Ask the expert: Why use an architect in Spain?

Friday, April 17, 2015

Ask the expert: Why use an architect in Spain?

If you're buying a resale home in Spain that needs a little TLC you may gain from using an architect, says Liam Kellehar (www.arquitectos.eu.com).

A very common question! There are of course many reasons, but the one that frequently surprises British buyers: it is often a legal requirement. Spanish architects are also qualified structural engineers and here the building regulations - Ley de Ordenación de la Edificación (LOE), state that any structural design needs a Licencia de Obras Mayor which requires technical drawings and documents prepared by an architect. Even that little porch extension you have been planning will need reinforced concrete foundations and a roof that will not fall down. But even before purchasing a house or a building plot an architect can help you. A Feasibility Study will check if the land classification permits you to build and ensure that your dream home complies with local planning requirements (PGOU), thus saving you time and money.

Surveys

Let us suppose you want to buy an existing property. That old country house may look quaint and rustic but it could be a mine of structural problems. A pre-purchase Condition Survey highlighting any structural concerns, potential renovation costs and legality of the existing construction, is a good investment that helps you manage your budget. Once you have made your purchase, refurbishment or new build, it is an exciting time. You will want an architect that can help you let your creative juices flow, not stifle your ideas. Design is important and your lifestyle, the site and even the existing house (in a refurbishment) are all essential to the resolution of the design. Not so much design as architectural therapy. It is important that you get the house of your dreams, whether that is in a modern style or architecture that seamlessly blends the needs of today's lifestyle with traditional surroundings and at a budget you can afford.

Design and planning

Many people find architects' drawings hard to understand. Can your architect supply 3D computer images that will really give you an idea how your home will look and feel? You should be involved in all aspects of the design and choice of materials and fittings. A detailed list of the quantity and quality of the materials will help control your costs. Once the design is agreed your architect will guide you through the confusion of Spanish Planning and obtain all the relevant licences. Sometimes a building contractor may be involved in early design discussions, but if not, your architect will evaluate potential contractors experienced in projects of the same scale and quality. He will then organise inspections of their previous work, obtain tenders (fixed quotes) and draw up a contract to protect your interests.

Professionalism

Obviously clients should have full confidence in their architect and know that they are receiving a service that fully complies with professional codes of conduct and has appropriate insurance cover.

Project management

If you are living on-site, it will be easy to keep abreast of the progress of building work. But if you are living abroad the worries can soon mount up and a greater level of certainty is essential. Your architect can provide project management services to keep you up-to-date - monthly site reports, photos, budget cost control and other regular correspondence. He can also order specialist materials, organise gas, electric and other service connections, even arrange special accounts to receive client funds and make payments.

Fees

View the architect's fee as part of the building cost and start the discussions on day one. For a basic service many people will quote a percentage fee of 10 per cent of building cost. That might suit a Spanish-speaking client, but what if your language skills are not up to dealing with a recalcitrant town hall official? What are you getting for your money? Ask your architect to tailor his services to your needs and to break down the costs accordingly. Ask for guidance on other costs - Aparejador (site architect), site survey, municipal licences, insurance and quality testing, etc. You do not want any costly surprises. Agree what you want, what you will pay and put it in a Fixed Fee contract. When you have a better idea of your costs, you can control your budget and get the level of service you need.


Liz Rowlinson

(This article was first published in A Place in the Sun Magazine - Spring 2015 issue 119)

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A Place In The Sun