Are there any restrictions on who can own real estate?

Real Estate

Japan Small Flag Japan

There are no restrictions on who can own real estate in Japan. Administrative regulations may require certain filings for certain classes of owners.

Portugal Small Flag Portugal

There are no restrictions concerning the ownership of real estate by non-residents or foreign investors.

To invest in Portugal foreign investors must obtain a Portuguese non-resident tax number. Foreign investors from outside the EU must have a tax representative to obtain a Portuguese non-resident tax number.

Ireland Small Flag Ireland


Mexico Small Flag Mexico

In Mexico, foreign individuals and entities cannot acquire direct ownership of land located in a strip of 50 kilometres along the coastline and 100 kilometres along the borders (“Restricted Zone”, which covers almost 40% of the entire national territory).

Likewise, Mexican corporations with foreign investment cannot acquire direct ownership of land in the Restricted Zone for residential purposes. If, however, the land is used for other non-residential purposes (eg. commercial, industrial, timesharing or tourism activities), the acquisition is permitted by a Mexican entity with foreign investment upon filing a notice with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Foreigners who want to acquire rights in real property located within the Restricted Zone may do so through a leasehold interest (as tenants) or through a Mexican trust. The trust is a commonly used vehicle where the trustee (a Mexican financial institution) acquires title to the real property for the benefit of the foreigners (beneficiaries), who are entitled to use, enjoy, occupy, possess and obtain proceeds from the real property according to the terms and conditions set forth in the trust agreement. Mexican trusts created for these purposes may not exceed 50 years, but the term can be extended upon request to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Outside the Restricted Zone, foreigners can directly own real estate subject only to obtaining a permit from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Likewise, religious associations, charities and good will associations can only own real estate which is essential for their specific purpose. Financial institutions are also limited to own direct title to real estate which is essential for their specific purpose.

The Netherlands Small Flag The Netherlands

Natural persons as well as legal entities can be entitled to real estate with the exception of associations not incorporated by notarial deed. Associations incorporated by notarial deed and foundations can acquire real estate, provided that this is included in the articles of association.

Norway Small Flag Norway

In general, there are no legal requirements that must be fulfilled in order to own, lease or in other ways invest in real estate in Norway. For share deals regarding real estate, no concession is necessary. However, direct acquisition of real estate is, as a main rule, subject to concession pursuant to the Norwegian General Concession Act of 2003. The concession requirements are the same for both Norwegian individuals/companies and foreign individuals/companies.

There are several exceptions from the Norwegian General Concession Act which cover a broad spectre of real estate acquisitions, and concession is therefore rarely a risk in a real estate transaction. In respect to undeveloped large properties, agricultural areas, minerals, industrial properties or rights to waterfalls etc., stricter requirements apply and will constitute a risk factor in any transaction.

Romania Small Flag Romania

Real estate can be owned under a public ownership right only by the Romanian State (either by central government or local municipalities). The Romanian Constitution and other national legislation provide the types of real estate subject to a public ownership right – e.g. lakes, rivers, beachfronts, national infrastructure such as main roads, conduits, etc. Publicly owned real estate is inalienable and cannot be encumbered.

All real estate not determined by law as publicly owned is deemed to be privately owned. Real estate may be privately owned by the Romanian State and by certain private individuals and companies and is usually freely transferable among such entities.

Romanian nationals may own and transfer real estate under a private ownership right without restriction. Nationals of EU member states may directly purchase buildable and agricultural land providing certain conditions are met, such as proving registration as an independent European farmer in case of transfer of agricultural lands. Nationals of non-EU states may purchase land only under strict reciprocity conditions. Very few such treaties are in force.

All Romanian companies may purchase and/or own real estate under a private ownership right, regardless if their shareholding structure is composed of Romanian or foreign natural or legal persons. Therefore, taking account the above-mentioned limitation on real estate ownership by foreign nationals, most real estate investments in Romania are performed through a special purpose vehicle incorporated in Romania.

Minors may own real estate, but they may only conclude significant transactions with the approval of their parents or legal guardian starting 14 years of age.

Russia Small Flag Russia

Generally, foreign owners have the same scope of rights, guarantees and security as local companies and individuals. Even so, the following restrictions apply to foreigners:

  • They cannot own land plots adjacent to national borders (lease is possible). The precise list of territories affected by this restriction was adopted back in 2011.
  • They cannot own agricultural land plots (lease is possible). This restriction also applies to Russian companies where foreigners control more than 50% of the authorised capital.
  • They cannot acquire control over businesses operating in industries of strategic importance for national defence and security, e.g., military and nuclear, telecoms and aerospace, etc., without prior consent from the Federal Government Commission.

Some types of land may not be privately owned by virtue of statute, irrespective of nationality, e.g., lands that are officially recorded as forests or specially protected natural areas, common use areas in cities, such as streets, squares, etc.

Sweden Small Flag Sweden

There are no such restrictions under Swedish law, as a general principle any legal entity may purchase and own any type of land. One limitation to this general rule can however be found in statutory restrictions for business entities to acquire agricultural land from natural persons. For such an acquisition to be valid, the purchaser must obtain a permit from the Swedish Board of Agriculture within the legally stipulated timeframe.

Switzerland Small Flag Switzerland

As opposed to residential real estate which is controlled and restricted by the Swiss law on the acquisition of real estate by foreigners (the so called Lex Koller), the acquisition of commercial real estate by foreigners is not restricted. Any foreigners, whether domiciled or not in Switzerland, as well as any foreign companies, can freely acquire commercial real estate for their own use or for the sole purpose of investment. It must be noted though that apartment buildings commercially leased to third party tenants are not considered as commercial real estate. Therefore, such buildings cannot be acquired by foreigners or by foreign companies, within the meaning of the Lex Koller.

