Buying Property in Portugal

Whatever your reasons for buying a property this is probably the first time that you have bought a property in Portugal, or even abroad.

We have put this guide together to help you understand a little more about the process of buying in Portugal.

This guide is aimed at providing some basic information about buying in Portugal and tries to answer the majority of the common questions that we are asked about. Although we hope that you will find it useful it is important to remember that it doesn’t cover all legal issues involved and certainly isn’t a step by step DIY guide to buying in Portugal.

It is still recommended that you seek advice from a professional before proceeding – after all we do this every day and have been doing so for many years and therefore know all the tricks and pitfalls that you may come across

We also know the practical solutions to the problems that exist and also know how Portuguese Law interacts with UK law.

Buying property in Portugal faq’s

Is the legal system in Portugal the same as the UK?

No, they are very different, but there is an interaction between them when you buy a property in Portugal. That is why the best person to advise you on your purchase in Portugal is somebody who understands both Portuguese and UK law.

Do I need a lawyer to help me buy in Portugal?

Surprisingly this is the most common question that we get asked. No, you don’t – just like you don’t necessarily need a lawyer when buying in the UK. However, in reality you would always use a lawyer when buying in the UK so what is so different about buying in another country where you probably don’t have experience of buying before? For further reading.

I have been told that I don’t need a lawyer but need a Notary. Is this true?

The Notary is important in Portugal but tends only to get involved at the end of the transaction. His role is to carry out some basic checks at the end and attend to the signature of the title deed and in some cases to register the property. He doesn’t normally advise on whether the contract is OK to sign, whether you should pay the deposit, who should own the property, and so on.

I have heard that there are problems with buying property in Portugal. What is the situation

Certainly there are potential problems when buying in Portugal, just like there can be in any country including the UK. Most of the potential problems that you read about can be avoided by using common sense and by instructing an independent lawyer to advise you on the purchase. We often see people with problems with their property and they invariably tell us that they didn’t use a lawyer or used the lawyer given to them by the seller or estate agent.

Are the costs more in Portugal than in the UK?

Yes, the total costs in addition to the purchase price are higher than you will be used to in the UK. It is therefore important to factor these into your budget from the beginning. Luckily property prices are currently rock bottom which not only reduces some of these costs but also makes the purchase price much cheaper. However, it depends on which property you would like to purchase, once the prices are not standard.

Costs and timings

The total cost of buying in Portugal could be higher than in the UK. The costs for a purchase include IMT (Imposto Municipal sobre as Transmissões onerosas de Imóveis), the “Imposto do Selo”, and usually the Notary Public Fees.

You may be asked to sign a reservation contract or a Promissory Purchase and Sale Contract and pay a small deposit, which is called a “Sinal” . Signing this contract is the most important sign that you wish to proceed with the property purchase, because a payment is made and the vendor is also obliged not to proceed with the sale to other person in the meantime

After that you would work towards a full purchase contract and pay typically around 10% deposit. That contract commits you to buy the property.

On a new property you may have to make stage payments throughout the course of construction

The balance is paid upon signature of the title deeds and registration.

Mortgages

There are two ways of financing your purchase in Portugal through a mortgage

The first is to release equity from your UK assets to buy the property in Portugal. The second is to mortgage the property in Portugal. Each has advantages and disadvantages but getting it wrong can cost you dearly so take advice on this.

If you wish we can put you in contact with mortgage brokers either in the UK or in Portugal. We do not receive a commission for doing so and are not tied into a particular broker – we simply recommend them because they have given our clients good service in the past

Obtaining a mortgage in Portugal is more difficult than it has been in the past. If you are buying a property in Portugal that already has a mortgage on it then it may be possible to take over that mortgage from the current owner.

This is often seen as an easy way of obtaining a mortgage but you should be aware that that mortgage might have been the right one for the seller but may not be the best one for you. For further reading.

Surveys

If you are buying a property we would always recommend that you obtain a survey. If you obtain a mortgage the valuation carried out for the mortgage company, usually a bank, will only look at whether the property is worth the amount you have negotiated.

