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

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Written by: | Last updated on February 9, 2024 | Est. Reading Time: 6 minutes
This article is available in: en_US

Buying agents (sometimes called buyer’s agents or a buyer’s advocate) aren’t traditionally common in Portugal, but it’s a service that’s growing in popularity. There are two reasons for this:

  1. The concept of a buyer’s agent is common in the US and as more Americans move to Portugal, more people are asking for this.
  2. Buying property in Portugal can be complicated (in fact, it can be a complete minefield) and so many people, understandably, want someone to hold their hand through the entire process.

Here are some examples of problems that crop up in Portugal, but you might not know to look out for:

  • Some rooms, external buildings, or the swimming pool were built without planning permission.
  • The property is owned by multiple siblings and one or two of them still have to convince the others to sell (and they typically won’t be convinced).
  • The property is built on land that legally shouldn’t have been used for a residential property.
  • The construction of the property is poor and is likely to be cold and damp during winter.

These problems should be explained to you but often if you don’t ask, they won’t be brought up. Part of the job of a buyer’s agent is to help you spot these problems.

Other tasks a buyer’s agent does include:

  • Finding suitable properties for you (yes, you can browse the property websites yourself but many agents only list some of their properties). A buyer’s agent can also decode what certain Portuguese listings mean and whether they’re worth viewing. 
  • Advising on potential problems (like all of those listed above).
  • Checking the paperwork is all legit.
  • Accompanying you to the viewings to make sure you’re asking the right questions. 
  • Attending property viewings on your behalf – and even handle the entire process on your behalf, if you’re in another country.
  • Assessing the valuation of a property based on similar properties in the area (there isn’t a public database of what other properties in the area have sold for, so it’s hard to do this yourself).
  • Advising on Golden Visa requirements if you’re investing in a property as a means to Portuguese citizenship.  
  • Suggesting mortgage options or mortgage brokers (but they shouldn’t force you to only work with their partners). 
  • Negotiating the price on your behalf. 
  • Handling all of this in Portuguese. 

The concept of a buyer’s agent is still quite new in Portugal. You may not be able to find a buyer’s agent everywhere in Portugal: it’s very difficult to find somebody in places like the Azores and Madeira, and many agents seem to focus on Lisbon and the surrounding areas.

It’s also not a protected term. Any estate agent can call themselves a buyer’s agent, although the ones that only focus on this service tend to offer something that’s more similar to what you might find in other countries like the US.

How does a Buyer’s Agents Get Paid?

Most buyer’s agents work on one of two models:

  1. You pay them a fee, sometimes a flat fee, for their time.
  2. The agent works on a commission-basis but they get paid by the seller, meaning it costs you nothing.

The first model is simple: you pay an agent a fee and in return, they do all this work for you.

The second model is a little more complicated. Your agent will scour the market for suitable properties but if they find one they like, they will first speak to the seller’s agent to see if they’re willing to split the commission. In Portugal, the seller’s agent earns around 5%, so there is room to pay the buyer’s agent a “finder’s fee.”

Of course, there’s one challenge with this model: what is the seller’s agent doesn’t want to split the commission. This does happen, particularly when properties are selling fast and the agent doesn’t need any help or when the potential commission is so low that the agent wants to keep it all for themselves.

Rather than steer you away from that property, a good buyer’s agent will explain the situation. Most of the time they’ll be willing to continue working with you, but rather than get a commission from the seller’s agent, they’ll charge you a fee for their time. The fee varies: some use a flat-fee model while others charge an amount that’s similar to what they would have been paid if they were to receive a commission.

Another challenge is that buyer’s agents that work on commission have a greater incentive to work with clients who are buying expensive properties as they’re likely to earn bigger commissions, and it’s even better if those properties are somewhere that’s easy to get to like Lisbon, Porto, or the Algarve. If you’re buying a budget ruin in the middle of nowhere, it can sometimes be hard to find an agent that’s willing to take you on as a client.

Do You Need to Use a Buyer’s Agent?

Absolutely not. Thousands of people purchase properties in Portugal every year, and most don’t use a buyer’s agent (although they may end up with an estate agent who takes on the role of one, as mentioned earlier). 

And, judging by the ever-increasing expat population here in Portugal, it’s fair to say that most people are happy with their purchases. However, there’s a lot to be said for having your hand held through the challenges of buying a property in another country.

FAQs

Are There Buyer’s Agents in Portugal?

Although the concept isn’t common in Portugal, there are a handful of buyer’s agents operating in Portugal.

How Do Buyer’s Agents Get Paid?

Typically a buyer’s agent works in one or two ways: you pay them a fee for their time or they earn commission for referring you to the agent selling the property. Each model has its pros and its cons.

Do I Need to Use A Buyer’s Agent?

Absolutely not, but it can be very helpful – especially if it’s your first time buying property in Portugal.

Written by

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.