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Understand the title deed when buying a property in Panama

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Looking into property investment in Panama is promising. The country offers choices like beachfront condos, tropical villas, and city apartments with great potential for growth.

However, international buyers may find it challenging to navigate the Panamanian real estate market, particularly when verifying the authenticity and legality of the Escritura Pública de Compraventa, which is the official title deed in Panama.

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

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

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 Panama?

The "Escritura Pública de Compraventa," commonly referred to as "Escritura Pública" in Panama, is a crucial document in real estate transactions.

Essentially, it's a formal public deed that records the sale and purchase of property. This document is unique as it's not just a contract between buyer and seller; it's a legal record that's officially recognized and registered.

So, what makes the Escritura Pública de Compraventa stand out? In Panama, this deed is the definitive proof of ownership.

Once you have this document, it means the property is legally yours. It's different from other property documents like preliminary sales agreements or receipts because it's the final, formal step in transferring property ownership. Think of it as the difference between agreeing to buy a car and actually getting the title in your name.

Now, about the legal rights it confers: Holding an Escritura Pública de Compraventa gives you full ownership rights over the property.

You can live in it, rent it out, or make alterations (within legal limits, of course). In terms of reliability, it's top-notch. The document is prepared by a notary and registered with the Public Registry of Panama, ensuring its authenticity and legal standing.

However, it's important to know what the Escritura Pública doesn't do. For instance, it doesn't exempt you from following local laws and regulations concerning property, like zoning laws or building codes. It's your proof of ownership, but it doesn't place you above the law.

As for resale and inheritance, the Escritura Pública is key, especially for foreign investors. When you decide to sell the property, this document will be your primary proof of ownership and the basis for the new sale deed.

For inheritance, it ensures a smoother transition of property to your heirs, as it clearly establishes your ownership.

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How to verify a title deed in Panama?

The process

Verifying the authenticity of an "Escritura Pública de Compraventa" in Panama is a critical step in ensuring that a real estate transaction is legitimate and secure. This process involves several key entities and steps.

Firstly, the most direct way to verify the authenticity of this title deed is through the Public Registry of Panama (Registro Público de Panamá). This government body maintains records of all registered properties in Panama.

You can request a property report (informe registral) from the Public Registry, which will provide detailed information about the property, including the history of ownership and any encumbrances or liens against it. This report will confirm whether the Escritura Pública de Compraventa you have matches the official records.

Notaries in Panama also play a crucial role. They are responsible for preparing the Escritura Pública de Compraventa and have the authority to certify its authenticity.

If you have doubts, you can contact the notary who prepared the document. They can verify the signatures and the content of the deed.

Lawyers are equally important in this process. A reputable lawyer, preferably one who specializes in real estate transactions in Panama, can help you navigate the verification process. They can liaise with the Public Registry and the notary, and provide legal advice on the implications of the findings.

Real estate agents, while helpful in the buying and selling process, may not always be the best source for verifying legal documents. Their expertise lies more in the market aspects of real estate, such as pricing and negotiation, rather than the legal intricacies of title deeds.

However, a trusted and experienced agent might guide you to the right legal and notarial professionals for verification.

Ensure that all details in the Escritura Pública de Compraventa match those in the Public Registry. Any discrepancies in property description, owner's details, or other key information are red flags.

Always have a lawyer review the documents. A lawyer can spot inconsistencies or issues that you might not notice.

Be wary of any requests for payments or deposits outside the standard process, especially if asked to send money to personal accounts or overseas. If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. Unrealistically low prices can be a sign of a scam.

Remember, due diligence is key in real estate transactions. Taking these steps to verify the Escritura Pública de Compraventa can save you from potential fraud and legal complications in Panama.

What to check

Understanding the property title deed, known in Panama as 'Escritura Pública de Compraventa' or simply 'Escritura Pública', is crucial when dealing with real estate transactions.

This document is a legal testament to the property's ownership and history. Let's break down how to access and interpret this important document, and why it's vital for any potential property owner.

First, to access and trace a property's history in Panama, you need to visit the Public Registry of Panama (Registro Público de Panamá).

Here, you can request a Property Report (Informe de Propiedad) which contains the history of transactions, including past ownerships. Understanding this history is essential as it helps in identifying any possible legal issues that might affect your rights as a new owner.

Checking for outstanding debts or liens against the property is another critical step. Debts or liens, like mortgages or legal judgments, can be passed on to the new owner.

Therefore, it's important to ensure that the property is free of these encumbrances before finalizing any purchase. This information can also be found in the Property Report at the Public Registry.

As for the property's measurements and boundaries, these details are outlined in the title deed. To verify their accuracy, compare the deed's information with the actual physical measurements of the property. If there are discrepancies, they can often be resolved through a boundary adjustment process or by consulting a surveyor.

However, resolving these issues can sometimes be complex and might require legal assistance.

Finally, zoning laws and land use restrictions are critical to understand. These determine what you can and cannot do with the property. Information on zoning laws can typically be obtained from the local municipality or planning authorities in Panama.

It's important to check these restrictions to ensure that your intended use of the property is permissible under local laws.

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 Panama, you might want to check it out.

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

After purchasing a property in Panama, updating the title deed, known as 'Escritura Pública de Compraventa,' is a crucial step.

This process involves several specific stages to ensure the property is legally transferred to your name.

Firstly, the seller and buyer must sign the 'Escritura Pública' in the presence of a notary. This document includes vital details like the property's description, the sale price, and the identities of the parties involved.

Once signed, the notary public will officially record this document, making the transaction public and legally binding.

The next step is to register the updated title deed with the Public Registry of Panama (Registro Público de Panamá). This involves submitting the notarized 'Escritura Pública' along with required documents such as tax clearance certificates. The Public Registry then updates the property records, reflecting you as the new owner.

Regarding insurance and additional protections, once the title deed is verified and the property is yours, consider purchasing title insurance. This insurance protects against any legal issues that might arise from title disputes or unknown liens.

Additionally, property insurance is advisable to safeguard against damages from natural disasters, theft, or other unforeseen circumstances.

For foreign owners, understanding Panama's inheritance laws in relation to the title deed is important. In Panama, inheritance laws may differ from those in your home country.

Typically, Panamanian law respects the wishes outlined in a legally valid will, regardless of the owner's nationality. However, if there's no will, the property may be subjected to Panamanian inheritance laws, which might distribute the property differently than expected.

As a foreign owner, it's wise to consult with a legal expert in Panama, particularly when drafting a will that includes property in Panama. This ensures that your intentions for the property are clear and legally enforceable under Panamanian law.

Remember, understanding and following these processes and considerations will help ensure a smooth and legally sound property transaction in Panama.

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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.