REAL ESTATE MINUTE With Cyril Nii Ayitey Tetteh
My friend Shapiro prides himself at being visionary and quick at smelling and making quick deals. Indeed, it is how he got his nickname back in high school. He has largely lived true to the name till last December when he came crying. He had just paid triple times over the cost of land he bought in Tse Addo, Accra. Shapiro bought this land about 2 years ago and just when he thought he had signed off on the deal, he went to site one day only to see a message left nicely on a wretched looking card board with the inscription “land not for sale, keep off or call this number”. That was the start of his troubles, long story short, he had to deal with 2 different “original landlords” for 2 odd years and as if that wasn’t annoying enough, he had to contend with land guards, who depending on how loudly their stomach churned or how much phone data they needed, showed up especially on fridays to collect “something for the weekend”.
I am sure you have a friend like Shapiro too, or you yourself have been prey for all these predators in landlord clothing. To avoid this unwarranted headache, here are your 5 commandments to buying land stress free. Ready? Get your tablets out now.
- Conduct viewing more than once
It may surprise you to know that, fraudulent agents or so called landlords can prep sites to look unoccupied and available on particular days and times. So, beyond your first viewing, go to site without the knowledge of the supposed seller or agent. This way, you can be privy to any other activity or claim by any other party. As a precautionary measure, do not go there alone; go with a friend or any other form of company, just in case you meet an unfriendly situation that requires support.
- Conduct a Search
As soon as you indicate interest in the land, ask for copies site plan. You will probably be given options to conduct an official or unofficial search at the Lands Commission. While the unofficial search seems quicker (results can be accessed in a few days) than the official search which takes a couple of weeks, it is recommended that you opt for the official search which is more credible and comes with a report to show bearer of title. In addition, hire a licensed surveyor to independently verify the actual dimensions or demarcations on the physical plot of land as sometimes there are variances between what is marked on the site plan and what is on the ground.
- Agree an instalment payment plan
So even if you are Jeff Bezos or Elon Musk, do not pay cash in full; repeat do not pay cash in full! Get your most powerful negotiation hat on and strike a deal to pay by installments, usually tied to attainment of certain milestones. The idea here is that you are hedging the transaction against unforeseen eventualities like a dispute, so that when they unfortunately do come up, you may not be in neck deep not to back out. Even with payment by installments, it is highly advised you do a bank transfer so you can leave traces of the transaction and that also serves as a double check on the authenticity of the seller through the bank.
- Transfer and Register title
If your initial due diligence and searches check out, you can go ahead and sign a sale and purchase agreement which will outline the terms and responsibilities of both parties of the transaction. The payment terms, delivery date, warranties etc. are some of the clauses that will protect both parties since the agreement is legally binding. Please note however that, this is by no means a transfer of title. In order for the transaction to be fully complete, there has to be a transfer of interest or rights of land owner to the new buyer. While a sale and purchase agreement sets out the guidelines of the transaction, only a proper transfer can legitimize ownership.
- “Test the ownership”
As part of your continued due diligence, you may have to do what I call “testing the ownership” to find out if the land is clean, unencumbered and free of any litigation. If you have struck a good installment payment plan, after fulfilling the first installment, get a truck load of sand, gravels or chippings and unload it unto the site. Indeed if you can, go ahead and even build a fence wall around the land, it could even be a short fence wall, the whole idea is that, if there is any fraudulent sale here, the real owners or other short changed parties will emerge, for you to decide to take the issue up or cut your losses and move on rather than losing the full amount or going to court to litigate.
See, these are pointers that should have been a matter of course, but sometimes in our excitement and haste to strike a good deal, these precautions escape us. Be vigilant and sharp, just not the Sharpiro kind of sharp i.e. rushing to seal deals, without adhering to the commandments.
The writer is the Executive director of Yecham Property Consult
& Founder of Ghana Green Building Summit.
Email: [email protected]
LinkedIn: Cyril Nii Ayitey Tetteh
YouTube: Real Estate Minute