Despite the fact that the vast majority of real estate agencies and intermediaries in the sector are serious professionals, there are some things that happen in the housing market that undermine good practice.
Buying a home is often a person’s most important investment in their lifetime, and that’s why even the smallest details should be given a lot of attention. Today we are dealing with all those issues that you should check before you say “yes” to that house. Take note:
- The surface area: “Many of the built surface areas which are published about properties are false. In some cases, the m2 of shared community space is brought in to describe the private property. In other cases, the built area is posted, making the number about 30% more than the useable surface area. The surface area is very important because with current house prices, 6 or 7 metres either way changes the final price considerably. “The agency should be as accurate as possible and rigorously measure the house, getting the actual building measurements according to how wide the exterior walls are. It’s true that with certain places it’s not possible to determine, but only in these cases should a percentage be estimated, not as a general rule for all homes. Never count the metres of terraces, balconies or storerooms and specify whether they are ‘built’ or ‘useful’. Each square metre of one or the other are worth different amounts,” says Pablo García, from Atrezo Arquitectos.
- Documentation: To sell a house or a flat you meed a number of papers and documents. “We must have information on the nota simple property certificate from the Land Registry, the ITE (Technical Building Inspection) and the possible outstanding charges that the property may have. The role of any good agency should not be limited to just showing you around the house, but answering any questions you have. They should be considered experts in the property they sell, especially if they sell it with a sole agent agreement, where they and only they may sell the house and no one else.”
- The floorplans: “I have seen blueprints that are so badly done they’re more of a sketch than a measurement. The solution that many use to fool buyers with these plans is to furnish them with furniture on a smaller scale. In this way we can see that everything fits perfectly, but actually what’s drawn is a 70cm x 180cm bed. If we have a floorplan, it must be limited, with only the useful areas of each room given. It can show the property furnished but with standard and real sizes of furniture. The plan must be signed by the company and must reflect reality,” adds García.
- Description of the materials and finishes of the property: Parquet flooring is not the same as laminate flooring and windows with thermal bridge insulation aren’t the same as those without it. “The price differences are considerable, so you shouldn’t describe a house in any old way, especially when you talk about finishing touches that it doesn’t have or that are of higher quality. If you add value to these finishes, we must look at them carefully. You should also mention the facilities like plumbing, heating and electricity. We should know from the year of construction in the cadastral register when they were renovated to get an idea of their age.”
- Changes in distribution: “There’ve been times when I’ve visited a house that the person who shows it to me tells me how I can make use of the space. Houses are not distributed as if they were a doll’s house because there are drainage facilities, ventilation ducts and most importantly, structural walls inside that cannot be knocked down. If we want to know the possibilities of a flat in terms of how the space can be distributed, we must talk to a technician. Another classic is being told about closing the terrace or balcony: Just because flats on other floors have them closed doesn’t mean we can legally do it. It’s a more delicate subject than it seems,” says the architect.
- Urban planning and legality: It is necessary to have information on the legality of urban planning of the properties and if they have any built areas with prescribed infraction which may not be altered. “We should know that the part of the house that is legally built will not be valued the same as the bit that’s outside of planning regulations if it is not possible to legalise the works in the future. Another issue is the housing below ground level as it may not always be legally habitable. Get the license of first occupation that guarantees us of its legality and the possibility of it being used as a house even though it’s underground. In any case, these are exceptional cases,” he says.
- The price: “The average price for the area you’re looking in should be worked out from the price at which other local transactions were closed and this is recorded in the property deeds and the register. They must be the values that are taken into account. It’s not enough to talk about what the neighbours in the area are asking for if they can never get that much for it.”
- VAT on agency fees: “When the real estate agent sets the expenses, they must indicate whether or not it includes VAT, as it can lead to confusion and you can believe that the commission is 3% without the extra 21% VAT on top that would have to be paid,” he concludes.
All of the above may sound cumbersome and too much work for a homebuyer, but it pays to pay attention to all of these aspects when buying a house or apartment. It’ll save you some unpleasant surprises at a later date.