Common issues when building a luxury Villa in Spain

Building your own luxury villa in the sun is a dream for many. People imagine the property that they have always wanted, built to their own exacting standards, to allow them to holiday, live, or retire in style. They want to live the dream, lying by their private pool, eating al fresco and entertaining friends and family in sunny Spain. But if not handled correctly, this dream can quickly become a nightmare.

If you’ve ever seen any self-build TV programmes like Grand Designs, or done your research on the pitfalls of building your own properties, you will already know that there are lots of elements which can go wrong. Move this to a different country where you don’t speak the language and there’s even more scope for problems.

As professional project managers with hundreds of successful villa-builds under our belt, we know where people go wrong and put their budget and timeline at risk. We believe that forewarned is forearmed, so in this article we want to highlight the most common issues that people face when building their own luxury villa in Spain. With these issues in mind, you will improve your chances of completing a successful build. And remember, if you want a professional team of project managers on your side, MDCI are here to help!

What are the most common issues people face when building a luxury villa in Spain?

1. A clash of cultures and approach to building

When you come over to Spain from the UK, Northern Europe or Scandinavia to build your dream villa you will arrive with expectations and an understanding of how things work in your home country. However, things in Spain are often very different and the differences in approaches, cultures, procedures and methodologies can cause tension and confusion. Of course, you are usually hampered by the language barrier too and laws are usually worlds apart from what you’re used to. Last but not least is the different work ethics and customs of people in Southern Spain, compared to other parts of the world. You’re probably moving for the relaxed way of life and fun-loving culture, and this will of course affect how a building project progresses.

Our top tip is not to assume that things are the same here as they are at home and to be open and flexible to the ways things work here in Spain. Keeping an open mind and being culturally sensitive we help you to set realistic timeframes and reduce frustrations over slow processes such as the granting of licences.

2. Misunderstanding the land use for the plot and what you can change or build

Unfortunately, many people buy a piece of land without knowing what they will be able to get permission to build. Plots are classified as either Rustico (rural land) or Urbano (urban). This last classification – Urbano – is ready for development, permitting of course that you follow the applicable design restrictions. Rustico is not. You can find out what the plot’s classification is by asking the Town Hall for a Certificate or by obtaining a “nota simple” from the Registry, to make sure there are no nasty surprises. It is also worth checking whether you will be required by Local Authorities or the Utilities company to provide updated or additional infrastructure causing you costs which must be added to the budget from the beginning.

3. Not budgeting correctly

The most serious issues come from budgeting too little, or not factoring in things that will cost the project money further down the line. We recommend that you compile an all-inclusive investment budget from the beginning and related cash flow projection to ensure initial investment targets and commitments are well visible and achievable and nothing has been forgotten.

4. Lack of supervision during the project

You want to have full confidence in your construction team and architects, and this often leads clients to “leave them to it”. However, there are lots of decisions which need to be made on-site, as things change and issues come up along the way. When a client has a hands-off approach, these decisions are made by the team, often without bearing the end vision in mind and this could lead to the final result not being in line with your expectations. You should have someone acting in your interest who is constantly supervising progress to the agreed objectives and who is the person you trust to make those important decisions in your stead. There should be strict supervision of change of orders, control of programme and planning and you should also be regularly updated with detailed reports to keep you in the loop at all times.

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5. Poor contracts which do not correctly protect your interest

When you build a luxury villa there are lots of different people you need to help and each of these will have a contract. It can be hard to understand the clauses and many people sign them without really grasping what protection they need and how important these contracts are in ensuring a successful build. Here are some things to think about –

  • What guarantees do you have for work completed. Has the constructor or architect contracted subcontractors who do not fall under the guarantee? Ensure you have the necessary guarantees in place before commencement of works.
  • Are you making changes to the scope of the project which are not covered in the builder’s or architect’s contract? If so, you could pay over the odds and not expect those additional costs.
  • Suppliers of materials included or not included in the constructor’s or architect’s contract – make sure you understand the “memoria de calidades” and its impact on your project.

You can find out more about the importance of a good contract during development on our blog, or ask us how we can help make sure you are properly protected.

6. Not having the correct licenses in place for your building

Unfortunately, we can see the remnants of developments and unfinished villas across the Costa del Sol which were started without the correct licenses in place and were never able to finish. Others were finished and may be lived in, but do not actually have the licenses they need and therefore no buyer will be given a mortgage on the properties. Before you start, ensure that the land has the correct licenses for the type of project you have planned? You also need to check whether it is protected in any way or limited by any legal impediments before the project gets underway. Read our lowdown on gaining building licences on our blog, or contact us to find out how we can help you get the licenses you need as quickly and efficiently as possible.

7. Lack of utilities and services

Make sure you have the services in place, or a guarantee of installations of water, sewage etc for after the villa is built. Also ensure that the project already has sufficient utilities supplied to cater adequately to the eventual needs. Think long term to ensure it will work for you for many, many years to come.

8. Missing out the snagging process and having to live with problems or pay extra

Snagging is a vital step in the build of a luxury villa. Make sure your “finished product” has efficient snagging performed by an expert, including three rounds of reviews. Items found to be deficient need to be made good or the guarantees are called in to cover the costs. It can be tempting to skip this step and just move in, but statistics prove that 95% of new properties have problems with quality issues. Detailed and regular supervision of works on-site and a thorough 3-phase snagging process prior to delivery ensures quality standards are always met and avoids additional costs, claims, disputes and delays.

9. Not contracting independent project management until problems arise

Many clients choose to save money by using the project management services of their builders or architects, but this is usually a false economy. In fact, bringing in a project manager from day 1 can save you a lot of money and stress. You will benefit from a high-level strategy being implemented right from the beginning, this can save you money on the so called “soft costs” such as fees (for licences and professional due diligence) but also on capital costs and interest. Your project manager will also make sure your contracts include all obligations, deliverables and processes, so you know you’re covered with firm and factual deliverables. Last but not least, they will always keep you informed and make sure everyone working on the project is working to your brief and stays on track.

Quality Project Management ensures you will avoid these common pitfalls

Don’t let all these possible problems put you off! Make building your own luxury villa in Spain a positive experience, and one which leaves you with the property of your dreams, by contracting a trusted team of experience project management professional such as MDCI. Our luxury villa development project management service offers support with every aspect of your luxury villa construction project.

Our experienced team has over 30 years’ experience in Project Management. We are with you every step of the way to make sure you hit your milestones, overcome any issues and deliver the project on time and on budget. You can see our 9 steps to project management success on our website, or contact us to arrange a meeting to discuss how we can help your villa build go without a hitch.

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