When our firm had over the weekend its first outreach program, Carlos was the first person to approach me. He worked as a computer programmer for 10 years in Dubai. Upon his return to his hometown, he opened a small computer shop below the apartment unit where he is staying. After six (6) months of renting this apartment, his landlord offered to sell the apartment to him. Anxious about the offer, he went to seize the opportunity and asked: “Sir, what do I need to do before buying a property”?
Due diligence is the answer. A buyer must conduct a due diligence on the property he wants to buy before agreeing to buy such property. Due diligence involves researching and verifying relevant information such as the seller’s title to the property and checking the real property itself. Due diligence aims at assessing the risk involved in the acquisition of the real property. This is why it is more prudent to get the assistance of a lawyer in conducting a legal due diligence.
Nevertheless, I provided Carlos a checklist of items that he must particularly look into before finally deciding to buy the property. These are:
1. Get a copy of the owner’s duplicate copy of the title; compare this copy with the original copy filed with the Register of Deeds; check if the title bears security marks and its unique texture; compare the serial number; notably, the last two digits of the title number must be the same as the the last two digits of the page number located at the top right hand portion of the title.
2. Know the owner and/or the seller. Inquire about his citizenship, age, and civil status.
3. Know the extent of ownership. Is it exclusive or co-owned?
4. If the person signing the deed of sale is an agent, or a person other than the owner himself, ask if the agent has a special power of attorney, or in case of a corporation, a board resolution authorizing the sale.
5. If the sale is through an agent, ask if the registered owner is still alive?
6. What was the manner of acquisition? Was it through purchase, succession, or donation?
7. Check compliance with the legal formalities such as notarization.
8. Take note of the annotations of liens or encumbrances at the back of the title.
9. Check the Entry Book of the Register of Deeds.
10. Verify the name and signature of the Register of Deeds appearing on the title.
11. Confirm payment of taxes, including real property tax with the Office of the Treasurer and the Assessor’s Office.
12. Ask around the neighborhood within the immediate vicinity about the persons living in the property.