1. Theoretically it is possible to seal a deal within a few days in Poland. As foreigners we have experienced various problems that have made this a lengthy process.
One of the problems is that estate agents themselves are often selling to a foreigner for the first time and haven't experienced working with permits. They are sometimes as unsure as we are.
After submitting our offer to buy we discovered that the house was actually partly built on an adjoining plot of land and not as shown in the plans. The adjacent plot of land also belonged to the same owner. The owner was happy to commit to the additional parcel of land in writing (although she did state that there were more up-to-date plans when in fact there were not) but the notary insisted that the plans were redrawn which was extremely advantageous to us because not only did the house occupy part of another plot but the fenced garden overlapped the plot of the next-door neighbour which was not apparent from the original plan. All is apparently being sorted out but hey what a potential nightmare if we had purchased it as it was. Goodbye freehold.
Rule 1. Always ask to view the plans and check that they bear an official stamp.
In Britain we know that we can go to the local planning office and check things out, but in a foreign country it's extremely difficult to know (a) where to go and (b) to ask questions and understand the answers unless you have an interpreter.
Personally I would recommend that you don't trust anyone - check things for yourself where you can. I would highly recommend the notary we came across - she was thorough, didn't accept things at face value - she checked them out. When the owner of the house stated that there was a more up-to-date plan, she got on the phone to the planning department and asked them herself. She returned to report that there was no newer plan.
It's very easy for Poles to confuse westerners who don't know the system and don't understand the language to go and ask. You can of course use property management consultants to avoid these pitfalls.
We viewed properties and made an initial offer in January 2006. Eventually the re-drawn plans were registered so that we could proceed with the next stage. The pace of beaurocracy appears to be fairly slow although I'm not convinced it would be any faster in Britain. Our estate agent has made every effort to assist with the preparation of documents and even amending my spelling in Polish which is definitely beyond the call of duty.
I am hoping that people who have purchased, also those who have come across problems will tell of their experiences so that other people will be able to avoid them. We'll highlight them here.