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Folders  |  Buying a flat or house in Lisbon
Buying a flat or house in Lisbon
cedriclecler@icloud.com/+351919703043 / www.linkedin.com/in/cedriclecler
Buying a flat or house in Lisbon
Whether you are Portuguese or a foreigner, either to live in or for investment, buying property is an important decision that must be managed carefully at every stage of the process.
 
Step 1: Finding the right property

Just like in any other country, you can either buy directly from another person, or go via an estate agent. In the former case, you can start by looking on Internet sites, such as: www.casa.sapo.pt, www.bpiexpressoimobiliario.pt, www.ocasiao.pt
 
However, beware that some properties are actually being sold by non-identified estate agents. 
As you can only get few legal details via the Internet or other means (for example, such as a standard sales/purchase contract) we strongly recommend you use a lawyer if you make a purchase directly from an owner. 
Take the same precautions if you wish to buy a property when it is still a plan on paper via an estate agent/promoter or builder to avoid serious problems (work being started before the Council has given a building permit, builder going bankrupt, and so on).

 
If you use the services of an estate agent:

The number of agencies in Portugal has increased tenfold over the last 20 years, as a result of the economic boom in the 80s/90s. Small local agents have disappeared over time or have become members of the major players on the European or international market, such as ERA, Century 21 and Remax (current market leader). Alongside these giants, there are some specialised estate agents with market niches (top of the range, houses with character, private mansions, etc..). The other agents try to survive in a market that is currently depressed. Many will undoubtedly disappear in the coming months, unfortunately (including of course some of those linked to the big groups).
 
Estate agents in Portugal work within a rather strict legal framework (which does not necessarily mean the service is of the best quality). In order to work as an estate agent in Portugal, you need to have an AMI licence. This licence, delivered by an organisation called INCI, guarantees that the agent meets a certain number of criteria, including: the managers have been trained in property sales and/or have a diploma awarded by the INCI, the agency’s financial capacity has been checked and it is registered on the trade register, the company has professional insurance coverage of at least 150 000 euros, and so on. The licence number, which must be renewed every three years, must feature on every agency document, including the business cards of all commercial staff and managers. Be aware that an agency must also have a complaints book that you should not hesitate to ask to see should you not be totally satisfied.
To check if an agent is registered with the INCI and if its licence is up to date, just visit the following website: INCI - Instituto da Construção e do Imobiliário

An estate agent must, of course, provide advice on the administrative procedures required in regard to your purchase, but they can never replace a lawyer. Some agents work with lawyers that they will recommend or use during transactions.
 
 
Your contract with an estate agent:
 
As a purchaser, you do not need to sign a contract with an agency or pay agency fees.
Be aware that in Portugal, agency commission is usually paid by the vendor, unless prior agreement to the contrary. Estate agents usually ask for commission of between 3 and 5% of the value of the transaction and can ask to have exclusive rights to the property, but this is not necessarily so.
Some advice: to avoid wasting a lot of time, try to define clearly with your agent the sort of property you are looking for, geographical location as well as budget and other details.
If the property is not an exclusivity to one agent, try to find the property on the Internet and check if the price asked is the latest one advertised. In fact, you quite often see the same property on offer in different estate agents at different prices.
Make sure you ask the neighbourhood or street (agents often do not want to give out the exact address) of the properties you are offered to check if they are within your search area. 
 
Visiting flats and houses: here the recommendations are the same as for any other city on the planet. However, you should know that in Portugal the surface area for sale is not always precisely measured.  You will therefore often be given approximate figures and you really need to check the real surface area of the flat you are buying in order to check the cost per square metre. Ask for the plan of the property (not always easy to obtain for older properties). Check out any possible restrictions or buy-out rights given to the town hall or the IPPAR, particularly in the city’s historical centre.
Don’t forget that in Lisbon there are trams and underground lines that can make some parts of town very noisy. The same goes for planes (Campo de Ourique, Alcantara, Campolide and Alvalade areas) and the 25 April bridge and constant drone caused by traffic can be a real problem on days when a south westerly wind blows.
Parking can also be difficult in some parts of town (when the property does not have its own garage) but don’t make this too big an issue: it isn’t really that hard to park in Lisbon.  
Many flats are not very practical or do not have heating, which is a real negative point for a foreigner, but not so for Portuguese people.
Some well-known areas are calm during the day but very noisy at night, such as the Bairro Alto (even if bars must now shut at 2 am instead of 4 am) or the Santos neighbourhood.
Lisbon is a humid city, so be careful and check this when you visit flats and especially houses. Adequate ventilation in bathrooms, kitchens and other enclosed spaces is very important here because of the climate. 
Renovation work is relatively cheap, but of course you must ask for a cost estimate  before purchasing in order to have a clear idea of your investment’s total cost, including extra work. For the remainder, be alert and negotiate the price.
Once you have made your choice, you will need to go through a several step process before you can settle in to your new home.
We will explain all of these steps in our next special report.
 
To conclude, we recommend you use an estate agent (a reputable one) to buy in Portugal as this means you have an intermediary who will advise and help you, so that the process runs as smoothly as possible (even more so if you are a foreigner and cannot speak Portuguese).
Cédric Lecler
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See also our article about how to rent a flat or house in Lisbon
 
See also our Housing Ads
 
As well as a complaints book, you can complain to the INCI by letter or Internet at the following address: INCI - Instituto da Construção e do Imobiliário - Queixas

Next special report: steps involved in purchasing a property once you have found the right one.
In February, our special report will focus on the best neighbourhoods for investment in Lisbon and current prices. With the ongoing economic and financial crisis, we will look at the trends, neighbourhood by neighbourhood.
 

 

  
Out of the following buildings, which do you think best symbolises Lisbon?
Belém tower
Mosteiro dos Jerónimos
25th April bridge
Praça do Comércio (square)
S. Jorge Castle
Rossio Station
Cathedral (Sé)
Free water aqueduct
Monument to discoveries
Santa Justa elevator
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