Should You Use A Buyer’s Agent When Buying Property in Portugal?

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Last updated on June 4, 2024 | Est. Reading Time: 4 minutes

Buying a property in Portugal can be an exciting adventure, but it’s no secret that the Portuguese property market can seem a little like the wild wild west, especially if you’re new to the country.

Enter the buyer’s agent, a professional who’s dedicated to holding your hand through the entire journey, from finding your dream home to signing on the dotted line.

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The Rise of Buyer’s Agents in Portugal

While buyer’s agents (also known as buyer’s advocates) aren’t yet as common in Portugal as they are in the US, their popularity is on the rise. More and more people, whether American or otherwise, are realising the value of having an expert by their side to navigate the potential pitfalls of the Portuguese property market.

Challenges in the Portuguese Property Market

So, what kind of challenges might you face when buying a property in Portugal?

Well, imagine falling in love with a charming villa, only to discover that the swimming pool was built without proper permits.

Or, picture finding out that the perfect apartment you’ve been eyeing is actually owned by multiple siblings who can’t agree on selling.

Other common issues include properties built on land that shouldn’t have been used for residential purposes or homes with poor construction that are likely to be cold and damp during winter.

While the market is getting better, it’s still a minefield and as a first-time buyer in Portugal, it’s very easy to accidentally step on one of those mines.

How a Buyer’s Agent Can Help

A skilled buyer’s agent acts as your personal guide, helping you spot these issues before they become major headaches. They’ll decode cryptic property listings, accompany you to viewings to ensure you’re asking the right questions, and even attend viewings on your behalf if you’re not in the country.

A buyer’s agent can also:

  • Find suitable properties for you (even ones that aren’t listed on websites).
  • Assess the true value of a property based on similar sales in the area.
  • Check that all the paperwork is legit.
  • Suggest mortgage options or mortgage brokers.
  • Handle all the negotiations in Portuguese.

Payment Models for Buyer’s Agents

Now, you might be wondering how these wonderful people get paid. Typically, there are two models:

  1. You pay them a fee for their time.
  2. They work on a commission basis and get paid by the seller.

The majority of buyer’s agents in Portugal use the second model as this doesn’t cost you anything. The downside is that it does limit them to properties where the agent is willing to split the commission.

However, rather than suggest other properties for sale, a good buyer’s agent will point out they can’t help with that particular property and allow you to pay for their time instead. This ensures there aren’t any conflicts of interest.

Finding the Right Buyer’s Agent for You

It’s also worth mentioning that if you’re on a tight budget or looking for a property off the beaten path, it might be a bit trickier to find a buyer’s agent willing to take on your case. Most agents focus on popular areas like Lisbon, Porto, and the Algarve, and may prioritise clients with higher budgets—or at least a minimum of, say, €200,000.

But don’t let that discourage you – there are still plenty of options out there. If you’re looking for a ruin in Central Portugal or the Alentejo, for example, you could opt for the model where you pay for their time as you know the commission may not be enough to make it worth their while.

Do You Need a Buyer’s Agent?

At the end of the day, using a buyer’s agent is entirely up to you. Plenty of people have successfully purchased properties in Portugal without one. However, if you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed by the process or simply want some extra peace of mind, a buyer’s agent can be an invaluable asset. And if you use one that works on commission only, it won’t cost you anything extra.

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James Cave is the founder of Portugalist and the author of the bestselling book, Moving to Portugal Made Simple. He has visited just about every part of Portugal, including Madeira and all nine islands of the Azores, and lived in several parts of Portugal including Lisbon, the Algarve, and Northern Portugal.

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