WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 14: There has never been a time like the present to buy Bermuda real estate. 

Prices are considerably lower than they have been for years together with a mass array of available properties lend to the present buyers’ market. 

Buyers have at their disposal a huge inventory of properties to choose from and as such can aggressively negotiate prices considerably lower than the list price.

Conversely for a seller, properties can stay on the market for many months and there is even a substantial risk of property prices decreasing even further in value.

However, a prudent seller who has a strong desire or need to sell will consider various ways to ensure their property is sold as expediently as possible.

The price, condition of a property and the property’s location can often make or break a sale.

However, it is worth noting that there is a less obvious factor which can have a major influence on any sale, namely the legal component.

This is often overlooked by the seller but it can also make or break a sale.

The following real estate legal health check should be considered in order to expedite the sale and avoid putting off any potential buyers.

Locate your title deeds

Know the whereabouts of the title deeds to your property as they are crucial to the sale of your property. 

The whereabouts of your deeds can be an issue if your property has been in your family for generations. 

If your title deeds are under your mattress or under your sofa couch cushions you should consider keeping them in a safety deposit box or permit a law firm to hold them (usually at no charge) to avoid running the risk of them becoming lost or damaged. 

If you are unable to locate your deeds consult a lawyer who can then discuss with you the possibility of recreating title to your property.

Due to the unregistered land system in Bermuda, this is by no means an easy task.

Your title deeds need to show a clear ownership chain for the property for at least a 20-year period. 

There should be no doubt that you are the existing owner and have the power to sell the property. Further there should be no potential immigration issues. 

If your buyer is securing financing, their lender will also want be sure that there are no doubts surrounding the ownership. 

Trust companies

For example, if a trust, company or non-Bermudian owned the property previously, there are additional ownership requirements, which must be met to show clear ownership (such as confirmation that the trustees had power to hold land or confirmation that a non Bermudian obtained the correct licence). 

Sorting out these issues can take a considerable amount of time and delay a sale or even put a buyer off proceeding with the purchase. 

Once your deeds are located, consult with a lawyer who can address any issues with your title deeds.

A potential buyer will also want to ensure that the boundaries to the property match what appear to be the natural boundaries of the property (for example a hedge or wall). 

They will also want to ensure that there are no encroachments over the boundary lines.

Boundaries

Boundary issues are likely to arise if the property has never been surveyed or if the existing plan for the property was prepared many years ago. 

Knowing your boundaries is crucial should any potential buyer wish to develop the property and it will also ensure that your property is not encroaching onto neighbouring properties or your property is not being encroached on by neighbouring properties.

Any boundary issues are likely to delay a sale or even put off potential buyers in this highly competitive property market. 

If a survey is long overdue consult with your lawyer who can arrange a boundary survey and a new deed plan.

Once you consult with a lawyer on your real estate legal health check your property is likely to be more marketable in this buyer’s market.

MARCELLE BEACH is an associate at Trott & Duncan. Call Trott & Duncan for your real estate legal health check. The firm’s number is 295-7444

This column should not be used as a substitute for professional legal advice. Before proceeding with any matters discussed here, it is advised that you consult with a lawyer.