Turkey Small Flag Turkey

The ownership right is regulated as a fundamental right under the Constitution of the Republic of Turkey. However, it has been also stated that the ownership right may be restricted by law for the public interest and the usage right of the property shall not be contrary to public interest.

Natural persons with foreign nationality, foreign legal entities and Turkish companies with foreign capital are defined as foreign persons. In this respect there are some restrictions for foreign persons who desire to buy real estate in Turkey.

  • Natural persons with foreign nationality can purchase real estate property and acquire limited rights in rem subject to legal restrictions, bilateral international relationships and circumstances requiring action deemed necessary in the public interest. Foreign natural persons may own up to 30 hectares of property in total and may acquire a limited in rem right. By obtaining the permission of Council of Ministers, this amount may be raised to 60 hectares in maximum. Foreign natural persons can acquire property or a limited in rem right in a district/town up to 10% of the total area of the district/town. Also purchasing a property in military forbidden and security zones is not possible.
  • Foreign legal entities established in a foreign country under their local laws can only own real estate property and limited rights in rem within the scope of special provisions of Turkish law, including the Petroleum Law, Tourism Incentive Law and Industrial Area Law. Legal entities other than foreign trading companies (foundations, associations, etc.) cannot acquire real estate and can not establish restricted right in rem.
  • Turkish companies with foreign capital, in which persons with foreign nationality or foreign companies own at least 50% of the shares or have the right to appoint/dismiss persons with management rights, may acquire and use real estate property or limited rights in rem to carry out the activities stated in the companies’ articles of association, by getting the approval of the city’s Governorship where the real estate property is located. The same property rights apply where companies with foreign capital become direct/indirect shareholders of a company incorporated in Turkey, and own 50% or more of the company’s shares.

Additionally, if the foreign person (company or real person) acquires a land, a project shall be submitted to be developed on the land within two years to the Ministry of Environment and Urbanization. Otherwise the Ministry has to right to liquidate the real estate.

Brazil Small Flag Brazil

Brazilian legislation sets out general rules and restrictions affecting the acquisition of rural real estates by foreigners (individuals or legal entities), which depends on the area of the real property and is subject to a specific procedure and prior authorization from the competent authorities. The restrictions also apply to the acquisition by Brazilian companies controlled by foreign entities or individuals. Consequently, the event of change of control of Brazilian companies to foreign companies or individuals should be subject to such restrictions as well.

In addition to rural properties, there are also restrictions established for the acquisition, possession or any in rem rights of properties located within 150 kilometers from Brazil’s international borders by foreigners or any legal entity with participation, by any means, of a foreigner.

United States Small Flag United States

There are very few restrictions on who can own real estate or interests therein.

The federal government (specifically the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States) has the authority to review transactions (including real estate transactions) that could result in control of U.S. real estate by a foreign person and may cancel or rescind a transaction if it determines that doing so is in the best interest of U.S. national security.

At the state level, many states have no additional restrictions, though there a handful of states that restrict the right of a non-U.S. person to buy, own, and sell large parcels of land.

United Kingdom Small Flag United Kingdom

No, save in the case of minors and incapacitated persons. In the case of registered land, where the land is owned by multiple people or entities, the Land Registry will only register a maximum of four people or entities as the registered owners. Those registered owners will hold the legal title in the land on trust for all of the beneficial owners.

Bulgaria Small Flag Bulgaria

In Bulgaria real estate may be acquired by individuals, as well as by legal entities. There are legal restrictions on the acquisition of ownership of real estate and other in rem rights by foreigners (i.e. foreign-registered or foreign-controlled entities and foreign individuals). Companies, registered on the territory of Bulgaria however, are considered local legal entities and are often used for indirectly acquiring property by foreigners.

Who can acquire property in Bulgaria depends on two sets of criteria – nationality/residency and the type of property:

3.1. As a result of the accession of Bulgaria to the European Union (“EU”), EU citizens (“resident citizens”) and entities registered in the member states of the EU and the European Economic Area (“EU residents and entities”) are treated in the same manner as Bulgarian citizens and companies and can now freely acquire property on the territory of Bulgaria.

However, if the property is an agricultural land, the law imposes restrictions, requiring acquirers (natural persons or legal entities) to have been resident/ established for at least 5 years on the territory of Bulgaria. Newly established companies may acquire agricultural land if they have not issued bearer shares and all of their shareholders satisfy the 5-year requirement for residency.

3.2. Foreigners, who are not EU citizens or entities registered in the EU and the European Economic Area, may acquire property only in accordance with the terms of an international agreement (if such exists), ratified under the terms provided for in the Constitution of the Republic of Bulgaria, which agreement has been promulgated and has entered into force.

3.3. With respect to agricultural lands and forests foreign citizens are allowed to inherit them by law (and not based on a testament). But if they inherit an agricultural land or forests and unless provided otherwise in an international treaty, they are obliged to transfer any property rights to a third person within 3 years after inheriting them.

France Small Flag France

There are no restrictions on who can own real estate per se unless public order, public security, national defence or public health are directly concerned and command a French administration’s control.

Germany Small Flag Germany

There are no specific restrictions – e.g. everybody can own real estate, persons, legal entities, closed-end and open-end property funds, public law bodies and foreign companies. Also minors and incapacitated persons are eligible to own real estate, however they are not granted the power of disposition.

Hong Kong Small Flag Hong Kong

Generally there are no legal restrictions as to who can own Hong Kong property.

Spain Small Flag Spain

No, save in the case of minors and incapacitated persons.

Nigeria Small Flag Nigeria

All Nigerians (including legal entities registered in Nigeria) with legal capacity can own real estate in Nigeria but a foreigner cannot own real estate except through a legal entity that is registered in Nigeria.

Updated: January 25, 2018