Using A Buyer’s Agent To Buy a Property in Portugal

The small print: Portugalist may generate a commission from mentioned products or services. This is at no additional cost to you and it does not affect our editorial standards in any way. All content, including comments, should be treated as informational and not advice of any kind, including legal or financial advice. The author makes no representations as to the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information on this site and will not be liable for any errors or omissions or damages arising from its display or use. Links to external websites do not constitute an endorsement. [More Info]

James Cave / Last Updated: January 20, 2023 / Posted in: Buying Property

Buying agents (sometimes called buyer’s agents or a buyer’s advocate) aren’t traditionally that common in Portugal, but it’s a service that’s growing in popularity. And here’s why: buying property in Portugal can be complicated (in fact, it can be a complete minefield) 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.

Thankfully, there are now some buyer’s agents in Portugal.

Normally in a property transaction there’s just one estate agent: the person selling the property on behalf of the seller. His job is to make them as much money as possible, and in turn, earn himself a commission.

A buyer’s agent, on the other hand, works on behalf of the buyer. Their job is to:

  • Find 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. 
  • Advise on potential problems (like all of those listed above).
  • Check the paperwork is all legit.
  • Accompany you to the viewings to make sure you’re asking the right questions. 
  • Attend property viewings on your behalf – and even handle the entire process on your behalf, if you’re in another country.
  • Assess 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).
  • Advise on Golden Visa requirements if you’re investing in a property as a means to Portuguese citizenship.  
  • Suggest mortgage options or mortgage brokers (but they shouldn’t force you to only work with their partners). 
  • Negotiate the price on your behalf. 
  • Handle all of this in Portuguese. 

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.

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.

Comments

  1. Many thanks for all of this, James. I hadn't previously explaining anything re how the BAs received payment for their services. As always, clear & concise presentation.

    Reply
    • Hi Elizabeth,

      You may struggle to find an agent that's specifically a "buyer's agent" in the Azores. However, I'm sure you'll be able to find an agent that will represent you if they don't already have something suitable.

      Reply

Leave a Comment