Posts in Category General


13 January, 2013 No Comments

WHICH are the flats sold in today’s market? WHAT’S THE AVERAGE PRICE?

The flats that sold the most are the smaller ones, which are also the ones whose price has decreased the most. Its average price is around €300,000.

When we want bolster a flat’s space to make it seem larger, we must resort to neatness / organization and decorative tricks. The lounges –dining space- with the integrated kitchen are very common in today’s homes. That is why it’s important to throw some numbers and sketches to see how to incorporate the lounge dining area, sofas, shelves ….

1 – How to combine colors:

* Use the colors following a monochromatic line, decorating with different tonalities of one color range.
* Paint using soft and cool colors such as green and blue that create a feeling of wide open spaces.
* The roofs must be of a lighter color than walls. But if a room is square and we want to give the impression that it’s rectangular (to make it look more elongated), this can be achieved using optical effect in two opposite walls with a cool color and a warmer color in the other two.

* White is the traditional color most used in decoration, as it makes the space look larger and brighter.


* Furniture shouldn’t contrast with the color of the walls as the same space would feel narrower.
* It is best to choose small sized furniture, but if you are eager to put large pieces, make sure they are against the wall. It is advisable to use folding furniture in order to clear the way. You may also find very practical dual-use furniture such as bed-sofa, or a central-table with drawers.
* The shelves are very helpful as allow you to place objects without taking away usable space.
* If you have the possibility to put gliding doors, do it as they don’t take away space when opened. Wardrobes offer greater integration into the decor and at the same time are more invisible.
* It is better to use blinds rather than curtains as the latter are thicker and take up more space.
* It is useful and inexpensive to include mirrors, which besides giving more breadth to the space it also increases the home’s luminosity.

3 – LIGHTING: It is very important to know how to use lighting in order to help achieve the desired effects.

* This is usually not an easy topic and it is best if you resort to a specialist, because many variables come into play when choosing the right lighting for every stay, such as: what kind of bulb to use based on price / consumption / power (LEDs, halogen light bulbs), the type of bulb for floor lamp, ….or what if you prefer a cooler or a warmer light, or you are thinking about light regulators… whether to place it, in the ceiling, a wall…..

* In order to give an airy feel to the room, you have to focus the light to the walls or ceiling (indirect illumination).


12 January, 2013 No Comments

This is the birth of the micro-hotel concept. These small cabins can be rented by the hour and are located in airports, train stations or shopping centers among others.

The “sleep boxes” are 2×1 meters, or 4×2,30 meters.
They were born as resting oasis for passengers in transit, who have suffered delays or flight cancellations, without having to travel to hotels outside of the airports that are usually more expensive.

In the airport terminal you get the electronic key that allows you to access these cabins for the amount of time that you purchase, which can range from 15 minutes to several hours.
The architecture and design firm “Arch-Russian Group”, included a small bed with an automatic mechanism that changes sheets from user to user, a ventilation system, lighting using LEDs, alarm, tv, wi-fi, and a platform to work.

Although I personally prefer larger spaces, this can be a resting alternative in airports; gives you the opportunity to read, sleep, charge an electronic device, or just working quietly in the time between flights.

This system is currently running, and very well received by the public, at airports such as Moscow, Paris, and Munich.

Japanese earthquake + Tsunami. NEW challenge for the anti-seismic architecture and engineering.

12 September, 2012 No Comments

Due to our profession, we deal on a daily basis with homes, buildings, plots etc, and it was easy to be touched by the enormous destruction that Japan suffered on March of 2011.

After the 8.9 magnitude earthquake that Japan suffered last year, the response of Japanese architecture has been astonishing. Today Japan has the best buildings in the world to withstand possible future earthquakes. These buildings have been designed in such manner that allows them to absorb the vibrations, replacing a sudden movement with a more balanced swing. Many years ago, Japanese homes were built from bamboo and rice paper which, during earthquakes, allowed them to swing instead of cracking. And even if the homes cracked, they were easier to repair and at a lower cost.

