Becoming a Property Owner in Estonia

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How many steps it takes to buy real estate in Estonia? Is it difficult to register the property rights? Can you purchase realty remotely? Learn all about it in our new article.

Step 1. Reserve the Property

The preliminary booking agreement obliges the seller not to sell the property to third parties within the agreed period. According to the law, it is not necessary to notarize this document. But without this, its legal force will be negligible.

Usually, it is difficult to imagine the conclusion of a contract aimed solely at booking. The buyer often is interested in the owner selling the property to them and that the booking fee is included in the purchase price. Therefore, as a rule, the preliminary booking agreement includes the owner's intention to sell the property, and it is concluded by a notary in the presence of both parties to the transaction.

The preliminary contract is drawn up in Estonian and describes such details of the transaction as the address of the property, the price, the terms and conditions of payment, the amount of the deposit. When the terms are agreed, the buyer makes a deposit. Its size is usually from 10 to 20% of the value of the property (in the case of private sellers, the amount can be clearly fixed, for example, 5-10 thousand euros).

Important: it is recommended to transfer the money to the notary's deposit account, and not to transfer it directly to the seller.

If the contract is terminated by the buyer, they are charged a fine of 5-10% of the amount of the first payment, the remaining amount is refunded. The full amount of the deposit is returned to the buyer only if the seller has changed their mind about selling the property.

Real estate for sale in Estonia

Stage 2. Conclusion of the Main Contract

The main contract is drawn up by a notary, having first checked the property against entries in electronic registers for the presence of encumbrances, potential heirs, mortgages and other restrictions that may hinder the transaction.

The document itself is drawn up in the same way as the previous one, in Estonian in a single copy. Certified copies are issued to the parties. If desired, you can request a translation of the contract. If the parties do not wish to receive a written translation or do not require the participation of an interpreter, the notary must make sure that they understand the meaning of the contract.

After explaining the terms and conditions (payment methods and conditions, terms of transfer, obligations and responsibilities of the parties, as well as the overall condition of the property), the parties sign the contract in the presence of a notary. A broker may be present at the meeting if the transaction was prepared with their participation.

You can transfer the object directly when signing the contract. Then the seller must transfer to the buyer the right of use – access to the object (keys). You can specify the transfer period (for example, in a week or a month), and then it takes place on the basis of an act written in two copies in any form with the signatures of the parties.

  • Documents required for the buyer to complete the transaction

    a foreign passport (or other travel document proving your identity)

    a proof of the legality of the stay in Estonia (for example, a visa)

    a marriage certificate (if any) and a prenuptial agreement that allows you to enter into purchase and sale transactions without the consent of your spouse

    a power of attorney issued and translated into Estonian, if the buyer represents someone's interests (for example, a spouse)

Step 3. Payment Transactions

Estonia is an electronic state: cash when buying real estate is used only in low-cost transactions (up to €5,000, in rare cases - up to €30,000). They are transferred strictly in the presence of a notary, but the latter will not act as a witness to the payment, will not recalculate the money or certify their transfer.

Large amounts are sent only by a bank transfer via a deposit account of a notary, who acts as a guarantor of the contract. When transferring funds to a notarized deposit, the payer will be required to fill out a form explaining the origin of the money. At the same time, the lower threshold is not indicated (it can be €500).

The notary will transfer the money to the seller's account only after making a statement about the real estate transaction in the property register, that is, when he is sure that nothing will interfere with the transaction. As a rule, it stipulates that the transfer of funds to the seller's account will take three working days from the date of signing the contract of sale.

It is difficult for a foreigner to open an account in an Estonian bank (and costs about €200-250). To do so, they need to demonstrate the connection with the country. For example, show that real estate has already been purchased in Estonia, a business is open, there is a job or study. If you do not have a residence permit, you need at least a work contract or a rental agreement, but this does not guarantee that the opening of the account will be approved.

In the understanding of the Estonian authorities, if you are not a resident, then you are a tourist, therefore you do not need a bank account. In this case, the money is transferred from your account in your home country. In turn, your bank may require a document that is a convincing basis for payment (for example, a contract for the purchase and sale of real estate).

Also read: New Opportunities for Digital Nomads After COVID-19

Step 4. Registration of Ownership Rights

A notarized purchase and sale transaction takes about an hour. Registration of property in the register (serf book) by law lasts no longer than a month, in practice - up to two weeks. The contract for registration is sent by a notary.

After registration, the participants of the transaction receive e-mail notifications and an extract from the serf book, which confirms the transfer of ownership to the buyer. From the electronic register comes a notification with the ability to open a page with the relevant data (they can be saved in PDF format). This extract from the register, in fact, is the primary document certifying ownership. A paper copy of the contract of sale, which the parties can get their hands on after the transaction is completed, does not carry such a function. The statement is of an urgent nature, and in order to present it, for example, among the documents for obtaining a visa, it must be updated. The cost of the statement is about €2-3.

Only residents of Estonia have permanent access to the electronic serf book. It is better for foreigners to keep a certified paper copy of the contract, which is given immediately after the transaction. In the future, if you need an electronic version, you can take an extract from the register for a small fee.

Can I seal the deal remotely?

Remote transactions can only be made with people who have an Estonian ID card. If a foreigner is an electronic resident of the country, they also have this right.

If the person does not have this card, a remote transaction is not possible. But this point is legally circumvented by issuing a notarized power of attorney to a realtor who represents the interests of the buyer. It is important that the document must be translated. The text to be certified is usually provided by a local notary.

Quoting conditions of Prian materials

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