Buying Property Portugal : the role of estate agent

Alcino,  Wednesday, 8 January 2014


This article is part of a series of 8 articles about buying property in Portugal. The other articles in the series cover the following topics:

Particularly when foreigners are involved, a large number of property transactions in Portugal are completed through real estate agencies. Meeting an estate agent is one of the first and most important steps on your quest to purchasing a property. Depending on how much you leave up to an agent, your property investment may be heavily influenced by their role in the process.

Real estate agents in Portugal are regulated by law and should have professional qualifications and a licence to operate from the Instituto da Construção e do Imobiliário (Institute of Construction and Real Estate) or InCI. Licensed individuals and agencies will belong to one of several existing professional associations, including the Associação de Mediadores Imobiliários (AMI), the Associação Portuguesa de Empresas de Mediação Imobiliária (APEMI), the Associação de Mediadores do Algarve (AMA), or the Associação de Mediadores Imobiliários de Portugal, and will display their licence number on their business cards and premises. If you are ever in doubt about a particular agent, you can use this number to check out their credentials by getting in contact with the InCI.

Legal matters aside, the role of estate agents in Portugal is essentially similar to anywhere else in the world: to act as an intermediary between sellers and buyers, listing and marketing properties on behalf of their clients. The estate agent’s commission usually ranges anywhere from 3% to 10% of the sale price and is almost always paid by the seller. Some agents may ask you to sign a document before taking you on viewings. There should be no cause for alarm, as this is merely to protect their commission, by obtaining proof that they were the ones to introduce you to the property, and prevent you from eventually acquiring details and making a purchase through other means.

In the more touristic areas, real estate agents are often fluent in more than one language and have experience in dealing with non-residents. All of this is especially true in the region of Algarve, where many agents focus primarily on the second and holiday home market, characterised by Northern European buyers and sellers. As a matter of fact, if you are from the Republic of Ireland, the UK, Germany or Holland, you may even find compatriots living in Portugal and working in this area. In the interior and the North of the country, the approach is more geared toward the local resident market and it may be a little harder finding English-speaking agents. You would be quite well received and treated though, as the people of these areas enjoy the novelty of working with foreign clients and are usually willing to go the extra mile.

As mentioned before, in the more touristic regions, such as the Algarve, parts of the Costa de Prata (Silver Coast) and the Costa de Lisboa (Lisbon Coast), many estate agents concentrate their efforts solely on the holiday home market. As you might calculate, various features (including price) of holiday homes may differ greatly from the features and characteristics of properties on offer for local residents. This means that your choice of estate agent may ultimately influence the types of properties you are exposed to and hence limit your viewing options. It is important to define your requirements and desires beforehand, so that you know exactly which types of properties you would like to see when you are in Portugal. It may even be best to begin your search online, before you even arrive in the country.

Completing your own research beforehand will also help ensure that you cannot be exploited or pressured into making a less than favourable deal. Estate agents often attempt to take advantage of potential buyers that lack knowledge of the local market. The biggest risk of buying in a market with which you are not familiar is overpaying. Arrive well-informed, knowing exactly what you want and, if possible, already with a few prospective properties in mind. Having options will automatically place you in a better negotiating position. Estate agents expect foreign buyers to lack knowledge and time, therefore feeling forced to choose from the few options they are shown. Avoid this situation at all costs and make sure that you are the one running the show. Buying a property abroad is a major decision and something that deserves sufficient research and planning. Attempt to find out exactly how the market is doing; not only in the country, but also in the specific area in which you would like to buy. A display of this knowledge will force the estate agent to take you more seriously and can only work in your favour. Do not be afraid to point out things you do not like in a property and to ask as many questions as possible, as this will only keep you on track and help save time and money.

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