Spanish property and land use, so very different from the UK

IF you are thinking of buying a home in Spain then you should know that Spanish property is fundamentally different to that found in the UK.

You may think that I am referring to the build quality of properties in Spain or perhaps their design?

Well, I am not – the difference is far greater than that and profoundly influences life in Spain and the types of property available.

The fact of the matter is that land use in Spain bears no relationship to the UK and never has done – for the primary reason that the Spanish do not and never have lived on their land!

This is despite the Spanish being been a largely agrarian society, until relatively recently. But what do I mean by the Spanish have ‘not lived on their land’ – and how is that relevant to Spanish property?

Well, the Spanish have always lived in villages and towns and then gone out to farm their land.

This is in direct contrast to the UK, where people have always lived on their land. Indeed, traditionally, a farmer or someone with a small holding in the UK, for example, lived in the middle (more or less) of their land and went to the local village or town for his materials or social needs.

As a consequence, if you drive around the UK then you will see endless properties in the countryside from former workers cottages to small holdings and farms and some grandiose properties that once had considerable but may only have an extended garden now.

In short, there is a profusion of old country properties – from those on the edges of villages to others that lie in the middle of the countryside.

However, drive around Spain (particularly Mediterranean Spain) and everything is very different, indeed!

Firstly, you will see virtually no old properties in the countryside, apart from the odd massive landowner’s mansion (cortijo or masia) and some (usually) ramshackle barns.

Of worker’s cottages and small holdings?

You are unlikely to see any.

At best, what you may come across are summer houses (casitas) that were constructed on the outskirts of towns and villages and built only for temporary summer living.

So, the original landscape and the way of living in Spain for the Spanish was very different from the UK.

Of course, the landscape of Spain has changed markedly over the past twenty or so years and now there are new properties in the countryside.

However, they are largely only on new estates, which have been built, mainly along the Mediterranean coastline, on marginal agricultural land.

Needless to say, these have been constructed for foreigners and are completely artificial, often a reasonable drive from a village – and rarely lived in by the Spanish. Why is all this important?

Well, if you come to Spain to buy property, appreciate that there never were pretty, well-built properties suitable for all year living in the Spanish countryside – so desired by many North Europeans.

Indeed, if you do find one then it is likely to be newish and possibly illegally built.

My point, of course, is that living in Spain has always been different from the UK and this means that, as a buyer of Spanish property, you should adjust your natural expectations and recognise the constraints that exist on what types of property are available in Spain.

So, be prepared to compromise and recognise that you may have to buy on a ‘new’ estate with a limited plot, if you are to obtain a fully legal, detached house, notwithstanding that your dream was for a Spanish property with a large garden – well away from other homes.

By Nick Snelling

Nick is the web master of and author of 5 books including ‘How to Buy Spanish Property and Move to Spain – Safely’ and ‘The Laptop Entrepreneur’

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