In Portugal, estate agents typically charge 5% (or more) commission + VAT. For many expats living in Portugal — and an increasing number of Portuguese — that’s just too high to even consider.
5% of a €250,000 property is €12,500. If your property is more expensive, say €750,000, you could be paying €37,500 just in commission.
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Some estate agents will drop their commissions ever so slightly, but it’s unlikely that you’ll get them below 3%. Even getting them to drop below 5% can be a struggle.
But, why pay any commission if you don’t have to? After all, you could just sell your house without an estate agent.
Is an estate agent worth it?
Before we go any further, it’s worth asking yourself if using an estate agent is worth it. In the past, although you could sell your house yourself, it was very difficult to get your property in front of prospective buyers.
Estate agents, on the other hand, had a store presence in the nearest town, adverts in the local media, and other means of reaching clients. They also had (and still have) the advantage of being able to advertise on many property websites that (unfortunately) don’t allow private sellers to advertise on.
But, these days, given how easy it is to reach prospective buyers online, do you still need an estate agent to market it for you? Could you do it better? Yes and no.
Selling yourself means:
- You can probably get better photos taken as some estate agents in Portugal don’t use a professional photographer.
- You can dedicate more time to marketing it as estate agents have to split their time between marketing multiple properties.
- You can personally answer all of the prospective buyers’ questions in-depth as you know the property inside out.
But, the truth is that many people will still stop and look at the adverts outside estate agents’ offices, and that’s definitely a selling point for their services.
Another major selling point to using an estate agent is that they are good at closing deals (i.e. getting people to buy) and most of us are not. Yes, you can market your property better, and you can answer the buyer’s questions better, but without this skill you’ll struggle to sell your property.
It’s worth mentioning that many estate agents in Portugal work on an non-exclusive basis (although they always try to get exclusivity). This means that you could try and sell your house yourself and you could also work with an estate agent (or several).
Where to List Your Property
The best places to list your property will depend a lot on who you’re selling to: local Portuguese buyers or international buyers.
Put simply, international buyers usually have more money to spend. While a 1-bedroom apartment in Lisbon will attract both local and international buyers, a 6-bed villa in the Algarve is going to attract more international buyers than Portuguese buyers (generally speaking, of course).
In most cases, expats selling their property will often be looking to sell to other expats (or future expats). Because of this, it’s important that you advertise on websites that focus on the international market.
Ideally you want to list your property on sites like RightMove and Zoopla for the UK, Zillow and Realtor for the US, and ImmobilienScout24 and Immowelt in Germany.
Unfortunately, it isn’t possible for private sellers to list their properties on many of these websites.
BeEverywhere and Arkadia are two websites that allow you to get around this: if you post on their sites, they’ll also distribute your listing to other sites like RightMove as well as a few other expat websites and international newspapers (although not all of the ones mentioned above).
And, there are a few property websites that do allow private sellers to list their properties like:
While you still won’t get the same reach as an estate agent can, between all of those options, and using some of the other resources mentioned below, you should be able to get your property in front of lots of different buyers.
It’s also worth advertising on classifieds websites like Idealista and OLX as these are viewed by both Portuguese buyers and savvy international buyers.
Tip: Sites like Idealista usually have thousands if not hundreds of thousands of listings for properties in Portugal, and so it can be worth paying for a premium listing so more people will potentially see it.
Expat Newspapers & Classifieds
Both The Portugal News and the Portugal Resident, two English-speaking expat papers in Portugal, have a classifieds section, which can be useful for reaching expats who already live in Portugal.
Putting up a “for sale” sign
A for sale sign outside your house might seem a bit old-fashioned, but it’s still worth trying if you live on a street that gets a lot of people passing by.
If you’re selling a property that’s also a business, such as a guesthouse, it may also be worth listing yourself on websites that focus on selling businesses like businessesforsale.com.
Why you might still have to pay commission
If you’re lucky, a buyer will come across your advert on a property website like Green Acres or RightMove and get in touch with you directly. They’ll like the property, buy it, and you’ll complete the sale with no estate agent involved.
What could happen, however, is that an estate agent will get in touch with you as they’ll have clients who might be interested in your property. Normally what happens is these clients have seen another property of said estate agents, but have decided it’s not for them, and then the estate agent starts looking around for other suitable properties.
They won’t introduce you to those clients unless they’re getting paid. Realistically, they shouldn’t be expecting 5%. Most of the time, they’ll be getting in touch with other estate agents and would normally be expecting 2.5% or less.
Whatever the fee, they’re not going to do it for nothing, but 2%, 2.5%, or 3% (whatever you agree) is a lot better than 5%.
There are also a very small number of realtors who work as buying agents or buyer’s agents. Rather than helping you sell your house, they work on the buyer’s side to help them find them find their dream property (and to make sure they don’t have any issues while buying).
Most buying agents typically earn around 2.5% as they split the commission with the selling agent so, if you were willing to offer 2.5%, it would be worth getting in touch with a buying agent to see if they have any clients who might be interested in your property.
The costs involved
The biggest cost, whether you sell with an estate agent or by yourself, is the time and emotional rollercoaster. Properties don’t sell straight away and, in Portugal, it’s not uncommon for the process to take several years.
This means a lot of days spent hoovering and tidying, only for the clients to not be interested or worse: not turn up for the viewing.
But, aside from the emotional costs, which apply to anyone selling a house, there are other more practical costs involved as well.
Most modern smartphones take excellent photos but professional photographers know how to stage a photo and that alone can really make your listing stand out.
