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The process of buying a house in Morocco

After visiting many properties, you finally found your dream Moroccan home and agreed an acceptable selling price with the vendor. Now, it’s time for the two parts to go to a law professional in order to formally document the transfer of ownership.

The most frequent law professional hired for conveyance is a notary (“notaire”). However, some people prefer to use a lawyer, click here for a comparison.

The first thing that the lawyer or notary will do is to ask whether the property is titled (i.e. whether there is a title deed (“titre foncier” in French) documenting its current owner). If the house does not have a title deed, then notaries and lawyers are not allowed to deal with the transaction and an adul, a sort of islamic lawyer, will be needed.

Below are detailed the several stages to the process of conveyance:

Known in Morocco as “compromise de vente” (French for ‘sale commitment’), this contract is drawn up by the notary once the parties agree ON a selling price. It is binding on both the buyer and the seller. Unlike the final contract, there is no obligation to sign this contract in front of the notary. And the buyer has 2 weeks to think before signing it and posting it to the notaire. This contract will be drawn up in French, the language used in Morocco for this type of transactions. If your command of French is not good it is a good idea getting it translated by a sworn translator.

The 10% deposit

It is common practice to make a deposit at the time of the submission of this preliminary contract. This deposits amounts to a 10% of the selling price and will be lost in case that the buyer breaches the agreement contained in the contract. It is also possible to stipulate a penalty for the seller in case he is the one breaching the contract.

These amounts of money are safely kept by the notary in his escrow bank account.

The get out clauses

These clauses are very important and so it is especially important to get legal advice on this matter. It is also important to note that some get out clauses that must be included in the preliminary contract of many European countries are not compulsory in Morocco, so if you want them to appear you have to request it to the notary before he draws up the preliminary contract. Two examples of common get out clauses:
– the signing of the final contract will be dependent on obtaining a loan from a bank to pay for the property
– the signing of the final contract will be dependent on obtaining building permission for that property (or land)

The length of this period of time may be anything between a couple of weeks and a couple of years. It will depend on the complexities of the case. But don’t worry, most often, the papers are in order and this waiting period won’t be longer than one month.

During this time, the notary will verify at the Land Registry that the property has indeed a title deed and that there are not outstanding loans affecting it. In addition, the notary must request the Land Registry to visit the property and take measures of its exact boundaries.

Known in Morocco as “acte de vente” (French for ‘sale deed’), this contract can be signed after the notary has done all the verifications and so the transfer of titles can be done with guarantees.

Draft of the final contract

About one month before the signing of the final contract, the notary will send a draft of that contract to both parties. It is important to read carefully this draft to verify that everything is in order. If your French is not strong enough it is advisable to get this draft legally translated.

Signed in front of the notary

This contract must be signed in front of the notary. If you can’t be in Morocco to sign the contract in person, you also have the option to give a third person power of attorney. The notary will show the contract to both parties, and if the buyer and seller do not raise any objections, both parties will sign the contract. At that moment, you’ll be the owner of the property.

Payment

Before the actual signing, the buyer will be asked to make the payment for the property and additional costs. Usually the buyer will give a check to the notary and that money will be transferred from the buyer’s bank account into the notary’s escrow account.

Keys

The handing over of the keys will take place at the moment of the signing or, in special cases, afterwards (and this must be specified on the contract). These special cases may be an agreement to let the current tenants live in the house for a specified amount of time, the completion of works that the previous owner has committed to finish before the handing over, or something of the kind.

Land Registry formalities

Although after the signing of the final contract you’ll be the legal owner of the property. There are still a few formalities that need to be done. For the time being, the notary will give you a temporary certificate of ownership with which you’ll be able to make utility contracts, etc.

Once signed by the parties, the final contract is filed in the archive of the Land Registry at the same time that the owner’s name for the property is modified in the Registry books. At that time, the buyer receives a temporary title known as “requisite title” and after one year receives the definitive title deed.

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