Top Questions to ask an Attorney when buying property in the Cayman Islands
When buying property in the Cayman Islands, it is vital to find the right conveyancing lawyer to help you with the title transfers. In the United States, title companies are typical; however, in Cayman, we do not have those companies. The writer of this blog, Heidi Kiss, Broker of Engel & Volkers in Cayman have known many Caymanians, locals and expats who have registered their property at Lands & Survey building downtown and had to save a few hundred or even thousands of dollars and nothing bad has happened, yet, that I know of. Everyone can pump gas in his or her car but that doesn't mean that you can pump gas into a 747 aeroplane. You are not qualified, and you don't know the dangers or regulations.
Some Realtors in the Cayman Islands offer to do double duty by helping their clients and customers do the title transfer work saying that they can help save their client's money. However, that is a big mistake. The Advisors at Engel & Volkers are not allowed to do this work. We always recommend a local lawyer to do this for you. One of these days a well-meaning Realtor will land their buyers or sellers in hot water without knowing any better.
Here a few things to ask your lawyer so you that can have everything run smoothly from when you purchase the property to when you get the keys for your new front door.
1) How much will it cost you and what is included?
Typically it runs between .5% and 1% of the purchase price. The most critical thing Solicitors will do, checks the parcel file at lands and survey to see if there is any encumbrances, liens, a right of ways, leases. Sometimes they find things that the Listing Agent or the Vendor never knew about. They will protect you from anything that can harm you down the road. They also are in constant contact with your CIREBA realtor at Engel & Volkers as they will liaise with each other when it comes to satisfying conditions. If there is an issue with the contract then the lawyers on both sides, for the buyer and seller then the two lawyers usually come to a satisfactory solution to present to each side. However, if you are being wronged, your lawyer will insist on your rights and protect your interests.
2) How long does the process typically take?
The first step the lawyer will do once you hire them and once you send over your identification is put on what is called a "search and stay" meaning that they will freeze any activity on the title. They file this for you at the cost of CI$75, and it is registered on the parcel title, that you the purchaser has an interest in buying the property and your lawyer is in the process of checking the parcel file. Noone can put a lien on it or do anything to the title during this two-week process. The comforting thing about buying property in Cayman Islands is that the Government guarantees the title. They have a very sophisticated land title system, the Cayman Islands government takes this process very seriously.
If the closing is delayed, then they will submit another stay for another two weeks. Once it is logged with Lands and Survey at the Government Admin building, it takes 48 hours if you do a rush or 4 to 7 days if it is a regular process. Once they freeze title, the lawyer can start to do their title checks. So, if all goes well the quickest is four days for a home purchase (rarely this happens), but you will have to find a qualified and skilled attorney to do it this quickly if need be. However, if it is a complex commercial property or a complicated sale, then it might drag on for weeks. Call Engel & Volkers Cayman, and we will recommend a few excellent lawyers who have a dedicated team to do title transfers. If it is an all-cash purchase, then they can move quickly. If you are using a local bank for financing your property, they are at the whims of the bank manager who is usually very busy.
3) What happens if the deal does not go thru? What will they charge you?
They usually have done much work, and you will still need to settle their bill. Law firms provide legal advice, and it is not free. They are the legal experts, and they know Cayman land laws, so if you are unsure then ask them. Do not rely on the Realtor.
Do not be tempted to do the title transfer yourself or ask your Real estate agent to do it even if they say they have done hundreds before and nothing has gone wrong. It is just too much risk and unknown to take that on.
Heidi Kiss, Broker, License Partner and Advisor