Guide to buying Property in The Gambia
Thanks to the governments policy of free enterprise and hundreds of millions
of dalasis public and private investment, The Gambia has now entered its
"Golden Age", and good times have returned for the Gambian property
market, according to agents, property developers, buyers and sellers alike.
Prices have now reached, and in many cases surpassed, the 1988-1989 highs.
The big difference between now and the '80's is that both outsiders and
the locals are vying for the ‘action’ since The Gambia has
become a world class tourist resort, with a improving infrastructure,
excellent climate, secure and a local administration which really cares
The result is that the influx of property buyers are now coming with
a firm intention to purchase. In other words The Gambia has gained unprecedented
acceptability from a more demanding and sophisticated market. But the
buyer's problem finding a suitable property, negotiating for its purchase,
and closing the sale remains unchanged: as in most resort areas everybody
seems to be in the business, from the taxi driver to the hall porter in
the Hotel. Property is everyone's favorite subject of conversation. And
almost everyone is going to have opinions, many of which can easily confuse
a potential purchaser.
Where to start?
Finding property in The Gambia Some people spend years looking for a
property. Others are lucky enough to find a property and have the confidence
to purchase on their first visit to The Gambia. Yet others take their
time, visit during several days three or four times, until they feel comfortable
with their eventual decision.
What type of property are you looking for? And in which area
of The Gambia?
Many potential purchasers think they are looking for one type and, surprise!,
end up purchasing something totally different. Unless you are very clear
about what you want, and are sure that it exists, look at different types
of properties in different residential areas, with an open mind. This
will also help build up your knowledge of real estate values in this area:
every area in the world has its own market fundamentals and dynamics,
and looking at lots of properties will help you answer the basic question
what is value in this area? When you have answered this, you will certainly
be able to make an offer with much more confidence.
Certainly, choosing a reputable real estate agent saves time. There are
a dearth of highly qualified real estate agents in The Gambia, and quite
a few of the more opportunistic and less qualified ones as well, as in
any resort area. One should try to choose an agency with a good inventory
of resale and new properties on their books; and should be open, sincere,
communicative, professional and appear genuinely interested in helping
you achieve your objectives rather than just earning a commission.
A good agent will share his knowledge and experience in the property
field; help to explain the pros and cons of different areas and properties;
interpret your requirements and inform you as to the real sales prices
of properties recently sold. He can also help you negotiate the eventual
sale to completion and settling in afterwards. While agents may not be
the cure-all to property buying, a good one can guide you professionally
through the experience, giving you fair comparisons of both new and resale
units.One final note about agents: if you are not comfortable with the
one you are working with, or he is too "pushy", don't hesitate
to move on quickly to another. But when you find one that you get along
with, stay with your man until you find what you are looking for, or he
exhausts his inventory. Sticking with your agent motivates him to pull
out all stops and come up with the right property, and it also saves you
having to tell the same story as to your requirements to every new agent
A few other points of advice when deciding to buy property in The Gambia:
· It is almost impossible to find exactly what you want, and if
you do, it is not likely that your spouse will agree 100% with you! Find
a property you can both be happy with, which will usually mean a compromise.
Remember, the "perfect property" seldom exists even when you
build one yourself.
· If you want to buy in a new or not fully built area, remember
that empty parcels will one day be built upon and you might just be purchasing
a property which will be in the middle of a construction site for the
next ten years!
· Be very careful when buying outside of a planned estate, or
urbanization. Anything might be built or installed around your property,
and you should have enough land to protect you.
· Analyze in cold blood the potential costs of modernizing an
older home or apartment that you may fall in love with! Unfortunately
many purchasers do not take this into consideration and end up with unexpected
maintenance or replacement costs.
· Obviously, a seller must be offering a property free of liens
and encumbrances, and up to date in the payment of all rates, community
fees, electricity, water and any other normal running expenses of the
property, up to the date of completion. Your agent and lawyer will ensure
· To arrive at a market value by taking into consideration strictly
a price per square meter risks is to over simplify the process of valuation.
