Apart from having to set aside a few million patacas, buyers must often deal with the sometimes Byzantine nature of Macau's continental European laws. The process of buying property is similar to that of Hong Kong. In the second-hand market, purchasers pay an initial deposit and then visit a lawyer with the seller to sign a formal agreement. But there the similarities end. Macau is ruled by continental-style civil law, while Hong Kong abides by common law. Buyers may assume they have the same rights and protections in Macau as in Hong Kong because they are so close to each other, but this is not the case. For example, in the second-hand market, buyers and sellers in Macau can both use the same lawyer, whereas in Hong Kong - owing to common law's adversarial nature - each party must retain their own solicitor. Furthermore, Macau has no formal licensing scheme, which Hong Kong implements through its Estate Agents Authority. Purchasers need to find out the chain of a property's ownership and who has the actual title. The most important person in a Macau property transfer is the notary who witnesses the signatories. Deposits can be anywhere from 10 to 30 per cent of the property's value. The more expensive a property, the lower the down payment as a percentage of the unit's total value. Institutional investors, such as investment funds, normally hire reputable international surveying firms as their agents to conduct negotiations or directly deal with landlords. General, ad hoc buyers typically either acquire properties directly from presentations at shows or more exclusively, by invitation-only appointments in hotel suites through reputable estate agents - but they seldom deal with banks and law firms. But buyers who want to make a real-estate investment need to be aware that it is a highly speculative market. Leanda Lee, a local academic who purchased a high-end flat in Taipa with her husband last year, says too few newcomers to the market fully understand the fundamentals of Macau's economy. 'People need to realise that any positive or negative news will quickly affect market prices ... If you want a fast buck, be wary because it's a speculative market,' she says. 'When the interest return on investments is 2 per cent [rental incomes], bells start ringing in most developed economies.' As she sees it, 'capital growth' is what people need to understand. She warns: 'don't enter if you're not ready to buy and hold.' Ms Lee says it is good that an increasing amount of quality housing is coming onto the market, but suggests that buyers be wary of jumping on property as an investment because of the volatility of the market.