Any defects in the property which do not affect the value will not normally be shown on the report. A survey will rate the condition of all permanent structures and will highlight any important problems that could affect the property value. Depending on the survey this may also give advice as to future maintenance. The survey should reduce the chance of discovering any nasty surprises with the condition of the property once a purchaser has bought the property. If there are any defects the survey will help the buyer negotiate the price or require certain works to be carried out before the property is purchased.

The survey may also reveal that certain works have been carried out or highlight rights that are necessary for the property which we can investigate before the property is purchased.

Currency

Buying any property involves a lot of money.

When you are converting from one currency to another the difference between one exchange rate and another can literally make a difference of thousands of pounds on your purchase.

Do not underestimate the difference that a good exchange rate can make, specially in which concerns euros and pounds. We know people who have sold properties and have made more money on the exchange rate difference than they have on the sale of their property.

We are not banks or currency dealers, but would recommend that you investigate the cheapest way of sending your money abroad. If you would like we can put you in contact with currency dealers that we know will give you a good exchange rate and a good service.

Currency dealers have increasingly sophisticated products. You can agree rates for the future. You can get them advising you when to buy or agreeing to buy for you when the rate hits a certain level. You can even agree a fixed rate for longer periods of time if you make regular payments abroad (for example for a mortgage or moving your pension money).

We work with Smart Currency Exchange who can give you a good exchange rate for your purchase and whom we have known for years. We will normally receive a commission for introducing them to you. This does not cost you anything more as they are simply paying us part of what they make. This commission is costed into our overall charges for providing our services

Powers of attorney

A Power of Attorney is a document which allows somebody to do something on your behalf

If the title deeds are not being signed in the UK then often clients prefer to grant a Power of Attorney to somebody to sign the title deeds on their behalf.

This has several advantages:

  • You are normally busy and haven’t time to go out to Portugal to sign the title deeds.
  • Signing title deeds is not particularly exciting and most people prefer to use their time off enjoying the property rather than signing pieces of paper.
  • It normally works out cheaper than you going out to Portugal to sign.
  • You should only give a Power of Attorney to somebody that you trust as they allow that person to do things legally on your behalf.
  • In Portugal Powers of Attorney have much wider faculties than we are used to in the UK and often have very general clauses in them “just in case”. We try and limit the Powers of Attorney down as much as possible whilst still allowing the person appointed the freedom to do what you need them to do
  • The cost of a Power of Attorney is not included in our standard fees as not every client needs one. For further reading.

Fractional ownership

Fractional Ownership is not a new concept and has been around for many years – although back then we called it Co-ownership.

Put simply Fractional Ownership is where several people buy a property together. This can be members of a family, friends, work colleagues or even complete strangers.

You buy a share in the property and also share the running cost

The best Fractional Ownership schemes are those where the cost of buying is closest to the value of the actual share in the property – i.e. the ones where there are not huge margins built into the sale.

Timeshare is a type of Fractional Ownership but Fractional Ownership is not necessarily Timeshare as there are strict definitions as to what Timeshare is.

NIF

The NIF (Número de Identificação Fiscal, which translated literally is your Foreigner’s Identity Number) is your Tax Identity Number in Portugal.

There are several times when you are likely to be required to produce your NIF number;

  • When you buy a property
  • Opening a bank account
  • Dealing with the utility companies
  • Taking out insurance
  • Dealing with the tax authorities
  • Buying or selling shares, bonds and stocks
  • Buying a car

At the moment you can apply for your NIF personally, by your representative or business manager. We will therefore advise you how this is working at the time that you contact us.

Who should own the property?

This is probably the most important decision that you can make. Getting this right can save you thousands in costs and taxes. Getting it wrong can be an expensive mistake.

The way that you would buy a property in your home country is not necessarily the best way to buy in Portugal so don’t assume that you can adopt what you have done here to your purchase in Portugal. Acquiring a property in a different country is always different and the rules for that acquisition may also be different.

There are many options – ranging from personal ownership to company ownership but there is no “one size fits all” solution that works for everybody.