Property values here are analyzed in terms of area, views, quality of
materials, year of construction as well as the facilities and services
offered by the complex or urbanization in question. and, more than anything
else, comparative recent sales of similar properties.
· A property bought today is an important part of one's assets
and will one day be resold: it is therefore advisable to take into account
not just one's own taste and wishes but investment criteria as well Negotiating
There are certain factors in negotiating a purchase which are more particular
to different areas:Your agent may not be as skillful in negotiating the
price with the owner on your behalf as he was in finding the property
for you. Meet with the 'Top Man' in the agency and form a team with him
to discuss and eventually make the offer. Experienced estate agents are
generally better at handling the commercial elements of a sale (this is
their job) than lawyers are, and will do their best to bring what are
often opposing viewpoints (yours and the seller's) together in harmony.
Your lawyer can always be consulted during the negotiation process to
ensure that the offer meets his legal criteria, and become actively involved
in more complicated negotiations.
There are many "phantom offers" by potential buyers who are
not really making an offer, but trying to feel out the bottom price of
a seller, in order to gain market knowledge. It is therefore important
to lend strength to your offer and prove that you are a serious bidder.
This is done in many obvious and some not so obvious ways, including:
· Make an articulate offer, in writing if possible, subject of
course to contract and your lawyer's approval, including all of the factors
to be negotiated, not just the price…. including when you will pay
a deposit; when you wish to complete; furniture inventory (if any) which
is often involved with resale properties, declared price in the deeds
(which has proven to be a major problem in many sales), and any other
· One point often neglected even by the lawyers is to include
a point that all machinery equipment and installations should be in normal
working order upon completion of the sale (unless otherwise agreed with
the seller). By getting all your negotiation points together at one time,
rather than negotiating a purchase piecemeal, you will generally save
a lot of time and often, unpleasant surprises.
· Show the color of your money to the seller: if you know you
intend to buy, it helps to have deposit funds in an account here. A seller
will no doubt pay serious attention to your offer if you are ready to
make an immediate deposit from funds on hand.
Further advice: be careful in negotiating who pays the municipal tax:
a tax which corresponds by its nature to the seller.
Closing the sale - Signing the Private Contract
Normally, when buyer and seller are in agreement, a private option to
purchase contract, or a sales contract is prepared where all purchase
terms are reflected. Unless a purchaser considers himself a past master
in the ins and outs of The Gambian property, it is always advisable to
use a lawyer to take the full legal responsibility for the transaction.
There are excellent lawyers in The Gambia or alternatively use one of
our recommended lawyers.
The last word in property ownership is the Property Registry, which is
the proof of ownership of the property and where the ownership can be
tracked back to the first owner. Any liens, embargoes, or encumbrances
will be reflected in the registry which can be obtained from the registry.
It is an excellent method of recording titles which has become even more
secure with recent changes in the law. A purchaser's lawyer will of course
check the property registry as a very first step in his work.
Once buyer and seller agree on all the points, both parties should instruct
their respective lawyers to prepare the necessary contract for signature.
If there are delays, the seller might just be tempted to accept another
Completion of the sale
The sale is considered completed when both sides put pen to paper.
Costs involved in purchasing property in The Gambia are as follows:
· Alkali tax
· Municipal tax
· Income tax
· IN SUMMARY, the total official costs involved in purchasing
property should be around 10%, more or less for resale properties, or
8% if VAT is paid of the purchase price. Lawyer's fees are in the order
of 1% of the selling price, more or less, depending on the lawyer. Agents
are paid by the seller unless otherwise agreed.Locating and purchasing
a property in The Gambia can be as simple, or as complicated a procedure
as one wants to make of it. The old rule of Caveat Emptor, (Let the Buyer
Beware!) always holds true. Using sincere and well recommended professionals
always helps.. And, of course, always listen to your intuition! It is
often one's best guide.