Finding a lawyer in Portugal

Finding a lawyer in Portugal So, you've viewed properties and chosen your dream home. What comes next?

Read below to find out what a lawyer in Portugal will do for you in the buying process.

What will a lawyer do for you in Portugal?

Once you have found your property, the legal process starts with the legal searches. There are three main searches your lawyer will do for you:

  • Planning permissions - The lawyer will go to the townhall, or wherever any existing documents of that property is kept and find out what planning permissions have been granted in the past. This is to ensure any work that has been carried out on the property has been approved. This is a very important step to avoid purchasing a property with illegal building works, such as a swimming pool.
  • Registration of the property - The second search will be at the fiscal department, checking the registration of the property with the tax authorities and ensuring this information is coherent with the information at the townhall and to see if there any debts to be claimed against the property. Any debts against the property are not made to individuals but to the properties themselves so this is a vital check.
  • Land registry certificates - The final check will be at the land registry office to view the life record of the property. This is a collection of land registry certificates and allows the lawyer to view the story of the property from the start of it’s build, as a plot of land, up to the current date and see everyone who has traded or has had an interest in the property.

Your lawyer will then report back to you any findings and ensure all of the information found matches with the information you have been given prior to the searches. The timeframe for these searches is typically between one to two weeks but this can vary depending on the location of your property.

If you are happy with the findings the next stage is the contract.

Promissory contract of purchase and sale

So far you have viewed properties, chosen your dream home and had the legal searches carried out, but at this point, all you have is an unbinding agreement. You can pay a holding reservation fee to ensure the estate agent stops further viewings on this property and give an agreed deadline for a contract to be written and signed by. The deadline will vary depending on whether you are a cash buyer or if you need a mortgage. If the purchase is not completed, this fee is 100% refundable.

After the fee has been paid, your lawyer will prepare a promissory contract of purchase and sale in two languages – Portuguese for the official document that will be signed and one in your own language so you understand the contract yourself. Once you have received the contract, you may suggest alterations if you wish before it gets sent to the seller and if your lawyer thinks these changes are fair, they will amend it. The contract is signed against the payment offer deposit, which can be anywhere from 10% up to 30%.


If you don’t hear from your lawyer between the signing of contracts and completion this is normal – no news is usually good news. If you have any queries, your lawyer will be happy to help but they will typically contact you two weeks before completion to request the funds for the remaining balance of the purchase and involving costs. Your lawyer will suggest to send your funds to them through an exchange company to help you save money and avoid any surprises with the exchange rates.

In the final days leading up to completion, your lawyer will pay all the taxes involved in the transaction and make the final payment for the property to the seller.

On the day of completion, your lawyer will ask you to be present to sign the deeds to the property and hand over the keys. Although the lawyer will have to carry out a couple of extra legal steps after completion, this is where your buying journey will end and the property sale is complete!