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Legal Considerations of Selling Property Abroad: What’s the Process?


Simon Colwill - May 22, 2024 - 0 comments

Navigating the legal intricacies of selling property abroad can be a challenge, especially for UK residents unfamiliar with foreign legal systems. As a UK notary, we understand each country’s distinct set of rules and regulations governing property transactions.

This article aims to demystify the legal considerations and procedures involved in selling overseas property. It highlights the importance of accepting professional legal advice, understanding local property laws, tax implications, and the role of notarial services in ensuring a smooth and compliant transaction. Whether you’re selling a villa in Spain, a chalet in Switzerland, or a flat in Germany, being well-informed is the key to a smooth and successful overseas sale.

Legal requirements for selling property abroad

There are various legal considerations and documents to take into consideration and plan for when looking to sell property outside the UK, which vary broadly depending on the country where your property is located. Here, we outline some key legal considerations and requirements.

Local laws and regulations

Every country has its own set of rules and regulations regarding property sales that can differ considerably from those in the UK. It’s essential that you research and understand the laws in the country in which you own the property well in advance of planning to sell to avoid any legal complications or obstacles. The varying regulations can relate to property ownership, documentation requirements, property disclosure requirements, and much more. 

Disclosure obligations and statements

Disclosure laws vary significantly from one country to another, so it’s important to understand the specific requirements in the country you’re selling in. These laws determine the information you will need to provide regarding the condition and legality of your property, and can include:

  • Structural integrity
  • Land use
  • Utilities and services
  • Environmental hazards
  • Renovations or repairs
  • Legal issues

According to the country’s obligation requirements, you will need to produce a disclosure statement that outlines all of the relevant known issues and conditions of the property.

Working with a professional notary public and solicitor can help to ensure you go about the process in exactly the right way and avoid any complications or delays. MSC Notaries can help with the process of selling a property abroad, particularly by ensuring you obtain and legalise all the relevant documentation. Get in touch with our team for advice.

Capacity to sell and proof of ownership

When selling property abroad, it is a legal requirement to establish your capacity to sell and prove your ownership of the property to ensure the international transaction is legally valid and will be recognised under the local laws of the country where the property is located. 

Legal capacity to sell

‘Capacity’ refers to the legal ability of an individual to enter into a legally binding contract, including property sales. To prove this often involves proving aspects such as:

  • Age — the seller must be of legal age, which is 18 in most local jurisdictions
  • Mental capacity — the seller must be mentally competent and understand the nature and consequences of the property sale
  • Legal restrictions — there must be no legal impediments to the transaction, such as bankruptcy proceedings or court orders

Proof of ownership

You must also have proof of ownership for a legal property transaction to take place. Proof of ownership involves obtaining and legalising various documents, including but not limited to:

  • Title deeds — the primary document that identifies ownership and rights to the property, which should also outline the history of ownership and the property’s status
  • Property registry details — this can vary depending on the country, however, will usually include registration with a local property or land registry that confirms the property’s legal status and identifies the legal owner
  • Purchase agreements — documents from the original purchase and any subsequent transactions that show a transfer of ownership to the current seller
  • If the property is jointly owned, you will need an agreement for the sale from all co-owners, or a power of attorney will be required to act on individuals’ behalf if they cannot

Legally binding sales contracts

The property sales contract formalises the agreement between the seller and buyer and ensures all parties are legally protected throughout the transaction. Your lawyer will be able to create and manage your legally binding contract on your behalf, however, it’s important to be aware of other legal considerations to ensure your document is valid for use abroad. 

For example, in many foreign countries, you will need to have your legal documents including your sales contract drafted or officially translated to their official language. In addition, the contract will likely need to be signed in the presence of witnesses and notarised to make it legally valid, and an apostille and consular legalisation may also be required.

Ensuring that your sales contract abides by the local laws and is legalised appropriately enables both sellers and buyers to protect themselves and allows for a smooth sale.

Transferring property ownership

The transfer of property ownership is formalised through a document known as the transfer or title deed. Once terms are agreed by both the buyer and seller, the deed is drafted to reflect these for both parties to sign. The document contains information such as:

  • Identification of both parties
  • Description of the property being sold
  • Any transfer conditions
  • Signatures of both parties, which often need to be in the presence of a notary for validity

In many countries, you will also need to have your title or transfer deed notarised by a notary public, like our team at MSC Notaries. This verifies the identity of both parties, validates their signatures and legalises the document for use. 

Preparing documents for selling property abroad

Selling property abroad typically involves a wide range of documents and, as mentioned, this varies depending on the country. In addition, your documents will usually need to be officially translated, notarised and legalised with an apostille to ensure they are valid for use under the local jurisdiction in the country you are selling property.

Example documentation required

  • Power of attorney — when selling property abroad, it can be difficult to be present, so you may prefer to appoint a person to act on your behalf through an official power of attorney document.
  • Proof of ownership — this includes various documents such as title deeds and purchase agreements.
  • Death certificates or Wills — if the owner of the property is deceased, you will need to provide proof and have these documents legalised for use.
  • Proof of identity — this requires photo identification and must be a certified copy.
  • Proof of earnings — this includes bank statements or a P60 that may need to be legalised for use.

What’s the role of a notary in international property transactions?

Selling property abroad can be a confusing and lengthy process, so you’ll want to make sure you get it right. Working with professionals who can assist you in preparing your documents can make the whole process a lot easier and quicker. A notary public, like our team at MSC Notaries, can help with all areas of the process, including:

  • Helping you to prepare any legal documents required by the country where you are selling your property
  • Notarising and certifying any documents required for the process to ensure they are legalised for use abroad, such as power of attorney documents
  • Legalising signatures and the identity of signatories, including the seller and buyer

Working with a notary public and legal experts like our team at MSC Notaries can ensure the process of selling property abroad runs as smoothly and hassle-free as possible. We can provide peace of mind that your documents and international property transactions are executed in compliance with all the necessary regulations and laws.

Our relevant services include:

To find out more about how we can help with selling property overseas or with any other personal or business documentation, get in touch with our friendly team via phone or email.

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