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Investing in property on the Costa Blanca

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Your guide to the rules and regulations of building your own dream home on the Costa Blanca

Spanish land

So you've found the ideal spot on which to build your dream house  - 10 things to do to make sure your not buying a field for your goats!

Spain is a beautiful country, blessed with many mountains and valleys giving the opportunity to build your dream property with a view to match. But when searching for that perfect spot, here are some tips to take into account before making that final decision.

1. Not all land can be built upon. Many, many people have come a cropper by taking the sellers' word that the land is developable. The local town council in Lliber has taken the unprecedented step of erecting signposts along the main road into the village warning prospective buyers to check firstly with the town hall about land purchase. Under the previous town mayor, buyers and developers had been making 'under the table' illegal payments to alter the documentation of a given plot of land to change its status. Obviously, the mayor got caught, and many people found themselves with building embargos and hefty fines. So be warned. Get yourself an independent advisor who can help you check out the situation with the local planning department.

2. Once you have found a potential plot, try to visit it at different times of the day to ascertain from what direction, and at what time the sun rises. Although the Costa Blanca enjoys an average of 3000 hours of sunshine per year, the winter months can be cold so the sunshine becomes more important. Generally, north facing, hillside plots are colder in winter.

3. Check the site after a heavy downpour of rain. When it rains in Spain, it rain heavily leading to localised flooding, so you need to be aware of the nearest water course. Speak to any neighbours to find out if your plot becomes waterlogged.

4. Speaking of neighbours, try to ascertain if you think you will be happy living near to them. Do they have dogs? If you are thinking of building your home in the countryside where there is plenty of wildlife, these dogs may get a bit loud barking at each and every rabbit.

5. Position, position, position. This can't be stressed enough, both from a logistical point of view and the resale point of view. First and foremost, does the site has sufficient access for the materials to be delivered from the construction company? You may be OK to get your Ford Fiesta along the narrow mountain pass - but how about a fully loaded articulated truck or a cement mixer? You'd be surprised at the amount of people that forget this.

How close is the plot to local services such as electricity, telephone and water? You don't have to go far off the beaten track here to find there is no access to the any of the amenities. This isn't such a problem as all can be overcome with the installation of a water deposit, septic tank, generator and satellite for communications. Many people find this a very acceptable alternative and are more than willing to invest in the extra equipment if it means being able to build on a plot with an outstanding view.

6. If the plot has a ruin on it check with the town hall as to the allowable increase in living area you can achieve in your refurbishment. Often you are only allowed to add 20% of the existing building area per year up to a maximum of 2% of the overall plot size. Sometimes it is better to demolish the ruin and start again - but you must check first with the town hall to see if you are allowed to do this. Some people keep the ruin in place and use it as a barbecue house.

7. If there is a partially built building on the site you must check with the town hall if the building license was revoked for any reason. Often, even though there may have been problems in the past, the town hall will allow the building to remain if there are no objections from the neighbours.

8. Check that the property has no outstanding debts secured on it. If you need to obtain a mortgage on the property the bank will do the best searches for any larger debts but you need to ask your lawyer or gestor to check the last water rates, electricity and community charge receipts.

9. If you are planning to build a wooden house on the site (now becoming quite popular in Spain), you will need to point this out to the town hall as different regulations apply. Many authorities regard these dwellings as temporary rather like mobile homes so you can often get away with things you couldn't with a more solid structure. having said that, once you add a solid concrete base - which some of the wooden houses require, you are back in the boundaries of a standard construction. Best to check first.

10. Finally, some rural areas have been awarded conservation status and require developers to use only specified materials such as natural stone or wooden windows. Obviously this can add considerably to your construction costs, so always check first with the local town hall.

Building a home either from scratch or renovating a traditional Spanish finca is a rewarding experience, with the end result as near to your dream home as you could possibly get - as long as you stick to the above points, it won't end up being a dream home for your goats!



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