Having chosen the property you wish to buy and prior to paying any deposit over to the Vendor your next big step should be to appoint a lawyer to ensure that the legalities of your purchase are correctly dealt with and you receive full and unnumbered title. As in many countries it is a case of "Buyer Beware" therefore it is a lot easier to ensure right from the beginning that all matters are dealt with properly than to inherit any ongoing problems! Legislation has recently changed a lot where properties are concerned however a brief description follows of the buying and contractual process and the main points that you need to consider.

Firstly your lawyer will need to have full details of the property, who is the agent and any special conditions that you have agreed as being part of the transaction. You may at this stage pay a deposit over to the lawyer be held on your behalf as proof of your intent whilst the searches are then started and the contracts drawn up.

Your lawyer will first search the situation of the property here in Portugal and part of the searches will involve:

· Checking the registration of the property in the local land registry where full detail of the property from its beginning and all its history and all ownership will be recorded.

· Obtaining a copy of the Official Tax Booklet (Caderneta Predial) in the local tax department where full details of the property from a tax point of view, its tax number and its rateable value will be recorded. A search can then be requested to the tax department to see if there are any unpaid taxes in relation to the property.

· Obtain a copy of the habitation licence which should be issued by the local County Council to any completed dwelling for habitation once it has been completed in accordance with the approved plans and a copy of such plans.

We would suggest that you ask your lawyer to draw up a report for you summarising the situation of the property as registered in the various departments and that you check that the description and size of the property corresponds to the actual property. Remember people often made alterations to a property during their ownership and it is not customary for a lawyer to physically check out a property. 

If you have any doubts or simply would like independent comfort as to the condition of the property it is always possible to employ an independent surveyor to make a survey on the property and your lawyer can recommend one to you.

Once the searches have been completed, then the contract is drawn up the type of which depends on the vendor's ownership. 

If the ownership is a corporate entity and you are keeping the same ownership, then your lawyer will have to do searches on the company and subsequently a Share Purchase Agreement is drawn up instead of a promissory contract and a deposit paid. Completion usually follows soon after which is normally quite straight forward with the monies being transferred between the parties lawyers on exchange of the company shares and documents.

If the ownership is in the name of an individual(s) then a Promissory Contract of Purchase and Sale is drawn up by the Purchaser's lawyer in which all conditions of the transaction are included and a time limit established for the signature of the final deed in accordance with the wishes of the parties. A ten percent deposit is normally paid over on signature of the contract.

At this stage the purchase has been legally agreed and sealed and in accordance with our legislation if a buyer defaults he loses any deposit paid and if the vendor defaults he has to pay back the deposit in double which dissuades any "guzzumping"!

Near the time for the signature of the Deed the monies necessary to pay the Vendor and the various taxes, fees and duties are normally transferred to the lawyer a week prior to completion to enable the IMT tax which has to be paid in advance, to be ready for completion.

The actual exchange of the title (notarial deed of purchase and sale) will take place at a notary in the presence of the parties and the notary public where the deed will be read out loud to the parties or their representatives, its contents checked and then duly signed and at this stage the balance of the price is paid. The original of this document remains lodged at the notary and bound in the notary's official books. Authenticated copies can be obtained at any time to prove ownership.

At this stage you can celebrate!....however there is still one very important legal formality to be completed which is the lodging of a copy of the title deed in the Land Registry and the change of ownership registered in the official registry books. 

The same then also has to be done at the local Tax Department in the Official Tax Booklet (Caderneta Predial)

Congratulations your new home is now legally and completely yours!