Mis-adventures of an Aspiring Real Estate Broker # 2 : Caveat emptor (Let the buyer beware)

In this business, you can encounter many strange and foolish things things that people do. They tend to scrutinize their purchases at the food market, looking carefully at the labels, taking time to compare prices, and arguing for discounts with the store clerk, yet the same guy makes a foolish real estate investment decision that costs millions.The Latin motto ” caveat emptor” is thrown to the winds once they are swayed by the silver-tongued salesman.

A wise man once said, ” If you invest in jewelry, do not ask for advice from a brick-maker”, but often a buyer will scrimp on the professional fee of a surveyor relying instead on the owner to point out the location of his property for sale.

Case No. 1 – Mr. B.A. retired from his company after 30 years working up the corporate ladder. He retired as a Fabrication Department manager and received the “golden handshake” – a hefty sum of money to tide him in his golden years. So he followed the trend – after all his friend Mr. R did the same. He planned of becoming a gentleman farmer. Free exercise, and a substantial income once his farm becomes productive. Good plan!

He bought a parcel of 5 hectares coconut land near the highway about 8 kilometers from the city. The property was inherited by the owner, and was a parcel subdivided from a mother title. The subdivided properties were rectangular shaped adjacent to each other, and owned by each of the 7 brothers.  After the usual paperwork, the money changed hands, and the property is finally his!

Excited with his new investment Mr. B.A. even hired the former owner himself to clear the land of the old coconut trees, and replaced it with mango of the fast growing variety. He invested handsomely  in labor, seedlings, fertilizer, and so on. Every day he went to his farm puttering around excited that the mangoes are so growing well.

Four years later he happens to visit me in my realty office – proudly showing pictures of his blooming mango trees – excited that soon he will be harvesting and selling mango fruits from his farm.

After admiring the photo, and congratulating him on his successful venture, I mentioned in passing that I was recently licensed as a Geodetic Engineer by the Professional Regulation Commission. I asked him if he had his property surveyed before he purchase it and offered to make a sketch plan for him for free. He said no, anyway it was the owner and his brothers who pointed out the lot. I suggested, why not have it surveyed, to which also  he agreed.

That weekend, I sent a survey party to his farm suspecting nothing . But he was in for the shock of his life! After it was surveyed, we found out that the property he thought as his, and which he had developed into a mango plantation is not his after all!

The lot he actually paid for  is the adjacent one, and the seller was mistaken in selling the said lot to him. His real lot is the one beside it – still vacant. The one he developed is actually owned by another brother. Dismayed, he approached the owner and proposed a property swap, hoping that since it was his brother who mistakenly sold the property, he would be cooperative. But for some unknown reason the said brother became reticent and refused. The case is now pending in court.

Mr. B.A’s problem stems from the fact that he scrimped on paying for the services of a surveyor to ensure that he was buying the right lot.

Case No. 2 – Mr. M.C. is also another employee from a factory in the city who was working in the clinic as a medical technologist. His case is similar to that of Mr. B.A. From his savings, he  purchased a nice 1,000 square meter residential property in one of the affluent subdivisions of the city. For many years, Mr. M.C. is a weekend gardener regularly visiting his small patch of land until it is became filled with flowers, banana, vegetables, and a variety of fruit trees. He even built a small nipa hut where he sometimes rest during very hot days.

One time, Mr. M.C. came to the office requesting me to sign his construction drawings as he had decided to build a concrete fence. These drawings needs to signed and sealed by a civil engineer for his building permit application. Of course, I looked at the drawings carefully, and noticed that Mr. M.C’s lot is an inside lot – and not a corner lot as he said it is. I pointed this out to him, and suggested that he should immediately hire a Geodetic Engineer to check the location of the property – as he may be trespassing.

To make a long story short, it was later found out that the lot he had been cultivating for sometime – thinking it was his – is actually that of his neighbor. His neighbor in his turn, also occupied another property – thinking it was also his, and so forth down the line. Some sort of a domino effect! Good that Mr. M.C. has followed my advice and surveyed his property before putting up a fence – otherwise he might had been charged with trespassing.

Lesson : “Caveat emptor”. Also, “Cogita ante salis”  – Think before you leap, or look before you leap.

It really pays to be sure. And as they say, ” if we are not sure, ask”. Lol


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