How to select residential land and build a property in Spain

We are seeing a growing interest in building a luxury villa on the Costa del Sol from “normal” property buyers struggling to find what they want to buy due to lack of stock. Following the pandemic, the real estate market has been responding to pent up demand for properties, and luxury villas in good areas are increasingly hard to find. This is leading to these buyers trying to find other options and considering building their own property.

This is an exciting prospect, but also daunting for people who had not considered the self-build option before. They don’t really know where to start and have a lot of questions and concerns from the outset. This is completely understandable, as there are so many things to think about and it can feel overwhelming if you don’t have the right support.

As experts in luxury villa development in Spain, with hundreds of projects under our belt, we’re here to answer your questions and guide you through the whole process. With our project management and project monitoring services, you have a trusted, independent specialist on your side, representing you and protecting your interests from start to finish. Not only does this remove stress and offer peace of mind, but it also ensures that you get your project delivered on time and on budget.

Please feel free to reach out to us, to arrange an initial call about your project and ask us some questions. In the meantime, here are answers to some common questions about building your own luxury villa in Spain to get you started.

1.     How should I select a plot of land to build on and what do I need to look out for?

There are lots of plots for sale on property portals such as Idealista and you can also use a real estate agent in the area you are interested in to search for properties for you and shortlist the options for you to go and see.

Check to see whether the plot is classified as “Urban” land or “Rural/Rustic” land.

Ideally you want urban land, as this means it is located within an area which has been approved for development and that essential access and utility supplies are available.

If the land is classified as “Rustic” it can be more difficult to get permission and investment will be required to provide access roads and basic utilities.

When visiting the plot, it can be hard to know what to look for, as it’s just a piece of land. But you should check the gradient of the site and ask whether extensive excavation is needed and retaining walls to stabilise a steep plot and make it level. This is not impossible and with clever design, steep plots can make for amazing properties, but it is more costly, so needs to be factored into the budget.

You also need to consider the view, how exposed it is, any noise issues and if there are any protected trees on site which could cause problems and expense. Check that the plot is not in a protected area that restricts, or stops building and whether it is on a floodplain or in an area with difficult soil to build on.

Last, but not least, you need to consider how big you need the plot and what percentage of the land you can build on. All plots come with some essential parameters which restrict the building’s size and height. You need to make sure that the parameters of the land you’re considering equates to the size and type of the luxury villa you want to build. You don’t want to buy a plot for your 400m2 villa and turns out you can only build 300m2!

Appointing a project manager right from the beginning is an excellent idea, as they can support you in finding the right plot of land and obtaining all the necessary studies and surveys to buy the plot with confidence. However, please note that project managers vary in the level of support that they offer, so before contracting one, define exactly what is included in their service.

At MDCI, we are Project Developers, so offer a truly comprehensive service from start to finish. Our team will work with you to decide the size and type of property you want and then check the building regulations to see how big the plot needs to be. Then we can work with you to short list plots that would work for you and even accompany you on viewings to ensure you’re asking the right questions and making the best decision possible.

2.     How do you get permission to build a property?

Once you have your plot, you need to appoint an architect, who will come up with a technical design defining the size, footprint, height and style of the property. The architect must check with the local Town Hall as to their restrictions and urban planning laws in order to ensure their design complies with the height, occupation, volume, footprint, separation to borders etc.

These technical designs and key documents are submitted to the Town Hall for approval and to gain the building licence.

You must be sure all the right documents are in place and pay for the licence mostly in advance to avoid delays.

3.    How long do I need to allocate between purchasing the plot and getting the keys to my new luxury villa?

That will depend on how fast you progress with all the necessary activities, your ideas and designs, Town Hall requirements and permissions,  and if you employ a good Project Manager.

It also depends on where you are planning to build, as the waiting times to receive the building licence varies significantly from Town Hall to Town Hall.

On average we would say 20-24 months from purchasing the plot to delivery of your keys is realistic, however with a good Project Manager and a speedy Town Hall it can be shorter.

4.     When you’re building a luxury villa, at what point do you need to make staged payments and what are they for?

Construction activities are paid for on the presentation of a monthly bill by the constructor and approved by the technical team and can vary depending on the work and materials installed each month.

In addition, professionals involved in the design and direction will have agreed their own payment structure.

It can be hard to budget for this and consider all the different elements of the project.

Having MDCI’s Project Manager on the job makes it much easier, as they will prepare a cashflow report detailing all payments throughout the project, so there are no nasty surprises. They will also keep track of the payments and issue a Monthly Report detailing the current status of the project so you’re always in the loop and prepared for upcoming payments.

5.     How does a project manager help with the process?

As we’ve mentioned throughout this article, a Project Manager plays a key role throughout the process of building a luxury villa in Spain.

If you contract an all-inclusive Property Development Service, you will have support, assistance and monitoring throughout the build. Your Project Manager will be your business and technical manager ensuring your key objectives, deliverables and budget are implemented correctly and protecting your best interest and objectives from the outset.

He can negotiate for you or check the contracts with the suppliers to make sure you are well protected and know what you can expect, what is included and what is not.

He will supply a detailed cashflow and monthly reports so you are always up-to-date and know what to expect, they will find out on time any red flags and will always be ready with the contingency plan.

However, please be aware of the difference between the Project Management that your Architect or construction company will offer you, versus a truly independent professional representing your interests alone. If your Project Manager also works for your Architect or your building firm, they are not able to be impartial, nor do they have the time or resources to be able to focus on every detail and apply pressure to ensure that deadlines are met and budgets are kept to.

A good, independent Project Manager is a real asset for anyone planning to build their own property. Even experienced developers benefit from their experience and processes.

If you are embarking on a project such as this, the question should really be how could you be without a Project Manager!

About MDCI

MDCI is the leading Project Management Company in the South of Spain. Led by Chartered Surveyor and experienced Project Manager Mark Lawson, we have been managing projects since 1999 and have well over a hundred projects under our belts – all delivered on time and on (or under) budget. You can trust us to save you time and money and reduce the stress of building a luxury villa in Spain. We are with you every step of the way.
To find out more please contact us or read our article on the common issues when building a luxury villa in Spain to help you avoid these pitfalls.
Mark S Lawson

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