12 STEPS TO BUYING & REGISTERING YOUR FIRST LAND IN ACCRA, GHANA
Here is the twelve-step-by-step guide to help locals and foreigners in Ghana register lands and houses in Accra Ghana without experiencing any land disputes in the future. Follow the same steps if you are buying properties in other regions of Ghana:
- Get A Real Estate Lawyer
- Run A Search At Lands Commission
- Negotiate Directly with The Owner
- Hire an Independent Licensed Surveyor
- Conduct A Thorough Due Diligence
- Draft A Lease Or Purchase Agreement
- You Need A Witness
- Test The Grounds
- Register Your Land
- The Internal Revenue Service
- Land Title Document
You can buy your land or house in Accra, Ghana without any land litigation issues if you follow the following step-by-step guide to the letter. But first, let’s understand what is classified as land in Ghana. I know what you’re thinking, land in Ghana from a legal perspective is the bare land you’re buying including any other thing that is attached to it (that includes the structure or home you built on it). In other words, anything that you cannot take away is part of the land. One of the main cases in Ghana Court has to do with land litigation.
CAN NON-CITIZENS OWN A PROPERTY IN GHANA?
Absolutely. Foreign nationals and expats can buy a house or land in Ghana. Remember the definition of land in Ghana as stated above. If a non-citizen buys for the seek of argument, land, the Ghana constitution allows a leasehold term to be not more than fifty (50)years, however, you can renew the lease interest. I will discuss what to put in place for lease renewal a bit later.
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To avoid land litigation and losing money, here is a checklist to follow if you don’t have any legal claims in the future:
1. GET A REAL ESTATE LAWYER
First thing first. Get an experienced real estate lawyer. Don’t try to pinch pennies to save money. Note that all lawyers are not the same. I can’t stress that enough. Every lawyer has a field he or she specializes in. But in Ghana, most lawyers are generalist-they will take on any transaction.
2. RUN A SEARCH AT LANDS COMMISSION
Once you are on the page with the price, request for a site plan to conduct a search at the Lands Commission. In Accra, there have been land title search reforms or policies in three divisions namely, public and Vested Lands Management Division(PVLMD), Land Registration Division(LRD), and Survey mapping Division(SMD) searches merged into a consolidated search report(one search report). Just a heads-up, don’t get carried away when the search results match the name of the vendor on the indenture or site plan given. Leave nothing to chance, google search on the name of the owner on the indenture given to you to see if there is any court case. Perhaps the land may have a court case pending or in progress, but the High Court has not sent an order to the lands commission. So, the disputed owner’s name may still be on records, but not necessarily the owner’s. Now you understand? This happened to someone I know who end up losing several thousands of dollars. There are lots of nuances.
This tip i’m going to say is not everyone’s taste but i will say it anyyways. I will suggest that you look for uncompleted houses for sale in Accra. The reason is that these uncompleted houses owners may have solved any litigation when they started building. The drawback however is that you may have to customize it to fit your preference. The lay out may not fit how you want your house to look like. You will require break the concrete walls to make ways for customization.
3. NEGOTIATE THE PRICE DIRECTLY WITH THE OWNER
Never negotiate the pricing with any middlemen or agents or so-called caretakers (they come wearing different hats). I strongly advise you to meet the owner in person and have on-one-talk. During the meeting, ask about the history of the land.
4. GET YOUR INDEPENDENT LICENSED SURVEYOR
Take your licensed surveyor to the site to pick the coordinate according to what the vendor showed you and prepare you a site plan. Make sure the site is signed by a licensed surveyor (in this case your surveyor) and the Director of Survey or representatives. Another good thing is to visit the land by yourself or someone you can trust to do preliminary due diligence on what is going on the land and ask neighbors about the land. Trust me, in Ghana, everyone knows what is going on near their land. Most land vendors have several acres and when a buyer comes looking to buy, they can accidentally or purposely provide you with a site plan that is not for your land.
5. CONDUCT A THOROUGH DUE DILIGENCE
Do a search at Ghana High Court to see if there is litigation or judgment against the land you’re trying to buy. Also, do a search at Land Use and Spatial Planning Authority, otherwise known as a zoning search. Your land must match the type of development you want to build, otherwise, you will have to apply to re-zone. Also, make sure the vendor you’re buying the land from attorn tenancy to the allodial owner. In other words, make sure they paid ground rent to the allodial owner. It is not a lump sum, but if many went by unpaid it adds up to a huge amount. If it is unpaid, deduct that from the purchase price. That is not your responsibility.