This is a brief summary of the earthquake-resistant architectural features used in Japan:

Shigeru Ban (Tokyo 1957) is an architect and consultant to the United Nations who builds shelter for the UN in disaster zones. He emphasized in an interview (in Spanish Newspaper “EL PAIS” 03/20/11) that no building built after 1981, when construction laws were amended, had collapsed during or after the earthquake. Ban states that earthquakes are not what causes so many people to die, it’s the consequences of it, in other words the building’s debris when they collapse. He also added that, after the tsunami, it would be wise to modify the cities’ urban plans and build brick buildings of at least four stories high by the coasts, in order to function as a protective wall in case of future tsunamis.

For the half a million people who were temporarily sheltered in athletic stadiums for months until temporary homes were ready, the government installed a system based on hard cardboard tubes and paper to create individual spaces. With this structure, families intend to dissipate a reality, that is, psychologically very hard to accept; the lack of privacy.
What is the Japanese anti-seismic architecture about?

Basically, the buildings’ structures are highly reinforced performing a vertical weight distribution, in other words, the lower floors support more weight. The broader the base of the building, the stronger it will be during an earthquake.

The buildings are symmetric and elastic to better absorb the ground’s vibration. The law requires a separation of several inches between the medians of the blocks to allow buildings to move but without  hitting each other, thus avoiding the domino effect between buildings. Mr. J.Garcia Rodriguez, PhD in Architecture from the University of Navarra, compares the behavior of a building under a seismic action to that of a whip when swung. In this comparison, the earthquake would be the hand that moves the whip, and the building is the whip spreading the earthquake’s energy. To deal with this uncontrolled movement, Japanese architecture proposes two solutions:

1-An architecture based on a small number of floors. These buildings are built with rigid structures that resist the impact with little deformation, thus the earthquake’s impact is smaller.

2 – However, in taller buildings, they choose to build more flexible structures. They are designed to oscillate laterally (as the whip would) in a safely manner without major damages. Steel is used in these structures, as it is highly resistant and ductile.

Down below I’ ll give you some highlights on the Japanese housing market as of 2011:

* From 2007 and on, housing prices began to rise out of control due to the increment in prices of building materials as those materials ought to be able to withstand frequent earthquakes. Buildings should be no more than 30 years old, so as a consequence rental prices also soared in recent years. The value of Japanese homes ​​varies depending on the land it is built.

* In Japan the magnitude of a house is measured in tatami, equivalent to 1.6 square meters (from now on m2) approximately. The average dwelling size is usually 90 m2 (3-4 bedrooms) and home of more than 100 m2 is considered a luxury. In general, Japanese people prefer buying a home than renting it, but due to the high prices not everyone can afford it, the main reason for their high index of young and elderly adults living with relatives. However, there is still the opportunity for one to live independently. There has been a curious form of housing: people who cannot afford to either purchase a home or to rent it, can sleep in Cyber Cafes, in which for only 10€ are entitled to a small room with a sofa, TV, and a computer with internet connection.

* It is a real estate market, in which there are almost no legal restrictions for foreign investors to buy property in Japan.

***** Two weeks onset of the earthquake and the subsequent tsunami that devastated part of the country, with 27,000 casualties between deaths and missing people, plus the nuclear crisis (more updated info in International Atomic Energy Agency, www.iaea. org, Spanish Embassy in Tokyo) had the international community very aware of Japan. We felt for the Japanese, …. and we shall remark what an example of organization and integrity in such a moment in their lives they were for the rest of us. Following in this tonic, I wanted to make a post, (avoiding catastrophic images) with the intention of highlighting the human effort made in the form of anti-seismic architecture to counteract the continuous devastating effects of the earthquakes affecting the country, thereby preventing an even higher number of victims.

From here, I wanted to convey solidarity and support to the Japanese people and their victims.

I include links to press reports during the later days of the catastrophic events:

RAFAA Architects Solar City Tower (water + sun) – 2016 Olympic Games in RIO

22 May, 2012 1 Comment

The so-called Solar City Tower, could rise on an island near Rio, with the idea of being a referent on the ​​global commitment with the environment. The tower would produce its own energy, and the surplus used to supply the surrounding areas.

RAFAA architects present this proposal with the idea that Rio becomes the starting point of a green movement for the development of sustainable urban structures.