Your circumstances and priorities are different from the next person. We are able to look at your circumstances and your priorities and advise you who should own the property based on that information. The solution may not necessarily be immediately obvious

When deciding on the best form of ownership we would need to take into consideration both Portuguese and UK tax and also a range of other circumstances such as your plans for the property in the future. For further reading.

Miscellaneous

Residents Association (Associação de Proprietários)

If you are buying in a complex then there will be a Community of Owners. We would need to make sure that all Community charges have been paid up to date before you buy.

Water and Electricity

It is important to check that there is a connection and that the charges are paid up to date.

If you are buying a new property we will need to check that the property has the appropriate Habitation Certificate which allows the services to be connected.

Land Registry (Registo Predial)

Almost all land and properties in Portugal are now registered.

We would obtain a search at the local Land Registry for office copy entries of the previous owner’s deed which will show who the registered owner is and whether there are any charges on the title. You need to insure that the propriety is free of debts, since the buyer inherits the debts.

The Land Registry has the history of all the events concerning certain property. Once you become the owner, you will figure as the current owner.

Title Certificate (Caderneta Predial)

This document contains information about the property’s tax situation. It has the same purpose as the previous referred search and thus the search may be requested instead of this document.

Town Hall (Câmara Municipal)

Your property will also be checked at the Town Hall to make sure that the Council Tax (Imposto Municipal sobre Imóveis – IMI) has been paid up to date. By owning a property in Portugal you will be responsible for the taxes that are due on the property such as IMI.

Wills

Moving in and Wills

Just like back home you will need to arrange to have the utilities and services in your name and often have to set up a direct debit at your Portuguese bank to pay the bills. You also need to inform the local Council and the Residents Association that you own the property.

Owning a property means that it will become part of your estate once you die. The rules for inheriting a property located in Portugal are different then from then in the UK.

In general, we can advise you on the various different options regarding your Portuguese Will. It is possible to have two wills – one in Portugal covering your Portuguese assets and one in the UK covering your other assets. Both Wills need to be drafted carefully to make sure that they do not revoke each other.

You can leave your assets in Portugal to somebody with a UK will but this doesn’t make sense – the cost of the subsequent inheritance will be more and it is possible that you will inadvertently cause inheritance tax problems.

The cost and extra complications of leaving no Will at all is great and should be avoided.

Whilst as a foreigner you do not have to follow the same rules that Portuguese people do in terms of who you have to leave your property to, it often makes sense to do so as this can save your beneficiaries huge amounts in tax.

A Portuguese Will can be prepared and signed in your local area or in our offices – there is no need to go to Portugal. We can arrange for the registration of your Will at the Central Wills Registry in Lisbon.

The Portuguese Will can be signed in the UK or in Portugal. For further reading.

Inheritance

Portuguese Inheritance Law states that when you die your properties will be shared among your heirs according to the law of your country of residence. It is a common misconception that as a foreigner you have to leave your assets in accordance with Portuguese law, which imposes certain “forced heirs”.

A “foreigner” can make a Portuguese Will leaving his own property to the person of their choice even if they are resident providing they make a Will saying so. This Will must contain a declaration that their personal law is governed by the principle of free disposition of property by testament.

This is then acceptable to the Central Wills Registry in Portugal. Generally speaking a valid Portuguese will is sufficient to dispose of the estate as you wish.

Inheritance tax on property or assets in Portugal has to be paid in Portugal.The property or assets also have to be declared back in the UK although due to Double Taxation Laws you can offset the tax paid in Portugal against the tax payable in the UK

The rate of tax (Imposto do Selo) paid on an inheritance payable in Portugal will depend on:

  1. The relationship between the person who died and the beneficiaries (some categories are exempt);
  2. The rate is always 10% of the total value of the inheritance.
  3. The type of goods, some are exempt of tax (stock dividends, personal goods, retirement saving funds and education funds, savings in stock, pensions or investment real estate, credits from life insurance, pension and social security allowances).

Inheritance tax in the strictest sense was abolished from the Portuguese legislation in 2004 and it was substituted by the “Imposto do Selo”, which covers several transactions in Portugal including inheritance. There is therefore no specific Inheritance Tax although there is a tax on the transfer of inheritance assets.

