Those who move to Spain looking to build their own homes often face uncertainty on the legalities of purchasing property and then legally building a new home. The last thing any potential home owner wants is to build a home illegally. In general, everything starts with the land you purchase.
Within Spain, purchased land can be classified as Zonas Verdes, Suelo Urbano, or Suelo Rustico/Finca Rustica. Any land classified as Zonas Verdes means building is not permitted, so avoid this land. Suelo Urbano or Urban Land means development plans are already in place so you should not have a hard time gaining permits. Suelo Rustico/Finca Rustica allows you to build a home, but there are many strict requirements in place regarding the size of your home and the home's placement upon that plot.
The seller of the land should inform you as to the classification of the land that interests you. It is best to verify the land's status with the local Town Hovernment (Ayuntamiento) if there is any question. Tragic circumstances can occur when a buyer purchases land and later finds out that the land is not zoned for construction. Never sign a sales contract until you are certain that the land is truly ready for the home of your dreams.
Land that is Suelo Urbano can obtain a full mortgage without many problems providing your credit is good. Purchasing land deemed Suelo Rustico for Finca Rustica is trickier. Banking laws state that only half of the land's value can be mortgaged. You may end up paying out far more money than expected. You must also check that there are no encumbrances on the land. If taxes are outstanding or if there are right-of-ways that would be tampered with, building permits will not be granted. Cases have occurred where a trail or road crosses a piece of land. Any home would then tamper with that trail, so building permits were denied by the Ayuntamiento.
The area's Ayuntamiento will be able to show you the Plan Parcial, a listing of building plots and any restrictions. The Plan Parcial will show you exactly how many homes will be built in the area and what services are in place or will be established (electricity, cable television, roads, sewers/septic systems, etc.) Once you are certain that the land is suitable for your home, ask for written proof. This is the best way to ensure you will not run into problems in the future. Eventually, you move on and sign the sales contract, get it notarised, and then finalise the purchase.
Now that you own your land and have the deed in hand, you must contact a local architect or builder. It is important to find one who is fluent in Spanish to make sure that any regulations are understood and followed. You will work with this architect or builder to develop a blueprint of your home and surrounding land. A local builder or architect will know the area restrictions. Many towns limit the number of floors, rooms, or balconies you are permitted to have in town. The same applies to exterior wall colours in some towns as well. Take the finalised blueprint to the Ayuntamiento for permits. Many towns require you pay a fee of five percent of the estimated construction costs during the permit process.
The hardest part is waiting. This tiresome process can take anywhere from six to nine months depending again on the Town Hall and the number of permit applications ahead of you. In some cases, it can take more than a year to receive your building permits. This is where the trouble often begins. Many people feel it is absurd to wait this long, so they will allow their builder to start construction before the permits are in hand. This can be tricky because there are loopholes in many town laws that automatically grant a permit to a building that is at least four years old. If your home is built without a permit and you are able to dodge the attention of the town for four years, you may automatically gain your license. If caught, however, many Town Halls have the right to demand you knock the building down and pay a fine of at least 10% of the building's value.
Building a home in Andalusia requires a little research and a lot of time. Do not expect your home to go up within months like is common in some countries. Providing you do the legwork and thoroughly research the land, any restrictions and then wait for the permits to be issued, you will not run into problems down the road.