Belgium’s Real Estate Market
If you are planning to buy a home or property in Belgium, this guide will help you understand the most important factors of buying a home in Belgium.
In Belgium, there is no central real estate register, as such an idea does not exist. Instead, all properties are registered with municipalities and land registry deeds (registres fonciers) describe the boundaries of a parcel of land that is privately owned – but these documents do not reference who owns it! They only show whether the owner has paid local taxes on his property.
Why? The reason for this system dates back several centuries ago when taxation was based on productively used land – which resulted in large areas being left uncultivated as they were difficult to tax efficiently. A system was needed to provide an exhaustive inventory of the land in a given area. The survey and registration of local parcels was created for this purpose. This is why you will see a registration number describing a property on sale at one moment, but when it’s sold it has disappeared from the records – because the new owner hasn’t registered it … yet!
The buyer and seller split the costs of buying a property in Belgium (https://www.bluehomes.com/Immobilien-Belgien/B/de/debut.html). However, the buyer will pay most cost – around 11–15%. These costs consist of:
A standard notaire fee which is 0.55 percent (on average €500 per million) or 1.11 percent (€1m+) with a higher fee in the notaire’s home commune.
A registration fee at the land registry (Registre foncier) to record and update ownership in official records: €55 in municipalities with fewer than 10,000 inhabitants and €68 in larger towns or cities.
Property transfer tax (taxe d’acquisition): 2 percent on the purchase price for transfers of property that will be lived in by its owner (or their spouse / civil partner). This doesn’t apply if you pay rent for a home you don’t occupy yourself; neither does it apply if you own several properties.
An additional ‘gift tax’ when you make a gift or inheritance: 5 percent on the value of the gift or inheritance for tax purposes.
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Are there costs to keep a property?
Yes, there are fees associated with owning your home in Belgium. These are called notary and registry fees.
You pay these fees on top of all other transaction costs when buying or selling a property in Belgium (more about these below). You also pay them each time you sell your house if it’s unoccupied (you can’t escape them!) but they will be outstripped by capital gains tax which you would have had to pay if you sold while living in it. Notaries work on behalf of both buyer and seller so their fee is split equally between the parties involved, unless some kind of agreement has already been made. Registration fees are split evenly between buyer and seller.
Capital gains tax (impôt des plus-values) is paid on the difference between what you originally paid for a property (plus any building work done to it) and its market value when you sell it (less deductions for depreciation), though this can be reduced in some circumstances. The rate of capital gains tax in Belgium is 33% – one of the highest in Europe, but there are exceptions: for example, if you inherited or were given your house less than two years before selling, only 50 percent of the difference is subject to taxation. If you leave your home unoccupied for more than 24 months, another 50 percent can be deducted to encourage owners to leave homes empty.
How much does it cost to register as a property owner in Belgium?
The registration fee at the land registry (Registre foncier) is €55 in municipalities with fewer than 10,000 inhabitants and €68 in larger towns or cities. If you don’t buy your home from a notaire, you pay a separate notary fee of around 0.55 percent instead – which works out at €500 per million for properties costing more than one million euro.
A recent reform means that you will now have to wait six years before selling your house if you don’t live there yourself, otherwise full capital gains tax rates apply rather than half. This is designed to stop people using them as tax havens.