Buying real estate in Belgium as a foreigner?

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Buying property in Belgium as a foreigner: a full guide

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Everything you need to know is included in our Belgium Property Pack

Belgium is an attractive destination for those looking to invest in real estate. With its stunning scenery, captivating culture, and warm-hearted people, it is a great place to purchase property. However, the process of buying property in a foreign country can be daunting, particularly when it comes to the laws and regulations.

This guide is intended to help foreign buyers to understand the ins and outs of the Belgian property market. It provides comprehensive and straightforward information to make the process simpler and easier.

Also, for a more in-depth analysis, you can check our property pack for Belgium.

Can you purchase and own a property in Belgium as a foreigner?

If you are American, we have a dedicated blog post regarding the property buying and owning process in Belgium for US citizens.

Buying real estate in Belgium as a foreigner is quite straightforward, with a few important considerations to keep in mind.

First and foremost, Belgium does not impose any major restrictions on foreigners purchasing property, whether they are EU citizens or non-EU citizens. This means that, in general, your rights as a foreign property buyer are similar to those of a Belgian citizen.

Ownership of land and property in Belgium is fully permissible for foreigners. You can own residential properties, commercial buildings, and even land.

There's no distinction made between the rights of foreigners and locals in this regard, ensuring a level playing field for all.

However, there are a few nuances to be aware of. The process of buying property in Belgium involves certain legal and administrative procedures.

The notary plays a crucial role in property transactions in Belgium, handling the legal aspects and ensuring everything is in accordance with the law.

There are no special rules or minimum investment thresholds that specifically target foreign buyers. This means you don't have to invest a certain amount of money to be eligible to buy property. The process and costs involved are the same for everyone, including registration fees and taxes.

Regarding residency, you do not need to be a resident of Belgium to purchase property there. However, if you're planning to live in Belgium, different rules may apply depending on your nationality.

For EU citizens, moving to and living in Belgium is relatively straightforward.

Non-EU citizens, on the other hand, might need a visa or a residence permit to live in Belgium, but this is separate from the property purchase process.

Can you become a resident in Belgium by owning a property?

Belgium does not offer a direct residency-by-investment program specifically linked to real estate purchases.

This means that simply buying property in Belgium does not automatically qualify you for residency in the country.

The absence of such a scheme distinguishes Belgium from some other countries that provide residency or citizenship pathways through significant investment in real estate.

However, this doesn't mean that owning property in Belgium won't be beneficial if you're seeking to reside there.

Owning property can be a positive factor in your application for residency, as it demonstrates ties to the country and a commitment to living there. But it's just one aspect of a broader set of criteria that Belgium considers for granting residency.

For non-EU nationals seeking residency, the typical routes involve securing a job in Belgium (and thus obtaining a work permit), joining a family member who is a resident, or establishing a business in Belgium.

In each of these cases, the process involves various steps and requirements, such as proving financial stability, having health insurance, and passing a background check.

For EU citizens, the process is simpler. EU citizens have the right to live and work in Belgium, but they need to register with local authorities if they plan to stay longer than three months.

This involves showing sufficient financial means to support themselves, having health insurance, and potentially providing proof of employment or self-employment.

Regarding the length of residency, initially, non-EU residents typically receive a temporary residence permit, which needs to be renewed periodically.

After living in Belgium for a certain number of years under specific conditions, you may be eligible to apply for permanent residency. Permanent residency status grants more stability and fewer restrictions on your stay in Belgium.

As for citizenship, permanent residents can apply for Belgian citizenship after meeting certain criteria, including a minimum period of residence in Belgium, demonstrating integration into Belgian society, and having knowledge of one of the national languages.

The process and requirements for citizenship are separate from those for residency and involve additional steps and criteria.

Thinking of buying real estate in Belgium?

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buying property foreigner Belgium

Market data

You can find fresh and updated data in our pack of documents related to the real estate market in Belgium.

If we look at the the GDP per capita indicator, it seems that Belgian people have become 4.0% richer over the course of last 5 years.

If the population's wealth grows, it can lead to a heightened demand for real estate, potentially resulting in price increases in the future.

Looking at the data reported by Numbeo, we can see that rental properties in Belgium offer gross rental yields between 3.2% and 5.9%.

These yields are typically seen in markets with average demand and rental rates, where the rental income generated from the property covers the expenses associated with owning and maintaining it, while also providing a modest return on investment.

To know more, you can also read our dedicated article: is it a good time to buy a property in Belgium?

The daily life of an expat

Living as an expat in Belgium can be both a rewarding and challenging experience.

On the one hand, Belgium is a small country with a rich culture and history, and it offers a high quality of life, with excellent infrastructure, a strong economy, and plenty of opportunities for leisure activities. On the other hand, the language barrier can be a challenge, as many Belgians speak only Dutch, French, or German. Additionally, the cost of living can be quite high in Belgium, especially in the larger cities, and the bureaucracy can be difficult to navigate.

However, the benefits of living in Belgium often outweigh the challenges. The country is known for its excellent public transportation, and its cities are well connected, making it easy to explore the country. Belgium also has a strong healthcare system, and expats can access free healthcare through the public system. Additionally, Belgium is known for its diverse and vibrant culture, with plenty of opportunities to explore the country's history and cuisine.

Overall, living as an expat in Belgium can be a rewarding experience, and the country offers plenty of opportunities for expats to explore and enjoy its culture and history. With its excellent infrastructure, strong economy, and diverse culture, Belgium is an ideal place to live and work.

What are the best places to buy a property in Belgium?

This table summarizes some of the best places to buy a property in Belgium.

