very exhaustive and solid, on the other, it is too complicated and heavy for a simple family house. Thankfully, the architect is the one who is in charge of producing this document.

Therefore not knowing when you will be able to start construction on the house and being kept in the dark by the town administration (and sometimes your own architect) is definitely the most frustrating thing.

What tips and advice would you give to others wanting to build a house in Spain?

  • Do a lot of research on the overall process before starting it, and make sure you have your finances in order.
  • Double-check that you can build on the plot and also check costs related to it (road traffic, landscaping, sewage system, water, electricity lines and internet cables etc.)
  • Negotiate everything and always make sure that contracts/quotes are “definitive” (presupuesto cerrado).

What do you need to know when building your own home in Spain? Photo: Jerome Cathaud
  • Minimise the number of entities involved in the project construction. A construction company that offers llave en mano (key in hand) might be the ideal way forward, however, you will generally pay an extra 20 percent for this.
  • Be very careful about your architect’s design and ideas. You can have a great architect, but never forget that it is your house, not theirs. You are the one who needs to pay for it and you will be the one living in it. Often they might be interested in adding a cool project to their portfolio, but you might not be able to afford it, even though they reassure you by saying it fits in your budget. When it comes to choosing an architect, make sure it’s someone who understands you and the budget you have, and ask to talk to a few of their former clients – if they refuse, run!

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LIFE IN SPAIN

What to do about insects and other pests in your home in Spain?

Bugs and insects can sometimes be a problem in Spanish homes, particularly during the summer months. Here's what to do if you get an infestation and how to prevent them from happening.

What to do about insects and other pests in your home in Spain?

Fruit flies buzzing around the bins, cockroaches in the kitchen and ants invading your food cupboards can be a common sight in your Spanish home, more often than not in summer.

But what can you do when insects invade your home? 

What types of pests are common in Spain?

Bugs and insects that commonly invade homes in Spain include fruit flies, ants, stink bugs, cockroaches, pantry moths, plaster bagworms and mosquitoes.

Those who have pets may also have a problem with your animals bringing fleas and ticks into the home too.

READ ALSO: Ticks are proliferating in Spain: How to avoid them and protect yourself

These can cause a nuisance, not only flying around your home and biting you (in the case of mosquitoes, fleas and ticks), but they can get into your food and lay eggs in your cupboards.

How can I get rid of bugs in my home?

One of the most important ways you can keep insects and other bugs out of your home is to eliminate food sources.

This means always doing the washing up as soon as you’ve finished eating so there are no scraps laying around, sweeping kitchens and dining rooms regularly and putting opened food items in the fridge instead of the cupboards.

You also need to make sure you regularly empty your rubbish bin and that there are no gaps between the lid and the bin that flies can get in through.

Dusting, hoovering and general regular cleaning will also keep other insects at bay such as plaster bagworms and moths that lay larvae on your walls and ceiling.

Those with pets should make sure that animals are treated with flea and tick protection and combed through with special flea combs to make sure bugs are not stuck in their fur.

Summer can of course be very hot in Spain, with temperatures regularly in the high 30°Cs or even low 40°Cs in some parts of Andalusia and other regions, meaning that windows and doors are often left open to ensure a breeze. Unfortunately, this means that your home is more accessible to insects too.

If you can, get a fly screen for your doors and windows, so you can leave them open, but no bugs can get in. These fine mesh screens can be bought from hardware or home stores such as Leroy Merlin and can simply be lifted into place when you need them.

If you can’t get screens installed, then consider planting certain plants on windowsills or balconies. Lavender, basil, lemongrass and mint are all natural insect repellents.

Electric fly swats, ant traps and sticky paper can also all help eliminate pests in your home. 

READ ALSO: What venomous species are there in Spain?

Insecticides

When the situation becomes worse, simple everyday cleaning won’t suffice and you may need to use insecticides to kill the infestation. There are many different brands in Spain. Both Protect Home and Compo have several different products you can use.

If you don’t want to use chemical insecticides, natural ones made from white vinegar, citrus plants, or peppermint oil can also work.

Pest control

If the situation becomes completely out of control and you find that insects are not only entering your home but that they are breeding there too, it’s time to call in the professionals. Pest control services are available across Spain.

The first step is to check your home insurance to see if they will cover this service. If they won’t, they may be able to suggest a company that can help.

Otherwise, a quick Google search for ‘Control de plagas’ (pest control) and then your area should provide you with plenty of options.

According to the home website Habitissimo, pest control services in Spain can range from €80 up to €2,000 depending on the type of infestation you have, how serious the problem is and how big your property is. On average it will cost you around €267.

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