Real Estate in Metro Medellin: Smart Buying Tips from ‘La Lonja’
Foreigners exploring real-estate opportunities in metro Medellin can be overwhelmed by unfamiliarity with Colombian business customs, legal requirements, sales-price “reasonableness,” a still-maturing multiple-listing service (MLS) network and uncertainties about the reliability of contractors, agents and sellers.
Which is why Medellin Herald sought the advice of metro-Medellin’s real-estate trade association, La Lonja de Propiedad Raiz de Medellin y Antioquia.
Here is what La Lonja communications and training director Sandra Bedoya told us in the following series of questions-and-answers:
Medellin Herald: When did La Lonja launch its real-estate multiple listing service (MLS) for the metro Medellin market?
Bedoya: About six years ago, that is, in 2009.
Medellin Herald: How would you compare the MLS system in the USA to the MLS in Medellin and in Colombia?
Bedoya: The general objective of the MLS here – like the MLS in the USA — is to promote collegiality among realtors and real estate companies, as well as to develop a shared, strong, robust portfolio that allows customers the best way to find the right homes.
Medellin Herald: Why don’t all real estate agents here in Colombia post their listings to the MLS?
Bedoya: In the first place, this is because of the informality that historically has been customary among brokers and real estate agents in Colombia. But it’s also because the MLS as a “brand” is relatively new here, and its development requires promotion across-the-board in different sectors, promoting the benefits, services and collective, fundamental work — for the good of everyone.
Medellin Herald: If a foreigner intends to invest in a building-development project (“sobre planos”) rather than buying an existing house, apartment or commercial building, then how can this investor be assured about the reliability of the construction company, the project-compliance conditions, the fiduciary that administers the investor funds, and the over-all financing of the project?
Bedoya: The most important thing that a person investing in a building-development project (“sobre planos”) can do is to look for a construction company that is affiliated with the local real-estate trade association, such as La Lonja. What’s more, it is important to determine that these projects are financed by a local Colombia bank — and that the fiduciary is monitored by the Colombian government’s financial supervisory agency, the Superfinanciera (see: www.superfinanciera.gov.co).
Medellin Herald: What has been the impact of USA dollar appreciation on real estate prices in Medellin and Antioquia?
Bedoya: We have not seen any effect of the dollar’s appreciation in the real estate market in our region. However, a short-term, slight increase in property prices is expected, since some of the building materials are imported.
Medellin Herald: What advice can La Lonja offer to foreigners looking to invest here?
Bedoya: One of the most important things we recommend is that foreigners should consult with local professionals in the area for which the property is located, before making a purchase. Professionals also can help a buyer select a property with an attractive location, good amenities, and at a price that is competitive in the market — besides guiding them through the legal process of buying the property.
Medellin Herald: Where can a foreigner find information about the legal requirements for investments in Colombian real estate? And how can one be sure that the property has no liens or other legal problems that could block or complicate purchase and sale?
Bedoya: One of the basic steps to buy a property here is to review what is known in Colombia as a certificate of tradition and freedom of the property (“certificado de tradición y libertad del inmueble”), which reveals the legal history of the property and helps you avoid problems that might hinder a purchase. [Editor’s note: For each property, this certificate is available at this internet address: https://www.supernotariado.gov.co/portalsnr/]. However, before making a purchase, it is strongly recommended that you hire a qualified lawyer to conduct a proper investigation of titles, so that a transaction is completed successfully.
Medellin Herald: Is it true that anyone in Colombia can be real estate agent? If so, then how can one be sure of the agent’s qualifications, honesty and competence?
Bedoya: This is a very important question because, as you have indicated, anyone in Colombia can be a real estate agent. So, one of the ways in which an investor can find a recognized, competent and honest agent is to check whether this agent is enrolled as a member of a professional real-estate association, which in our country is known as La Lonja.