City / Region Population Average Price per sqm (€) Strengths
Brussels ≈ 1.2 million 2,500 - 5,500 Capital city, international hub, diverse culture, historic landmarks
Antwerp ≈ 530,000 2,200 - 4,500 Port city, fashion and diamond industry, vibrant nightlife, cultural scene
Ghent ≈ 260,000 2,000 - 3,800 Historic city center, lively student population, canal-side architecture
Bruges ≈ 120,000 2,500 - 4,500 Medieval charm, UNESCO World Heritage Site, canals, chocolate shops
Leuven ≈ 100,000 2,000 - 4,000 University town, vibrant beer culture, historic buildings, botanical garden
Namur ≈ 110,000 1,800 - 3,500 Capital of Wallonia, citadel, scenic river views, outdoor activities
Liege ≈ 200,000 1,800 - 3,500 Cultural diversity, lively markets, historical sites, Meuse river

Do you need a lawyer to buy a property in Belgium?

When purchasing a property in Belgium, engaging a local lawyer can provide valuable assistance in navigating the legal aspects and ensuring a successful transaction.

One crucial document they can help you with is the Purchase Agreement, which is a legally binding contract between the buyer and seller, outlining the terms and conditions of the sale.

The Belgian lawyer can also assist with conducting a Title Search (Kadastraal Uittreksel) to verify the property's ownership status and identify any potential legal issues or encumbrances.

Moreover, they can guide you through the process of obtaining necessary permits and authorizations, such as a building permit or environmental permit, if required.

They will ensure that all applicable taxes and fees, such as the Registration Tax (Verkooprecht) and Notary Fees (Notariskosten), are paid correctly and in compliance with Belgian laws and regulations.

What are the risks when buying real estate in Belgium?

We've got an article dedicated to the risks associated with purchasing property in Belgium.

When buying a property in Belgium, there are some risks that are not necessarily common in other countries.

One of these risks is the possibility of buying a property that is subject to a right of pre-emption. This is a legal right of first refusal that allows the local authority to purchase the property before it is sold to a private buyer.

Another risk that is unique to Belgium is the potential for a property to be subject to a servitude. This is a legal right that allows a third party to access or use the property, such as a right of way or a right to access utilities.

Finally, there is the potential for a property to be subject to a mortgage. This is a loan that is secured against the property and must be paid off before the property can be transferred to the new owner.

real estate Belgium

Everything you need to know is included in our Belgium Property Pack

What are the documents needed for a real estate transaction in Belgium?

When buying a property in Belgium, the following list of documents is required:

1. Identification documents of the buyer and seller (such as passports or national identity cards)

2. Certificate of ownership of the property

3. Property deed

4. Notarial deed of sale

5. Building permit if applicable

6. Certificate of energy performance

7. Land registry certificate

8. Title deed

9. Evidence of payment of any outstanding debts

10. Any other documents relevant to the property transaction.

We review each of these documents and tell you how to use them in our property pack for Belgium.

How to negotiate with Belgian people effectively?

To negotiate well with a local when buying a house in Belgium, it is important to be respectful and use polite language. Belgians appreciate a formal approach to business dealings, so be sure to address the seller using their title and surname.

It is also essential to be patient and not rush the process as Belgians take their time when making decisions. Be prepared to compromise and be willing to negotiate on the price. Belgians also have a strong sense of fairness, so be sure to present all the facts and figures in an honest and transparent manner.

Finally, Belgians are known to be cautious and conservative when it comes to investments, so do your research and be prepared to back up your offer with facts and figures.

Can foreigners get a mortgage in Belgium?

Yes, foreigners can obtain property loans in Belgium. The Belgian banking system allows non-residents to apply for property loans, subject to certain conditions and requirements.

To obtain a property loan in Belgium as a foreigner, you typically need a valid residence permit, a stable income, a good credit history, and may be required to make a down payment of a certain percentage of the property's value.

Some banks in Belgium that can grant mortgages to foreigners include BNP Paribas Fortis, ING Belgium, and KBC Bank.

Moreover, in Belgium, mortgage rates for a 20-year term range between 0% and 4%, offering borrowers attractive financing options.

What are the taxes related to a property transaction in Belgium?

Here is a breakdown of taxes related to a property transaction in Belgium.

Tax Description Calculation Who pays
Real Estate Tax An annual tax on real estate property 1.25% of the property value and 3.97% in the Flemish region Owner
Value Added Tax (VAT) Tax on the sale of new residential properties 21% of the purchase price for new properties, exemption for existing properties Buyer
Capital Gains Tax Tax on the capital gain from the sale of a property 0%, 16.5% or 33%, depending on the property holding period Seller
Municipal Taxes Local taxes imposed by the municipality Varies from 0% to 8.5%, depending on the specific municipality and its regulations Buyer

What fees are involved in a property transaction in Belgium?

Below is a simple breakdown of fees for a property transaction in Belgium.

Fee Description Calculation Who pays
Registration Fee Fee for registering the property transfer 12.5% of the property value and 10% in Flanders Buyer
Notary Fee Fee for notarizing the property transfer documents vary depending on the property but on the average, it is around 1.6% of the property value Seller and Buyer
Real Estate Agent Fee Fee charged by real estate agents for their services Typically around 3% to 5% of the property value Seller
Mortgage Registration Fee Fee for registering a mortgage on the property 0.3% of the amount of the mortgage Buyer

Buying real estate in Belgium can be risky

An increasing number of foreign investors are showing interest in Belgium. However, 90% of them will make mistakes. Avoid the pitfalls with our comprehensive guide.

buying property foreigner Belgium