Extracts and Additions from a presentation at a Real Estate Seminar for Estate Agents, Organised in Marbella by My Lawyer in Spain and Survey Spain Network of Chartered Surveyors.
Firstly, for Building Surveyors and Valuers it’s simple, in that we work 100% on behalf of our clearly defined clients, always attempting to avoid or declare any conflicts of interest and undue influence. For Estate Agents it’s more difficult, as the client is the person who pays the fee at the end, the seller, but that only happens if the buyer pays the seller by purchasing the property. Accordingly, there has to be a juggling of the interests of both in order to reach a sale of the property.
A building survey is vital for a buyer, so they can know what the real costs in money and hassle will be in purchasing that property and decide whether the unique benefits more than compensate for those. In many northern European countries, an independent building survey and valuation report must be obtained by the seller before they can market their property and be presented to potential buyers if requested. Defects can be corrected by the seller, or the price reduced to allow for them, or the buyer just accepts them as a cost of purchase. It means that all know the background to the property purchase and avoids surprises and conflicts during negotiations and accusations of bad faith. The life and reputation of the estate agent is much simpler as they know that they, the buyer and as importantly, the seller, all know what they are selling. The agent can then concentrate on the marketing and putting forward the property in its best light.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen in Spain and so Building Surveys of properties can be a great concern for Estate Agents. If defects in a property, and there are always some, haven’t been noticed by the seller or the agent, but are pointed out by the surveyor, there can be a loss of faith in the agent by the owner, who perhaps looks upon them as having failed to avoid the disclosure; and certainly, by the potential buyer, who may feel that their friendly agent was hiding them all along. It’s unfair, as the average agent is skilled in marketing, but not necessarily an expert in identifying evidence of construction defects, which may have been hidden to casual observation. So, for now, the agent and owner have to sit and wait for the 2 to 3 hours that a building survey may take, hoping that nothing will be found that will put the potential buyer off the purchase. If there are multiple interests (ojalá!), there may be several surveyors intrusively poking into corners of the house and cupboards. So much simpler one pre-acquisition survey and report can be presented by the seller to the buyer.
Where the surveyor, and eventually all others involved, can be assisted is in making sure that water and electricity are switched on, and items that will take time to warm up, such as water heaters and underfloor heating, are started some time before the building surveyor arrives. Otherwise, the report will have many warnings that these things couldn’t be tested and could have defects that are not necessarily there. For similar reasons, all doors should be openable and electricity (both sides), water, IBI and any other appropriate invoices should be available for copying.