The estate agent

Buying a property anywhere is a life-changing decision and the thought of doing it in a foreign land is sure to raise your anxiety levels. It’s therefore really important to choose an estate agent before you head over on a viewing trip.

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Buying a property anywhere is a life-changing decision and the thought of doing it in a foreign land is sure to raise your anxiety levels. It’s therefore really important to choose an estate agent before you head over on a viewing trip. This will be the most important ingredient to successfully finding a property there – and you need an agent that is legal, reliable, helpful, eager to service you needs and, most importantly, who understand the type of property you want.

In Portugal, the real estate industry is heavily regulated, unlike in the UK. All estate agents must train for their profession, be registered with the government and must legally display an official AMI (Associacao de Mediadores Imobiliarios) licence number on their premises. If you need to check out their credentials, you can contact the Instituto da Construcao e do Imobiliario (http://www.inci.pt/), and by checking their AMI registration, you have an avenue of complaint and escalation in the event that problems arise.

For added security, you may also wish to find an agent who is a member of an international body, such as the European Federation of Estate Agents. If you are looking to buy a property in a touristy area, you should be aware that there are a few ‘cowboy’ agents working; to avoid these (and the chance of losing a substantial sum of money), make sure that all agents you speak to are registered and licensed – if they are not, don’t go near them!

Before you view any properties through an agent, they may ask you to sign a document which states that that they are the ones who introduced you to the property; this document is simply to protect their commission, should you go on to obtain the details through some other means, and then purchase the property. This also means you can’t try to arrange a sale directly with the owner to avoid paying estate agent fees.

When it comes to agent fees, there are no specific laws in Portugal; general commission tends to be between 5-10%, and this is usually reflected in the price: if the commission is going to cost the seller around £3000, then they will put their house on the market for an extra £3000 to cover it. It is advisable to check any extra fees or charges that you may have to pay before you put in an offer.

Once your offer has been accepted and the time comes to pay a deposit, it is vital that you ensure the money is going into a separate account to the agent, preferably a bonded account. Not every Portuguese agent will have indemnity insurance, and those that do are only covered for a small amount of money.

With legalities and financials out the way, what should you expect from an estate agent in Portugal? A lot depends on the area in which you are searching for a property. If you are looking in popular expat areas such as the Algarve, Cascais, or the Silver Coast agencies will be well rehearsed in dealing with expat buyers and will probably all speak English. In more rustic areas, such as rural Central Portugal, you may find a Portuguese interpreter all but essential!

Another difference between the areas is how easy it is to identify what property is for sale. While agencies in areas such as the Algarve operate much like the UK with 'For Sale' (Venda-se) signs, brochures, and regularly updated websites, in more rural areas talking to the agents themselves may be the only way you will find out that certain properties are even available!

Fear of the unknown leads many expats to use British or expat agencies and ignore Portuguese businesses. While doing this may make you feel more comfortable in your dealings, it does represent an unwillingness to embrace the local culture. The best advice to find a property you like, make sure the agency selling it has the correct credentials and just proceed from there. Try not to limit your options.

In Portugal, the estate agent's role is essentially limited to listing and selling properties. As soon as an offer is accepted, the lawyers and notaries take over; you should be wary of estate agents attempting to push you in the direction of a 'pet' lawyer to handle your purchase. While this may make the transaction seem more straightforward, it does go against the conventional wisdom that states that a lawyer working hand-in-hand with an agent has an undeniable conflict of interest.

The best advice is find a lawyer of your own, via a personal recommendation. This doesn't mean you should refrain from accepting your agent's help in obtaining fiscal numbers and other bureaucratic pieces of paper, but it is important to ensure your lawyer is acting exclusively in your interests. Most importantly, don't let anyone pressure you into any decisions - take the time to enjoy your property search! 


Further reading for Buying In Portugal

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Viewing Guide

Finding the right property can be a challenge. What do you need to think about early on?
Read more...

 

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Hidden Costs

The price of the property as listed is never the price that you will end up paying. There are a host of other costs.
Read more...

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Legal Matters

Buying a property in Portugal has very different legal requirements to the UK.
Read more...
 

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Currency Zone

Did you know that you could save thousands of pounds when emigrating by using a currency specialist?
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We can put you in touch with a trusted agent in your desired area, who will immediately send you example properties so that you can clearly define what you are looking for in a property.

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Don't forget to download your own copy of the Viewing Trip Guide to make sure that you're fully prepared to make the most of your overseas property viewing trip.
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