House purchases to be cheaper by law, notaries warn of economic impact

House purchases to be cheaper by law, notaries warn of economic impact
The cost of purchasing a house will be slightly lower from 1 January next year. Credit: Belga/ Benoit Doppagne

A new law that will allow home buyers to save money on notary costs will officially come into effect on 1 January next year, but notaries are fearing that it will be at the cost of their businesses.

Belgium's Federal Parliament on Thursday night approved the complete reform of rules governing the notary profession, legislation that was deemed archaic. The royal decree that will come into force on 1 January next year will include the reduction in fees charged to people purchasing a house, which will be reduced by an average of €1,000.

The fees and administrative costs for both the purchase deed and the loan deed, which anyone buying a house in Belgium must pay, are approximately €1,100 per deed.

The first part of the reform, which will officially come into place at the start of next year, will see the price of the purchase and credit deed, being fixed at €750 and €550, respectively, for 98% of home purchases. The new measure excludes properties costing more than €850,000.

Meanwhile, the fees for deeds such as the power of attorney, the deed of succession and the acceptance of inheritance will also be fixed.

Feelings of trepidation

While the implementation of these decisions will be welcomed with open arms by many people looking to make their first steps into the property market, it has been received with trepidation by the sector itself and Belgium's 1,126 notary offices.

The impact of these new tariffs will be big for notaries' offices," said Jan Sap, director general of the Federation of Notaries (Fednot) in a statement published on Friday.

"Especially since economic conditions have changed considerably since the initial approval by the government in April. We will monitor what the exact consequences will be, especially when it comes to notaries who have just started working."

Making profession more attractive

The parliament also approved the second part of the reform, the amendment of the 1803 Ventôse Act, which lays down the rules governing the notary profession.

This will see the status of assistant notaries being created. They work as a salaried employee with an employment contract with another notary or a notary's company in light of the threat of a notary shortage due to the profession's high workload.

To tackle this same problem, the maximum quota of candidate notaries that can be appointed was reviewed (from a maximum of 90 new candidate notaries per year to a minimum of 120 newcomers). Internships will also become more flexible, and can soon take place at several notarial institutions and different departments, allowing candidate notaries to strengthen a wider set of skills.

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Aside from better combatting excess costs charged to customers and irregularities through a newly created national disciplinary board, the reform also takes into account further digitalisation, with deeds being uploaded on the Notarial Deeds Database, and other procedures to be computerised.

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