6. DRAFT A LEASE OR PURCHASE AGREEMENT
Once you are satisfied with the due diligence and want to pull the trigger, let your lawyer draft a purchase and sale agreement and endorse it with a stamp. Make sure your name or entity you that will hold the title is appropriately spelled-out and without typos otherwise, you wouldn’t be able to sell it later on. Typos are costly in real estate, so you want to double check every word. In the lease or purchase agreement make sure to insert a provision or clause for lease renewal(after 50 years or 99years) and state the rates(the amount), and the terms (if different from the current terms) so there won’t be any problem with the person that will be inheriting the property.
7. YOU NEED A WITNESS
The two parties (seller and buyer) need a qualified witness to sign the Lease or Purchase Agreement as well. Upon fully executed purchase agreement, it cements the interest of the buyer and the owner. The seller or owner will then transfer the land title to your name or entity involved in the transaction. Please note: no one can transfer the land title to you except the legal owner of the land.
8. TEST THE GROUNDS
Remember, I earlier recommend you visit the site with your licensed surveyor, that should be a preliminary visit, I recommend you go a step further by doing some activity on the land like putting up a wall, or a fence, or dumping a heap of sand on the land and watch for a week or two if someone will show up to make legal claims. In Ghana, most landowners observe or have people observing for them against any encroachment or title claims. If the land you are about to purchase has title disputes, the legal owner will show up in a blink of an eye.
Be very cautious of landowners asking you for upfront payment because they have pressing needs to resolve. Also, never pay real estate agents half commission demands until you are sure the land is without issues. Chances are, you will not get any refund of any payment you made upfront if the deal goes south. I would also say without hesitation that if you can afford all cash, don’t hand over everything. I recommend that you pay in installments to “test the waters” just in case there is any claim you wouldn’t lose all your hard-earned money.
10. REGISTER YOUR LAND
Registration causes conclusive evidence of ownership that you are the owner, to say the least. If your land is not recorded at the land registry, there is no conclusive evidence that you are the owner, not even your land title certificate will override that. To register, first provide the Lands Commission with all endorsed documents, including the land registration processing fee. If everything is checked fine, then Ghana Land Valuation Board will stamp it and certifies the registration for the registration process to continue.
11. THE INTERNAL REVENUE SERVICE
The Ghana Land Valuation Board will provide the IRS with all your land documents they have processed for tax clearing. Once, you are cleared of tax, you the buyer will be rewarded Tax Clearance Certificate. That is not all, this certificate will be sent back to Lands Commission for final registration to be complete at the Deeds Registry.
12. LAND TITLE DOCUMENT
At long last, the battle has ended! You will be awarded the original copy of the land title document from the Deeds Registry. This original land title document shows you are now the legal owner. It authenticates the name in which the land is registered. It also comes with an indenture or deed of conveyance.
If you are buying land in the Eastern region i will advise you to run a title search at both Accra lands commission and Koforidua lands commission/land records. To give you a live example, a land investor (name withheld) approached us with his 4 -acres of land at Ayi Mensah. We run a title search and there were three (3) other owners registered on the same 4 acres – a parcel each. The question is how could this happen? He was shocked but it is already too late. I see his money going into flames. He is never going to get his money back.
The mistake he made was before he bought the land, he did a title search in Eastern region only because he thought the land falls in the eastern region. Those other three owners registered theirs in the Accra land commission and not the Eastern region. Greater Accra region shares borders with the Eastern region. There is no clear demarcation and most of the time there is a conflicting issue as to where the land should be registered especially in border towns like Ayi Mensah, Oyarifa, and several other suburbs that fall under the Aburi environs.
What are the causes of land disputes in Ghana?
Greed, double sale, chieftaincy dispute, indeterminate boundaries on customary owned lands, and lack of thorough due diligence are the main cause of land litigations in Accra. People don’t like to spend time on verification and due diligence on the land as well as the seller. If you are a busy person or absentee buyer, we can do that for you.
As you can see the process you will go through to register your land is so monotonous, tiresome, costly and time-consuming that is why most people don’t and that is one of the causes of so much litigation in the country. Follow every step to the letter to avoid court cases and legal claims against your property.
Are you a foreigner looking to make Ghana your next home or a Ghanaian living abroad? Or you are a local looking for a professional real estate service provider in Accra Ghana? We have received several requests from our platform visitors looking for real estate services. That is why we set up Villashark one-stop-shop diaspora services , serving all your real estate needs in Ghana. There are 60,000 court cases all related to real estate–land litigation. 40% of people attended a court hearings and about 60% attended a court hearing 100 times. About 15000 cases are pending and only 20% of cases are resolved. You don’t want to spend the rest of your life fighting legal battle in court to win your land back, do you?
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