Ah, closing day. You’ve put in the effort to find the perfect property, done your due diligence, and may have even put down a deposit.
No matter what kind of property you are buying, there is going to be some kind of closing day on which you officially take ownership of the property.
If it’s your first time buying property in Poland, you probably won’t know what to expect on closing day, so I’ve put together this guide to give you an idea of how things work at the notary, how you ought to pay for the property, and how handover of the property itself works.
Step 0: Preparing for Closing Day
To be legally binding, all sale of property in Poland must take the form of a notarial act (akt notarialny). As a result, closing on a property requires you to visit a notary together with the seller.
Since notaries prepare the paperwork for the sale themselves, and tend to be pretty busy, you will want to reach out to a notary and set a closing date that works for all parties at least a few days (but often several weeks) in advance.
Among other things, the notary is responsible for collecting various fees and taxes. If you’re buying property from an individual, you’ll probably need to pay a 2% civil tax (podatek od czynności cywilnoprawnych). Additionally, you’ll need to pay some notary fees (taksa notarialna).
In both cases, you can either pay the notary in cash on the day of the act, or in advance by means of bank transfer. If you choose the latter, bear in mind that the money must reach the notary’s account before the notary act itself. (Interbank transfers in Poland usually take at least one business day to be processed.)
Needless to say, but by this point you will want to have agreed to a payment method for the property and have the money ready to go.
Step 1: Notary Act
On closing day, the first thing you’ll need to do is show up to the notary at the allotted time (preferably a little early, I usually aim to be around 10-15 minutes early).
To start with, you’ll probably interact with the notary’s assistant or secretary, confirming all fees have been paid and handing over both parties’ IDs.
Eventually, you’ll sit down with the seller and notary to read the sale contract. If you don’t speak Polish fluently, a sworn translator will have to be present (at your cost) to translate the content of the contract.
After reading through the contract, you and the seller will be asked to sign/mark a copy on every page. The notary will then step away to make copies and stamp them. Both the buyer and seller will receive a stamped copy each; aside from that, a multitude will be sent to various government institutions.
That’s it! You’re done at the notary, and even though you haven’t yet paid, you’re now the official owner of the apartment, house, or other property. So, what about payment?
Step 2: Payment
In my experience buying property in Poland, you’re often able to pay for the property after signing the notary act and becoming the property’s legal owner.
When this is the case, the sales contract typically stipulates that the money must reach the seller’s account by the end of the day. As such, it’s worth speaking to your bank in advance, and making sure that you have a suitable way to transfer the funds.
Since regular interbank transfers within Poland usually take one full business day to process, I have used a type of express transfer called SORBNET when buying property. These transfers are near-instant across most banks, but have a small fee and must be sent before 2PM in most banks.
In any case, after signing the paperwork at the notary, you’ll walk over to the nearest bank branch and make a transfer to the seller’s bank account as provided in the notary act.
Bear in mind that not every seller will be comfortable with receiving payment after the notary act. Other reasonable options for payment include:
- Having the notary escrow the funds as a “notary deposit” (depozyt notarialny). This comes with some extra fees, but provides the seller more security. You will have to let the notary know in advance if you wish to do this.
- Transferring the funds to the seller via after signing the notary act, but before the stamped copies are distributed. This may give some sellers the added comfort they need, without the fees of a notary deposit.
- The most convenient way to do this would be to use mobile, internet, or telephone banking; of course, you must be able to send an instant transfer of the required size using one of those methods.
- The old-fashioned way to do this would be to walk to the nearest bank branch — together with the seller — and send an instant transfer in person, before returning to the notary to receive stamped copies of the act.
- Paying for the property in cash. I would recommend against this, as you will not have any paperwork to confirm the transfer of funds.
Step 3: Handover
By this point, the property is officially yours and you’ve paid for it, so it’s time for the seller to “hand over” the property. For most residential property, including flats and houses, it is common practice to visit the property with the seller on closing day for the handover procedure.
The main reason for this is to jointly write up a handover protocol (protokoł zdawczo-odbiorczy). There is no strict template for handover protocols, but there are many free templates available online.
The handover protocol typically describes:
- The condition of the property
- Any furnishings that will remain in the property
- Any keys or remotes that will be given to you
- Meter readings for any utilities (water, electric, gas, etc)
It’s good practice to include all of these items, since they will cover you in case you run into any kind of dispute with the seller. Assuming everything goes smoothly, it’s the meter readings that are particularly important, since utility companies almost always want to see a handover protocol when changing the account holder for a property. This also means you won’t be billed for the seller’s utility usage.
In any case, on closing day, you should have already arranged a time with the seller for handover. At the property, simply fill in and sign two copies of the handover protocol — one for each party — and have the seller give you any keys, remotes, or other items as agreed.
In some situations, such as when buying land, there might not be the need for an in-person handover or for handover paperwork.
That’s it! You’re official done with closing day: you’ve signed the notary act, paid for the property, and completed the handover procedure.
If you have any questions or comments about this topic, feel free to leave a comment below.