Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Purchasing Real Estate in Sweden - Activities in connection with the Take-Over

When all the necessary permits have been obtain and the transfer date has arrived the parties normally hold a closing meeting at the buyer’s bank to exchange money and documents. Present at such a meeting usually are the parties, the real estate agent and a representative of the buyer’s bank.

The purchase contract normally provides for the seller to carry any and all costs for the real estate until the transfer date and will also enjoy any income of the real estate until that date. From the transfer date these roles are reversed.

A settlement of accounts covering these costs and income is agreed and the net sum arrived at in the settlement is taken into account when deciding on the final amount of money to be paid by the buyer.

The seller will normally have to sign an application for additional mortgages in the real estate necessary as security for the buyer’s loans. It is only the seller who is entitled to make such an application as he or she is the registered owner of the property at that stage. The seller will also hand over any “mortgage letters” held by him. If such “mortgage letters” are in electronic form a re-registration is made.

When the bill of purchase has been signed and the buyer’s bank is convinced that it will receive the necessary security in the property, the purchase price will be transferred to the seller’s bank.

The seller will finally hands over the keys to the building together with any available maps and other documentation related to the real estate to the buyer.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Purchasing Real Estate in Sweden - Permits in connection with purchases of commercial real estate /commercial property

As mentioned in an earlier post the municipality within whose borders the real estate is situated may have a right to step in as buyer on the same terms and conditions as the buyer who entered into the purchase contract with the seller.

Also mentioned earlier here purchases of tenement buildings may require separate approval according to the Act on Acquisitions of Tenement Buildings (I have not found any English translation). The buyer must notify the transfer to the municipality in which the real estate is situated. When the notification has been made, the municipality decides whether the transfer needs to be approved by the local

Rent Tribunal. Such approval will be granted after the Tribunal has found that the buyer has a long-term ambition with his investment and also the ability to manage the tenement building in an acceptable manner.

If the object of the purchase is agricultural land and land for forestry an approval is needed from the County Administration according to the Swedish Land Acquisition Act (I have not found any English translation).

Monday, February 19, 2007

Purchasing Real Estate in Sweden - Permits in connection with purchases of non-commercial real estate, private homes / villas

As mentioned in an earlier post here the Swedish Pre-emption Act (I have not found any English translation) gives municipalities a right to exercise a right of pre-emption. The municipality within whose borders the real estate is situated may have a right to step in as buyer on the same terms and conditions as the buyer who entered into the purchase contract with the seller.

It is important to note that no such right exists if the object of the purchase is a one or two family house with surrounding land not exceeding 2,000 square meters.

This pre-emption right is only exercised in very few cases each year.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Purchasing Real Estate in Sweden - The Purchaser’s Obligation to Investigate the Real Estate

The seller should inform the buyer of the condition of the real estate including any known defects.

According to Swedish law the seller is responsible for all defects. However, this responsibility is balanced by exclusion of all defects that were possible to discover with a careful examination of the real estate. In practice, this means that the seller is only responsible for “hidden defects”.

As soon as the buyer finds a defect prior to the purchase, it is of course no longer hidden and cannot be used by him against the seller. Even if only mere indications of defects (such as stains that are a result of damp or the smell of mould) are noticed, a more thorough investigation (by a professional) need to be made.

Normally, most buyers use a professional building inspector/surveyor who investigates the real estate and presents a written report. Although this does not automatically make the seller responsible for everything that the inspector has not found, it is normally easy for the buyer to point out that defects not discovered by a professional surveyor have to be considered as “hidden”. If the surveyor misses detectable defects, the buyer will lose the case against the seller but then the surveyor most probably will be responsible towards the buyer; at least to the extent of his insurance.

It is possible for the seller to exclude the responsibility for “hidden defects” as well. The wording of the exclusion provision in the contract is very important. If the exclusion is too general, it will not be accepted by the court. The seller is not helped by e.g. selling the real estate “as is” or in “existing condition”. However, this is acceptable in respect of specific parts of the real estate e.g. the heating system. Even with acceptable exclusions, the buyer can make claims against the seller for defects known the seller.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Swedish Civil Code?

I have received a question about the Swedish Civil Code in English. There is no such translation.

The fact is that Sweden does not have a Civil Code Already in 1734 the Swedish Parliament approved a new enactment for the Realm of Sweden (“Sveriges Rikes Lag”). The law, which is actually a collection of codes, was confirmed by the Swedish king, Fredrik I, on January 23, 1736 and has applied ever since. It is called the Law of 1734.

One of the most used law collections published annually, the Norstedt Law Book, has used the layout of the Law of 1734 by trying to sort in new enactments under the old codes. This means that you will find not only the Rome Convention of 1980 but also the Purchase of Goods Act of 1990 under the first Chapter of the 1734 Commercial Code.

The law of 1734 was divided into a number of codes. Through the years certain new codes have been included in the old system, the last one being the Environmental Code of 1998. Today the following codes will be found in the Norstedt Law Book:

1. Marriage Code of 1987

2. Parental Code of 1949

3. Inheritance Code of 1958

4. Land Code of 1970

5. Environmental Code of 1998

6. Land Parcelling Act of 1970

7. Building Code of 1734

8. Commercial Code of 1734

9. Tort Act of 1972

10. Bankruptcy Act of 1987

11. Penal Code of 1962

12. Code of Judicial Procedure of 1942

13. Enforcement Code of 1981

Only parts of the Commercial Code and the Building Code have survived since 1734. Codes number 5, 6, 9 and 10 were not included in the original enactment 1734 at all.

