Ibiza property: Gould Heinz & Lang – Masters of the property maze

Change is inevitable and nowhere is that more obvious than in the Ibiza property market. With planning, development, tourism and the environment high up on the political agenda, the market is undergoing a fascinating and at times perplexing transformation. Foreign buyers, investors and overseas lawyers often come up hard against the confusing paperwork involved in buying and selling in Ibiza, and while it does appear complicated, the team at Ibiza real estate agency Gould Heinz & Lang have mastered the art of the property paper trail through decades of experience and a network of select expert connections.

In order to fully understand the evolution of the local property scene, we need to go back in time to when Ibiza was populated by farmers and fishermen. They inherited land or bought it on a handshake and built their homes wherever they liked, adding rooms as the family grew without even considering telling any authority about it. There may have been a little documentation, perhaps a signed piece of paper stored at the town hall, but no one was really paying much attention.

Fast-forward a few hundred years when electricity, sewage and water were being connected across the island. There had to be some way to figure out where all these new pipes and taps needed to be installed. The ‘Cedula de Habitabilidad’ was a way of documenting the locations and existence of dwellings in order to connect to the grid. Back then, without one, you’d still be living by candlelight. These days buying or selling without one can leave you in the dark.

The cedula dates back to 1937 but it was around 1956 that the law started to require a stricter adherence to building permits and the requirements to buy or sell properties in Spain, but the concept didn’t quite kick in on the island until some time later. If the property was built after 1987 the Cedula can only be obtained if the property has a ‘certificado final de obra’, which affirms the building has been completed in accordance to the planning permission. This would, naturally, require that planning permission was granted and adhered to in the first place. While the cedula appears to be the all important piece of paper, the real issue is building licences, including for subsequent modifications, and completion certificates which are essential. Anyone who has spent time in Ibiza can see where this is going.

Over decades and decades (or even centuries) a multitude of homeowners have reformed, expanded and changed their properties without the correct licences. It just wasn’t a big deal back then. It is now. In order to address the discrepancies, a ‘certificado de antigüedad’ could be obtained – but only if the zoning allowed – as a means of updating the land registry record for properties built or modified more than eight years ago. However, even with this certificate, the additions cannot theoretically become legal, they just become alegal (yes, that’s a thing). It means you can buy and sell your property and no authority can act against you. That is, you won’t have to tear down the extension or fill in the pool.

Talk about complicated grey areas. Don’t let it turn you off though; this is standard procedure throughout Ibiza, one that authorities, agents and architects are well familiar with, and that Council authorities must respect. What seems abnormal from the outside is par for the course here. In short, with a trusted real estate agent, such as GHL founders Philip Gould, René Heinz and Roman Lang, there is nothing to worry about.

There are many paths that lead out of the forest of paperwork guarded by an army of bureaucrats. Gould Heinz & Lang investigate the intricate details of every property on their books, making sure there are no surprises for anyone – both buyer and seller. A strict criterion is followed, taking in all the information from which the team develop a risk management plan for each client. “The first thing we do is introduce our clients to a really good gestoria and lawyer,” René Heinz explains. “Risk management depends on the buyer. Some are more risk averse depending on their circumstances, other less so. Some people need to be more prudent. We guide each client through the paperwork until they feel comfortable to move forward.”

The importance of engaging a Balearic lawyer is paramount. The history of legalisation throughout the islands is complex and informs almost every property on the market. “Having someone who understands that history and the new requirements is essential,” Philip Gould continues. “There are idiosyncratic issues that lawyers from overseas cannot be expected to comprehend.”

Eventually, the authorities want to bring all properties into the legal framework. In the meantime, navigating the process takes local knowledge. “There is always risk in any property, anywhere,” adds Roman Lang. “We lay the risk on the table, make calculations and are totally transparent with buyers and sellers. If something has a solution, we calculate the risk and help people move forward.”

Gould Heinz & Lang is a bespoke agency. The three managing partners work together closely and between them have over 40 years of experience. Pooling their resources and contacts, GHL have access to a comprehensive network of local specialists from engineers, lawyers and tax advisors to interior designers and architects. And they are willing to take on some risks themselves, for the right property. The team recently fronted the costs of legalising a house for a client because they believed wholeheartedly in the property and their ability to get the necessary paperwork complete. The process took six months and now the seller and agency have a top tier property that is totally legal and in fact, already sold!

“We’re a small team, and we take everything into consideration from the start to find properties where the risk is manageable, so that we don’t waste time or end up with clients whose dream is broken,” Rene says. When it comes to property in Ibiza, a calculated risk taken at the right time with the support of a good team can turn everything to pure gold.

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