You’ve found your dream home, you’ve viewed it and you’re certain it’s the one. Now’s the exciting bit: reserving, offering on your home, getting it accepted and then, finally, getting the keys! But how do you get to that point? This week, in the final part of our serialisation, we’re looking at the legal process of buying a home in Portugal.

Finding a lawyer

The first part of starting down the road of the legal process of buying a home in Portugal is, of course, finding a lawyer (avogado). We generally advise using a locally based, English-speaking one: they’ll be used to helping expats, while also having local language skills and local knowledge. They’ll be your guide through the details of the transaction, ensuring you completely understand the contract and supporting documentation. Among many other vital issues, it’s crucial to establish in whose names the property sits and who will inherit it – especially for children from different relationships.

Legal process of buying a home in Portugal

The process usually follows these steps:

1. Making an offer and reserving the property

After choosing a property, you would usually make an offer via your agent. When the offer is accepted, a small deposit (circa. €5000) usually changes hands and the property is taken off the market. This is the point at which you instruct a lawyer, who perform all the necessary checks, such as ensuring the property is legally the owner’s to sell.

Once you've found your dream home, you'll need to reserve it.

Once you’ve found your dream home, you’ll need to reserve it.

While it’s not mandatory to arrange a survey when you purchase a property in Portugal, it’s rarely a good idea to skip this step. You’ll want to arrange this before any more money changes hands.

Thinking of buying soon? Don’t miss your free tickets to Your Overseas Home while they last. It’s a show specifically designed for serious buyers, with the chance to talk face-to-face with estate agents, lawyers, currency and financial experts and removals specialists.

2. The promissory contract

The next step in the legal process of buying a home in Portugal is your lawyer preparing the promissory contract (contrato de promessa de compra e venda). At this point, you pay the official deposit on the property. There’s no hard and fast rule on the value of this deposit. That said, 10-30% of the purchase price is quite standard, less the reservation deposit already paid.

This deposit is very rarely refundable for any reason. As the buyer, you would expect to forfeit it if you were to pull out. If the seller pulls out of the deal, they are legally obliged to pay back double the deposit to the buyer.

At this point, your lawyer should release the deposit and transfer it to the vendor’s lawyer, then you should be given a target date for transferring the final deed (escritura). Typically, this will be anything from three weeks to three months from when the initial contract is signed.

3. The final deed

The signing of the final deed (escritura) requires both you and the property vendor to be present (or someone with suitable power of attorney), and takes place in the presence of a notary. After transferring the funds, the documents are read aloud and signed by both parties. This is the equivalent of “completing” on a property in the UK.

It’s at this point that you also pay the purchase tax (IMT). It’s the notary’s job to ensure that this is paid before the property changes hands.

4. Registration

While the property is yours after signing the final deed, you must then, with the help of your lawyer, register the property with the local tax office and the Land Registry (Registo Predial).

We can put you in touch with locally based, bilingual lawyers whom we’ve had excellent reviews about from previous readers. Simply fill in our enquiry form and we’ll be in touch with ones who meet your needs.

Many people prefer to be present for the significant transactions in the legal process of buying a home in Portugal, but that’s not always feasible. If so, you can grant your lawyer power of attorney, ensuring it’s limited just to what you require.

Buying property in Portugal

We’ve now come to the end of our six-part serialisation of Buying in Portugal – hopefully you’re now comfortable with the process of finding and purchasing your dream property! If you missed any previous parts, do check them out below.

  1. Part one: planning
  2. Part two: decision-making
  3. Part three: area guide
  4. Part four: money matters
  5. Part five: making an offer

And if you do still have further questions, don’t hesitate to contact us on +44(0)20 7898 0549 or email portugal@propertyguides.com.

Download your free Portugal Buying Guide

The Portugal Buying Guide is designed to support you through each stage of buying property in Portugal, providing relevant, up-to-date information and tips from Portugal property experts and expats who have been through the process themselves. It helps you to:


  Ask the right questions
  Avoid losing money
  Avoid the legal pitfalls
  Move in successfully

Download your free guide to buying abroad

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