Buying a Flat in Poland – What I Needed

I’m doing this, with my girlfriend. I have bought a place in the UK before, but other people handled all of the paperwork in that case. So my initial expectations were for something like the UK system, but the reality was a little different. We haven’t finished yet, but this post is an outline of the important differences I saw.

There are two very noticeable differences between the UK and Polish approaches to buying. Firstly, in the Polish system the buyer and seller reach an agreement to transact before the buyer gets a mortgage agreement; I didn’t see anything like an agreement in principle from a bank to offer a mortgage. Secondly, there’s no defined step in the process for either side to get results from structural surveys.

The worst part of the procedure is the time-crunched period between signing a preliminary agreement and a final contract. At the suggestions of the agent, we allowed eight weeks for this. You need to produce a lot of paperwork for banks to assess if they want to lend to you, and you have only a limited time to do it: most of the major lenders will take most of that eight weeks themselves.

I wish someone had given me a list of documents I would need before I started the process. Having a profil zaufany helped a little., and it may all have been easier if there wasn’t a pandemic, and more offices were open. Anyway, the documents I was asked for included:

  1. Copy of a certificate of my address (“meldunek”). It turns out these only last for 18 months, and even my landlord was surprised by that.
  2. Copy of the registration of my right to reside in Poland. This was very easy to get, back when I was a citizen of an EU member state. Fortunately that document is still good, but only for a few months more.
  3. Copies of recent bank statements.
  4. For each bank, a separate form completed by my employer.
  5. For my działalność gospodarcza (sometimes translated as “company”, but really just a different tax heading for any self-employment):
    1. A statement that I owed no income tax (the first statement they send said that I owed everything I had already paid, despite my having paid it correctly. The accountant straightened them out in a couple of days.)
    2. A statement that I owed no ZUS (similar to National Insurance in the UK). Complicated in this case by the fact that I did owe ZUS; my accountant hadn’t mentioned it for about 20 months, despite seeing my accounts. At least I found out, and paid it.
    3. For four out of five banks, a separate form completed by my accountant.
    4. For one bank, incremental and running-total statements of income and costs.

I have some concerns about the lack of structural survey. One agent said that the seller is legally obliged to mention any known problems with the building. As far as I can see, though, that creates a disincentive to ever investigate any problems with a building: what the owner does know can hurt the sale price, but what they don’t know can’t. There is a step in the process where a bank agent validates the purchase price. Obviously the bank wants to avoid the risk of a defaulted mortgage on an overvalued property. I don’t know how much of this agent’s work is just price comparison with recent nearby sales of similar properties, versus actually visiting the property and checking that it’s not in poor repair. Searching Google for services similar to a UK buyer’s survey didn’t turn up anything useful.

Right now we have an agreement with a seller, and have submitted loan applications to three banks. I still need to produce more paperwork to be able to apply to two more banks, but we’re already three weeks into the eight week period we agreed in which we would get a mortgage. There may yet be delays.

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