Buying a House

This is specifically about buying a house in Guatemala City. In other areas things will be similar.

The most complicated may be finding the property you want. With the lack of a multiple listing service (discussed in my blog) it is not fun but can be done. Then you just need to do the legal stuff. Yes, you will need a lawyer.

First, the records are in three places and need to match:

  • National registry
  • Municipality
  • Catastro (I think this is part of the minestry of finance)

The lawyer's job is to check the above, verify there are no liens, documents are not forged, ...
You can just point the seller at him and he can do all the work. If it is all OK we just set up a date for the Compra/Venta. The seller will need to bring photocopies of all the documents to him.

You may be used to having an escrow agent dealing with the paperwork. (They are an impartial third party who gets all the paperwork and money together, processes everything and then gives documents and money to the right people.) That doesn't exist. The buyer's lawyer does all this. You will need the money -- probably a cashier's check -- for the seller plus money for the transfer taxes (usually 3%), recording fees and, eventually, the fees your lawyer charges.

You may be told "let's put a low sales prices on the paperwork and save taxes. I have been told that the government is cracking down hard on this practice. It's your decision, of course, but from what I have been told it is a bad idea.