First published: supplement to 2016 February's editorial

Real estate and promises

A reader of our FAQs living far enough is considering buying a villa in Spain in a neighborhood whose Area Plan (general plan of soil use - P.G.O.U. Plan general de ordenación urbana) is in discussion. He was amazed not to receive the guarantees he wants: to be assured that he will be allowed, after the purchase, to carry out transformations (larger swimming pool, roofed terraces glazing, etc.) or about a possible widening of the road (open debate in the community) that would encroach on his property.

After asking an agency, in competition with the one where he is about to buy his future property, to follow the purchasing process (which, on the spot, may not have pleased everyone), our reader has involved a lawyer speaking his language but living 100 km - 60 M away, and therefore unfamiliar with the locals. And now, for added safety, he asks us whether we know a “honest, serious and French speaking” architect, to advise him and ultimately find for him or provide those famous guarantees.


Unfortunately, I know of no architect in Spain, honest or not, serious or not, much less French speaking. Basically, I was about to write “You have set your heart on a property which we (INSERT) probably would not have presented, because of the mentioned uncertainties”. With the idea of making my competitors an uneasy life, and the hope to see you buy from us.

What we sell: real estate …

But coming to think about it, I will rather write “we perhaps would not have exhibited this property for sale, in case we would have had knowledge of a specific problem.” Of a real problem. Because basically, what we (and many of our colleagues) offer for sale, is a property, in its present state, in its current structure, and at this price. This is what we sell: it exists, it's like this, at this price. Orange grove in the province of Valencia

… not promises

Neither we nor our colleagues can sell promises about possible later changes of a house structure. And in the case you submit, there is no real problem (legal), but a true problem for you: the property you have selected is certainly very attractive (I know the area, the view of the orange trees in the plain below is charming), but it lacks some features that are important to you, including a larger pool.

The L.R.A.U. and its successors

As it comes to a new development nearby, check that you do not have a problem with the (L.R.A.U. laws successor or the LUV (Ley Urbanística Valenciana) and the LOTUP (Ley de Ordenación del Territorio, Urbanismo y Paisaje). It is the first question to ask the real estate agent who sells the property or your lawyer.

If the agent who sells you the property is not sure, ask that the deed should bear a guarantee in your favour, making the agent responsible about any L.R.A.U., LUV or LOTUP influences, such as:

“This sale is conducted through the real estate agency X, in Z. The latter certifies that at the time of sale, it was not referred to any deliberation or decision that may affect the property under the Ley Reguladora de Actividad Urbanística Valenciana (or LUV, or any replacement or other derogation) neither in an official bulletin nor in the minutes of discussions in the town hall, in inter-municipality or other body, and severally with the seller, guarantee the buyer against any damage that could result after the sale of such affection whose possibility has already been made public at the time of sale.”

Well … something like that, or at least a similar letter signed by the agency; this is to see with your lawyer. This is not to derail the sale, and to be honest with you, as a real estate agent, I might have some reluctance to sign such a document. But it is also a sensor once: according to the reaction of the agent, you will be entitled to have doubts, or to feel reassured. For on-site professionals always know exactly what is coming in their locality.


With regard to the land use plan, regardless of the new legal provisions that come into force, the presently built area is most likely (99.99%) preserved of any demolition, except maybe the wall along the road, in the context of a hypothetical widening of the latter. And in this case, there are also natural factors (a more economical alternative: widen the road on the opposite side to yours, non-built) that protect this house and its plot.

For the rest, in the interpretation I can do of the submitted documents, it would be risky to speculate on any possible extension of the built area. At most, the roofed terraces could receive a few windbreakers, which with the years could turn into closing windows …

The natives

We must also understand that the locals always manage to arrange themselves without relying on a local justice whose slowness is proverbial, nor solve the problem with the blunderbuss: it is not in the local mentality. But … it happens between Juan, Antonio, José and Francisco.

The aliens (anyone coming from more than 100 km)

We foreigners are often confused by these curious situations. Your case reminds me of an item published in our frequent questions some fifteen years ago about another region, there: The evolution of the land use plan in Lorca, 2000 - 2006 (in French only, sorry). Now, this paper describes an atmosphere that obviously still has good times ahead, but the few conclusions that I have given are 15 years old.

Do not buy promises (they engage only those who believe in them)

Frankly, no one can make you promises, lesser with the current P.G.O.U. status in this commune, still in discussion. With regard to Spain, where you mention the difficulty to buy a property, this however proves that a true democracy, although a bit slow, is in place: for decades now, it is no longer necessary to oil somebody's palm to get a result. And I do not know whether in another European Union country, the possibility of selling promises would be very different. For the promises, there are specialists, I have a few names, but I doubt that you are interested. People you've visited so far do not seen to belong to this genre.

An alternative

An alternative would be to buy land and build as you wish. But first, in Spain and in the present situation (2016), it is more expensive (and takes more time) than acquiring a second hand property and on the other hand, it happens that at a certain age, considering building a house some several thousand kilometres away from home becomes tedious. Actually, Charles Aznavour did it with over 80 years, but we are not all made up like Charles Aznavour …

The multiplicity of contributors

Finally, you have already involved “on the spot” a real estate agency, a competitor of the former, a lawyer (based a 100 km away, it simplifies nothing, for he does not necessarily know the local atmosphere), and from what I see in your file, the thing is already complicated. I may be wrong, but if you add an architect, it might get even more complicated. And I invite you to ask yourself the question: this house, is that the one for you?

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