The 4 most common forms of ownership of Real Estate in Guatemala

Buying  as a foreigner in Guatemala…

Guatemala is a new destinación for retirees or investors and you will find out that a lot of places offer great deal. From Guatemala City, the modern one, to the beautiful Colonial Antigua Guatemala, without forgetting Rio Dulce the tropical área, as well as Lake Atitlan the living country of the high lands.

All these áreas  offers real estate properties that are great for vacation rentals or to just retire in style.

What many people do not realise when they make the decision to buy real estate in Guatemala  is that the process and rules may be different than what they are used to. The general say  : “It is never a good idea to make a significant investment in real estate unless you understand all of the things that are involved and that have to be done” is good as well for Guatemala. Particularly if you are not used to invest outside your own country and if on top of everything don’t speak spanish.. Before buying in any country it is highly recommended to get to know the country and what it means to be owner…  And it is fundamental to know what  to expect and what the process is for buying real estate in Guatemala when you are a foreigner.

Communal Land

In Guatemala some land are own collectively by the indigenous population particularly in the Highland. Called ejidos municipales , they are extensive size of territory that has been given to the mayan population over times for several different reasons. The problema with them is that very often they are not properly registered in the  National Registry of Land. So you might be buying a piece of land  which might be challenged in the future.

In Guatemala barely 20% of the territory is  surveyed by the government. It is in process but it is a slow process..

The National Reserve of the State called or “las áreas de reservas del Estado”

Under this category foreigners can’t purchase the property as the land belong to the Guatemalan State. But you can lease it. The lease are for 30 years and can’t be renewed  un definitively. Actually in the contract the government extend you it says that you are required six months prior the termination of the contract to manifest by writing that you want to renew it.
You lease the land and you own the improvements you are making on it.. You have all the rights of ownership and can sell your house and the rights of the contracto or pass it to your heirs in a will.

Rights of posesión or squatters rights

This is the most common form of owner ship in Guatemala. They are rights acquired over times and they can be sold and acquired. Now these kind of properties are very difficult to be guaranteed.. and if you buy a house on a land with rights of posesión your security is higher as you can show continuous un disturb ownership. Acquiring rights of posesión doesn’t prevent you to comply with other laws like the one with discuss above.. As if your land is in 3.5 kms from the ocean shore line, 200 ms of a lake, 100 ms of a navigable river you have to get a leasing contract with the government.

Deeded properties

These are the most secure you can acquire as the government by his registration and control guarantee it.. You find them mostly in cities and in farming áreas. Before buying a certificate from the Registry is required to show if the property doesn’t suffer any mortgage or lean. They are more valuable and are taxed differently than the squatters rights.

The Buying Process

There are several source to find real estate in Guatemala as any other countries.
It is strongly recommended to work with a legally authorised real estate agent as they know better the market and should speak english in order to help you understand what will happen. Prices are almost negociable before making an offer check what is in the market in the área to give you a sense of what you are betting on. Once the price is agreed on ,unless you have cash on hand immediately available , a down payment of 10% is paid by the buyer.

No permit are required to own a property in Guatemala.
Once the buyer has the funds ready the buyer and the seller meet at the buyer notary. He will have checked the legality of the papers proving the ownership of the land. There is no escrow in Guatemala so it is strongly recommended for the buyer to open a bank account to transfer the money to his account. It makes the closing much easier.
If you are buying a  property with a deed it takes less than 6 months to have it registered in your name.


Besides the agreed upon price of the property, there are other costs that have to be paid. All the cost associated with a real estate property are supported by the buyer.
Typically the buyer pays:

Notary costs
VAT tax
Registration fees, other fees

The seller pays the Real estate agent fees unless agreed otherwise.

We strongly recommend that foreigners work with certified Realtors and as well members of the Guatemalan Chambers of Realtors , a guarantee of professionalism.

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