How do you buy a house?
If you’re planning to buy a house, you probably know that it’s anything but a simple process. For those of you who can no longer see the woods for the trees, we’ve laid out the most important things for you below.
Finding your dream home
The hardest step is finding your dream home. You might swing by an estate agent, browse the Internet or go exploring on your own. If you’d like to discover new properties as soon as they become available, be sure to create a search profile on Immoscoop so you can get a notification as soon as your dream home is online. This gives you the chance to visit and view it before it’s available anywhere else.
What are the different ways to buy a house?
There are three ways to buy a house:
- Private sale directly from the owner or through an estate agent
- Public sale
- Online sale
A sale by private contract requires you to agree with the seller on the price and a number of responsibilities and obligations, such as when ownership will be transferred, how and when you’ll make payment, and the inclusion of a condition precedent.
You usually have to go through several steps before getting to that point, however. You may choose to take an option on the property, you’ll sign a private sale agreement, and finally the notarial deed will be drawn up.
What should you watch out for during this process?
- Taking an option
If you’ve got your eye on a house or flat, you might choose to take an option on it. This means you agree with the seller that the property won’t be sold to anyone else within a given period, whether that’s a week, a fortnight, or a month.
If you do you decide to make the purchase within that period, you let the seller know, the option is exercised and the sale is made final.
If the option is not exercised within the specified period, the owner can then sell the property to someone else. You may have to pay a fee if you don’t exercise the option.
- You sign a private sale agreement
Once you’ve agreed on the price with the seller, a private sale agreement or provisional sales contract is usually drawn up.
This agreement is binding for both parties and the notary public must respect the agreed terms when later drawing up the final deed. The sale agreement should therefore be drafted as clearly and completely as possible. You can involve the notary public at this stage to be safe: they usually do not charge extra for this service.
If you’re going to take out a mortgage loan, you can include a clause in the private sale agreement that makes the sale conditional on you obtaining the loan. You can also make the sale conditional on the acquisition of an integrated environmental permit (Flanders) or planning permission.
You should take out home insurance and mortgage protection life insurance as soon as you sign the private sale agreement. After all, you bear the risk from that point on, so you shouldn’t rely on the previous owner's home insurance. You are not obliged to take over the previous owner's home insurance when buying a property.
A private sale agreement must lead to a registered sale within four months of signing.
Good to know: once you sign a private sale agreement, the sale has effectively taken place. You must now pay the registration duties within four months. If you change your mind afterwards, the three regions of Belgium still allow you to terminate the contract amicably (i.e. without having to go to court) in exchange for a limited fee. The main condition here is that a notarial deed has not been executed.
Buying at a public sale
A public sale is announced with posters and advertisements, with the final price being determined by auction. The highest bidder becomes the owner of the property unless the seller refuses their bid.
In consultation with the notary public, the seller sets out the responsibilities and conditions in advance. These can be examined beforehand in the information document prepared by the notary public. This document also includes the full details of any easements, rights of first refusal, charges, taxes, cadastral income, and so on.
The notary public also communicates this information and lists all the relevant fees when the sale process first starts. You must pay the purchase price and any fees within the time limits stated in the information document. Usually the purchase price must be paid one to two months after the amount and buyer have been determined, while the fees must be paid within one to eight days.
If you do not pay the purchase price on time, you will be charged a penalty for late payment. If payment is not made, the sale will be dissolved and the property will be put up for public sale again.
Some real estate agents sell properties online. The exact approach may vary, but you usually have to register for free before you can view the digital property file and sign up for a viewing day, after which you can put in a bid online. The actual transaction is processed as a sale by private contract, so you still need to sign a private sale agreement and a notarial deed.
Always take care to check what you’re committing to during the online procedure. Is your digital bid binding? Will you owe a fee for digital services if your bid is accepted, even if it turns out afterwards that you can’t get a loan? Do you have to put down a deposit before signing the private sale agreement?
An entirely different option is www.biddit.be, the online platform for public sales managed by the Belgian Federation of Notaries. This website requires you to register once using your electronic ID card or the itsme® app. You can arrange the purchase completely electronically on the platform.