So you’ve found your ideal vacation getaway or retirement villa in the tropics. Before you pour another margarita and think about your gold swing, think about what you’re doing when you sign on the dotted line.
- Have you hired your own independent legal counsel to go over the fine print?
- Can you trust them?
Believe it or not, many homebuyers in Punta Cana blindly trust their real estate agent to find them a lawyer, no doubt figuring that they may as well kill two birds with one stone.
This is, to say the least foolish.
There have been several complaints in recent years from clients who never actually got to meet the person responsible for handling the legal end of their deal!
And when they tried to recover their expenses, they discovered that the so-called ‘trust account’ was just a personal bank account.
The reason for this situation is simple: many property lawyers in the Dominican are actually acting in the best interest of local real estate agents.
Many Dominican estate agents use an ‘in-house lawyer’ for no other reason than the two businesses benefit from sharing expenses; needless to say, these lawyers are going to be more disposed to the agent than to their clients. If your agent recommends a particular lawyer, ask yourself: is the lawyer going to work for me or for the agent?
Blindly handing over money to agents and lawyers without doing your homework exposes you to the possibility of fraud.
Before committing to any property deal, you should do some basic research:
- Check out at least three lawyers to get a feeling. If you don’t speak the language, can they speak yours?
- Interview them on your own – not with your agent present. If possible, talk to them before your arrive.
- Check out their website. Are they a large, professional-looking firm, or does it look like Crazy Joe’s Legal Aid?
- Is there a potential conflict of interest? Remember: the lawyer is there for YOU and nobody else. Are they also acting for the vendor? Was the vendor a past client? An honest lawyer will tell you upfront about any possible conflict and will recommend another reputable attorney.
It goes without saying, of course, that you should always choose a qualified REALTOR® to help you find your dream property.