Why You Should (Almost) Never Buy an Off Plan Villa

Here at Valencia Property we generally sell properties that you can see, feel and touch, ones that already exist and we can photograph, measure, takes videos of and generally take the mickey out of in our descriptions. We choose to list only properties that we feel give good value for money even if they may need a little bit of tender loving care (Narrator’s Voice: “He said charitably”). There are a multitude of reasons for this including the obvious one of the fact that the legality of the property is already established but there are many other reasons we tend to avoid listing off-plan properties unless we know the developer and the architect very, very well and know the plots where the property is due to be built.

In today’s article therefore we are going to expand on a theme in our latest podcast about why you should almost never buy an off plan Villa in Spain, or maybe just in Valencia. It may be different in other areas of Spain but if you are looking at the coastal strip it’s almost never a good idea.

I have experience of this of course having had a villa built for me about 17 years ago. I say 17 years ago but it took three years from buying the plot and conception of the idea to finishing and at that point the financial crisis of 2008 hit, not good, and I lost it to the bank eventually. I know the pitfalls, the delays, the problems that come up and the paperwork involved and have to say it’s just so much easier to choose an existing property, even if it’s in a state of disrepair, and modernise it.

Differences Between Off-Plan Apartments and Villas

First though, we have to make a distinction between an off-plan villa and off-plan apartments. The renders you get of an apartment will often be much closer to the reality of what you get, less can go wrong and the likelihood is that it will be finished much closer to the proposed date for completion as the developer is more incentivized to close by the stage payment system that will be put in place and the pressure from various owners at the same time. The materials and look of the property are much more likely to be closer to the original concept and you will be able to gauge what the final result may look like regarding views and light by what stands around the building. So, no problem right? Erm…

The Exception

Some years ago someone contacted us to ask how they could sue a builder as they had been deceived. They bought an off plan apartment in Valencia and were promised a garden of some 80m2 and in the renders there were lovely views, lots of light and most importantly no huge building behind with a corrugated sheet metal wall of eight stories and the feeling of being in the black hole of Calcutta (Are you guessing what they got?).

Now I’m sorry, but a cursory investigation of the proposed property would have told the buyer that the building behind, the corrugated wall and the lack of light were already there. He got the 80m2 outside space (I think that was the space) but the render had plants and trees, the reality was a dark hole. This is why you always check out the location of off-plan property. It’s not difficult. Even if you cannot do a site visit there is always Google Earth, Street View and more to investigate. You could even ask us to do a site visit for you too.

We told them they couldn’t sue the builder as they had delivered what had been ordered, a 90m2 apartment with three bedrooms and an outside space of 80m2. Simples!

The Ways You Are Deceived

The reason we got thinking about this post was because we got a question in from Rod who has sent me a load of properties he wants to see on his visit next week but most of them don’t actually exist. Rod’s question was about presentation of properties online. By the way he loved this one. I do too but I realise it will never actually look like this.

Rod asked, “Why are companies allowed to put up fake renders and false prices?” And the answer is of course…

Because there is nothing to stop them.

I have never seen a render of a villa which even slightly resembles the finished product. Why is that? Well, here is your quick guide to why you should almost never buy an off plan villa. Actually, let’s make it a massive list of reasons because there are lots.


1) The render always includes just one house with plenty of space with a sense of splendid isolation. It will never include the 20-40 identical villas that surround it and believe me there will never be just one property as a developer makes no money building one house unless the price is eye wateringly expensive.

2) The render always suggests that spaces are bigger than they will be. The plot will always look huge despite the small print saying something like “Spacious 400m2 plot” That isn’t spacious. Older plots will almost always be bigger because the owners usually bought a plot and developed the house themselves back in the day when plots were cheaper, larger and better positioned.

3) You don’t look as sexy and young as the couple who share the render and their dog never craps on their perfect garden either. I’m sorry but you don’t and your dog will. 

4) The views are never what they put there. Your view will likely be the wall just three metres away from your window because the plots are so small and if not that then definitely another small house the developer is building next door, behind, in front and around you. 

5) The best ones have gone by the time you see them. The ones you are offered are the dregs that are left after they have reserved the best for themselves for future sales when the delivery of the properties is imminent or they will have offered the cream of the crop to the investors who funded the build.

Which one do you think is left and you’re getting offered? What do you mean there’s a pylon in the garden?

6) The bedrooms are not that big either. Really they are not. There’ll be enough space for the 1.35cm bed but don’t think about getting the 1.50cm bed from IKEA as you won’t have space for the bedside tables. If agencies use wide angle cameras and photoshop for existing properties then the liberties that are taken with renders are to be seen to be believed. A living room of 20m2 will be made to look as if one of Putin’s meeting desks will fit in with room to spare.

