Buying a property in Belgium

Houses in Belgium
Updated 2021-12-20 14:22

The real estate in Belgium has the reputation of being fairly cheaper than its neighbours. We'll give you some useful advice on what you need to know before purchasing a property in Belgium.

Real estate in Belgium

Most expats choose to rent while living in Belgium. However, some are attracted to the idea of investing in real estate because of the advantages of ownership. Indeed, the Flat Country offers cheaper properties than its neighbors. However, Belgium too experienced an increase in prices in the real estate market since 2013.

Good to know:

71.3% of the Belgian population are property owners.

Is real estate purchase accessible to foreigners in Belgium?

Foreigners can invest in property in Belgium. However, some conditions apply regarding taxation, depending on whether you're a resident or not. Don't forget to ask for further information depending on your situation and residential status.

The hunt for real estate properties in Belgium

Most of the properties on sale have a sign outside the house or on the balcony. These signs are usually orange in color and display “on sale”, “te koop” (Dutch), or “à vendre” (French) on it.

You can also look for properties online. Many websites are dedicated to real estate sales and rentals. They include Century 21, Immoweb, Logic-Immo, and Zimmo. You might even be able to find homes for sale through groups and forums online, especially expat ones.

You can also ask for help at rental agencies (immokantoor in Dutch and agence immobilière in French), but remember that this service comes at a price. Agency fees vary from €250 to €1,000, and sometimes more. Make sure you check that the agent you use is licensed by going to the website for Professional Institute of Real Estate Agents (Institut Professionel de Agents Immobiliers (IPI)).

For a more targeted search, consider using property hunters, or chasseur immobilier. They're similar to estate agents but offer a more personalized service. This means higher fees.

Some properties are sold at auctions. They're publicly advertised in newspapers with details of the sale.

Formalities when buying a property in Belgium

There are three phases in the purchasing process: the bid, the sales agreement, and the deed.

The bid

The bid (koopintenties in Dutch and offre d'achat in French) is a similar concept to a job offer. With this document, sellers engage in selling the property but can withdraw their offer at any time. The buyer has to pay a small down payment, which isn't refundable in the case of the seller withdrawing the offer.

This document isn't mandatory for the purchase. However, many real estate agents prefer to have one.

It's in your best interest to offer between 5-15% below the asking price for your bid.

If you're taking out a mortgage in Belgium, the lender might require you to carry out a valuation survey on the property. Even if they don't, it's still a good idea since it'll reveal any defects you might've missed. If it does, you can lower your offer. Valuation surveys usually cost around €200, plus VAT. You can either find a surveyor through an estate agent or by searching the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).

The sales agreement

This is also called verkooncompromis in Dutch or compromis de vente in French. This document displays all the details in the sales contract. If you don't speak the language the document's in, your real estate agent or notary can translate for you. Otherwise, you have the right to hire and bring a translator.

Once both the buyer and seller have signed this contract, it's binding. The seller can't turn around and accept a higher bid and reject yours.

At this point, buyers have to pay nearly 10% of the total amount on a trust or to the notary (for those with a mortgage, the lender will take care of this). This amount cannot be given to the real estate agency or the seller. The buyer then has four months to pay the rest of the amount and conclude the sale.

The deed

The deed or (notariële akte in Dutch) is the document vouching for the ownership transfer. It has to be made in the four months following the sales agreement by a notary. During these four months, the property has to be inspected by an architect or a surveyor. The sale is also registered during this time.

Fees that apply when buying a property in Belgium

In total, around 11-15% of the price of the property will go into the different fees related to the sale for buyers (for new builds, this increases to around 22%). Those fees are as follows:

  • Registration of the sale: 6% (Flanders) and 10% of the purchase price in other regions (for properties more than two years old). Some exemptions apply.
  • VAT: 21% of the purchase price (only for properties built less than two years ago).
  • Notary costs: vary from 0.2-4% of the purchase price, with an average of 1.6%. The percentage is pre-determined by law, depending on the sale amount.
  • Mortgage: Administration costs will vary, depending on who your lender is and the type of mortgage you take out.
  • Agency fees: Between €200-€1,000.
  • Insurance: Those who take out a mortgage will need to apply for building insurance. You can also get contents insurance.
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