The project consists of a solar plant that:

– would produce solar energy during the DAY. This is possible given the tall structure (105 meters) equipped with a huge network of solar panels. The energy produced would be used for the urban area, and the remaining to power the engines that collect and propel the sea water to the top of the tower.

– at NIGHT, the stored water would fall as a cascade, producing hydroelectric power that can be used to illuminate the building at night.

RAFAA, a Swiss Studio of architecture and design founded by Rafael Schmidt in 2007, makes an analysis of contemporary architecture that combines creativity, research and design, along with new technologies. If the project gets approved, it will be presented for the 2016 Olympics.

The tower has an auditorium, viewpoints, leisure space with 360 degrees panoramic views, a platform for bungee jumping that is 90 meters high, and while walking around the “Sky Walk” glass,  visitors could feel the waterfall under their feet.

Another project with “water walls” is the vertical zoo of Puerto Madero in Buenos Aires, presented by the Swedish architect studio VisionDivision. We are talking about a building whose facades are covered with water curtains.

The main handicap of complex projects such as these, is the high installation costs involved in its development.

Merry Christmas! Feliz Navidad! 聖誕節快樂! Joyeux Noël!

21 December, 2011 No Comments

feliç nadal! Glædelig jul! Frohe Weihnachten! メリークリスマス ! God jul!
С Рождеством! Feliz Natal ! สุขสันต์วันคริสมาสต์!…..


Christmas is the home of hope, joy, hapiness, to all readers of UNIVERSO INMOBILIARIO & thanks for the follow.

Category: General

Homes with cellar

6 September, 2011 No Comments

For people who are wine lovers and enjoy to have it at home, here are some guidelines to follow that will help keep good wine in perfect condition.

– An environment with adequate ventilation to prevent odors.
– Very little presence of light
– Temperature should be between 10 º and 16 º C.
– Moisture MUST be over 60%
– Bottles must be placed horizontally to prevent that wine moistens the cork
– Must be located in a place with no vibrations.

Today, with glass cabinets specially designed to store wine, and in most cases acclimatized to a temperature suitable for its conservation, it becomes less necessary to have the traditional cellar in the house’s basement. This saves space and ensures better preservation of the wine because its temperature is kept constant.

There are many ways to decorate a wine cellar. From the classic cellars made of wood with customized furniture to take advantage of every single corner, or simply by stacking the modules required to store the number of bottles available.

 On the other side we have the modern ones, which include those made of metal, as designed by the Spanish architecture studio A-cero. Check out these pictures…..

2) FRACTIONAL PROPERTY: Shopping around the world

1 September, 2011 1 Comment

That is, to buy only part of the property, which is different than timeshare or right of use.

Fractional ownership allows the buyer to purchase only a portion, instead of owning the total property. This method was originally used in the purchase of yachts and planes, but for the last two decades has been applied also in the American real estate market, and also in areas of Europe that tend to have a year round occupancy, i.e. Golf Resorts Algarve (Portugal).

Buying a share of the property, usually between 1 / 4 (to use 13 weeks per year) and 1 / 12 (one month of use), carries a small down payment, which instead of buying an entire property, allows you to buy small fractions of different properties in different locations. Another advantage would be to buy a portion of a much larger house for the price a little one.

Keep in mind that if you buy a quarter of the property, the cost will be slightly more than one fourth of the property’s market price. This increase is to bear with administration costs, which involve the management of the estate by a company that will have the property always ready whenever there is a change in use (repair, maintenance, cleaning, gardening, etc) . These are monthly expenses, and therefore we must take into consideration this additional cost when choosing this type of purchase..

The idea of fractional property shall not be confused with the figure of timeshare property that was very popular in the 80’s. The differences are:

1. Buying a fractional property is similar to buying an entire property, the owner’s name appears in the documents that guarantee the ownership of a part of that property. It is called ” common tenancy” with other owners. The owner may sell, rent or take a mortgage on that part of the property during the time he has allotted for its use. On the other hand, timeshare property only sells time of use (right of use), instead of selling a property title. The value of this “time” will usually depreciate over time. Instead, fractional ownership on a property, if the market improves, will be appreciated as any other owned real estate.
2. With timeshare, if the managing company is dissolved, the person who bought a right of use, may be at risk. This does not happen in the purchase of a fractional property because shared ownership is independent of the management company.
3. In many type of timeshare, the time is bought in hotel rooms or apartments which may vary each time, because investors are only owners of the time. In fractional ownership, you get part of that home, it will not change.