….Inheritance

The closest relatives have a tax exemption:

  • Husband / Wife
  • Children
  • Grandchildren
  • Grandparents

The rest of the relatives or people who are not so directly related to the deceased do not have a tax exemption, they pay tax on the full amount of 10%.

Ongoing obligations

After you inherit a property in Portugal there are ongoing obligations that you need to meet (assuming that you wish to keep the property):

Insurance

It makes sense to insure your property and its content.

Council Tax (Imposto Municipal sobre Imóveis—IMI)

This is normally paid annually in one, two or three lumps, depending on the value of the tax sum, between April and November. The amount will depend on the location, value, size and age of the property.

Non payment of IMI can lead to legal proceedings being taken against you by the tax authorities and an embargo being placed on the property.

Utilities

You will be responsible for the utility charges – electricity, gas, water sewerage, rubbish collection etc. from the time that you own the property

Community Charges (Quota de Condomínio)

You should pay these otherwise the property can be confiscated and auctioned in order to settle the debt.

Income Tax

If you are non-resident you must declare any income you have earned in Portugal. This applies even if you receive this income by renting out to people from your home country and the money never touches Portugal

Even if you do not receive any rent from the property it is assumed that you have received some sort of benefit and you are taxed on this.

You will also normally have to declare this income in the country where you are tax resident but can normally offset the tax paid in Portugal through Double Taxation Agreements.

Tax residence

The ongoing taxes that you pay when you buy a property in Portugal will normally depend on whether you are tax resident there or not.

If you leave the country for more than six months, you should appoint a representative residing in Portuguese territory for tax purposes. However, if you are leaving for a member state of the European Union or the European Economic Area, the designation of this representative is merely optional.

Tax residence is a determined by a number of factors:

  • How long will you spend time in that country? Is it 183 days or more a year (not necessarily continuously). If so you are likely to be tax resident there.
  • Is your main home there? If it is then you are likely to be tax resident there
  • Is your immediate family (spouse and dependent children) based there? If so you are likely to be tax resident there
  • Is your main economic interest there? If so you are likely to be tax resident there.
  • If you do become tax resident in a country then you will normally stop paying taxes in your home country and start to pay taxes in the new country.
  • Do not be tempted to have selective amnesia when it comes to declaring taxes the authorities in both Portugal and the UK are clamping down on people who do not do things properly.
  • Sometimes you should declare something for tax purposes in one country and also in another. Portugal and the UK have a Double Taxation Agreement which means that you do not normally pay tax twice and can offset the tax paid in the other country against the tax that you would otherwise pay in your home country.

Fees and taxes

IVA (VAT) is payable by the purchaser where the vendor is considered a developer who pays IVA and / or this is the first time that the property has been sold / transferred.

The VAT rate is a flat rate of 23% .

Stamp Duty (Imposto do Selo) - For acquiring a property in Portugal through purchase it is generally due a rate of 0.8% of the price for which the property is transmitted.

Transfer TAX (IMT—Imposto Municipal sobre a Transmissão Onerosa de Imóveis) is payable if the property is a resale (second transfer). This is paid by the buyer to the Portuguese Tax Authority within 30 days of the date of signing the title deed and is needed in order to register the property

Capital Gains (Mais-Valias) is a tax based on the increase in the value of the land since the last transfer.. Technically the vendor pays this although often it is agreed that the buyer will pay this. This is not normally a huge amount

IMI (Imposto Municipal sobre Imóveis) - This tax is annually due by the owner of the Portuguese property and is paid between the months of April and November, depending on the total amount of the tax. It is paid to the Portuguese Tax Authority. This tax is a rate of 0,3%.

….Fees and taxes

Our charges

We charge 1.5% of the purchase price subject to a minimum of £2,250 plus VAT. If the property title is defective or unexpected additional work is required then there may be additional charges. We would inform you before incurring this cost. In addition to our fees there is also Notary fees, Land Registry fees and the like. We will be able to give you an idea as to the cost of these when we know more about the transaction. Those costs will be the no matter which legal firm you use to assist you.

