Ways To Avoid Being Conned In A Property Transaction.

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Many People have fallen prey to unscrupulous property dealers posing as property owners or brokers. In the process, they have lost a lot of money, In some instances, this will lead to conflicts with family members, partners or other business associates. 

Biashara Leo sat with Ms Macharia a registered valuer and estate agent where she shared her thoughts on how to to avoid or reduce chances of being conned;

  1. KNOW YOUR AGENT/BROKER

The first person you are likely to meet when buying a property is a property agent or a property broker. It is important that you carry out an investigation of who you are dealing with. There are many people who pretend to be property agents. How do you tell who is genuine and who is not.

First, you should get the identification of the person. Ask to see his identity card and make a copy for your reference. Also get to know where they operate from, do they have an office? It is not okay to negotiate for properties worth millions of shillings from a restaurant or on the road side. Are they registered to practice as estate agents – ask for a copy of their registration certificate and also confirm the registration with the Estate Agents Registration Board.  All registered estate agents are gazetted at the beginning of every year, so obtain a copy of the Kenya gazette, easily accessible in the internet. You can also ask your agent to show you a copy. If possible get a photo of the agent. It might help you identify them in future if it becomes necessary

2. KNOW THE SELLER

It is absolutely critical that you know your seller even if you are transacting through the lawyers. Do not buy the agent’s excuse that it is not possible to meet the seller, as sometimes they will make you believe.

 Once you have their details, ID or passport, have these counterchecked at the Registrar of Persons or at the immigration. If the seller is a company, get a copy of their registration certificate and carry out check at the Registrar of Companies. Whenever possible arrange for a face to face meeting with the seller. Learn as much as you can about them

3. KNOW THE PROPERTY

When buying a property, you should obtain all the details relating to that property.  Obtain a copy of the Certificate of Title or Certificate of Lease. In the case of a Certificate of Lease, ask your agent/owner or lawyer to also give you the Lease document.

You can also talk to the neighbors especially in developed areas. Most neighbors know each other and they know who property belongs to. They even know where there are disputes.

Try and get a history on the property like who the previous owner was. These details are normally available in the correspondence file for the property. Also check other documents like the Ndungu Report and confirm that the property was not a public utility earmarked for repossession or set aside for a public utility like a road.

If you suspect that the land is part of road reserve, check with KENHA or KURA.  You must buy a survey map of the property. This is the only way to ascertain that the land exists on the ground. Ever heard of ‘flying titles’? Then engage a Licensed Surveyor to confirm the size of land

4. KNOW THE PRICE

It is good practice to independently establish the price of the property that you are interested in. You can do this by engaging the services of a Registered Valuer.Most property brokers and especially the unregistered ones will quote higher. Establishing the market price will therefore help you negotiate a better deal

5. AVOID PAYING MONEY DIRECTLY TO THE PURCHASER

Buying a property is a process that takes on average 90 days. Many sale contracts will include payment of a deposit. The best way is to deposit any monies paid as deposit with a registered estate agent or an advocate. The agent or the advocate will hold the money in a client account on behalf of the parties “ as stakeholders” and provide a guarantee to the seller that the money will be transferred to their account on completion of the sale. This way, your money is safe and should the sale fail, your money will be reimbursed.

6. AVOID CASH PAYMENTS

Most conmen will insist on cash payments especially the deposit. This helps remove any paper trail where you can obtain their details through the banks. Some are not even interested in the full purchase price. Once they get a deposit in cash they make a run for it. Payment by cheques or bank transfer is more ideal. It will help you trace the person if the deal fails.

7. LEGAL ADVISE

Engage a lawyer to draw a sale agreement for you and assist in the transfer. This will safeguard your interests. Professional services should be embraced and not shunned. 

8. OUTSTANDING STATUTORY PAYMENTS AND OTHER DUES

A search on the property will show you if the property has any encumbrances like bank loans, any cautions or inhibitions. Please note that some of these must be cleared before a transfer is registered and it is good to engage the seller on how they intend to do this.

9. BE PATIENT

You should not be in a hurry to close a deal. Conmen are  smooth talkers. They will always claim that there are other interested parties who are almost closing the deal to create a sense of urgency on the buyer to make a commitment. You should resist any attempts to be rushed into an agreement.

10. FOLLOW YOUR GUT FEELING

If a deal feels wrong, it probably is. You should walk away from a deal that doesn’t seem right even if the broker or agent tries to convince you otherwise.It will save you a lot of tears later on.

Ms Eunice Macharia is a Registered Valuer & Estate Agent, Current Deputy Chair of the Institution of Surveyors of Kenya and a Board Member of the Estate Agents Registration Board.

 

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