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How you can now build your dream home on rural land in Spain’s Andalusia 

Authorities in the southern Spanish region are opening up the possibility of building detached two-floor homes, container homes and other types of property on rural land, something that hasn’t been allowed until now. 

build rural land andalucia
Andalusia, together with Extremadura, are the only regions where you can build on rústico land in Spain. Photo: Q K from Pixabay

In Spain land is distributed into three categories: urbano, urbanizable and rústico.

Urbano land has official municipal accreditation for residential properties to be built on it, urbanizable is theoretically meant for residential purposes but needs accreditation and often isn’t connected to the water, sewage or electricity grid yet, and rústico is rural land where residential properties cannot be built, also called no urbanizable

When looking to buy a terreno (plot of land) in Spain with the intention of building on it, it’s essential you check on the cadastre what the plot you’re interested in is classified as. 

Otherwise, you may be bitterly disappointed to find out that the land you’ve bought in the Spanish countryside can only be used to plant olive trees.

This law has been problematic for many foreigners and locals in Spain who want to build a home from scratch, as many isolated plots far from other properties end up being rústico.

Fortunately for those in the southern region of Andalusia, and those intending to have a second home there, the laws are being changed to give more flexibility to prospective homeowners. 

Andalusia’s new land law will allow people to build homes of up to two floors on rústico (rural) land, as long as it doesn’t lead to the development of new settlements. 

The legislation will also help to regularise the situation of 300,000 properties built on rústico land across the region which up to now have been in a legal limbo, including the cave homes found in cities like Granada.

Each municipality will have the final say on how much space there must be between rural homes, but the Ley para el Fomento de la Sostenibilidad del Territorio de Andalucía (LISTA) legislation does state that rústico plots given the green light for construction must be very big, at least 2.5 hectares in size (25,000sqm). In forested areas, the requirement may be increased to 5 hectares.

As large as that may sound, there are rústico plots over 2.5 or 5 hectares on sale in Andalusia for as little as €10,000. 

rural land andalusia

An example of no urbanizable plots in the province of Jaén, as listed on Idealista.

Andalusia is after all the second biggest region in Spain in terms of surface area with 87,600 km², so there is plenty of space in el campo (the countryside). 

And non-buildable land is also generally considerably cheaper than urbano land, opening up the possibility for people to get some good deals. 

READ ALSO: A Spanish architect’s step-by-step guide to building a home in Spain

The legislation also stipulates that constructed houses must not be more than seven metres high (one or two floors)  and that structures must not exceed one percent of the plot in rural areas and 0.5 percent of the plot in forested areas.

As for water and electricity, the regulation establishes that “they must be guaranteed in an autonomous and environmentally sustainable way”, which suggests being off the grid with everything from solar panels, individual water storage tanks and off-grid sewage systems. 

It will also not be possible to level sloping land or change the topography of more than 30 percent of the plot.

Although this is evidently good news for people who want to build a house in rural Andalusia, regional authorities will require each person who is given a building permit to pay the municipality in question the equivalent of 15 percent of the total construction budget. It’s what they call in Spanish ‘una mordida’ (a bite), because this is Andalusian politics after all.

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PROPERTY

How to turn a bar, office or shop into a residential property in Spain

Commercial properties in Spain can be a lot cheaper than residential ones, but it’s not as straightforward as buying a former restaurant, office or shop and moving in. Here are the steps to follow and what you need to be aware of.

How to turn a bar, office or shop into a residential property in Spain

One of the tricks budget property hunters in Spain have been using in recent years is buying a local (commercial property), oficina (office) or nave (industrial unit) and transforming it into a vivienda (residential property) to live in or let out. 

It’s a trend that’s roughly doubled in big cities such as Madrid and Barcelona in the last five years. 

Buying a commercial property can work out to be 50 percent cheaper than a flat or house in Spain and there can be other advantages such as it being more open plan than Spain’s typical corridor-themed apartments as well having more money to invest in the renovation. 

Is it possible to turn a commercial property into a residential property in Spain?

Yes, in theory it is, but it’s not always possible. The rules relating to a change of property’s usage from commercial to residential or vice versa are determined by each municipality in Spain, so before you rush to buy un local, you have to do your homework first and be aware of some of the most common pitfalls.

It could be that the limit of residential properties per hectare has been surpassed already, or that without some major changes the property doesn’t meet the standards of size, rooms, space, height, layout, ventilation, air extraction or light of the town or city hall. 

It isn’t the most straightforward process and depending on the property and the individual municipal rules in place, it might just not be possible to live in the property or rent it out to others.

Living in a commercial property is illegal and may cause you problems such as not being able to activate water and electricity or register your padrón at the town hall.

Despite all the paperwork needed, flipping a bar or office and turning it into a home usually works out cheaper than buying a residential property in Spain. (Photo by ANDER GILLENEA / AFP)

Don’t be discouraged however, as in many cases it is possible to change the use of a property from commercial to residential and in regions such as Galicia authorities are currently facilitating the process to address the matter of empty abandoned stores and the lack of well-priced accommodation for young homeowners.

What are the steps to follow in Spain to change a property from commercial to residential?

Check the statutes of the community of owners: In order to make any changes within the community of neighbours, permission must be requested in advance. Beforehand, you can ask the comunidad president for a copy of the community statutes to see if the change of use from commercial to residential is mentioned.

READ ALSO: ‘La comunidad’ -What property owners in Spain need to know about homeowners’ associations

Request permission from the town hall: After getting the green light from la comunidad, you have to go to the ayuntamiento (town hall) of the town where the property is to find out if it’s possible to add another residential property to the finca (building). 

Even if this is confirmed, it doesn’t certify that the change of usage from commercial to residential is allowed, for which the town hall will ask you to provide an architect’s proyecto técnico or feasibility report based on municipal urban laws. You will only be allowed to swap from commercial to residential if the project meets the safety and habitability requirements of the Technical Building Code (Código Técnico de la Edificación).

Get the Building Licence: Known as licencia urbanística or permiso de construcción in Spanish, this is an official document required by the town hall for you to carry out a construction or renovation project. In other words, you’ll need this municipal authorisation to begin work on your future residential property, whether it’s major work or minor . 

Get the Certificate of Habitability: Once the renovation work is complete, you’ll need the cédula de habitabilidad to be able to move in or let the property out . The conditions for this are regulated by each regional government and again it’s an architect who must prepare a technical report in order for a town council technician to issue the certificate of habitability.

The certificate we need for the change of use is that of primera ocupación (first residential occupation), which has to include the usable surface area of ​​the home, rooms, address, location, maximum inhabitants etc.

How much does it cost to transform a commercial property into a residential one in Spain?

If for example it’s a 80m2 property with two rooms, the total would be about €50,000, according to property websites Idealista and Habitissimo, with the bulk covering renovation costs (€500/m2= €40,000) and the rest going to cover permits, architecture costs and taxes.

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