You are living in Belgium and you want to buy property here. Is this the right country for you ? Read on to find out…
First, let’s talk about buying real estate in general. There are several types of contracts that can be used when you buy real estate (land or building). The most common contract is based on an offer / acceptance scheme. Let me explain: every contract has a starting point (offer) called “offre d’achat”, followed by subsequent negotiations between buyer and seller, finally ending with the signed agreement (acceptance) known as “contrat de vente”. During these negotiations there may occur counter-offers made by either party, depending on market conditions or other factors.
What is a counter-offer? Let’s say you have made an offer to purchase real estate from the owner. This counter-offer may be increased in price, decreased in price or not changed at all. Some people might think that this sounds too easy and it can lead to misunderstandings between buyer and seller – but really it isn’t so simple! In fact, there are very precise rules involved in making an offer / counter-offer in a contract of sale here in Belgium.
Different types of real estate property
The offer / acceptance scheme works for any kind of transaction involving real property. There are however special cases when a different type of contract would be used:
- A pre-emption right refers to cases where real estate is sold by a third party who has the first right to purchase the property – before any other prospective buyers. This is usually done by providing that person with information on upcoming sales beforehand, so they can decide if they want to buy the property before it goes on sale publicly
- A contract of donation (donation entre vifs) provides for free ownership between husband and wife, parents and children… any blood relations are considered ‘vif’, which means alive! But beware… this form of contract is no longer allowed in Belgium since 1 st October 2007
- Forced heirship : apart from forced heirship under family law rules , there’s also forced heirship when buying real estate . This happens when you’re not married but you have a child or children with the person you want to buy the property with. Here, ownership is automatically transferred to your child(ren) upon death – regardless of what was stated in your Will (testament)
- A contract of exchange (échange) is when two parties agree to swap real estate properties . The price of each property is set at the time of signing and there’s no obligation on either party to buy or sell anything! This form of contract can be useful for moving within Belgium, especially if you’re stuck somewhere without any reasonable way to move house… It also happens frequently between family members !
- A notarial deed has only one purpose : transferring real estate owned by someone else into your name. This is a particularly useful type of contract if you’re planning on buying real estate from someone who’s not around any more (deceased) or can’t sign a regular contract for some other reason. In that case, the family will need to go to court and pay a special fee before a notary can draw up this type of document – which also has to be signed by all interested parties in front of the notary!
- A pre-emption right with usufruct refers to cases where property is put up for sale, but one person reserves the right to use it during his/her lifetime. This form of contract is used when selling your own house… provided you continue living there at least during the first few years!
- A contract of donation inter vivos (donation entre vifs) with usufruct is the same as the previous one, except that the donor and the beneficiary can be two different parties. This type of contract is used when you want to donate your real estate property to someone else AND continue living there yourself! It’s commonly used in inheritance cases, for example…
- An interim right refers to a contract where you’re allowed to build your own house on top of an existing property . This means that if someone else owns a piece of land which is big enough for building another house, but doesn’t have any plans for doing so anytime soon – they may decide to allow someone else to build on their land. This is not an ownership right , but only a right of temporary use – until the property owner decides they want the land back.
It’s important to point out that these different types of contracts are common exceptions to the rule, which means you’re allowed to use them in certain cases! The general rule, however, remains that all real estate transactions must be carried out by way of a written contract signed by both parties . For this reason it is always advisable to consult with an expert before entering into any binding agreement.
2 things you MUST do before legally buying real estate property in Belgium…
So now we know what happens when two people agree on something related to real estate… But there’s more than just signing some papers. In addition to this, you have to comply with a few other requirements – including providing proof of residence and officially registering the transaction at the local town hall (the ‘chambre des notaires’ in French or ‘gemeente’ in Flemish).
Proof of Residence
As a foreigner , there’s only one thing that counts as proof of residence : your own national ID card! So no driving license, foreign passport etc. Of course, you MUST live within Belgium for your Belgian residency permit to be valid… And as long as you keep renewing your Belgian residency every 5 years, it won’t expire . But if you lose your Belgian residency card after moving abroad, chances are high that any real estate property bought in Belgium before is now illegal !
Belgian law is very strict when it comes to proof of occupancy . It’s only accepted if the owner holds a valid rental contract for the property in question. An agreement between family members or friends that allows one party to stay in an apartment, house etc. will never be valid! This would be considered ‘squatting’ and is punishable by law . So you’re not allowed to just walk into someone else’s house without legal permission.
Registering your Property at Town Hall
Once both parties have signed the papers, you still have to register your new purchase at town hall yourself – along with paying various fees . More importantly though, signing the contract in front of a notary does NOT mean the real estate transaction has been completed. So it’s important to understand that buying a house or land in Belgium (https://www.bluehomes.com/Immobilien-Belgien/B/de/debut.html) isn’t just about the money changing hands, but is more of an official process.
It can take several months for you to get all of the required permission / papers , so don’t leave this task until the last minute! You’ll also need to do some research into local tax rates and other factors which may be applicable – depending on your region and property type .