7) The materials are not of the quality that is depicted. Developers want to make as much money as possible so what they depict is often ten times better than what they put in the images. Again check the small print but expect things like “Tiles by Porcelanosa (Or similar)“. They will be similar in the sense that they are also tiles, not of a similar quality usually.

8) It’s not furnished either and you probably can’t afford what is depicted there. It’s not IKEA. IKEA may look great but it’s not the ultra sleek expensive stuff in the renders. And you will never live a life as minimalist as those depicted in the renders so your living room, bedrooms and more will always look more cluttered than the impossibly beautiful life that our impossibly beautiful couple from above live in.

9) Probably the most important… it will not be finished on the date in the advert, remember my personal experience from above, the estimated delivery time was 12 months not 3 years. In fact in many cases the build might not even be started by the date given as it all depends on the pre sales to buyers and their deposits. Once they have enough deposits they will approach a bank for funding and start looking to begin the project. Even if it is “finsihed” by the date stipulated then it isn’t really finished because… 

10) The snagging will never get done. Once you move in good luck with getting the builder back to fix problems. They are onto the next project. The number of class action suits against builders is legion when all of the owners of villas find that they were built on sand, that the builder had scrimped on the foundations, that the finishing leave a little to be desired or that the promised pool, finished gardens etc were not actually promised in the sense of actually planning to do them, they were just aspirational images that have disappeared into the ether.

And one more I fogot about… what happened to the pool, the garage, the gardens and the white goods in the kitchen? You’ll find out they were optional extras in the details rather than the standard build as depicted in the renders. That price you were quoted that looked great on first viewing it didn’t include 25k for the pool (It costs around 10k in reality), 25k for the garage (Another 10k), 20k for landscaping (5K) and 610k for white goods (2k max). So the base price of 250k for the finished house is actually 330k plus VAT if you want something even close to resembling the render.

Therefore, three years later you still haven’t moved in, your house is over 20% above the price you were originally quoted and you have spent three years renting while waiting and it has consumed your every waking thought for a good proportion of your life while micro managing the minutiae that comes up day to day on a new build project. Fun right?

And this leads us on to…

The Reasons To Buy An Existing Property

You can see it, you can visit it, you can touch it, you can see the flaws, you can check out its legality (Or your lawyer can) you can see what the area is like, the facilities, the amenities and more and you can make a rational decision based on the facts rather than the fantasy world depicted in the mad mental macchniations of an architect who has never even visited the site for the property but has been given a brief by a deluded developer.

Yes, believe it or not a lot of architects never even visit the site where they are going to build the properties. They are given a brief by a developer and told to make it look good. Not a great start.


Property of the Week

(And yes, this exists of course because there is no fake pool at the front to reflect the villa in!)

“Sweet, but has let itself go a bit. No, not your Auntie Mavis who’s a bit too fond of her afternoon sherry, but this villa just outside La Pobla de Vallbona.

Renovated just a few years ago, it just needs a bit of a sweep out and its garden needs a bit of a trim (again, not unlike your Auntie Mavis) but it is almost ready to go as a great family me all-year round or for holidays.

A great garden, room for a vegetable patch, or a bit of a football pitch, and there is a swimming pool. The house is on 2 floors, open plan living area downstairs and bedrooms upstairs. A normal layout basically, but you can’t always take that for granted in some of these places.

So if you think you could be the one to inject a bit of life into this place give us a call, and invite your Auntie Mavis out while you’re at it. She’ll be cavorting by the pool drinking her afternoon Aperol Spritz in no time


Meet The Team – Maria

Maria has two roles in the company, one our Project Manager on modernisations of apartments and houses and two, my daughter, so we are truly a family business. Maria joined the company some time ago after working in an international company dealing with the renovation and modernisation of hotels around Europe. Organising the modernisation of an apartment or house is small beer in comparison.

Maria works on organising the projects of our clients and making sure the modernisations are delivered on time, for the price given and with excellent quality. She works as the go-between for our clients with the builders that are contracted to the projects we work on. Fully bilingual and a whizz with the latest apps for designing spaces and suggesting to you how a space might work, Maria is your ongoing contact if you are buying one of those places mentioned above that may need a bit of tender loving care or even extensive work. She will also be able to tell you whether what you want to do is feasible, a good idea or born out of a madness bordering on the insane (This basically means knowing where the downpipes go)

Maria is an avid Roller Derby participant and fan and helps to run the local roller derby team here in Valencia (She is on the board of the National Roller Derby Association here in Spain). She is also a big Liverpool fan (of course she had to be otherwise she would be thrown out of the family right?).

(Graphic warning: Hair colour may not be that depicted in the picture above.)



Latest Podcast

Our latest podcast explored the country using Valencia as a base for your travels. We also answered various listener questions and looked at how a hospital visit, a Champions League semi-final and lots and lots of rain conditioned last week! Have a listen above. It’s just 18 minutes this week and it’s worth it. Remember to subscribe too to get all of our future podcasts in your inbox.


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