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"The agent’s desciption even said: ‘This is in our opinion the perfect Country House!’ Shame they forgot to mention the abattoir."

I think one of the most useful parts of a property finding service is not wasting our client’s time. Every client has a list of requirements that makes each search unique. When the right mix of style, accommodation, location and price are taken into account the result is that there may be only a few properties to shortlist for viewing if we stick strictly to the criteria and I always mention this to new clients once I know what the brief is. This can often come as a surprise to the buyers who will have usually spent many hours searching on agents’ websites and their criteria returned 100s of properties that seemed the perfect match. If only it were that simple.  

During one search for clients relocating to Andalucía from Cape Town I was covering a wide area set back a bit from the coast, between Casares in the west and Alhaurín el Grande in the east. They were looking for a country house style externally but with plenty of space and light internally. The shortlist was developing nicely ahead of their trip to Spain for viewings and then I thought I had found ‘the one’. 

To quote the selling agent: ‘This is in our opinion the perfect Country House!’  I saw internal images and indeed it looked wonderful, renovated to a very high standard by an architect for his own use so I couldn’t wait to see it.  When I was given the address I looked at the map and asked the the agent how far the house was from the local matadero, which is Spanish for a slaughterhouse or abattoir!  But he didn’t know what I was talking about. I put that down to the fact that his office wasn’t based in the nearby town but down on the coast.  Even so, he would have driven past this hideous building on the way to the house!  How could he not know? But he was so adamant there was no matadero close by that, although I knew the area very well, I started to doubt myself so I went to see it anyway. I knew this particular agency quite well and they have a good reputation. 

So I set off on a 20 minute drive into the hills behind Marbella and there it was, 500 metres away and visible from the first floor. Even worse, if the wind blows from that direction it is possible to hear the animals being unloaded.The end result, a wonderful house in a disastrous position and it will only sell at such a knock down price that someone will give it a go OR if the eventual buyer doesn’t find out until it is too late. Highly likely if the selling agent doesn’t even know it is there! 

I wondered if the current owners had bought in ignorance. That could be the case because if they were sold it by a local agent there is a road from the centre of town with a turning to the house before you see the matadero and that’s the route they would have taken. That’s what selling agents do.  In fact, it’s what they have to do, to have any chance of selling a problem property, i.e. do whatever it takes to disguise the problem and hope the buyer doesn’t find out. Spain does not have any disclosures laws so neither the agent nor the seller were doing anything wrong, it is always up to the buyer to ask the questions. Problems arise when the buyer doesn't know what the issues are.  

So by using a property finder who unearths all the bad stuff in advance the buyer avoids pointless and time consuming viewing trips.  As we were driving away from this property the sales person who had accompanied me and who didn’t really understood the role of a buyer’s agent finally got it.  She decided I wasn’t really an agent at all but a detective finding out useful things for the buyer so they don’t make mistakes!  My clients had seen all the fab photos but with the additional information about where it was they decided that living within sight and sound of a slaughterhouse was just not for them.  

I think I may have given this particular agency a bit of a dilemma.  I knew they had shown the property prior to my visit but what will they do now they also knows about the matadero?  Disclose or keep quiet? 

The clients who didn’t want to live close to an abattoir bought this wonderful house 7kms inland from the coast. It wasn't wonderful when they bought it but after a superb renovation it is one of the best houses in the area.

About the author

Barbara Wood

Barbara founded The Property Finders in 2003. More than two decades of experience and her in-depth knowledge of the Spanish property market help buyers get the knowledge they need to find the right property for them.

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