With such a significant purchase as buying a property in Portugal, investing in the services of an independent, English-speaking solicitor, who will oversee the whole purchase process and advise you on tax and inheritance issues, is so important.

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

The golden rule of any business dealings in Portugal is to always ensure that you have a solicitor working entirely in your interests.

Always employ your own solicitor

The golden rule of any business dealings in Portugal (or anywhere else, for that matter) is to always ensure that you have a solicitor working entirely in your interests. 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, but it does mean the solicitor in question has conflicting loyalties. By getting recommendations and finding your own solicitor independently, you can ensure they are working for you and no one else!

Get an idea of costs up front

It’s also important to remember that business dealings can be strangely casual in Portugal – it’s all part of the culture. If you’re used to a more “Northern European” way of doing things, this vagueness can be hard to get used to. One thing you mustn’t allow room for doubt on is what you’re going to be paying for services – find out up front and get a quote in writing.

By getting recommendations and finding your own solicitor independently, you can ensure they are working for you and no one else!

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

How else can your solicitor help you?

Once you have purchased your property, retaining the services of your solicitor may be useful. They can help you with other matters, such as residency issues, and even documents if you’re struggling with the language.

Solicitor vs. notary

One important thing to remember is the difference between your solicitor, employed by you alone to protect your interests, and a notary. While Portuguese notaries are legally trained and compulsory for any property transaction in Portugal, they are employed by the government, and so officially do not act for either the buyer or vendor. The role of a notary is to oversee and rubber-stamp the paperwork in a property transaction, check all necessary taxes are paid and register the property with the Portuguese Land Registry.

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Your solicitor can help you with processes even after you have purchased your property.

What is a notary?

The notary represents the state during the transaction, and all documents must be signed in their presence for them to be legally binding. The notary will usually be 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).

The legal process of purchasing property

Your independent solicitor will ensure your contract and property are exactly how you (their client) want them. It’s a good idea to have an idea which solicitor you might use when you start house hunting. You will need to sign a contract or pay a deposit very soon after having an offer accepted – to protect your interests, your solicitor should check any paperwork or payment terms. Your solicitor will also review the sale agreement, verify titles and carry out other checks to ensure you’re protected.

Independent solicitor fees will vary but, as previously stated, will typically be 1-3 percent of the purchase price, depending on both the property and firm – and there may be a minimum charge.

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