Our charges include;

  • Legal advice on the terms of your offer to purchase
  • Searches at the Town Hall
  • Searches at the Land Registry
  • Obtaining certificate from the Community of Owners (if appropriate)
  • Checking the legal status of the property and the seller’s right to sell
  • If appropriate checking the guarantee provided by the vendor
  • Preparing a report on our searches and advising you on the purchase
  • Arranging the signature of the title deed
  • Arranging payment of the relevant taxes
  • Arranging registration of the property at the Land Registry
  • General hand holding and advice throughout the transaction

Useful terms

AdvogadoLawyer or solicitor
Agente ImobiliárioEstate Agent
Apartamento/AndarApartment
ArquitectoArchitect
Consultor FiscalTax consultant
Câmara MunicipalTown Hall
Casa-de-BanhoBathroom
CozinhaKitchen
CondomínioCommunity of owners / Residents Association
Compra/ Compra e VendaPurchase / Buying and selling
Contrato de Compra e VendaPurchase contract
Contrato de reservaReservation contract
Declaração de Obra NovaDeclaration of new building work (At the Notary)
MoradaAddress
QuartoBedroom
EscrituraTitle Deeds
GarantiaGuarantee
HipotecaMortgage
IMI (Imposto Muncipal sobre Imóveis)Council Tax
ImpostoTax
ImobiliáriaEstate Agency
IVA (Imposto sobre o Valor Acrescentado)VAT (Value Added Tax)
ChaveKey
LeiLaw
LicençaLicence
LuzLight (but often refers to electricity)
MóveisFurniture
NIF (Número de Identificação Fiscal)Foreigner’s Identification Number
Pesquisa PredialLand Registry Search
NotárioNotary Public
Autorização para ObrasPlanning permission
PiscinaSwimming Pool
ProcuraçãoPower of Attorney
Apólice de SeguroInsurance policy
PromotorDeveloper
PropiedadeProperty
Registo PredialLand Registry
RendimentoIncome
ResidenteResident
Seguros(s)Insurance
Sociedade/EmpresaCompany
TerraçoTerrace
TerrenoPlot
TestamentoWill
ArrecadaçãoStorage room
Valor PatrimonialOfficial value of the property

Buying in Portugal checklist

 To doCompleted
1Decide what you are buying, where and why. If necessary take advice on this. 
2Instruct us as your independent lawyer. 
3Look at the cost of buying. Fix a budget. Stick to it. 
4Investigate finance and think about how to finance deposit. 
5Learn about the process of buying 
6Look at who should own the property 
7View properties / choose a property. Be honest with the estate agent about what you are looking for – that will save a lot of time for you and them. 
8Survey and valuation 
9Send any contract to us to check prior to signature 
10Speak to currency dealer about getting the best rate for your purchase 
11If it is a reservation contract pay a small reservation fee 
12Lawyer carries out checks on the property and advises you on whether it is safe to proceed with the full purchase contract 
13Payment of Full purchase deposit 
14Lawyer deals with purchase 
15If you are moving to Portugal arrange removal company 
16Arrange NIF 
17Arrange Power of Attorney if needed 
18Arrange insurance – contents / buildings / health 
19Signature of title deeds and registration at the Land registry 
20Make a Portuguese Will and review your English Will 
21Arrange for Fiscal representation 
22Enjoy a well deserved holiday in your new property 

Why use Judicare

Portuguese lawyers

A highly experienced Portuguese legal team

We are Solicitors

We are a UK based firm of Solicitors regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority and who specialise in international legal issues

We understand both sets of laws

Because we understand both sets of laws we understand the difficulties that come when two sets of laws meet.. This is particularly important when it comes to issues involving ownership, taxation and inheritance.

We are members of AIPP

The Association of International Property Professionals was set up to improve standards of professionalism in a largely unregulated overseas property market.

Experience

Our Portuguese team has many years of experience dealing with a whole range of legal issues with Portugal.

We speak your language

You need a lawyer who can speak your own language. More importantly you need somebody who can explain and discuss often complicated issues in terms that you understand.

Independence

We are independent. We are not allowed to act for the buyer and the seller at the same time. We are not linked with any Development Companies, Builders or Estate Agents.