The idea of moving to Spain has lingered at the back of many people’s minds before they decide enough is enough and take the plunge. After all, there is only so much dreaming someone can do but there are still questions to answer once you have chosen to live in sunny Spain.
Perhaps the biggest is where in this wonderful country are you going to set up your new home? Once you know where you are going you need to choose a home that suits the lifestyle you’re looking for. Then, it’s a case of figuring out whether you are going to build, buy or renovate your Spanish home.
Why build in Spain?
One of the main reasons people choose to build a home from the ground up is to tailor it to their needs. Building your own home allows you to identify exactly what you want from your home life and make sure it’s there. Whether that be a swimming pool, home movie theatre or personal gym; you can have it all.
Pros of building a home in Spain
The best thing about building your house anywhere is putting everything you want in one place. It all starts with finding the perfect plot of land before moving on to dreaming up drawings with an architect.
The good news for potential homeowners is that anyone can buy building land in Spain, so no matter where you come from your dream Spanish home is achievable. Generally, land is cheaper in Spain than somewhere like the UK, which means you can find the perfect location for less. Building and living costs are cheaper too, which makes becoming a homeowner across Spain a cost-effective venture.
Of course, the effects of supply and demand are still important factors so Spain’s coastal areas are harder to come by and more expensive as a consequence. Ideally, you will find ‘urbano’ land which has been earmarked as ready for development by local authorities and it speeds up the process.
Cons of building a house in Spain
Building a home in Spain comes with challenges. One being that you cannot get a mortgage for the entire project, meaning a bank will lend you money for the majority of the construction costs but not to buy the plot of land. This means the cost of construction is higher but it also helps to drive down the price of a plot as you are competing with fewer people.
There are also different types of land that may not come with the necessary infrastructure and creating it will be a cost that’s added to your overall build. For example, ‘rustico’ land is similar to Green Belt land in the UK and it can be pretty tough to get building permissions granted here.
Other plots come with stringent building restrictions based on the land size, which may impact your plans for a dream Spanish villa on a cheap plot. Adjusting to the lifestyle is something that comes easy to many ex-pats but figuring out the intricacies of Spanish property law is something that requires more effort.
Building takes time
When building a home you will have to factor in the time it takes. This process starts with the search for a plot of land and acquiring planning permission which continues until you finally get to move in.
In some cases it can take a couple of years, so remember that building a home from nothing isn’t a quick fix. Your dreams may have to wait a while longer when building whereas buying a ready-made property means in just a matter of months you could move in.
There is another hoop that prospective home builders must jump through and that is hiring an architect. Buying a plot of land won’t come easy if you don’t already have an architect in place with plans as many residential plots are not usable due to town hall restrictions.
To avoid buying a plot of land that you can’t do anything with, you must be diligent in your checks with local authorities regarding the permits they are granting. You will need a good lawyer and local regulations expert to guide you through the process to avoid any major snags.
Why buy a house in Spain?
Perhaps you would prefer to spend your energy enjoying your new Spanish life rather than acting as a foreman on a building site. That’s when buying over renovating or building becomes a more attractive proposal.
Advantages of buying your own home in Spain
The cost of property is cheaper in Spain than in the UK but the location largely dictates how much. For instance, a city centre apartment is just a few per cent cheaper in Spain than in the UK but outside the city, properties are 16% cheaper.
Buying a home is the quickest option of the three and if things go your way you could be in your new home within a matter of months. Just like the pros of buying versus building or renovating in any country, many of the kinks will have been ironed out in a house that has already been lived in. There is no guarantee that you and your architect have thought of everything and there could be teething problems in a newly-built home.
Cons of buying a home in Spain
The only real cons of buying a house in Spain rather than building or renovating is how little control you have over the layout of the property. For many people, this is a small price to pay for comfortable living in Spain but it’s not for everyone. If you want your dream move to Spain to be perfect at every step of the way then building or renovating may be better options for you.
Why renovate a home in Spain?
Many people discovered they had simply outgrown their homes when forced to stay in them more often during 2020 and 2021. Research by Houzz discovered that home renovation projects grew by 15% in 2021 compared with 2020.
With the cost of buying property in Spain cheaper than in the UK, there are even better savings to be made if you opt for a ‘fixer-upper’. Renovating a home in Spain might take time but it’s a great choice to achieve the house of your dreams for a reasonable cost.
Benefits of renovating a Spanish home
The great thing about opting for a renovation project is that you can start with practically a clean slate. Transforming an outdated building into a contemporary villa with plenty of outdoor space and living zones is achievable with the right property.
What is important to consider is the timeframe. Spanish home renovation experts, ProMas Building, suggest, “If you are going to change the floors or walls, it is best to do the room all at once, and things will need to be done in a certain order depending on what you want to do”. You may wish to renovate your Spanish home room by room but a more cost-effective method is to complete the transformation in one hit.
Disadvantages of renovating Spanish property
Financing a renovation isn’t the cheapest and it will require you to buy the property as well. There may be a lot of red tape holding up planning permissions and progress so it’s important to factor in potential delays to your project. With a self-build project likely to take around two years, a renovation will be completed much faster but it may still feel like slow progress after initially buying the property.
Which is best for moving to Spain?
Ultimately, it comes down to which you think best suits your needs. Yes, building a home comes with a lot of planning, jumping through hoops for local authorities and a long completion time but it will eventually happen. Once it does, your very own Spanish palace is there to enjoy exactly as you intended.
But, if that seems too much like work when you want to spend your time enjoying Spanish culture as soon as possible, then renovating or buying are better options. Renovating still has some planning difficulties but they are greatly reduced as there is already a property infrastructure in place to smooth things along.
Buying is the fastest option but it may mean you compromise on the layout of the property, which may or may not be a stumbling block.
Mike James is a regular traveller and frequent visitor to Spain, having lived in Andalucia, Valencia & Murcia during his time. First-hand experience of life in Spain as well as a background in finance and property also gives him the opportunity to write for PanoramaMarbella.com, Marbella’s longest running real estate agent.