Dispelling The Myths Of What Is And Isn’t A Snagging Defect And Some Amusing Responses From Builders
Published on 29/09/2008 in Buying Process
InspectaHomeSpain are totally independent of any builder agent or lawyer and provide a professional new property inspection, SNAGGING service, which has resulted in us being involved in managing the repair process snf managing the builder on behalf the buyer.
In the process of compiling a 2nd survey on common snagging defects in Spain, which I plan to publish in November, I had to laugh at some of theamusing comments made by developers and things that have happened during snagging inspections, so I thought that I would share these with you via this article, plus pass on some common sense advice.
InspectaHomeSpain were one of the first companies to provide dedicated snagging services, have been established for 4 years, have checked almost 4000 properties throughout Spain, built by more than 170 different developers and you would think by now we have heard and seen it all but, even now, they still manage to surprise us and maybe one day we´ll produce our own league ladder highlighting the good and the bad guys.
We are never sure if it’s the sunshine, idyllic surroundings, the relaxed lifestyle, or just the cheap booze, that results in the buyers leaving their brain on the plane and not really knowing what they have bought, or the idiosyncrasies of Spanish system. If the sun is shining people seem to be happy to accept no hot water, living on a building site, or on one occasion a property with no windows or doors, why when you wouldn´t accept this in the UK do people accept this in Spain?
Via the website www.inspectahomespain.com you can already get lots of free guides that explain the snagging and completion process and the questions that you should be asking the developers, BEFORE, you travel to any country to complete on your property. Ideally you should check your property, either in person, or using a third party company, at least 14 days prior to completion and this will identify any major issues and if the property and communal facilities are finished. One interesting statistic from the new survey is that in 46% of properties checked, during 2007/8, communal facilities, pools, commercial centres and golf courses, were not finished.
Amazingly in 21% not even started and we frequently have to explain to upset owners, that are relying on rental income to pay mortgages, that it may be difficult to rent a property, based in the middle of nowhere with no facilities.
The way the process should work is that you visit the property, before completion, accompanied by a representative of the builder, who takes you around the property and together you produce the snagging list, which is often written in Spanish. You are then expected to sign this list to agree the defects so make sure that you get them to read the list back to you, maybe record the conversation, plus produce your own version of the list, giving a copy to your lawyer. You should always get your lawyer to include the snagging list as legal inclusion when you complete at The Notary.
The builder will tell you the repairs are done, get this in writing, so you arrange to visit to check the repairs and normally something isn´t repaired. The builders answer may be sorry it isn´t on the list, or you said paint the wall not re-surface it, so we don´t have to repair it. Well your response should be actually legally we have 1 year in which to find snagging defects and I know that we can add to the list of items to be repaired.
Remember to re-check everything as they can create additional defects when repairing the original faults and our Questions and Answers Guide explains much more about your legal rights on snagging.
Repairing snagging isn´t always a priority for the developer as it costs money and they will probably use the same staff for repairs that are building the next phase of the development. Money for new completions will always take priority over snagging and one tip is to make sure that, either on the snagging list, or via a separate agreement, that the developer commits in writing to the time to repair the snagging, normally 30 working days. You will have to chase the builder, the snagging will not be done and we have had builders telling clients that they have 1 year to repair defects, not true, they have 30 working days to complete all of the items on your list and when you visit and repairs are not completed these are deemed overdue and they don´t get another 30 days to fix these as you can insist that they are immediately repaired.
Your agent may tell that you will inspect the property and move in and won´t be around for the inspection, not true, often there will be no utilities connected, you expect to want to use the property straight away, but again people don´t understand that it can take between 6-8 weeks, after completion, before you can use the property so budget for this. Please don´t make arrangements for the furniture to be delivered the next day and it is common to see furniture damaged by builders repairing defects.
People should realise that the person conducting the inspection for the developer will typically not have any formal building qualifications and often they work for the sales department. Developers try to make it as difficult as possible for us to carry out inspections and tactics have included loosing keys when we arrive for 1st & 2nd inspections, not cleaning properties prior to inspections as you can hide defects under dirt, turning off electricity so that electric blinds cannot be raised, or water to hide leaks and one developer even sent us to the wrong properties as the ones that the owners had been told were finished were not. Another developer changed their rules making it necessary for the buyer to have a separate Power of Attorney, very expensive plus when we arrived they stared to send a qualified builder with the inspection staff, whose role was to argue about almost every defect, a practice which they have now stopped as it didn´t work as we still recorded and had the defects rectified.
I wish I had a euro for every time a developer has said it´s your job to find defects so you find as many as possible, to justify your fee, actually not true as I would love a small list as it makes my job much easier when re-checking. It amazes me that on a developments, where we have checked multiple properties, 76% of the defects are common in all of the properties examples being poor paint finishes, door handles missing, and leaking radiators, they think they would learn or perhaps they rely on untrained people not finding the defects.
