Choosing the right solicitor in Portugal is crucial when buying a property there. Investing in the services of an independent, English-speaking solicitor is extremely important for such a significant transaction. You should expect them to oversee the entire purchase process. In addition, they can advise you on vital tax and inheritance issues.

Having a solicitor by your side throughout your purchase process will help you to understand everything a little more. This should mean you find everything less intimidating – especially given differences in language and local customs.

The golden rule of choosing a solicitor is to always ensure that you have one working entirely in your interests.

Always employ your own solicitor in Portugal

The golden rule of all business dealings in Portugal (or anywhere else, for that matter) is to always ensure that you have a solicitor working entirely in your interests. However, your estate agent may try to make things easier for you by recommending their own “partner” solicitor.

This doesn’t necessarily indicate that anything underhand is going on. However, it does mean the solicitor in question will have conflicting loyalties. Instead, get recommendations and find your own solicitor independently. That way, you can ensure they are working for you and nobody else.

Get an idea of costs up front

It’s also crucial to remember that business dealings can feel unusually casual in Portugal. This is just part of the local culture. If you’re used to a more “Northern European” way of doing things, the vagueness can prove hard to get used to. One thing you mustn’t allow any doubt on is what you will pay for services. Therefore you must find this out up front and get a quote in writing.

You may need to insist that your solicitor in Portugal provides you with a formal quote before getting started!

The good thing about this relaxed attitude is that it sometimes works at both ends of the transaction, Therefore, don’t be too surprised if your solicitor takes a while to bill you.

Deposits and Fees

In Portugal, you generally need to pay a holding deposit very soon after having an offer accepted on a property. This is typically around €6000-10000 and held by your solicitor. As such, it’s a good idea to have a chosen solicitor in mind when you start house hunting. Next, it’s down to the solicitor to check all of the details of the property and paperwork before you proceed to the contrato de promessa de compra e venda stage. At this point, you’ll usually need to increase your deposit to 30% of the total purchase price.

Independent solicitor fees can vary. However, you can typically count on handing over 1-3% of the purchase price. This depends on both the property and the solicitor’s firm. Sometimes there’s a minimum charge. As previously mentioned, getting a quote up-front is always the best strategy.

Solicitor vs. Notary

One important thing to remember is the difference between your solicitor in Portugal, who’s employed by you alone to protect your interests, and a notary.

Portuguese notaries are legally trained, and their role is compulsory in any property transaction in Portugal. However, they officially act for the government, and not for either the buyer or vendor. The role of a notary is to oversee and rubber-stamp the paperwork in a property transaction. In addition, they check all necessary taxes are paid, and register the property with the Portuguese Land Registry. You can find a notary on the European Directory of Notaries if need be.

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Your solicitor can help you with all kinds of issues, even after you have purchased your property.

When you purchase a property in Portugal, all documents must be signed in the presence of a notary for them to be legally binding. The notary is usually involved from the signing of the initial promissory contract (contrato de promessa de compra e venda) until the point of completion and the signing of the final contract (escritura de compra e venda).

How else can your solicitor help you?

Once you have purchased your property, retaining the services of your trusted solicitor is often a good idea. They can help you with other legal matters, such as residency issues. Even “simple” things like setting up utility contracts and purchasing vehicles can sometimes prove difficult, especially if you have “language barrier” issues. A reliable solicitor can often help to ease things along.

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