You can find a list of Egyptian lawyers specializing in property law at Helpline Law Egypt. Make sure to vet a number of lawyers before you decide to hire one. You should also try to get in touch with other expats who have purchased property to see if they have anyone to recommend.
Once you have a lawyer, you will probably have to make a deposit while he checks the property against outstanding debts, loans, et cetera. Deposit requirements vary by transaction.
If there are not outstanding legal issues regarding your property, your lawyer will be able to register it at the land registry office. The land registry office will then provide you with a deed to the property (for a fee, of course). Property registry fees vary, but they have a maximum ceiling of LE200,000.
There are two basic property registration processes in Egypt: full registration and signature of validity.
Full registration of property
This is a somewhat involved process, including several steps:
- Present a request for property registration to the land registry (it is then sent to the Egyptian Surveying Authority).
- The Surveying Authority delegates a team from the Department of Measurements to produce a report on the property, which is then sent back to the Surveying Authority
- Once the inspection report is either approved or disproved by the Surveying Authority, it is sent back to the land registry, which then prepares an “acceptance report”
- The Egyptian Lawyer’s Syndicate approves the final draft of the purchase contract (you must have a lawyer to complete this procedure), which is then returned to the land registry for processing
- The buyer pays a maximum LE2,000 to obtain his contract from the land registry
- Both the buyer and seller sign the contract at the offices of the land registry
- The buyer collects his contract at the land registry
The entire process generally takes between three and four months to complete. While full registration gives you the most protection under Egyptian property law, it also places certain restrictions on how many properties you may own (no more than two) and when you can sell them (not before five years of ownership, and even after that only with Prime Ministerial approval.
Signature of validity
This is an increasingly popular process amongst foreigners buying land in Egypt, as it removes restrictions on how many properties a foreigner may buy and when he may sell them. It is also not nearly as time consuming as full registration, though it as not quite as iron-clad legally.
When a property is registered under signature of validity, the buyer begins by obtaining what is called a “negative certificate” from the land registry. This document certifies that there are no outstanding debts or claims on the land. Tax authorities then produce a document showing what taxes, of any, are due on the property.
The next step is the drafting of a contract that outlines the property size, purchase price, et cetera and so on, which the buyer and seller both sign. In the final step, the buyer delegates power of attorney to his lawyer, who then files a suit to legally certify the signature of the seller as valid, which in effect completes the sale. This process also takes several months.
Freehold property limitations in South Sinai
In most areas of Egypt, foreigners are allowed to purchase property with full “freehold” and “leasehold” rights. That is to say, they may improve their property, rent it, or otherwise modify it forever (so long as they are the legal owners).
Foreigners are not, however, allowed to purchase property to lease in South Sinai. There is also a 99-year limit on their freehold property rights. Essentially, this means that when a foreigner “purchases” a property in South Sinai, he is in fact purchasing a 99-year lease. Because of this peculiar technical detail, foreigners may only register property through the signature of validity method in South Sinai.