When you have just moved to Spain it will be very difficult to know where to start to find the right tradesperson to you – should you just look locally, or find an expat like yourself.
We would recommend using local people wherever possible. Especially for any gas or electrical work, locals are more likely to be aware of current legal requirements. The laws in Spain about gas installations are especially strict. Local builders and other skilled labour should have a company registration card (CIF number).
The best way to find a reputable builder or other tradespeople is of course to ask around. Word-of-mouth is usually the way to find good artisans and you could start by talking to people in your local bar or shop, and of course here having a little Spanish knowledge early on will help!
In most areas you will also find expat carpenters, plumbers and builders, but you will need to check that they are registered and always ask to see photos of their recent work. Better still, visit a property where they are currently employed, and ask for references.
You will find sites online that give customer feedback for builders, plumbers and so on. Most are in Spanish, but in some areas where there are a large number of British expats, you will find them in English. Local newspapers and magazines are another source for finding local and expat tradespeople, as are British expat associations and groups.
It is sensible to get an estimate (presupuesto) from two or three different people, and take time to compare them carefully. Often they will be written in different ways, so check through each item to find the equivalent on each estimate. Cheapest isn't always the best, and a reputable builder will have professional insurance which will be reflected in his prices.
If you are planning a large project, make sure you look for a builder who will agree to regular stage payments rather than a large payment upfront, and retain the final payment until you are totally satisfied that everything has been done to the original specifications.
Builders in Spain usually start work early, at around 8.00am. Don't be surprised, however, if they disappear for half an hour or more at around 10.30 to go to a local café for their "second breakfast". They will usually take a couple of hours off for lunch and finish working at around 6.00pm, but in the summer they may work on later. For smaller jobs, you will be offered an hourly rate plus materials. If you choose to buy some items yourself, be sure to order them well in advance so they are ready for collection when work starts. There is no harm in trying to negotiate the price, but do remember that the builder or contractor also has to earn a living and feed their family.
You will find casual labour in abundance in Spain, but the government is attempting to crack down on "black money"; it is illegal to pay cash to someone who isn’t registered.
Lastly, do remember that you may have to wait for a good tradesperson, as they are often booked up months in advance. So be patient!