Buying or selling a home: what documents do you need?
1. Identity card
Before you sign the preliminary sales agreement, it is best to check whether the seller's identity corresponds with the name on the deed of ownership. This sounds obvious, but it is essential you do this as it confirms that the seller is acting in good faith. The same applies to the seller: always check the buyer's identity card before signing.
"If you are buying a property that is being sold as part of an inheritance, you should ask the seller for a certificate of succession. This document will confirm who the heirs are", notary Joni Soutaer adds.
2. Preliminary sales agreement
The sales agreement is often considered as a preliminary document pending the 'actual’ deed. However, a preliminary sales agreement certainly entails obligations. Once it is signed, the purchase or sale is final.
You can download several templates for such a preliminary sales agreement from the internet. "However, it is highly advisable to have the preliminary sales agreement checked by your notary first. When the notary draws up the deed, they are bound by the provisions of the preliminary sales agreement,", Joni Soutaer emphasises. The preliminary sales agreement should therefore be as complete and as clear as possible to avoid any room for discussion afterwards.
3. Soil certificate
The seller of a property in the Flemish Region must be able to present a soil certificate. The Public Waste Agency of Flanders (OVAM) issues this document to describe the state of the soil. It specifically mentions whether the soil is contaminated or not. OVAM often issues a blank certificate in cases where it has no information about the property's subsoil. A soil certificate is also required for the sale of a property in the Brussels Region. In the Walloon Region, you can request the certificate on the Banque des Données de l'Etat des Sols (BDES) website.
Such a soil certificate may seem trivial at first, but that is certainly not the case. If the certificate is missing, the buyer is entitled to terminate the sales agreement.
4. Urban planning extract
This document is very important to the buyer. The urban planning extract states whether an environmental permit (= building permit) was issued, whether a land use permit applies, and whether any construction violations were observed and/or regularised and so on. This will reassure the buyer that the home is not located in a recreational area, agricultural area or nature reserve and that no building violations have been observed. If a buyer does not receive an urban planning extract when the preliminary sales agreement is signed, they can use this as an argument for terminating the sale agreement.
Sellers of real estate should bear in mind that obtaining the urban planning extract may take some time. If you are selling your home, you should therefore request the document well in advance. Please also note that it is only valid for one year.
5. Post-intervention file
A post-intervention file is mandatory for each property sale in Belgium:
- If its construction started after 1 May 2001
- If one or more contractors did work on the property after 1 May 2001
The post-intervention file is a kind of maintenance booklet for a house or apartment. It includes:
- Plans of the home's structure and technical installations (central heating, plumbing, electricity and so on)
- Indications and/or photos of (integrated) pipes (water, gas, electricity, etc.) and hidden hazards
- Specifications with an overview of the materials used
- Any purchase invoices and proof of warranty
- The names and contact details of the architect, safety coordinator and contractors
Strictly speaking, the sale remains valid even without a post-intervention file. "If work is done on the property after 1 May 2001 and there is no post-intervention file present, a compromise will be sought between the buyer and seller", notary Joni Soutaer says. "One option is to still put together a post-intervention file. In practice, such a reconstruction is quite complex and expensive. The other option is that the buyer makes a commitment to take care of this themselves. In that case, the seller may be required to pay the buyer a fee."
6. Inspection of the electrical installation
Electrical installations must be inspected every 25 years. The inspection certificate is sometimes missing or expired, particularly for older homes. However, the sale cannot proceed without the certificate.
If the installation is rejected, the seller can still dispose of the house. "This is the case for more than 90% of homes sold", Joni Soutaer says. "It doesn't matter whether the installation was approved or rejected, as long as an inspection certificate is present."
The inspection certificate reveals the problems with the property to buyers. "You have to sort out the installation within 12 or 18 months of the deed's execution", she continues. "Within 12 months if the installation was put in after 1981 and within 18 months if the installation was put in before 1981. You can also request an extension if necessary."
7. Energy performance certificate (EPC)
This document shows how energy-efficient the building is. Such a certificate traditionally also contains a series of recommendations to make the home more energy-efficient.
The certificate is mandatory throughout Belgium and is valid for 10 years. If you are a seller and have energy-saving measures since the EPC certificate was drawn up, you can have a new energy performance certificate issued. This may cost a few hundred euros, but with a better energy performance score, you may be able add (tens of) thousands of euros to the asking price for your home.
8. Inspection certificate for the domestic oil tank and central heating system
"Before a domestic oil tank is put into service, it must be inspected. Depending on the tank's type, location and volume, a periodic inspection may also be mandatory. That is why, in principle, the seller always has to be able to present a certificate", Joni Soutaer says.
If this is not the case, there are two options: either the seller can have the tank inspected, or the sale goes ahead without an inspection and the obligation to have the tank (re)inspected is transferred to the buyer.
Before putting a central heating system into service, the owner is obliged to have the central boiler inspected. The seller must also be able to present this certificate. The notary is not obliged to request this certificate, but they will do this in practice.
9. When buying or selling an apartment
As a seller, you are obliged to request a number of documents from the apartment's administrator, who is obliged to provide those to you. "This includes the amount of money that is in the 'treasury' of the apartment's association of co-owners and the minutes of the general meetings. This informs the buyer whether there are any plans to renovate the roof and the lifts, for example, as you will need to contribute towards the cost of these", Joni Soutaer explains.
10. Other documents
After signing the sales agreement, the notary will request a series of other documents and search for other information. You do not have to do this yourself. "For example, the notary will check the mortgage status to ensure that there are no debts or other encumbrances with regard to the property", Joni Soutaer says. "The notary will also examine whether there are any current lease contracts, easements, pre-emptive rights and so on. The notary will also check whether the building is a monument, whether it was built in a forest or flood area, whether there are any strategic pipelines in the ground and so on.
IIf you are buying or selling an apartment, the notary will also try to find out other information. They will ask the apartment's administrator whether any work has been planned and what these costs will be.
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