Belgium has two official languages – Dutch and French (plus a small German speaking area). Most professionals in Brussels speak both, and often English as well.

Belgium is a Monarchy and a federal state with three regions: Brussels, Flanders and Wallonia. According to the issue in question, that can mean four legal codes. The legal system is based historically on the "code Napoléon" and in some respects is quite close to the French system.

Belgium and the EU including links to Belgian government and Tourist Information.

There are no restrictions on foreigners who wish to buy property in Belgium.

Belgium has become more popular for foreign ownership recently due to the head quarters of the EU being based at Brussels. This has resulted in rising property values, especially close to Brussels, although less expensive property can be found in the countryside. Main languages are French, Flemmish and German.

Capital Gains tax is chargeable on all income from the sale of property which includes non resident companies and is liable at the basic rate, which would be 40%.

You should give careful consideration to whether you’re better off buying or renting property in Belgium.

If you’re staying for only a short time, e.g. less than five years, you’re probably better off renting. Owning your own home isn’t considered such an important an investment as it is in some other countries. Although property prices ‘boomed’ in the late ’80s and early ’90s, increases have slowed and high transfer (conveyance) costs discourage home ownership as an investment. The tax benefits of home ownership vary greatly.

While property in Belgium is cheap by UK standards, the various fees, charges and deposits associated with buying a house and securing a mortgage are likely to discourage all but the most determined buyers. There’s no mortgage relief on income tax and, if you resell the property within five years, you’ll be hit with capital gains tax. The good news is that mortgages are fairly easy to secure, but don’t forget that total transfer fees will add 15 to 20 per cent to the price of a house, and there’s VAT at 21 per cent to reckon with if you buy a new home.

Houses for sale are advertised in newspapers and through estate agencies, or you can use the ‘sign hunting’ method, i.e. looking for ‘For Sale’ ( à vendre/te koop) signs on available properties. Listed prices are understood to be negotiable, and you normally make an offer that is somewhat below what you’re prepared to pay and ‘barter’ with the vendor according to how keen you are to buy and how eager he is to sell. Having an estate agent to assist you with the process is usually sensible, even if you end up paying more than you would if you bought privately.

Once a price is agreed, the buyer and the vendor sign a sales agreement ( compromis de vente), which is usually secured with a non-refundable deposit equal to 10 per cent of the purchase price. At this point, the buyer has four months in which to obtain the balance of the money (in most cases by securing a mortgage) before the sale is concluded. In order to ‘buy time’, it’s sometimes possible to purchase an option on the property for a period, during which the vendor may not sell it to anyone else; if you back out of the deal, you forfeit the option payment, so you should negotiate as small a sum as the vendor will accept.

The actual transfer or conveyance of the property must be done by a notary ( notaire/notaris), who charges a fixed fee of 1 to 4 per cent of the purchase price. Generally, you must have a property surveyed, which will cost around €100, but your biggest expense will be the registration of the sale – a massive 12.5 per cent of the purchase price. It’s possible to buy a property at auction, in which case you may save money, but the notary fees are doubled and you have only one month in which to secure a mortgage and complete the transaction.

The Contracts: The buying process may involve different steps: Some agents and owners ask the buyer to sign a commitment to buy (Koopintenties or Aankoopaanbod/Offre d'achat): that means that the buyer is engaged, but not the seller

  • An option gives the buyer the right to buy without any commitment, except if it is a paying option
  • The purchase agreement (Verkoopcompromis/compromis de vente): the sale is closed, except if the buyer asks that the contract is subject to financing (that gives usually one or two months to confirm the deal). This is common
  • It is usual to pay 5-10% of the price at this stage as a deposit, but the amount is blocked by the notaries and not given to the seller until a notarised deed of sale (notariële akte/acte notarié) is signed. Special regulations apply to apartments and houses that are still being built in order to protect the buyer during the works
  • The official deed of sale must be signed by the parties and the notary within four months after the purchase agreement
  • Depending on the Region, some special analyses and documents might be required (soil pollution analysis for instance)
  • Some buildings and sites are listed and protected. This limits the possibilities for alterations but sometimes allows the building to qualify for special subsidies for renovation. Further information is available from the Regions and municipalities

Let-out Clauses: Buyers who sign an exclusive purchase option/commitment to buy (Koopintenties or Aankoopaanbod/Offre d'achat), can back out before signing the purchase agreement (Verkoopcompromis/compromis de vente) but will lose any fee paid to reserve the property. The purchase agreement is the definitive agreement for the sale. Once signed, it is not possible to back out or change any of the terms. The notarised deed of sale (notariële akte/acte notarié) is a registration of the sale. In theory, therefore, there is no let-out clause. However, it is possible to have a suspensive clause in the contract that makes it conditional on the buyer being given a mortgage (other conditions are also possible). This might allow compensation to the seller, but the two parties are free to choose terms. It is also possible to cancel the contract, but this is a procedure that can involve loss of registration fees or, to avoid this, court intervention or formal arbitration. 

Arbitration: When buying, it is possible to put an arbitration clause in the contract so that problems can be resolved without going to court. Arbitration can be in English, if both parties and the arbitrator agree. Translators are also allowed to be present to help the parties.

 

Mortgages: Mortgages are available from various banking and mortgage providers. Repayment terms and the rights of the mortgager will be agreed within a written contract before a sale is agreed. Off shore companies can be an advantage depending on current rates and individual tax breaks.
 

 

Solicitor / Lawyer: A Belgian solicitor/lawyer or notary should be used to draw written contracts for submission to the public notary.

 

Fees: The costs involved in buying property in Belgium are generally quite high.
Property registration should incur duty of 12.5% for land and buildings is payable by the buyer.
VAT is charged at 21% on buildings less than two years old with the same rate applicable for the renovation of old buildings.
Notary fees will cost between 0.1-0.5% of the properties value.
V.A.T is also applicable for foreign property investments at the relevant rate of their country.

Property Tax: Tax is payable on the deemed rental value of the property which is dependent on the location and use of the property as set in the "Cadastal Register". National rates are between 1.25-2.5% and municipal and provincial surcharges also apply.

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Disclaimer: This guide is for information only and should not be relied upon as definitive. Details have been obtained from various sources and although we have done everything possible to ensure that it is correct, we cannot accept responsibility for it or guarantee its accuracy. This is because processes and laws change frequently, and may vary dependant upon personal circumstances. You are welcome to use the information provided, but should always obtain confirmation of specific details and get independent specialist and legal advice in the country that the information refers to.

 02-10-2009