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How you can now build your dream home on rural land in Spain’s Andalusia 

Authorities in the southern Spanish region are opening up the possibility of building detached two-floor homes, container homes and other types of property on rural land, something that hasn’t been allowed until now. 

build rural land andalucia
Andalusia, together with Extremadura, are the only regions where you can build on rústico land in Spain. Photo: Q K from Pixabay

In Spain land is distributed into three categories: urbano, urbanizable and rústico.

Urbano land has official municipal accreditation for residential properties to be built on it, urbanizable is theoretically meant for residential purposes but needs accreditation and often isn’t connected to the water, sewage or electricity grid yet, and rústico is rural land where residential properties cannot be built, also called no urbanizable

When looking to buy a terreno (plot of land) in Spain with the intention of building on it, it’s essential you check on the cadastre what the plot you’re interested in is classified as. 

Otherwise, you may be bitterly disappointed to find out that the land you’ve bought in the Spanish countryside can only be used to plant olive trees.

This law has been problematic for many foreigners and locals in Spain who want to build a home from scratch, as many isolated plots far from other properties end up being rústico.

Fortunately for those in the southern region of Andalusia, and those intending to have a second home there, the laws are being changed to give more flexibility to prospective homeowners. 

Andalusia’s new land law will allow people to build homes of up to two floors on rústico (rural) land, as long as it doesn’t lead to the development of new settlements. 

The legislation will also help to regularise the situation of 300,000 properties built on rústico land across the region which up to now have been in a legal limbo, including the cave homes found in cities like Granada.

Each municipality will have the final say on how much space there must be between rural homes, but the Ley para el Fomento de la Sostenibilidad del Territorio de Andalucía (LISTA) legislation does state that rústico plots given the green light for construction must be very big, at least 2.5 hectares in size (25,000sqm). In forested areas, the requirement may be increased to 5 hectares.

As large as that may sound, there are rústico plots over 2.5 or 5 hectares on sale in Andalusia for as little as €10,000. 

rural land andalusia

An example of no urbanizable plots in the province of Jaén, as listed on Idealista.

Andalusia is after all the second biggest region in Spain in terms of surface area with 87,600 km², so there is plenty of space in el campo (the countryside). 

And non-buildable land is also generally considerably cheaper than urbano land, opening up the possibility for people to get some good deals. 

READ ALSO: A Spanish architect’s step-by-step guide to building a home in Spain

The legislation also stipulates that constructed houses must not be more than seven metres high (one or two floors)  and that structures must not exceed one percent of the plot in rural areas and 0.5 percent of the plot in forested areas.

As for water and electricity, the regulation establishes that “they must be guaranteed in an autonomous and environmentally sustainable way”, which suggests being off the grid with everything from solar panels, individual water storage tanks and off-grid sewage systems. 

It will also not be possible to level sloping land or change the topography of more than 30 percent of the plot.

Although this is evidently good news for people who want to build a house in rural Andalusia, regional authorities will require each person who is given a building permit to pay the municipality in question the equivalent of 15 percent of the total construction budget. It’s what they call in Spanish ‘una mordida’ (a bite), because this is Andalusian politics after all.


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For members


Property in Spain: What you need to know before making a down payment

If you’re looking to buy property in Spain, you might have heard of or come across the concept of a ‘contrato de arras’ - but what is it, what rights does it give you, and what should you know before signing one?

making a down payment on a property in spain
The total price of both the deposit and full sale price should be accurately and clearly identified on the deposit contract. Photo: Josep Lago/AFP

In English contrato de arras translates to a deposit contract or deposit agreement and is an important, in most cases, essential, legal document to finalise an agreement for the purchase of a property in Spain. 

Although it may seem like another formality in the long process of finding and buying a property, it is an important contract that commits both buyer and seller to the sale, and formalises the initial deposit payment.

In Spain, the deposit to pay to seller when signing the contrato de arras is usually between 5 and 15 percent of the final agreed sale price, a sum that can only be cashed by the owner of the property being sold.

What is the purpose of a deposit contract in Spain?

The main purpose of an ‘arras‘ is to give peace of mind to all parties involved in a property sale, as the agreement contract confirms in writing that the terms agreed for the sale are respected.

Unlike the rental market, where you pay a fianza (deposit) that is returned to you when you leave the property, or if you pull out of renting it, contrato de arras are only for property purchases and work differently: if you sign the deposit contract and then ultimately decide against purchasing the property, then you will lose the amount of money that has been paid as a deposit. 

However if culpability lies with the seller and the transaction of the property doesn’t proceed as agreed, it is custom in Spain that the seller returns double the deposit amount paid in the contrato de arras.

What is normally included in a deposit contract in Spain?

The ‘arras’ usually contains several important details, including key information like personal details: signing one of these contracts ensures that both sides have the necessary documentation, both in terms of finance, representation, tax, citizenship, and so on. It also identifies and details the property itself, and any charges, limitations or other relevant financial circumstances – such as outstanding debts – on the property or land.

It of course includes the price to be paid at both the deposit and payment stage, or outlines a payment plan, and details on other possible payment options such as loans or mortgages. 

The arras also includes a time limit for the execution of the deed of sale, and makes absolutely clear that both buyer and seller are aware of what they are signing because this cannot be changed later unless there is a new agreement made. Once signed, that’s usually it – unless both parties desire a new agreement.

Writing up a contrato de arras 

If you Google contratos de arras you’ll be able to find countless templates, but it is always best to get help from a lawyer regardless of your level of Spanish. You want to be absolutely sure the arras is right and legally binding because although they are considered by many to be a mere reservation or formality, as you already know, there can be serious financial, and possibly legal, consequences if the conditions in this contract are broken by either party.

Another reason it’s better to go through a legal expert is because instead of agreeing and signing privately with the property seller, doing it with a lawyer means a notary or independent witness will be present and provide you with an additional guarantee, although they can also be signed at estate agents. 

The witness explains to all parties the conditions of the deposit contact so everyone can make an informed decision in full knowledge of the fact, as well as any deadlines to take account of. It is always best to get legal advice when signing a deposit contract because the regulation of these sorts of agreements is hit and miss in Spain, and therefore their scope can be broad, even more so when doing it directly with a seller, and especially so in a foreign country in a different language.

Make sure you get the nota simple

As we have outlined at The Local before, getting the nota simple is also very important when buying property in Spain. Many lawyers suggest getting a nota simple on the same day as when you sign the arras, as the legal and financial conditions of the property or seller could have changed since you first saw it.

Take a good look at the property before signing: Like getting the nota simple, it’s also very important that you give the property a once over before signing the deposit contract. Make sure you do a thorough review before putting pen to paper: make sure the lights work, and taps run; check that heating, and that there are no visible leaks or damage, and so on. This’ll save you potential problems down the road, and could save you time and money.

The price: The total price of both the deposit and full sale price should be accurately and clearly identified on the deposit contract to avoid any disputes down the road that could disrupt the sale. 

Loss of deposit:  It should be put in writing that if the buyer reneges on any of the commitments made in the deposit contract, they will lose the deposit. It should also state clearly that if it is the seller who does not comply with the conditions of the deposit contract, they must pay double the deposit.

By Conor Faulkner