To sell fractional ownership: If there is no special provision in the contract, the property can be sold at any time and recover the portion of the initial investment (or more if the property has appreciated over time), but usually there is some sort of extra charge. Depending on the terms of the contract, some companies may offer to repurchase the fraction, and others act as brokers and charge a fee in order to sell it privately.

Some fraction contracts are signed for a certain period of time, and after this period all the owners may sell the property, to be divided equally among all of them. It is also possible to start another period with the same conditions, or if a co-owner wants to buy the entire property, he will have preference over any external investor.

Sometimes doubts arise about the purchase of a property…  Why should I buy it if I will not get the most out of it? Here are the advantages of fractional purchase:

* Instead of assuming the total costs of owning a home, divide the cost of furnishing, maintenance, insurance, repairs, security, tax, among all co-owners ..
* The company that manages the property will take care of the maintenance problems, if any, that entails having a second residence ….. when you arrive everything is in perfect conditions ….. when you leave you don’t have to worry either, because the house will be in perfect condition.
* You do not need a large amount of capital invested in it, and you can allocate the rest in other investments.
* An empty house always carries a higher risk, but in this case will be inhabited most of the time
* Owners of second residences, often use as much of the 4-12 weeks per year. Fractional ownership makes the purchase price match with the use that is given to a holiday home.

ISLANDS: lost paradises for sale or rent

25 August, 2011 No Comments









Reagrding an article published during the summer of 2010 in the British newspaper “The Guardian”, the possibility was raised that the Greek Government put on sale some of its islands to partially relieve the problems with its debt as a result of the crisis. The idea was that given the number of uninhabited islands that Greece has (there are only 200 inhabited but a total of around 2,000 islands), part of this land could be sold to attract investors that at the same time generate employment and wealth. However, although there may have been some islands for sale or rent, the Greek government quickly came out and denied the rumors.

When speaking of an island for sale, it is rare that the buyer is an individual who wants it for personal use (see below the list of famous names and their private islands). In the majority of cases the purpose is to build some type of resort, which in the long run becomes a real estate investment….. far from the romantic idea of going away and getting lost forever somewhere in the Caribbean Sea.

A far more affordable alternative would be to rent, either for business conventions or groups of individuals going on vacation.

Legally speaking, whoever purchases an island must be willing to accept the rules, laws and regulations of the country to which it belongs. The idea of buying an island to become an independent country or mini-nation is not possible. An island is a piece of land surrounded by water, which besides this fact, should be treated like any other purchase of land. However, bear in mind that there are countries that require a prior environmental study before the purchase of the island, since an island is usually considered a protected area, it is actually treated differently than a purchase of an ordinary lot.

Many governments prefer to keep their islands, in fear that they will be purchased by foreign capital,  since they usually belong to developing countries whose nationals do not have the budget.

The supply of tropical islands is quite extensive, in South America, Caribbean, Bahamas, the Philippines, whether for sale or rent. Other countries like Canada or the UK also have a lot of available supply of this type.

Those who’ve bought their own island, are often celebrities, businessmen, athletes, and pop or movie stars, whose idea is to have a piece of land surrounded by sea for their own enjoyment.
For further information of islands for sale around the world, ranked by price, geographic area or activities that can be developed log in the following websites:

(II) L’immobilier a París a le vent en poupe

3 August, 2011 No Comments

The situation in Paris and part of France, could be a sign of a slight recovery in the housing sector. Even though buying a property could be a safe haven for one’s money, one must wait and see how 2011 reacts, as one shall not forget that it is a fragile market unbalanced by the crisis and an economic situation filled with uncertainty. (All of this combined with a possible increase in interest rates and a partial reduction in government aid …… should warn investors to act prudently.

(Magazine Le 19/08/10) This strong awakening of the real estate market after a latent period (in 2008), has resulted in a significant increase in prices, especially in Paris, which are being compared to the levels before the crisis, and makes people regret not having bought a property a year earlier, instead of having waited for prices to decrease even further.

