Buying Undisputed Property in Sierra Leone
By: Nyamacoro Silla
It is said that buying property in Sierra Leone is fraught with all kinds of difficulties. Judging by the stories I have heard in recent months this seems to be the case.
However with the rising cost of real estate in Sierra Leone in particular and West Africa in general buying property is seen as a very attractive and safer way to invest your money.
The cost of property varies in Sierra Leone and it really is all about location, location location and of course the ever essential connections .
I have heard of property prices in central Freetown not far off from prices in London.
In recent months I have known a handful of people who have ventured to purchase property (usually land) in Sierra Leone.
Having heard of some of the difficulties they encountered I thought it might be useful to write a straightforward guide for the ordinary person who might be thinking along these lines.
1. Firstly people usually hear of property available for sale through friends and or relatives however this should not be seen as a sign that the property is undisputed.
These are many horror stories of people buying property from close friends, relatives and or acquaintances only to find out that they had been duped into parting with large sums of money for a non- existent property or a property in severe dispute with several people claiming and proving ownership. If you are interested in any property brought to your attention make thorough informal enquiries right at the beginning of the process.
For instance ask people in the community whether they had noticed any signs of dispute about that particular property in the area you are wishing to buy. You may also want to check the courts if there is any litigation going on with the property you are interested in.
2. Once you have registered an interest that you wish to purchase a property you may be required to pay a deposit to confirm your intention. At this point the vendor must give you a copy of their conveyancing document.
3. At this point if you haven’t already done so it becomes imperative to engage the services of a lawyer as well as a surveyor. The lawyer and surveyor should act on your behalf and in your best interests.
Lawyer’s fees vary but as a guide 10% of the property price is what you may need to consider in terms of fee payment. Surveyor’s fees also vary but I would suggest asking for a breakdown of what the fees are for because to date no one I have spoken to has quite been able to determine what they are paying for.
Again to engage the services of both a lawyer and a surveyor ask amongst you friends and family for a recommendation also your lawyer may be able to recommend the services of a surveyor one they work with and know to be honest and efficient in their dealings.
4. The property should then be surveyed following the survey a new conveyancing document is drawn up and the surveyor needs to then have this new document signed by the minister at the ministry of land and surveys simultaneously a search must be done by your lawyer at the office of the registrar general to determine whether the property you are interested in buying is registered in the name of the person selling to you and that there are no other interested parties.
Do not rely on the results of the search though continue to make informal enquiries as to the authenticity of ownership.
5. Once the search comes up trumps, your local enquiries and or investigations have been made and the survey has been done you will need to pay the full amount for the property.
When you have paid fully the vendor should give you the original conveyancing document for the property as well as sign the new conveyancing document to hand the property over to you in a manner of speaking.
6. Following this your lawyer will ensure the sale of the property is registered at the registrar general’s office and you will need to pay the land tax; the NRA (National Revenues Authority) tax and the stamp duty.
You are legally required to pay all of these if you are purchasing property in Sierra Leone. Registration of the sale at the registrar general’s office also incurs a fee.
7. Finally if you have got to this stage and all has been completed you do need to secure the property and ask someone to keep watch over it particularly if you live abroad and only visit occasionally.