Many photographers now also include video in their packages and this is definitely worth considering. Having a video of your property will really make your listing stand out.
Even though lots of people won’t scrimp on a photographer, many will write their own listing themselves. But, just like your listing needs good photos to stand out, a good description that not only contains the essential details but is also enticing, is essential.
Most sites charge for you to list your property with them, and you may end up paying for a premium listing on the sites that don’t charge.
The sales process
The following is a rough outline of the sales process in Portugal.
1. Get your paperwork in order
In order to sell a property in Portugal, you need the following documents:
- An Energy Certificate (Certificado Energético) – With a rating from A (best) to F (worst), and valid for 10 years, this mandatory certificate helps future buyers understand how energy efficient your property is.
- Certidao Permanente –
- Paperwork for things like swimming pool, septic tanks, and boreholes (this mainly applies to people in the countryside)
- Architectural plans stamped by local council
- Debt certificate
It’s also good to have:
- Up-to-date utility bills
- Previous IMI (annual property tax) bills
- A floorplan
- An inventory (if you’re including the contents in the house sale as well)
- Habitation Licence (Licença De Utilização or Declaration) – Only necessary if this building is older than 1951.
- Ficha Técnica for all properties built after 2004.
Getting the price right is a key part of the sales process. Too high and the property won’t sell and too low and you’re leaving money on the table.
Estate agents offer this for free as part of their service, and one way to get a valuation is to simply get them to value your house for you. It’s often a good idea to get several opinions so you can get an idea of what the average is.
Alternatively, you can also enlist the services of a professional surveyor.
The next stage is to list your property using the sites discussed above. To make your property stand out, it’s a good idea to hire a professional photographer that specialises in property photoshoots. It’s also a good idea to enlist the services of a professional copywriter and to get a floorplan drawn up as well.
A good listing doesn’t just mean a well-written one, but one that contains all the information a buyer would want to know. This includes:
- Year it was built
- Number of rooms
- Size of the property (in square metres)
- Energy rating
- Photos of ALL the rooms
- Contact details
Additional information that can help paint a picture of your property would be information about the area, your favourite features of the property, nearby amenities, public transport within the area.
Once your property is live, you’ll (hopefully) start to get a few enquiries.
Perhaps the hardest part of the sales process is dealing with all of the viewings. The viewings themselves usually take less than an hour each, sometimes much less, but they don’t usually all happen on the same day or even the same week or month.
This means that, while your house is on the market, you’ll constantly be getting your house ready for viewings. Depending on the size of the house, you could be spending anything from hours or even days cleaning and preparing it.
This is also a good opportunity to take a few trips to the charity shop as your house is probably filled with things that you’re planning on getting rid of anyway, and that are cluttering up your property.
Your viewers will all have questions, and it’s a good idea to think about what they might be.
Typical questions include:
- Why are you selling?
- What are the neighbours like?
- Are there any problems I should know about?
- How negotiable is the price?
- Can I see previous utility bills and property tax bills?
Because you’re selling your house in a unique manner, it’s important that you instill as much confidence in the buyer as possible. Know the answers to these questions and, if you don’t know, promise to get the information sent over to them.
It’s also a good idea to put together a small print out, even if it’s just one page, with all the details of the property. You may already have all of this information online, but it helps if you can put something into their hands.
If the buyer needs a mortgage, the bank will need to send their own surveyor to come and assess the property. There’s no cost to you, but you’ll need to set aside time to conduct the viewing and prepare the house for it.
The buyer will put in an offer, which may or may not be what you’re looking for. Some people will simply suggest a number, while others will suggest a price along with reasons why they think that’s a fairer price. Those reasons might include work they anticipate having to do, problems with the area, the price of other properties in the area, etc.
It’s important that you remain objective when reviewing offers. Setting a bottom price before getting to this stage helps as it allows you to remain objective in the moment.
Once you’re presented with an offer, you have the opportunity to either accept it, reject it, or submit a counteroffer.
The promissory contract (Contrato-Promessa Compra e Venda) is a key stage in the selling process because the buyer now has to pay a deposit of between 10 and 30%: if he or she pulls out, you get to keep the deposit (minus any legal or estate agent fees). It’s worth noting that you are also liable if you pull out as well.
A solicitor can put the CPCV together for you, but it’s important that you read through the contract and check for mistakes. Your solicitor may have misheard or misunderstood certain aspects of the property,
Need to go through this line-by-line.
First Refusal (rural Portugal)
In many rural parts of Portugal, once you sign the promissory contract, your neighbours have 30 days to match or beat the offer (Exercício de Direito de Preferência). And, should they want to buy it, they get priority – a Portuguese law to protect people who live in the countryside.
In many cases your neighbours will already have been aware that your property was for sale and so, if they really wanted to buy it, might have put in an offer already. For most people, the main issue here is that this part of the process can delay things by a few weeks.
Signing the Final Deeds
The final deeds are normally signed around 30 to 60 days after signing the promissory contract.
When that day comes, you’ll need the following documents:
- ID Cards/Citizen Card of the seller(s)
- Photocopy of the deed
Is this the right option for you?
While selling your house yourself normally makes the most financial sense, it isn’t always the right option for everyone. If you’re out of the country, for example, or you’re really in need of a quick sale, it may make more sense to enlist the services of an estate agent. It may also make sense if you’re out of the country, or haven’t been able to sell your house yourself.
Remember: it’s not a binary choice. It is possible to both list with an estate agent and to try and sell the house yourself.