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Buying property? Mind the Conmen

ONE of the most misunderstood things about the property business in Zimbabwe is that profit is made when you buy the correct asset, not when you sell.


Potential buyers are said to be getting careless when buying to the extent of not asking why the seller is selling the asset or even to cross check with relevant departments if the stand being sold does exist, or if they are dealing with the owner of the property.
According to legal experts and the Estate Agents Council of Zimbabwe, a lot of people are losing thousands of US dollars to conmen who are selling stands that either do not exist or do not belong to them.
In an interview with businessdigest Raydon Properties managing director Andrew Chifamba said the rate at which people were losing money to “stand fraudsters” was disturbing.
“There is need to do background checking when buying a stand. Gentlemen’s agreements are an ancient way of doing business and what appear to be bargains are most of the time not bargains at all,” Chifamba said.
Chifamba said the Deeds office was a public office and anyone involved in the purchase of a stand should visit them to verify the authenticity of the stand being sold.
“Some people are making fake title deeds and after the sale is concluded they will be nowhere to be found. One would have lost thousand of dollars,” said Chifamba.
He said apart from verifying the authenticity of the stand, it was also safer to make all transactions through a lawyers’ trust fund, who will in turn pay the seller of the stand after all the necessary verification was done.
“It is wiser to spend money in legal fees and the deeds office than to lose lots of money,” he advised.
If lawyers handle transfers of properties or stands, the buyer is guaranteed to receive their money in the event that there are complications on the deal.
“The money is paid in a lawyers’ estate agent trust account. Estate agents should have a valid compensation certificate. To further verify the certificate one can call the Estate Agent Council of Zimbabwe,” Chifamba said.
Chifamba pointed out that while the number of people losing money when buying residential properties was declining, many people where defrauded when purchasing stands.
“People never learn from past events. History repeats itself because we do not learn from it. We only memorise historical dates and names not lessons,” Chifamba said.
Meanwhile, Seef Properties said prices of residential properties had stabilised and it was unlikely that there would be a significant increase in the short-term.
In its latest report Seef said: “Although we believe the market has turned the corner, we do not believe there will be any real price increases for months as progress on economic growth will be slow while national policies for investment remain unclear.”
“It is true that the turnover of property is low, as many owners are taking agent’s advice to delay selling if they do not have to move in the next three to six months. It is not true to conclude prices are still declining.
“We do not believe that prices of residential property in our market (medium to low density residential property) have dropped any more than 30%, and we believe the market has stabilised.”
Seeff Zimbabwe said the recent increase in sales bear witness what some of the economists have said that the positive side of the economic recovery has already started.
The company added that property investors were therefore advised to buy now or find themselves buying on an upswing and missing out on really excellent opportunities.

 

Paul Nyakazeya

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