One myth is that you´ll be told that you are being too fussy, that Spanish buyers would accept the finish and having now inspected for most nationalities I can tell you that this is not true and we have found Spanish buyers are even more demanding. One comment that normally defuses more difficult situations, where a developer will argue about defects, is to simply ask them if it they were in your shoes and they were the buyer would they accept the defect, often the answer is no but if a developer refuses to put items on the list you should refuse to sign the list and speak to your lawyer.
So let´s move onto some more specific comments and incidents the first coming from what must be the developers training manual, as we have heard this so often. If a wall ceiling brickwork or external rending is rough, uneven, badly painted the most common expression used by the developer is that it is meant to be finished like that as this a RUSTIC finish. Sorry either an internal wall has a patterned sprayed effect or it should be flat so don´t expect the term RUSTIC unless you are buying an old Finca.
You would expect that the developer would check the property immediately prior to inspection but this doesn´t happen, true examples that prove this are on 4 occasions, on different sites, where builder’s staff have been living in the properties and we have found sleeping builders in bed rolls, card games in progress, and one guy emerging naked from a shower, bit of a shock for the lady buyer. Why is it also that they use the toilets when there´s no water connected?
Next missing items like kitchens, boilers, cookers, even windows, where the builder will
say don´t worry we will fit these after you complete, sorry no not acceptable as when
you check the property it should be in a condition where you can move and everything
on the sales contract should be there. It´s always easier getting these items fitted if you
still owe the developer money.
I think paint and decorative finishes always give problems and some of the most interesting responses.
When we found a large hole in the ceiling the builder smiled and said that it was for additional
Where clearly water ingress around a front door had caused the wall to go green the young lady told us that it was only condensation because the property had been closed up so long.
Where there was a cracked wall with a gap wide enough to get my hand in this was described as only settlement cracking and later this block was proven to be subsiding.
On another site a buyer was told me that the reason why there was only a thin coat of paint of the walls and the finish was patchy was because they knew that British buyers prefer to re-paint the walls themselves. Perhaps the buyer should have asked to look at a property that a Spanish person was buying to see if they are any different but I can tell you on this site they are all the same. When complaining about uneven walls we told sorry but we don´t use Spanish tradesman and the staff we use are not very good at plastering so this is as good as it gets.
You´d think that in a country that produces so many tiles that they would be able lay them well but I can´t remember ever inspecting a property where there are no defects with tiling and following are just a few of the common comments and problems.
Ideally tiles should be flush to the walls and floors, with even spaces around filled with grout, they should match for colourshade and style and of course not be cracked or damaged. On one site in particular there was a big problem with varying shades and styles walls and floors looking a bit like a chess board because the fitters had not bothered to match the batch numbers and the builder was adamant that they wouldn´t change them. OMIC the Spanish consumers department ruled that they were wrong and forced the builder to change them in more than 30 properties. Again builder continued to tell us that gaps around pipes are normal, gaps in grouting are normal and that they don´t have to tile behind units. All not correct facts you just have to stand your ground when listing the defects.
Marble floors worktops and walls can be a problem but just remember that surface should be smooth and you shouldn´t be able to feel cracks and chips. If you find any these or scratching these are defects and repairs can be made by filling the cracks with a clear resin and re-polishing the areas, not by sticking white grout into the holes, mopping the floor and saying that´s how they fix the problems. Unlike ceramic tiles the colour and shades on marble tiles are more likely to vary.
Drives solarium and patio levels need checking, normally using a spirit level but often when we find problems the builder will say that they cannot be rectified. If they are not fixed you can be storing up problems, especially on flat roofs, resulting from water accumulation but the builders most common response is, it´s OK because it doesn´t rain much in Spain. In a property costing over €1m we found a large area on the rear patio with no drainage and logged the defect. When we went back the smiling builder explained that he had fixed this by drilling holes along the edge where it met the wall, so out came the spirit level but he didn´t seem to understand so I used a more graphic test, emptying a bucket of water onto the area that sat in a large puddle in the middle of the patio. On the next visit the patio had been lifted and re-laid, problem solved.
On many sites we check properties early in the completion phase when there are very few people around or moved in and recently an inspector disappeared and was eventually found locked out of the property on a balcony on a 4th floor property. He closed the patio door behind him which locked and the builders simply ignored his cries for help.
On another occasion the inspector noticed a horrible smell in the property but carried on normally until he opened a wardrobe from which a very upset ginger cat leapt out onto the inspectors back and out of the door. One buyer checked his property, completed, fixed lights etc only to find that it was the wrong property, his was the other side of the hall but the other owner was very grateful for the lights.
Really in summary the building standards that you should expect in Spain really isn´t any different than in the rest of Europe and remember, if you find something, that you wouldn´t accept in the back home then you should not accept this in Spain.
Spain still remains a very safe place to buy property with an excellent consumer support, if you know where to get help and are willing to complain, where it is easy to avoid the pitfalls if you ask the right questions and bring your brain along. We have dealt with hundreds of customers that have finished properties, snagging done and where they are enjoying their investments, the ones that you don´t tend to hear about.
Written by: Roy Howitt
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