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Apartment Collapses in Medellin – Why you should work with a Real Estate Specialist

There is tragedy today as an apartment collapses in El Poblado, Medellin.  In the latter part of the evening of  Saturday, October 12, 2013, the 6th tower of the Apartment Complex ”Space” crumbled to the ground.  Certainly, our prayers go out to the people who lost their lives and to the families still waiting to see if their love ones lost in the rubble have managed to survive this terrible disaster.

EscapeArtist does not intend to be an up-to-the-minute news channel but this accident allows us to examine some issues which arise in the search and purchase of the real estate in Colombia. The questions you should ask yourself are – should you deal with a Real Estate Professional and is a home inspection necessary?

Real Estate is unregulated in Colombia. The Real Estate Board in Medellin, in fact, requires someone to have been in the business two years before they will accept them as a member. To me, this is a little backwards as I feel it is better to train your agents first before you let them loose on the street.

What this means is that anyone can hang out a shingle and sell real estate. There are lots of ”comisionistas” in Medellin who find a few properties and then work to sell them. There are numerous expats who blow through town and think that this is an easy way to make money, set up an inexpensive website and ”go at it”.

If you are going to work with an agent, ask to see their Registry from the Chamber of Commerce. All legitimate businesses in Colombia must be registered with the Chamber and must renew their registry every year. If an individual does not have a business registered, with formal office space, it is highly unlikely that they are professional. They may also be willing to sell you any property without concern for their reputation because they don’t have much to lose.

The last time that I was in ”Space” with a client, there were significant cracks in the walls. We were told that this was a result of settling and that the contractor was going to repair all of the damage.  My client liked the apartment. It was just what he was looking for.

Now I was faced with a conundrum. I had a client willing to buy but never, ever in my life had I seen a case of ”settling” like this. No other apartment caught his eye.  We talked at length about the apartment and how I felt it was not something that I would recommend.  In the end, I insisted if he wanted to proceed, he needed to hire a structural engineer because I could not be convinced otherwise this was literally a ”safe” investment.

Fortunately, he relented. Today I would have had a black mark on my conscious if I had been willing to make an easy sale.

This brings us to the second point of this article. Should you have the property inspected before you buy it ?  Most purchases made in Colombia are done without a home inspection. This is something that just isn’t done in this country and the concept and profession of the home inspector has not been developed.

Lots of times it is not necessary as many things are obvious – as were the large cracks in the walls at Space. Anything like this should drive you to insist on a structural inspection by a structural engineer. This can cost in the neighbourhood of $200.00 USD and is well worth it, if only for your peace of mind.

When we have clients who want a home inspection,  then we recommend an architectural firm who do a visible inspection of the apartment proper. They bring along an electrical engineer to check the electrical system and a plumber to review the plumbing.  Each makes a separate report on the status and condition of what they find.  The cost for this is approximately $300.00 USD.

The choices are yours.  We advise you to choose your real estate agent/agency wisely and make an educated decision as to whether you want your property inspected. The little extra that you pay at the front end may just save you from having a front end loader cleaning up the back end.


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