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Facts about real estate titles

I have received conflicting information about real property titles with the most recent episode being a person that very confidently explained to me that as of 2005, titles are only recorded here in Panajachel. He even told me who to ask at the Muni to verify this. This has inspired me to, once again, do some research. I am pretty confident what I am about to say is reality.

I am going to describe three kinds of property titles where title is maybe not the right word. This explanation comes with help from Ralph at Terra-X real estate.

First there are unrecorded property titles. Here there really is no recorded public record. Ownership lies on the fact that you can show a reasonable history for the property. This would generally in the form of legal documents (that is, drawn up by a lawyer) that shows a history of transfers of the property. The documents are not recorded in any property registry but, if necessary, you could follow the trail in lawyer’s protocol books.

The next form is where the title is recorded locally. The title is registered with the Municipality of Panajachel. Quite honestly, I don’t see what advantage this gives you over unrecorded other than you now have the right, and obligation, to pay property taxes which are collected at the municipality level.

Finally there are fully recorded titles. This is done on the national level and the records are kept in Xela and Guatemala City. If the title is recorded there you should have undisputed ownership.

The idea of locally recorded titles apparently came about in 1998. In order to prevent someone from recording a conflicting title at the national level, you must first get your title recorded at the local level. So, the steps in the process are:

  1. Get a lawyer to write up the sale. (From here on your lawyer will likely be doing all the steps.)
  2. Buy the tax stamps for the transaction.
  3. Submit the title to the Muni.
  4. The Muni then has 30 days to appraise the property (to decide if more tax is due).
  5. After 30 days or an OK from the Muni, the documents are submitted for recording in Xela.

Going from unrecorded to fully recorded is quite a bit more complicated. The first word of warning is expect to spend a year and more or less $2000 to get it done. Here are the basics:

  1. You need a lot plan. Basically, that means a survey which must then be presented to the neighbors and any conflicts resolved.
  2. The plan is then presented to a judge in Sololá for review. Besides resolution of what you claim with any claims of the neighbors, there are other possible considerations such as setbacks for possible expansion of the road and such.
  3. At this point you should be able to record the title locally (at the Muni) and then continue the process outlined above to get the property recorded in Xela.

If this conflicts with what you know, speak up but it seems to be correct. Note that if you have a property with an unrecorded title, you can get it recorded. Expect time and money to be involved.

2 comments to Facts about real estate titles

  • Bill

    It is my understanding that the 2005 date came from local changes because of Hurricane Agatha. It was simply when the option of local titles from the 1998 legislation was implemented here.

  • admin

    I am finally done with this process on my house. There is one final step.
    Once you get the documents back from Quetzaltenango (Xela) you need to bring a copy to the Muni in Panajachel. They will give you a receipt (it was actually a letter from my lawyer that described the steps. This way, the Muni will have their records in sync with Xena.

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