The property market in Spain is still very much unregulated in many areas that can affect you. One of the main problems you might have, depending on which country you are coming from, is to understand property sizes and how are they calculated in Valencia, or Spain for that matter. This can limit your choice or stretch your budget well before the groundwork starts.
In Spain, believe it or not, when a property goes to the market, the seller usually informs the estate agent how big his property is, or, in many cases, how big he thinks it is.
Occasionally, it is more a wish than reality and agents are usually not bothered to ask for the title deeds to check this, or to look at the land registry. There are agents that insist on real sizes and reliable sources before publishing the ad, but not too many of them do this. The result is often puzzling: there will be cases where you might find the same property listed with 3 different agents showing 3 different sizes. I once looked at the property listing that had 6 different sizes, going from 130 square meters to 90 square meters. The owner advertised with six different agencies and they all had different measures. Obviously, the smallest one was the correct size, such is life. Don’t get alarmed – sooner or later, in the buying process, you will get to the correct measurements, but you also don’t want to spend time viewing properties that are too small just because somebody wished his apartment is bigger than it really is.
This situation gets even more complicated. In Spain, there are 2 official measurements for sizes, built (construido) and useful (util). In theory, “built” should include outside measurements of your apartment, what they call: footprint area, including all the common spaces in the building. For example, let’s say you are buying 90 square meter flat in the building where there are 20 flats, and the common area (staircases, elevator space, entrance hall, cellars) has 200 square meters. The constructed size of your flat will be inflated for another 10 square meters, so your 90 will actually be 80 real and 10 commons, and that is still construido size. Within your “construido” size, your terraces and balconies should be incorporated in the measure with 100% of its area. That will make the living area even smaller.
Now, when we go to the second, more realistic size, called util, we are talking about inner, useful space. Terraces and balconies are still counted in, but only to the 50% of their size, and this will include outside wall measurements as well. The common spaces are not incorporated.
To get to the real, fully useful area of your prospective apartment, you would have to deduct another 10% of the total area for outside walls. Only then, you would come to something that is called the net area in certain countries. For buyers that are coming from the countries where similar measures are in force (like Italy), this will not be confusing, but for the ones that are coming from the countries where only the net area is measured (like France), this can be a disaster. The difference can sometimes amount to 30-35% of the original, advertised size. For example, I was interested to buy a property of 135 square meters construidos, which was 121 util, which in the end had only 102 net area.
It would be easy if advertisers, sellers, and estate agents would follow those rules. But they do not. When advertising, they will list construido and util sizes, but in util, they will include the common spaces or full size of the terraces. There was an apartment I was looking at which had 180 square meters construidos, 150 squares util, with a nice terrace of 60 square meters, and an inside patio of 20 square meters. In reality, this flat had only 70 meters of living space, including outside walls, which corresponded to foot area of just over 60 square meters. Yes, the terrace was nice, the patio useless, because it was on the first floor in a tight space in between the buildings, with no light, but in the end, there was not enough space for us to move in. And the size started from 180 square meters.
I have wasted lots of time until I finally figured this out. Not even the estate agents are aware of this difference, nor they honestly care. For them, the most important thing is construido size. This is the size that determines your price, this is the size written in the title deeds and the only thing you can trust when buying. The seller will also decide on the price according to this size. Obviously, as you walk in the building, the wider the entrance hall and staircases are, the smaller your flat will be.
When I started looking for property to buy, I wanted to have something like 95-100 square meters of foot area. In the end, I finished looking at the listed properties with at least 130-140 square meters construidos. But I’ve seen numerous smaller properties before that, and wasted a lot of time.
If you are looking to buy the detached house (adosado) or simply a house, the situation is much easier. Your outside wall area will still count, but not the common areas. Of course, house or casa del pueblo will not have any common spaces, it all belongs to you, but in the townhouse complexes, there are plenty – like clubhouse, pool area and so on. Luckily, this is not incorporated into the size of your property. This is the reason why the house of 100 square meters looks much bigger than the same size apartment.
Anyway, the final size will be determined by title deeds (escritura), which you should ask to see before committing seriously. Sometimes, although not very often, those are not correct either, but there is nothing you can do about it. If it is not correct for you, it will be wrong for your buyer further down the line. Even if the agents tell you that they don’t have them, they can easily get hold of title deeds. What can also happen is that the certain parts of the house are not legalized, and therefore not in the title deeds. This should affect the price, and also, you can insist that the whole area is incorporated in title deeds before you buy it. I know of many cases where owners had to do it, otherwise, they would lose the sale.
Just to be safe, it is best to also measure the property yourself. There are numerous applications for smartphones that you can use, like Room Scan or many others, where it takes maximum 10 minutes to completely map the property. Once you know the exact address, you can also find the sizes on the Internet. Two sites I often use, that are accessible to everybody, are Idealista.com, (under Labs and then Archive section) as well as a bit more detailed site called Qasa.es (painfully slow). The ultimate source is government site: Sede Electronica de Catastro
Once you decide to buy the property, and before the deposit is handed out, there is another chance to ask for the title deeds. If you have a lawyer, and you must have one when buying the property in Spain, he should also make sure that the sizes are correct. Be careful, even if you think this all is gibberish, and what you saw suits you fine, the construido size is the one that will be instrumental when selling the property. But, that I will explain in the following article. The lawyer is a necessity because of many other reasons so it would be very foolish to rely on somebody else.