Ready to crack property investing in Europe? 8 differences to watch out for

January 9, 2024

We recently sold our Krakow buy-to-let apartment to a local First Time Buyer 16 years after we bought it. UK-based buyers can think property investing abroad is the same as it is in the UK. So I thought I would highlight some of the differences in the buying processes.

To start with most Continental European countries have a Notarised buying process vs a solicitor-led one.

What is the Notary buying process?

A Notary is a qualified and registered Legal representative with special powers conferred by Government to collect taxes that are due at the point of selling or buying a property. A Notary works impartially and independently of their client (the buyer). They check the authenticity of documents to be signed and the identity of the buyers and seller in order to maintain the integrity of the buying process..

Property Investing with a Notary

In England and Wales a Solicitor is retained by their client to represent them and their interests solely, so as there is no conflict of interest.

It is desirable to go in person to conclude paperwork in front of a Notary. It is possible to use a Power of Attorney (POA) but it can often be a lengthy process to get a document Apostilled (official government certification to make a document acceptable in another country’s legal jurisdiction) and sent, almost as much as going in person.

Visiting in person means you can sort out bank account issues as well. Or set things up to make it easier to close a Bank account remotely.

If the property purchase is being made with a mortgage, then as a seller you don’t tend to get the money on the day of signing over your property. The buyer may need to go to the Bank with the Notarised document to prove the transaction before a bank will release the mortgage monies to the vendor.

It’s this part of the Notarised property investing process which feels uncomfortable, when you are used to working with Solicitors. With Solicitors Contracts are Exchanged by them and the transaction only completed once the monies are in the Solicitor’s Client Account and verified on the vendor’s behalf.

Supply chain differences

Usually it is a legal requirement to have a SWORN translator (officially recognised) present. This is to ensure that you are fully informed and can make an appropriate property investing decision.

Estate Agents are licensed in a number of countries and carry out parts of the conveyancing process a Solicitor would do in the UK. So often Solicitors aren’t involved in the buying process.

Things that might be frowned on in the UK as potentially impairing impartiality, may be part of the norm. For example the same Estate Agent may collect a fee from both the buyer and the seller. There may be 2 separate members of staff involved within the same Estate Agent.

Resale properties may have an associated transfer tax with the purchase rather than a SDLT (Stamp Duty land Tax). Although VAT tends to be charged on new builds in the same way as in the UK.

Cultural differences in property investing

There is less of a culture of surveying or getting independent valuations, separate to a Bank-generated one.

Buy-to-let mortgages don’t really exist outside of the UK, so property investing is not quite so easy.

There may be less market transparency. Other countries do not tend to have the Land Registry database as visible as in the UK. Or the same plethora of stats available at your finger tips to make an assessment of the housing market.

What are your experiences of dealing with a different property investment process?

I am a landlord, ‘prudent’ property investor and developer. I help others to invest ‘prudently’ either with a bespoke Property Finding service or in a supportive mentoring capacity. If you’d like help or to find out more do message me info@property-venture.com. Or connect with me here

My business Property Venture® is an award-winning, Boutique property consultancy focusing on helping time-strapped professionals and expats invest in property, so you can carry on your day job while building your wealth.