Selling a Property in Portugal

A vendor must make sure all municipal rates and taxes are in order, and that condominium maintenance and service fees (if applicable) are up to date.

After finding a prospective purchaser and accepting an offer on the sale of the property, the vendor should make sure all utility bills (electricity, water, gas, telephone, internet provider, insurance) are fully paid up and in order. Outstanding or unpaid bills, especially the council rates and taxes, can result in the auctioning of the property by the government authorities. Some vendors choose to cancel the utility services after settling all accounts, others prefer to transfer the services directly into the name of the new owners (this is usually the case when both parties are legally represented by lawyers/solicitors) and thus avoiding the hassle of undergoing a new application process.

It is highly recommended that both vendor and purchaser engage the services of a government-licensed Real Estate Agency. This enables you to be protected and insured against any irregularities or disputes that can arise during the transaction process.

Legal Representation

The use of a legal representative (solicitor) is highly recommended especially in cases where the vendor does not live in the country. Essential acts such as drawing up the Promissory Contract of Purchase and Sale, verifying all paperwork concerning the property is in order, checking with the tax office to confirm no taxes are outstanding as well as booking the transfer deed with the notary office are all undertaken by the solicitor, relieving the purchaser of future encumbrances.

Essentially three major acts take place when selling a property.

1) Signing the Promissory Contract
2) Signing the Property Transfer Deed
3) Paying any Capital Gains Tax due

Promissory Contract

Promissory Contract of Purchase and Sale (Contrato Promessa de Compra e Venda) is a legally binding document where all the terms and conditions of the sale are set. It is drawn up by a solicitor/ lawyer and will be signed by all parties involved (vendors and purchasers), either through their legal representatives by means of a Power of Attorney, or by themselves personally. The purchaser will then pay to the vendor or their legal representative, a deposit (Entrada) of between 10 and 20% (depending on what was previously agreed to by both parties). This contract serves to confirm the intention to buy and sell the property. Should the vendor pull out of the deal, they are legally obliged to pay the seller the deposit in double. Should the purchaser decide to pull out of the deal they will lose the deposit paid.

Transfer Deed

Transfer Deed (Escritura Publica) is the final contract signed when selling or purchasing a property. It is usually the responsibility of the purchaser (or their solicitor) to book a time and date, agreed by all involved, for the transfer deed to be signed. This is done in a public notary office and happens after both parties (or their legal representatives) have confirmed all the terms and conditions stated on the Promissory Contract have been met. By this stage all the necessary funds are available and ready to be paid out by the purchaser to the vendor and the sale can now be concluded. Should one of the parties present not speak Portuguese, a translator should accompany them. At this time, the remainder of the amount due by the new owner is paid to the vendor and all keys are handed over to the new owner. The new owner (or their legal representative) will then proceed to pay for the cost of the deed and respective taxes.

Capital Gains Tax

Capital Gains Tax (Mais Valias) is due by the vendor to the government provided the property was sold for a higher amount than originally purchased by the vendor. The vendor may be exempt from paying this tax if they reinvest the money within a certain amount of time and under certain conditions.

Vendors are strongly advised to seek a lawyer or a tax advisor regarding possible capital gains tax.

In accordance with the decreed law nº 78/2006 which was published on 4th April 2006, all property owners must have an energy certificate of the property ready and available to be presented at the time of the signing of the deed. This certificate is to measure how efficiently the property uses energy and without it the public deed (escritura) cannot be signed. Energy certificates are issued by certified companies and engineers and take approximately 14 days to be completed. The cost of the certificate depends on the type and size of the property, in most cases around Euro 200 for an average sized two bed apartment, and is the vendors responsibility to apply and pay for it. It is valid for 10 years and at the time of the public deed is handed to the new owner. Vendors can ask their solicitor/lawyer or real estate agent to apply for the certificate.