But the big question now is: Faut-il acheter maintenant? (Should we buy now?)

This outrageous increase in value of real estate assets during 2010 is given only in large cities and some suburbs; whereas in small cities and rural areas of the country, the increase existed in a much smaller scale.
For investors who are buying fast and under pressure due to the small number of properties for sale and the speed in which are sold, I believe that rush always carries a risk and most of the times is not worth it. At first sight it is appealing to buy fast for the reasons that I previously stated, but to me it is not enough argument because buying a property takes time and market research, in addition to be disciplined to avoid buying overpriced and mediocre assets.
I agree that some tax incentives and low interest rates are appealing, BUT in a market with little supply there is a higher risk of getting anything at any price.  In this case, whatever gain obtained on one side with tax deductions can be exponentially lost on the other side due to the purchase of an asset that when is time to sell, does not generate capital gains because at the time of purchase was an overpriced asset.

“Pour les Notaires de France, cette hausse s’explique a la fois par la permanence des taux historiquement trés bas, mais aussi pour le valeur refuge donnée aux investissements immobiliers lors de periodes de crise”. Certain questions arise such as: what will happen to prices if rates go up?……. Can we anticipate another housing bubble? are wages capable of keeping up with current prices?

The size (in square meters) is important!

28 July, 2011 No Comments

When I visit a property that is put up for sale (either a house or a flat), I always ask a question that rarely receives a specific answer: What is the exact area of the property ??….. And it is not an easy question to answer, as it depends in every case.
If there are more than one owner selling that property, they usually glance at each other to see who has the most approximate footage, since nobody is certain. As a consequence, doubts arise and owners start giving various opinions of the property’s size without agreement.

If there is only one owner, he often has an answer, but when he is asked specific questions: e.g. the exact useful space (in square meters), whether he refers to m2 as a total, or whether he includes terraces / porches, the garage (the parking spaces), or the common areas of an apartment building… uncertainty starts to spread out!

-value properties

In recent years, it was very important to know the exact number of m2 of the property being sold because there were scales, such as  X€ / m2, for different locations, which in addition to the property’s condition, gave a good estimate of the market price. However, times have changed and as I mentioned in previous posts (ref. appraisals) in a changing market, X€ / m2 paid in different areas are no longer crucial to determine the market price. Nowadays, an agreement is reached between what the owner requests and what the buyer is willing to pay. However, it is still important for the buyer to know the exact size in m2 of the property he/she is buying.

Valuations were of great support, because the property’s measures came out to be very accurate. The problem is that now owners avoid valuations because they are expensive, and the price the valuation determines today, may not be of reference 4 months in the future due to the continuous market changes.

At the time of the sale, it would be fair that the original architectural plans be presented to the potential buyers in the initial meeting with the owners, or an updated version if additions have been made, as well as the deed of the purchase. In reference to the assessed values, if they differ, there is still the possibility to update / correct them later on.

In some cases, when dealing with old properties no documents can be found, which makes it difficult to determine whether the size of the terraces or patios (e.g. and one in a flat in “l’ Eixample” could add many m2) is included. If a client was very interested in a certain property and found himself in this situation, I would suggest him to take a trip to the property with a surveyor / architect / decorator to take a measurement of the building site before signing the earnest deposit.

To fix this and to give a greater service to the buyer, when dealing with old or second hand homes that need a complete rehabilitation, QUALinHABITAT hires an architect responsible to raise the original plans, with an updated footage and who also presents a design model of how the rehabilitation should be done. This information is delivered to the customer and will dramatically speed up the process (where questions about problems of structure, risers, main walls, or m2 arise). These questions tend to be already settled in these planes. From that point on, the buyer only has to ask his technician for a final advice, which saves him time and money because all the data needed to make a decision is available.

Please take this as a suggestion as during the summer there is plenty of time to prepare and find the documents, which with the everyday rush, the task is usually postponed and to find the papers of a 20, 30, 40, 50+ year old property, the plans of reforms made to the property, or previous sales, if any, can take a loooong lo0oong time.