Buying in Portugal is similar to buying in the UK to the extent that there is an offer and acceptance procedure, which is usually followed by an exchange of contracts and completion at the Land Registry.
However, once terms have been agreed and an offer accepted, the transaction is legally binding. Your appointed lawyer will carry out the necessary searches at the Land Registry and the Town Hall to check for undisclosed charges and encumbrances. Once satisfied, he/she will draw up a 'Promissory Contract of Purchase and Sale' and at this stage you normally pay the vendor a deposit of 10% of the full purchase price. This contract will be signed by both parties in front of a Portuguese notary and is legally binding on both the vendor and purchaser. If the purchaser defaults the deposit is forfeited and if the vendor defaults the purchaser is paid double the deposit, however, if a clause of specific execution is included, the vendor cannot withdraw and the purchaser can legally force the vendor to sell.
While there are some subtle differences, most notably the role of the Notary in the signing of the Contract, the buying process is relatively straightforward in comparison to buying in the UK.
Buyers guide to Portugal