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What is Snagging?

What is Snagging?

As a building settles on its foundations, there can be significant knock-on effects on its structure and finish. Problems can range from major shifts of the building’s structure, to a cupboard sticking or drains not working. Identifying faults and getting them rectified before you complete a property purchase is called ‘snagging’. In this article Roy Howitt explains in detail what snagging is, and why it plays such an important part in the final stages of your new house purchase in Spain.

As a building settles on its foundations, there can be significant knock-on effects on its structure and finish. Problems can range from major shifts of the building’s structure, to a cupboard sticking or drains not working. Identifying faults and getting them rectified before you complete a property purchase is called ‘snagging’.

Snagging is a normal and expected part of the building process. You could do it yourself, but are experienced, qualified and equipped to do it properly? Are you experienced enough to notice that the electricity is only on the builder’s supply running at 180 volts, and not the normal 230-250 volts. Have you got a damp meter, can you test for earth bonding? Do you have any idea what earth bonding is?

The other alternative is to leave the process to the sales agent, promoter or builder. The bad news is that all of these interested parties probably just want to get you to part with your money as soon as possible. You will then be on your own to try and negotiate fixes once you’ve signed for the property. Not all agents or builders are rip-off merchants or cowboys; many are responsible and responsive, as their business relies on their reputation. Even with the good guys, someone has to be there to say, “This is not right!” in order to get it fixed in the first place.

So what does snagging find?

It is estimated that over 40 per cent of new houses in the UK are professionally snagged. In Spain, this number is less than five per cent. For a typical three bedroom, two bathroom house, there may be 650 different points or more in the building and its surrounding area that need checking. This process is not the same as a ‘survey’ which consists of checking the underlying structure of the building. Snagging checks that the building is fit for habitation and fits its specification, being as near to perfect as possible. IN Spain Snaggers typically advise 26 per cent of their clients not to complete due to problems on inspection. Prices for this service range from 260-400 euros depending on the size of the property. If you consider buying a property in Spain from the UK, this is a small price to pay, when you consider this cost against the bill for flights, hotels, car hire and emotional trauma of your dream home not being ready.

A survey of new builds in Spain showed the following distribution of problems:

  • 57% of faults detected in new builds in Spain were about damp! Yes damp; be it rising damp from the ground or poorly insulated walls and ceilings or lack of ventilation.
  • 21% for inappropriate fitting of fixed elements such as radiators, toilets, etc.
  • 18% for faults found with wooden flooring.
  • 15% of faults with poor insulation.
  • 10% concerning garages or parking spaces that were inaccessible or impossible to use.
  • 7% of faults were from poor tiling.
  • 5% regarding build locations that were not indicated on the plans, or had undesirable or unforeseen consequences.
  • 3% of faults found were to do with poor paintwork or scratched fittings.
  • 1% of complaints are about unexpected interior changes to the distribution of relevant spaces such as the elimination of a bedroom or a room of different dimensions!

Once a house or apartment is nearing completion, the agent/promoter/developer will usually contact you to arrange an inspection. You arrive and inspect the property as best you can. Often, the agent and a couple of builders will be peering over your shoulder and your comments may be accompanied with sharp intakes of breath, head shaking and shrugging of shoulders. You will then be presented with a snag list in Spanish and asked to sign it. You may not understand it properly, and the agent may tell you all is in order and the things you have pointed out will be fixed. You then discover you are booked into the notary to complete the purchase of the property that afternoon or the next day. This leaves no time for any of the snags to have been rectified before you complete. Doesn’t sound like much fun, does it?

Case studies from Inspect a Home Spain

{mosbanner right}An apartment block in San Miguel de Salinas was supposed to be ready. An InspectaHomeSpain snagger made an inspection in November 2005 and it was nowhere near full completion. The block was completed four months late in March 2006. Thanks to the snagging report, the buyers not only got what they agreed to pay for, but also penalties for late completion paid by the builder.

InspectaHomeSpain, has numerous horror stories. "One property we inspected was in a row of houses we were checking for a developer. One of them had a drive sloping towards the house. This is not an obvious thing to check when the sun is shining, but one good downpour and the under build would have flooded. A bucket of water was poured over each drive just to check the drainage."

"You’re buying your dream house. You’re under a great deal of pressure and you are on your own. We save people unnecessary trips and wasted money. A snagging report gives a buyer peace of mind and the information to argue authoritatively with the promoter and the builder to get results. If you want the house, get it the way you want it. InspectaHomeSpain always advises clients to, "Get it done up front, don’t sign for the house until you are happy. Negotiate retentions, dates and penalty clauses right from the start."

What a builder is legally required to do in Spain

By law, builders in Spain are required to offer a 10 year warranty on newly built properties. This is not a guarantee like the NHBC in the UK. This is an insurance-backed warranty and the minimum requirement for a builder in Spain is as follows: ‘The first 15 days after signing for your new home is the honeymoon period. You can note any defects, report them to the builder and he has 28 days in which to rectify the faults. Major alterations or omissions from the agreed specification can result in the buyer being able to withdraw from the contract and receive a refund and compensation.’

  • First year: During the first year the builder is generally liable for all defects reported within this period.
  • Second and third years: Over the next two years, the builder is still responsible for repairing major defects that would make the property inhabitable. This could be anything from a boiler malfunctioning (no heat or hot water is considered to make a property uninhabitable) to burst pipes (no water) or other factors affecting the proper enjoyment of the property such as defective roofs, ill-fitting doors and windows.
  • First ten years: The builder must take out seguro decenal insurance. This is a ten-year insurance policy that guarantees the costs of repair in the event of a structural failure in the building.

If you have any doubts about your property as it ages, it is important to have an inspection done prior to any deadline so any defects or faults can be registered with the builder. Failure to do so will mean you are not covered by any protection.

Before completion, it is important you check that your builder has the statutory, minimum insurance in place covering your building. When the builder or the agent tell you a house, block or flat is guaranteed or insured for ten years you now know what they mean and the limitations imposed by the standard, base minimum requirement for a legal build.

This article was written by Roy Howitt, Managing Director of InspectaHomeSpain