Researching real estate

news: Researching real estate

I REALLY enjoy the work I do: I travel all over Portugal, I get to meet lots of interesting people and I research all sorts of interesting things. I am preparing a feature at the moment about real estate agents in the Algarve – well, in Portugal really, as the laws are the same everywhere in the country.

It will explain briefly what the new laws are all about, how to choose a licensed real estate agent, what that means and so on. I have only just started and have only spoken to a few agents, but already it is very entertaining. Those who have been in business for a million years grumble about the new paperwork. “It used to be so easy,” one said. “Find the right person in the Câmara, take him out for a big lunch, give him a brown envelope and the permissions were granted by the end of the week!”

Those days have gone and we are now in the process of sorting out the wheat from the chaff in many ways. Habitation licences have to be in place and, what’s more, they have to match the property they relate to. If you (or the previous owner) added another bedroom and bathroom, and perhaps a swimming pool, without permission, be prepared to slide to the bottom of the long snake in this property snakes and ladders game! I have also been hearing about the new exam that has to be taken by those who would sell real estate. The recommended reading list includes titles such as Real Estate Ethics by Americans Pivar and Donald. It has a note to say that this is essential reading for anyone who aims to provide an ethical real estate service. I wonder how many copies I would find if I searched the shelves of our local agents?

The exam covers the most recent changes in legislation, dated August 20 and October 19 last year, as well as general principles. It is only given in Portuguese and the answers have to be provided in Portuguese – not so unreasonable when you consider we are in Portugal, but this includes many of the non-Portuguese speaking agents, who have been here forever. Even they will have to take the exam when their licences run out.

Talking of licences, the IMOPPI website is a fascinating source of information, including full lists of all real estate agents who hold a licence. IMOPPI is the government body that controls construction and real estate. Even if you don’t speak Portuguese, you can follow this. Go to; go to Site Map, scroll down, then choose “Empresas de Mediação Imobiliária” – in other words, real estate agents. Click on that, then click on “por região”. That will bring up a map of Portugal divided into regions. Go to the bottom of the map and click on Faro. That will bring up all the councils of the Algarve, by name and all in colours – a useful geography lesson too!

Just click onto the concelho, or council, that you want a listing for. The words will say “o concelho de XXX no distrito de Faro tem XX empresas com licença de mediação. Quer ver?” This means that in the council area named, there are XX companies with a real estate licence. Do you want to see the list? Click on “Sim” and the list will appear.

In Vila do Bispo, for instance, which covers quite a large area, IMOPPI tells us that there is only one licensed real estate agent in Budens. Remember that these lists only cover agents, not developers, but even so they make interesting reading. I clicked on Loulé, the largest concelho in the Algarve and the one that covers places like Vilamoura and Almancil. I was quite surprised to see some big names conspicuous by their absence.

It is already a legal requirement that all real estate agents have to show their licence number (usually an AMI number) on all literature and advertisements – keep your eyes open and see if you can spot the ones that do, and the ones that don’t! Why should a real estate agent be licensed in the first place? Because it guarantees for clients – buyers and sellers alike – certain important issues, such as professional indemnity insurance, adherence to codes of conduct, professional qualifications and so on.

In the long term, of course, this clean-up campaign will benefit everyone involved in real estate and wipe out the cowboys. At the moment, during the transition from the old system – or should we say no system – to a modern, sophisticated, cross-referenced one, things are complicated, time-consuming and frustrating.

Let’s hope that everyone sees the benefits and works towards making it work, rather than trying to find ways around it. I am told that already “Property Advisors” are springing up – those who cannot or do not want to get an official licence. That’s all very well, they may well have properties on their books, but without their official ID card, they cannot go to the notary and do the deal. So what do they do? They have to go to a licensed agent and ask them to do the paperwork, which implies an IVA liability for the legitimate agent.

That’s as far as my homework has got me, but I’m still working on it…

Judy Sharp reflects on life and her world – as she sees it.