The one thing we had learnt / read already was that the buying process was very different in Portugal to what it is in England. It seems that the estate agent can do everything for you, however being typically British and ever cautious we had read that we should have a lawyer.
You will read everywhere that you should do the same as you would if you where in England. We did get a Lawyer (advogados) and it worked well, I will explain what we did later. I think however this really is only needed if you don’t trust the people you are working with, or you are investing mega bucks.
If there is already a house on the plot you may want to consider a surveyor as well, I would expect if you are taking a mortgage this will be a necessity. We weren’t we were on the new build trek, so not relevant. We did spend quite a bit of time and the sending of emails to both the agents and the lawyer, to make sure we could build a house. The agent made direct contact with the prevailing council and got further confirmation on what we would be allowed to do.
We later met up with another couple that brought a reasonably priced property and they didn’t use a lawyer and I have to say if I did it again, I wouldn’t bother. I only say that as we have come to trust Maria and Paulo implicitly and they always do their best for their clients.
Personally I would recommend you do whatever you feel comfortable with. It does feel alien to our British mentality, as mistrust is so bred into us these days. It’s a balance, can you afford the risk of losing your investment against the cost, our lawyer was very reasonably priced, again if you what to know how much please email me.
You also really need to do your homework and check the people you do work with are legitimate for example all estate agents have to be approved and registered, ask your agent for their registration details or AMI number. Please check it out, we heard stories of illegal agents quoting numbers to give the impression they are legitimate, when they are not, we didn’t have any of these problems, but then we did check, its easy to do, there is a central registration site where you can check their details you will find it at www.inci.pt/Portugues/Mediacao/Paginas/LicencaMediacao.aspx
You should do the same for any lawyer as well. If you decide to have one, check their details, again there is a central registration for all advogados, and you will find it at www.oa.pt. It doesn’t take long and worth doing, even if it just for peace of mind.
All these websites are in Portuguese, so you do have to work it out a bit, but if I can do it I am sure you can. I did it by working it out, but later I discover the wonderful world of Google translate, believe me this will make your life easier.