In Finland, which was a part of Sweden until 1809 the Code of Judicial Procedure of 1734 nominally applies although not very much of the original content is applicable today.

Although not very many fragments of the codes enacted in 1734 have survived, we still have some parts of it in use. If e.g. some one sells the same object to two different persons, you actually have to read the 1734 Commercial Code, Chapter 1, Section 5, which states that he who bought first should be allowed to keep it.

It should be noted that the Swedish building legislation is not to be found in the Building Code; instead it covers much more exciting things like still applicable rules about pigs eating acorns, swarming bees and burn-beating.

Purchasing Real Estate in Sweden - Financing of the Purchase

It is not often that someone will purchase real estate with the full sum up front and most purchasers will have to acquire some sort of real estate financing.

The buyer will normally be able to secure a first mortgage loan up to 80 or 85 per cent of the appraised value of the real estate. An additional second mortgage may also be obtained but at a higher interest rate.

The mortgage is actually a document (pantbrev = “mortgage letter”) issued by the relevant court in the desired amount. Only the registered owner may apply for such a mortgage. A fee of 2 per cent of the amount is charged for this. This “mortgage letter” is then pledged to the lender as security for the loan.

In the purchase situation the buyer’s lender will require sufficient “mortgage letters” to cover the amount burrowed by the buyer, before the buyer has acquire the title to the real estate and thus while the seller still is the registered owner. This is solved by the seller at the transfer date signing applications for the issue of the “mortgage letters” needed indicating the buyer’s lender as recipient of the “mortgage letters”. The court will upon the issue of the “mortgage letters” send them to the lender and not to the seller.

Re-payment of the loans is determined by the amount borrowed, the re-payment plan, the interest, which is calculated by the lender according to current rates; and the type of real estate purchased.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Squidoo Lense, Swedish Law

I have just updated my Squidoo Lense, Swedish Law. Check it out!

Purchasing Real Estate in Sweden - Additional Clauses in the Purchase Contract

In addition to the compulsory content of a Swedish real estate purchase contract a number of clauses are usually to be found. The most common are covering the following:

  1. Payment Conditions

Normally a down payment is made at the signing of the purchase contract. If a real estate agent is involved in the transaction, he will insist on having the down payment deposited in his account. This safeguards his interest in getting paid his commission even if the purchase is not followed through.

The remaining part of the purchase price, normally about 90 %, will be paid on the transfer date.

  1. Debts secured in the real estate

The parties have to decide to what extent any part of the seller’s loans secured in the real estate will be taken over by the buyer. Such take-over will of course require the consent of the lender in question. If no take-over is agreed, the seller will repay his loans at the transfer date and the mortgage deeds thereby released will be handed over to the buyer or, probably more realistic, to the buyer’s bank financing the buyer’s purchase.

  1. Transfer of Risk

The parties will agree on whether the risk of damage etc. to the real estate will remain with the seller until the transfer date and the consequences of any damage occurring between the time of signing and the transfer date.

  1. Insurances

The seller normally undertakes to keep the real estate fully insured until the transfer date.

  1. Division of real estate income and costs

The seller will carry any and all costs for the real estate until the transfer date and will also enjoy any income of the real estate until that date. From the transfer date these roles are reversed.

  1. Costs of registration etc.

When the transfer of titled to the real estate is registered, the court will charge a registration fee and a transfer tax. This tax is 1.5 % of the purchase price if the buyer is a private person and 3 % in case of a legal entity as buyer. It is almost always the buyer who will undertake to pay the fee and tax.

In connection with the purchase additional mortgages are often registered in order to secure the financing of the purchase and the parties normally agree that the cost of this should be carried by the buyer. The cost of registering a new mortgage is 2 % of the nominal amount of the mortgage.

  1. Present condition of real estate

The seller should inform the buyer of the condition of the real estate including any known defects. This is of course of importance in relation to the warranties and the future liabilities resting on the seller.

As part of the condition of the real estate, any limitations as to use of the real estate for a specific purpose etc should be considered.

  1. Warranties

If the purchase concerns a villa you would normally not find many warranties by the seller. He may warrant the he is the lawful owner, that only mortgages and other encumbrances on the villa set out in the Swedish Land register exist etc.

If the object of the transfer is e.g. a commercial building or industrial land, the seller will be required to give substantial warranties including warranties as to rent and tenants, possible environmental issues etc.

  1. Pre-emption rights etc.

The municipality within whose borders the real estate is situated may have a right to step in as buyer on the same terms and conditions as the buyer who entered into the purchase contract with the seller. The purchase contract will normally be made conditional upon the municipality confirming that it will not exercise its pre-emption right.

Purchases of tenement buildings and of farming real estate require approvals by various government bodies.

I will comment upon these questions in a later post.

  1. Issue of Bill of Purchase

The seller will undertake to issue the purchase deed upon receipt of full and final payment. This is of major importance to the buyer as he will ordinarily apply for registration of the transfer of titled based on the purchase deed and not the purchase contract.

  1. Attachments

The content of the attachments may vary depending on what kind of real estate is purchased. One attachment that should be included is an excerpt from the Swedish Land Register showing the ownership and mortgage situation of the real estate.