One of the main problems with buying off plan is obtaining the final finish unit to the standard promised by the promoters in their sales brochures. When the developer informs you that your property is complete and ready for inspection your first sight of the property can be an eye opening experience. In many instances not only is the apartment dirty but is barely in a condition which is appropriate for snagging in Spain, more often than not without electricity and water supplies.
The developers aim at this point is to complete the sale and if all of the documentation is in place will probably already have a served a notice to complete within a period specified as set out in the contract documentation. Completion should be resisted until you or your advisor is satisfied with the condition of the property; there is no incentive for a developer to undertake works after the sale has been completed. Your lawyer should be able to advise on the correct course of action to take in order to delay completion without incurring penalties, if they are reluctant to be involved I would suggest that you change advisors.
The purpose of the snag is to highlight defective and incomplete works including defective and damaged finishes, damaged units and appliances, inconsistencies from the agreed specification etc. Begin the snag armed with the specification and plans (if available), the first thing to do is to double check that they are showing you the correct property, many apartments are identical and more often than not there are no numbers on doors. Check that the layout of the unit is as per the specification i.e. number of bedrooms, bathrooms, general layout etc. Also check that you have been provided with the correct ranges of sanitary wear, kitchen units and appliances etc. At this point you will have look all over the property if the property is significantly incomplete, proceed no further. Ask the developer to bring it to a standard where an effective snag can be carried out.
I usually begin the detailed snag of the interior at the front door to the apartment and run through the apartment on a room-by-room basis referring to the rooms as marked in the specification. In the absence of a point of reference make it clear which rooms you are referring to, I usually take a compass and refer to rooms on the basis of orientation, the difficult rooms to reference are usually the bedrooms. Look at each aspect of a room in a logical sequence I often start with floors, walls and ceiling finishes and move on to joinery, electrics etc. Look in detail at everything, open and test all doors, look at cupboards, wardrobes, kitchen appliances and units etc, make notes of any defect noted. Try to use technical descriptions where possible and be clear on the locations of defects within rooms. If there are faults repeated throughout the property add a general comment section to the report, i.e. if painted wall finishes are uneven and rough throughout add this to the general comments. A camera can be a useful tool, photographs can be a good point of reference when you come to write up the report.
Where units have no service supplies, make clear reference that these services and associated appliances were not tested. Note that there is usually a 1-year defects warranty to cover these items, the 10-year warranty relates to the structure.
After completing the internal snag look at the exterior, armed with a good set on binoculars. Again be clear as to what section of the property you are snagging, view on an elevation-by-elevation basis and do not forget the roof and garage areas. Check that all amenities on the site have been provided i.e. parking spaces, pools, tennis courts etc. Very often particularly on urbanisations external areas will not have been fully completed at the time of your snag.
After completion of your hand written (or dictated snag) have it typed up. In some instances the developers representative will attend the snag with you and take notes, I do not recommend that you rely on these notes, make your own list. Developers often request that you sign their copy, I would not advise that you do so at this stage. Forward a copy of your report to the developer and to your lawyer. Following submission of the report contact the developer and obtain time scales for completion of the defects noted on your snag list. Be aware that very often the end result is a compromise, it is difficult to work back and obtain perfect finishes, as the saying goes ‘it is difficult to make a silk purse from a sows ear’ try to categorise the list as to items essential and those upon which you can compromise.
Do not be daunted by the fact that you have produced a long list of defects, or to the developer’s initial comments on sight of the report. I recently snagged a very expensive apartment in Puerto Banus, when I produced the list the developer commented ‘what were expecting an apartment to the standard of a new Ferrari’, my reply was ‘yes’.