Two Heartwrenching Stories In Real Estate Practice


In my real estate practice, I have encountered many situations where it becomes clearly more of a service than a real business. In these situations, the professional fee one normally expects at the end of a transaction takes a backseat to the overwhelming urge to just help a fellow human being in need!

Let me elaborate what I mean by way of  a recent personal experience.

Recently, at a local medical facility for a routine executive checkup, we (my wife and I) were surprised to meet an old widower and acquaintance from a nearby city also lining up for a check up accompanied by a male helper! This old guy – an office mate at the old plant where I was previously working – now appears very wrinkled, old, and very sickly. We fell into casual conversation – and it appeared that he has a myriad of illnesses that he could barely stand up being dizzy all the time (but was forced to) come to the clinic. His children seldom checks on him nowadays and the helper was just left with him – to take care of him, but unfortunately he has very limited budget at this time to buy his medicines, or to tide them over for the next day.

Knowing that I am a broker, he asked me to help him sell his two properties to pay for his medical, and other personal needs. Okay no problem. I readily agreed – knowing his dire situation.

So the very next day, I drop over to his old house to check his documents. At the old house which is now very dilapidated, but which he is reluctant to leave for sentimental reasons – he received me somewhat ashamed of his situation.

I assured him that it’s okay,  and asked for the usual documents. After rummaging around an old cabinet, he came up with a tattered old envelope containing the Transfer Certificate of Title, Tax Declaration, and others – asking that his property be sold immediately. I carefully studied the documents and found out the following:

Property No. 1: This is a residential along the national highway with an area of 300 Square Meters – and which he wants sold at P 1.5 Million. He bought this 15 years ago for only P 200,000 he said.

A quick computation shows that he now values it at P 5,000 per Square Meter! But I have recently seen several for sale signs of similar properties near it selling with at only P 2,500 per Square Meter.

After doing some consultation with other brokers – we determined that the fair market value in that area is only P 1,500 per Square Meter.

I went back to him saying: “If you want your property to be sold fast, I suggest your sell it at P 1,500 per Sq. M.!” But he was adamant as some colurum salesman has promised to sell it at that very high price! I found out also from him that the colurum broker marked up the price from the original P 4,000 to P 5,000 per Square meter. Whew!

I advised the old man that marking up the price is against our Code of Ethics – and will make his property even unsaleable! The broker’s professional fee should be in terms of percent of the final price. Eventually, however after much convincing, he agreed to a more reasonable price. Whew! Problem solved!

Next problem.

Next I found out that he has not paid the real property tax (RPT) for several years already. The RPT has now ballooned up to P 80,000. Solution? Well, I advised him to ask for an advance payment from the buyer (whoever he is at this point!) to pay for this obligation to the city government. Okay!

Another bigger problem this time!

I also found out that he has not had the property resurveyed since buying it fifteen years ago (to make sure that the property he is claiming is really his – especially as this is a rural area with few visible markers!). Since the surveyor’s fee is P 5,000 just to relocate the corner points, I volunteered to pay for this amount upfront provided he promise to repay me once the property is sold – whenever it will be. Agreed!

I then immediately have his title checked by my favorite Geodetic Engineer – and the very next day after doing some research and field survey, he came back with a shocking news. The title is spurious!

As they often say in this situation: if the tree is poisoned then the fruit is also poisoned – or more or less to that effect. This is a classic example of the fruits of the poisoned tree principle!

We cannot say outright that it is fake (or can we?)  – because it was really registered at the Register of Deeds (RD), and the title is really authentic!

But here’s the catch: evidently many years ago when it was surveyed, the survey returns or documents was not submitted by the Geodetic Engineer to the Land Management Bureau (LMB) – he just faked the signatures of the approving officials then – and on that basis the title was issued by the RD.

Eventually, the original owner of the lot also passed away, and the property was inherited by a grandchild who has it resurveyed, and then a new title was issued for the same lot. This lot was then eventually sold to another person – who is now occupying it!  By the way, the Geodetic Engineer concerned already passed away several years ago.

All these years, the poor old man assumed that he has a property along the highway – and his children (who are all degree holders, by the way) did not care to even check on their property – purportedly as they are really very, very busy.

Double titling: There was a window of several years in the past here in Iligan City when double titling was a rampant practice – and this is now common knowledge among us Geodetic Engineers – as we are now experiencing problems of multiple claimants to a property. The old man was a victim of this racket! Goodbye P 200,000! (Nowadays with the computerization of almost everything, it can be immediately checked if the survey records is authentic or not!)

When I tactfully told the old man of the problem – he was naturally dumbfounded. I then advised him to sue the pants off the illegal colurum broker who sold him the property (who is still around by the way). Time to go to a lawyer I said – but he said he has no money.

So what next?

Of course, on my part how can I sell a property with a problem such as this? As a professional and as a matter of principle, I have also to protect the interest of my buyer.

Imagining myself to be a good Samaritan and since we are friends anyway, I called by long distance his children abroad (and in the Philippines), whom I also personally knew – just to explain the real problem, and so that they can act as a family. No dice! Very busy – even to make a return call.

Well…

Moral of the story? In the Philippines, don’t assume that since you hold a title to a property, your ownership is absolutely foolproof. Are you sure that a colurum broker, or perhaps even the owner – has not sold it several times to other innocent buyers already?

Instead I suggest that an owner should conduct due diligence. Have your own copy of the original survey sketch plan duly approved by the LMB. Better yet, bring these plans to the LMB and have it authenticated if it is real! Also, if you have money – fence off immediately your property – as a physical manifestation of your ownership. That way adverse claimants if any will surely come out of the woodwork!

Finally, it’s very heart wrenching to see a person financially dependent on his children at old age for his medicine and upkeep. Much better to save money when young for our use when we are already old – as we cannot expect help from them all the time – especially if they now have their families/ husbands / wives to consider.

There is another tragic sequel to this story, and it relates to his property no. 2. Its about losing our owner’s duplicate copy of the title (this means going to court and possibly shelling out more than P 50,000 for the lawyer, publication and other related legal expenses) , the necessity of an extra-judicial partition of a property, and practical tips on how to sell a property when you are a widower.

Until the next time!

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