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Understand the title deed when buying a property in Colombia

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Considering property investment in Colombia can be rewarding. Options include vibrant city apartments and lush countryside retreats with significant investment potential.

However, for international buyers, navigating the complexities of the Colombian real estate market can be quite challenging, especially when it comes to verifying the authenticity and legality of the Escritura Pública de Compraventa, which is the official title deed in Colombia.

We have actually covered this specific document (among others, like the sales contract) in our property pack for Colombia.

In this article, we will give some insight to ensure a smooth and legally compliant property transaction in Colombia.

However, please do not forget that this blog post is for informational purposes only and that we are not legal experts. It's always advisable to consult with one. They can indeed thoroughly examine your specific situation and provide you with the most appropriate and tailored advice.

What is the Escritura Pública de Compraventa in Colombia?

In Colombia, the "Escritura Pública de Compraventa," often referred to as "Escritura de Compraventa," is a vital document in real estate transactions.

It's a public deed that legally formalizes the sale and purchase of property. When you buy property in Colombia, this document is what officially and legally transfers ownership from the seller to the buyer.

The Escritura de Compraventa is distinct from other property-related documents primarily due to its legal weight and finality.

While you may encounter preliminary agreements or contracts in the process of buying property, the Escritura is the ultimate, legally binding record of the sale.

It's executed in the presence of a notary and later registered with the public registry, which adds to its reliability and authenticity.

In terms of legal rights, the Escritura de Compraventa grants the buyer full ownership of the property. This means the buyer has the right to use, enjoy, and dispose of the property as they see fit, within the limits of the law.

It's the key document that demonstrates you are the legal owner of the property, essential for any future legal or administrative procedures related to the property.

As a reliable document, the Escritura is fundamental in property transactions. Its notarization and registration make it a trustworthy record of ownership.

However, it's important to note that the Escritura itself doesn't guarantee the condition of the property or certify that the property is free from liens or encumbrances. It's advisable to perform due diligence before the purchase to uncover any potential legal issues.

When it comes to resale and inheritance, the Escritura is indispensable. For resale, as the property owner, you'll need to present this document to transfer ownership to a new buyer. In the case of inheritance, the Escritura is crucial in the legal process of transferring the property to your heirs.

This is equally important for foreign investors, as it serves as their proof of ownership in Colombia, essential for any future transactions, be it selling the property or passing it on to heirs.

In short, the Escritura Pública de Compraventa in Colombia is the cornerstone document in property transactions, providing clear proof of ownership and facilitating future transactions such as resale and inheritance.

Understanding its role and limitations is key, especially for foreign investors navigating the real estate market in Colombia.

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How to verify a title deed in Colombia?

The process

To verify the authenticity of an 'Escritura Pública de Compraventa,' which is a public deed for real estate transactions in Colombia, you need to follow a few important steps.

This document is essential as it proves the legal sale and purchase of property, so ensuring its authenticity is crucial.

Firstly, the most reliable way to check the authenticity of an 'Escritura Pública de Compraventa' is through the Office of Public Instruments Registration (Oficina de Registro de Instrumentos Públicos) in Colombia.

This government body keeps a registry of all public deeds and transactions related to real estate. By contacting them, you can confirm whether the deed in question is officially registered and matches their records.

Notaries in Colombia play a crucial role in the creation and validation of these deeds. When a property is sold, the transaction must be documented in a public deed drafted by a notary.

It's a good idea to verify the notary's identity and credentials, as they are responsible for ensuring that the information in the deed is accurate and legal.

Lawyers can also be very helpful in this process. A reputable lawyer specializing in real estate law can assist you in understanding the deed, verifying its legitimacy, and checking for any legal issues.

They can liaise with the Office of Public Instruments Registration and notaries to confirm the validity of the deed.

Real estate agents, while useful in finding and negotiating property deals, may not be as effective in verifying the legality of a title deed. Their expertise lies more in the market aspects of real estate rather than the legal intricacies.

However, a reliable agent should guide you to the right legal and official channels for verification.

When examining the 'Escritura Pública de Compraventa,' pay close attention to details like the property description, the identity of the seller and buyer, and any encumbrances or liens on the property.

Discrepancies in these details can be red flags. Also, be cautious of deeds that are not registered with the Office of Public Instruments Registration, as this is a legal requirement.

Lastly, common scams to watch out for include falsified documents or transactions involving properties that are in legal disputes or have unresolved debts.

Always insist on verifying details through official channels and seek professional legal advice when in doubt.

This approach will help you navigate the process of property purchase in Colombia safely and legally.

What to check

To access and trace a property's history, you would typically go to the local Office of Instrument Registration (Oficina de Registro de Instrumentos Públicos).

Here, you can request a 'Certificado de Libertad y Tradición', which is a document showing the history of the property, including past ownerships, transactions, and any legal actions or claims against it.

Understanding the property's past is crucial because it ensures the seller has a clear title to sell and that there are no hidden legal issues that could affect your ownership.

Checking for outstanding debts or liens is another important step. In Colombia, debts or liens against a property, such as mortgages or legal judgments, are attached to the property itself.

This means they could become your responsibility if you purchase the property. These can be identified in the 'Certificado de Libertad y Tradición'.

If the property has encumbrances, it's crucial to understand them fully, as they could impact your ability to use the property or resell it in the future.

Verifying the accuracy of the property's measurements and boundaries as stated in the title deed is equally important. Discrepancies here can lead to disputes with neighbors or legal challenges.

To verify this information, compare the details in the title deed with a physical survey of the property. If discrepancies are found, they can often be resolved by hiring a licensed surveyor to make accurate measurements and, if necessary, updating the information with the Office of Instrument Registration.

Understanding zoning laws and land use restrictions is vital. These laws determine how you can use your property.

For instance, certain areas might be designated for residential use only, which would prohibit commercial activities. Information on zoning and land use restrictions can typically be obtained from the local planning or municipal office.

This knowledge is crucial as it affects your ability to make changes to the property and can influence its future value.

After our research and the feedback collected from our local real estate partners, we have written an article about the risks and pitfalls when buying a property in Colombia, you might want to check it out.

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How to update the title deed after the property transaction in Colombia?

After buying a property, updating the title deed is a crucial step.

Firstly, you and the seller must sign the Escritura de Compraventa in front of a notary. This process legalizes the document. The notary then sends it to the Public Registry Office for registration.

It's important to ensure that all information in the deed, like your name and property details, is accurate. Once the deed is registered, the property is legally yours. Remember, the registration process might take some time.

After your ownership is legally recognized, consider getting insurance for your property. This could include homeowner's insurance to protect against damage or loss, and liability insurance to cover any accidents that might occur on the property.

In Colombia, it's also advisable to look into title insurance. This protects you against any legal issues related to the property's title that might surface later.

Regarding inheritance laws, especially for foreign owners, the title deed plays a vital role. In Colombia, inheritance laws apply to properties owned by both residents and non-residents.

The laws are quite complex and can be influenced by several factors, including marital status and family relationships. If you're a foreign owner, it's wise to consult a local attorney who specializes in real estate and inheritance law.

They can guide you on how to best structure your property ownership in your Escritura de Compraventa to align with your future plans, especially regarding inheritance.

Remember, each case can have its nuances, so it's important to seek personalized advice from professionals in the Colombian real estate market. They can provide you with the most current and relevant information for your specific situation.

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This article is for informational purposes only and should not be considered financial advice. Readers are advised to consult with a qualified professional before making any investment decisions. We do not assume any liability for actions taken based on the information provided.