Discover the Possibilities: Foreigners Buying Real Estate in Serbia
What Are Rights of Foreigners to Acquire Real Estate in the Republic of Serbia?
The right of foreign individuals and legal entities to acquire property rights on real estate within the territory of Serbia, through legal transactions inter vivos (contracts of sale, gift contracts, life annuity contracts, etc.) and legal transactions mortis causa (inheritance) is regulated by the Serbian Law on the Foundations of Property Law Relations (the “Law”).
Acquisition through legal transactions inter vivos
According to the Law, foreign individuals and legal entities, conducting activities in Serbia, can, under the condition of reciprocity, acquire property rights on real estate necessary for conducting those activities.
Foreigners who do not conduct activities in Serbia can, under the condition of reciprocity, acquire property rights on apartments and residential buildings, just like other citizens of the Republic of Serbia.
Are foreigners in Serbia allowed to acquire all type of properties?
Therefore, a foreigner who does not conduct activities in Serbia cannot acquire property rights on other types of land unless it concerns land on which the apartment or residential building they acquire the property right is located or land used for the regular use of the apartment or residential building.
Are foreigners in Serbia allowed to purchase agricultural land?
It is worth noting that an exception exists concerning agricultural land, as Article 1 of the Serbian Law on Agricultural Land expressly prescribes that foreigners or legal entities cannot own agricultural land unless otherwise determined by this Law in accordance with the Stabilization and Association Agreement between the European Communities and their Member States, on the one hand, and the Republic of Serbia, on the other hand (the “Agreement”).
How is agricultural land defined in Serbia?
According to Article 2 of the same Law, agricultural land refers to land used for agricultural production (fields, gardens, orchards, vineyards, meadows, pastures, fishponds, reed beds, and marshes) and land that can be converted for agricultural production purposes.
How can I check if there is reciprocity for the purpose of acquiring real estate in Serbia?
If there is a question about reciprocity (e.g., in the land registry office), and there is no information available, an explanation of reciprocity should be requested from the Ministry responsible for justice affairs, in this case, the Serbian Ministry of Justice.
Any other interested party can also request an explanation of reciprocity.
What type of reciprocity is required for acquiring real estate in Serbia?
The type of reciprocity required for acquiring real estate is not regulated by the Law on the Foundations of Property Law Relations.
It is assumed that for this acquisition, there is no need for a contractual (diplomatic) reciprocity with the respective state, but it is sufficient that the legislation of that state allows the possibility of acquiring real estate for foreign individuals under conditions that are not substantially more onerous than the conditions prescribed by the domestic Law and that, in practice, allows citizens of the Republic of Serbia to acquire real estate in the territory of the respective state (so-called practical or factual reciprocity).
The Republic of Serbia has established contractual reciprocity regarding the acquisition of property rights on real estate through legal transactions inter vivos with only a small number of states, based on contracts on trade and shipping, concluded in the first half of the twentieth century.
In some of these contracts, reciprocity is explicitly agreed upon, while with others, reciprocity exists through the application of the most favored nation clause.
These states include the United Kingdom, the United States of America, the Kingdom of the Netherlands, and Japan.
Regarding other states where reciprocity is not contracted, the Ministry of Justice, based on the legal regulations of the respective states that regulate this matter or by exchanging notes, has determined the existence of reciprocity with many states.
Below is a list of 67 countries that have established reciprocity with Serbia for recognition of mutual rights regarding the acquisition of property rights on real estate:
Bosnia and Herzegovina
British Virgin Islands
United Arab Emirates
United States of America
Regarding the countries not listed, the procedure for determining reciprocity is ongoing, and in such cases, it is necessary to address a request to this ministry to obtain an explanation.
In other words, if your country is on the the above list, then you are allowed to purchase and own real estate in Serbia. Otherwise, you will need to check the official position of the Serbian Ministry of Justice before purchasing a real estate in Serbia.
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Acquisition of property rights through inheritance (mortis causa)
According to the Serbian Law on the Foundations of Property Law Relations, under the condition of reciprocity, foreign individuals can acquire property rights on real estate located within the territory of the Republic of Serbia through inheritance, under the same conditions as domestic citizens.
In that regards, Serbia regulated this type of acquisition of real estate with a certain number of countries through bilateral agreements on legal assistance, including a most-favored-nation clause.
These agreements foresee that citizens of one contracting party can inherit property within the territory of the other contracting party under the same conditions and to the same extent as domestic citizens.
This way, a contractual (diplomatic) reciprocity is ensured.
Such a solution is included in agreements on legal assistance, trade and shipping agreements, and practically applies to the following 23 countries:
Bosnia and Herzegovina
What type of reciprocity is required for inheriting property in Serbia?
However, for acquiring property through inheritance, it is not necessary to have a contractual reciprocity; a factual reciprocity on this matter is sufficient.
Moreover, concerning countries where there is no contractual reciprocity regarding the acquisition of property through inheritance, in practice for many years, the approach has been based on the assumption that reciprocity does not need to be established for each individual country.
Instead, it is assumed that each country recognizes the right of Serbian citizens to inherit property until evidence to the contrary is presented.
This means that foreign nationals can inherit properties within the territory of the Republic of Serbia based on assumed factual reciprocity, with interested parties being able to present evidence to the contrary.
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