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Poland - Buying Property
It is possible, and a frequent practice, for a property to be sold in Poland after direct negotiation with the seller. However, expats are open to an array of problems taking this route so the services of an estate agent are highly recommended.
Your new colleagues in Poland may be happy to recommend local estate agencies. They will know if the staff speak English and are aware of the difficulties foreign buyers may face. If you receive recommendations on an internet forum, do be aware that contributors may be recommending their friends or business connections rather than estate agents they have used themselves. The Yellow Pages will include listings for local firms, and a walk down the high street will usually give you a selection of businesses to visit.
Increasingly, however, estate agencies operate online and most of them offer pages in English or translation buttons. Be careful with online businesses as there can be occasional scam sites; never hand over any money. Once you have been to Poland, viewed properties and met the estate agent, payments for the property purchase will be made via your notary, so no direct payments should be made.
Make sure you visit a number of properties. It is not normal practice to have a property surveyed, so sellers can put the property on the market for any price they choose. Many of the properties will not have been visited by the estate agents, who may be relying on what they are told and the photographs sent in by the seller. You need to quickly assess the local market conditions and determine if the property itself lives up to the claims made about it.
Many estate agents who are helping expats to purchase property will be happy to spend a day or two driving you to different properties. This will speed up the viewing process as the estate agent will have organised access to the properties and will take you straight there without getting lost. You will be able to sit in the car, relaxed and calm, taking in the local area. The estate agent will be able to indicate where the local bars, restaurants, schools, transport links and leisure facilities are.
Once you have found the property you want to buy, you must ask a notary to draw up a notarial deed. This is the only legal form of property sale permitted. The notary will start with an initial contract which sets out the completion date, with any conditions which must be set. You pay a deposit of 20% of the purchase price at this stage, via the notary who holds a client account.
Building surveys are not normally undertaken in Poland so you will have difficulty locating a surveyor. You can hire a builder to inspect a property, but it will be for your own information. You will not be able to use the builder’s findings to barter with the seller about the property price.
Your notary should carefully check land registry details. The plans must be accurate for the property as these could form the basis of future lawsuits; make sure all the land is accurately measured and reflect the true boundaries. If you are not given the original plans with an official stamp then check that the planning department holds them..
It is important for all fixtures and fitting to be listed if they are part of the sale. Sinks, kitchens, baths and plug sockets for example, can be legally removed (and very frequently are) if they were not included in the sale. This is not the vindictive act of vandalism it would be in the UK; If they are taken out they will be used in the seller’s new home.
Once everything is in order you will pay the balance of the purchase price, via the notary. The seller’s notary will have prepared a document confirming that there are no outstanding loans on the property. All the parties sign the final contract, and the sale is complete.
A civil transaction tax of 2% will be due on the purchase if the house is not new. Smaller (fixed) amounts are charged for registration fees of land and buildings.
It is normal practice for an estate agent to charge 3% commission to both the buyer and the seller. There may be occasions on which the seller has negotiated that they pay this fee instead in order to market their property in a package more attractive to buyers, but this is not normal and you should budget accordingly.
The notary’s fee will be anywhere between 0.25%-3% of the property value, as agreed when you signed the contract to use the specified notary.
Please be aware that VAT of 22% is payable on all goods and services. This includes the services of notaries, estate agents, surveyors and builders. Quotes which have the word brutto next to the total have included the VAT. Where you see netto next to the total, this means the VAT has not been included in the quote, but you will be liable to pay the tax at the time the bill is paid. Since buying a property is already an expensive time which may eat up most of your resources, you do need to include the VAT in your financial planning.
Some estate agents will arrange connection of your utility services if they are given Power of Attorney to do so. If you are moving to Poland you may even be given assistance finding a local bank. Given that forms and services are usually provided in Polish, the services of an estate agent who can communicate bilingually and who knows how things work can save you hours of hard work.
You need to visit the Gas Office in person, to provide evidence of ownership, sign agreements and set up a direct debit. (Direct debits may be an issue if you have not yet set up a bank account in Poland.) The same process is also required at the Electricity Office, at the Water Office, and at the Sewerage Farm. Local people and your estate agent know where these offices are located. Be aware that houses are numbered in the order they were built rather than their position in a row, so it can be hard to locate them on a busy street. The majority of staff in the offices will be unable to speak English. Most offices will close at 3pm. If your estate agent can get a lot of the preparation done for you, it will help enormously.
Before you get connected to the phone, the previous residents must have closed their account in writing. Normally, a 90 day notice period applies. The process can be made faster if the previous owner comes into the shop with the new owner, but this is impractical for most people. You may prefer to pay a small fee and have a new number allocated, which takes a bit longer and you must still wait as the previous line owner is contacted and asked to revoke their account.
Only once you have your own telephone line can the internet service be connected. The engineer will visit your property for installation and bring a contract to sign at the same time.
TV and radio licenses can be purchased at the local post office. Satellite equipment will normally require permission from the previous owner before it is removed by official channels.
Once you have moved into your new property, you will be liable for local government taxes. These are low compared to the US and UK. If you have a large plot of land you will be subject to a land tax.
Bin collection does not form part of the standard local government services. In most areas the rubbish is no longer collected by private companies and is instead collected by the local council, but you will be charged for the service. Recycling normally forms part of the roadside rubbish collection service, with tins, glass and paper collected in a separate bin. Weekly collections rarely exist.
There are no inheritance or death duties to be paid. However, it is a good idea to keep your will up to date when you acquire property overseas. Probate can operate differently in other countries leaving problems for those left behind. A comprehensive, up to date will, recognising and allocated all assets in a clear manner, can help avoid common problems and delays when people are least able to cope with them.
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