Guidance

Buying Property in Egypt

This guide sets out essential information for British nationals wanting to buy property in Egypt.

Introduction

This guide sets out essential information for British nationals wanting to buy property in Egypt, including advice on legal advice, fraud, residence requirements, complaints and more. It should be read together with the How to buy property abroad guide.

We are unable to provide any guidance on individual property purchases apart from the information and links listed below.

The British embassy is unable to interfere with court or legal proceedings. Neither can it lobby or provide updates to British national involved in land or property disputes.

See our information on what consulates can and cannot do for British nationals

The first thing to remember is that buying a property in Egypt differs vastly from buying in the UK. Unlike the UK, real estate agents (individuals and companies) in Egypt are not regulated. You should make thorough checks of the estate agent and/or developer via your local lawyer and through others who have purchased properties, before signing any contract.

There is a risk that a developer could be under investigation by the local authorities or if there are problems between the developer and the state authority which allocated the project land to the developer.

In case of doubt seek further assurances and failing that look elsewhere. If in doubt do not sign any documents or pay any money.

Always agree fees with the lawyer prior to going ahead and also check all the other costs involved in the purchase of the property so you don’t find yourself being caught out unexpectedly.

Be careful when choosing a local lawyer. Appoint a lawyer who is experienced in examining property documents, preparing and revising sale and purchase contracts, has the ability to help you in dealing with the seller and is experienced in property conveyancing and fully independent of anyone else involved in the transaction e.g. the estate agent, vendor or developer. Numerous property owners are now experiencing problems with their property because they did not seek independent advice and instead used lawyers and translators which were recommended by the estate agent/developer.

Although the British embassy cannot recommend a lawyer, we do have lists of English-speaking lawyers and qualified translators available.

You may also consider approaching the local branch of the “lawyers syndicate” to ask for any advice on appropriately qualified lawyers.

Some points to be aware of:

  • Do not sign any papers or hand over any money until you have taken independent legal advice.
  • If you intend to buy off plan, never pay the full amount upfront, only ever pay in instalments which are due after each stage of the building has been completed. The last instalment should normally only be paid with the completion of the entire building project.
  • When reviewing the sales contract be aware that such contract is not legally binding unless it is bilingual. Don’t sign anything you do not understand. Our list of approved translators is available here.
  • Ensure that the details of the property (the district in which the property is located, street name, building number, floor number as well as property area and description), your personal details and the full purchase price of the property, payment method and dates together with the seller’s declarations that the property does not bear any rights for third parties are reflected correctly on the deeds. Once the contract has been signed, the purchased property must be registered in compliance with the regulations and procedure provided for in the Egyptian Laws.
  • Financial transactions should be made within bank premises or through banking channels, but not in cash.
  • Check the ownership of the land, verifying that the contract stipulates that a part of the land, on which the building is constructed, will be owned by the buyer. This can be indicated in the contract; taking into consideration that, the Egyptian law allows the landlord (of lands and buildings) to sell any unit of the building to any party, without granting such buyer a share in the land thereof. In such case this will be stated expressly in the contract.
  • Verifying the legality and rightfulness of the ownership as well as the permissions provided to the real estate developer. This includes the seller’s ownership of the land on which the building is constructed, and that it was built by virtue of a construction license issued from the competent Egyptian governmental authorities.
  • Many older buildings are not registered and sometimes are subject to disputes among many members of the owning family; therefore, it is crucial to verify that the property is registered. In such case the buyer needs to verify the property ownership chain (Transfer of title), and they must hire an experienced lawyer to examine the property’s documents. It is not just important that the building or unit is registered in the name of all or some of the family members who are selling the unit to the buyer, but it is also crucial to verify that their right to ownership is well established and legalised and that the buyer will be able to transfer the ownership through the applicable procedures of the Real Estate Publicity Department.
  • Egyptian law does not permit a foreigner to own non-residential property in person. A foreigner can own and purchase non-residential property through incorporating a company to carry on a business, administrative or industrial activity in Egypt.
  • A foreigner cannot own agricultural lands or, similarly, lands that can be reclaimed for agricultural purposes all over Egypt.

There are restrictions on the number of properties, usually no more than two, and the parts of the country where a foreigner can own properties. Special rules apply in the Sinai. Check these points carefully with a lawyer.

Taxation

You should ensure with your local lawyer that the legally due real estate taxes of the property are paid up to the date of purchase. Also ensure that other financial obligations, such as the consideration of utilities’ consumption up to the purchase date, are fully paid to the competent authorities; taking into consideration that in case of your disposition of the property, after acquiring it, you will be obliged to pay a tax for such disposition, presently at the rate of 2.5% of the property total value. You can find out information about fees and taxation through the taxation department . Your lawyer may also provide you with the relevant details.

Mortgages

Official mortgages are extremely rare in Egypt. Some developers may offer loans to help you finance the purchase of a property through mortgage or financial leasing and contracting with a bank or company that is licensed to carry on such activity. Such loans; can be set for only a limited period of time and you should carefully check the interest rates, the terms and conditions as well as the rights and obligations resulting from the loan. Additionally you could find yourself tied with the completion of the property and/or loan. In such cases reselling the property could become a problem. Always seek independent legal advice.

Visa/residence requirements

In order to purchase a property you will need to hold a residence visa. Warning - owning a property in Egypt does not guarantee you a residence or visit visa. The Egyptian immigration authorities can revoke or refuse to renew your visa at any time. Should this happen you will need to seek legal advice from a qualified local lawyer. You can find more information on visas here.

If you feel your lawyer has acted inappropriately or not represented you in accordance of the law, you can present a written complaint to The Egyptian lawyers syndicate, address: 49 Ramses square, down town Cairo, Tel: 02-25760594, 02-25754353, or the public prosecution and competent investigation authorities in accordance with the Egyptian laws if what your local lawyer did constitutes a criminal action committed against you or your monies.

Disclaimer

This information is provided as a general guide and is based upon information provided to the embassy by the relevant local authorities and may be subject to change at any time with little or no notice. The FCO and the British embassy will not be liable for any inaccuracies in this information. British nationals wishing to obtain any further information must contact the relevant local authority.

Published 5 January 2015