Acquiring land in Ghana may be an easy or difficult process depending on the type of land you want to buy and where the land is located. As simple or complex as it may be, acquiring land is still one of the best investment anyone can do in Ghana as there is a continuous increase in the demand for private and commercial space leading to the constant increase in the value of land and property. These days people commute from areas such as Kasoa, Nsawam, Aburi, Dodowa, Amasaman, Prampram and other suburbs and towns on the outskirts of Accra to work in the heart of the capital. A few years ago this would have been absurd but with the constant works by the government to improve the condition and capacity of major roads this is now possible. Lands in these outskirt areas are considerably cheaper hence the reason why people are choosing to live in further away from their work.
It is evident that owning a property in Ghana has always proven to be a good investment. If you wish to build that stunning property in Ghana there are a couple of things you need to tick off your list. Firstly, foreigners or non - Ghanaians cannot own a plot(s) of land outright but must lease it although freehold land in Ghana is currently very unlikely to come by. Ghanaians are entitled to a leasehold of up to ninety nine (99) years while foreigners have a leasehold of up to fifty (50) years as of the time of writing this article, after which you can renew your lease. Acquiring land in Ghana comes with its own challenges as may be for other parts of the world. Some of these challenges include:
Many Ghanaian courts frequently deal with several land litigation cases. This is due to instances where land owners have sold a particular plot of land to multiple people or entities. Thereby resulting in protracted litigation. Individuals who acquire land that has been purchased by several others from a specific owner also have to deal with poor court systems and structure. Most often, there are delays in court rulings on land related cases. Some take as long as ten to fifteen years or even more depending on several site specific factors. These individuals constantly have to travel back and forth to court, pay legal fees and sometimes have to deal with the possibility of having to appeal if they find themselves on the losing end. Court appeal can also take years. Thus, if the individual had a timeline for when the building construction on that land had to be completed, that projected end date will go by without the building being constructed, since all works on the site need to be put on hold until the court has made its final verdict. There have been a number of cases where after several years, some litigants have passed away while the issue is still in court. Others also end up losing interest in the land even though they have spent so much on the land and legal fees.
Land encroachment is also another major issue in Ghana. There are some unscrupulous persons in the country who have forcefully taken ownership of lands that do not belong to them. Recently Ghana has recorded a rising number of encroachment of school lands. In Accra for example, Achimota School, Christian Methodist Senior High School, Odorgonno Senior High School and University of Ghana have all reported cases where their lands have been encroached upon. Lands belonging to one of the nation’s major hospitals, Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital is not left out in the encroachment saga. In 2011, it was reported that about 30% of the total land of about 2000 acres belonging to the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission had also been encroached upon. There are cases where individuals sell state lands which would have been used for developmental projects to unsuspecting persons. Early this year, the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources in Ghana disclosed that the ministry has begun a nationwide exercise to reclaim state lands illegally occupied by individuals, organisations and other establishments. Due to this initiative, the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources has entered into a partnership with the security agencies and Anyok Holdings Limited, (a private development company), to undertake approved demolition exercises and prosecute all persons or entities who have encroached on state lands, particularly in the Greater Accra Region.
As efficient as the Ghana Lands Commission can be, the government organisation comes with its own shortcomings. Land owners and prospective land buyers are faced with processing issues. There are sometimes delays in processing land documents. Unfortunately, there have also been cases where some officers of the lands commission extort money from clients before processing your documents. This has become a new normal and one is expected to follow suit or else risk having their document sit there unattended for a very long period of time.
Types of Land Ownership in Ghana
Before a person considers acquiring land in Ghana, one must note that there are different types of land ownership in Ghana. Lands do not only belong to an individual, they differ depending on who initially owns the land you wish to acquire. There is:
Stool or Customary Land
Government or State Land
Stool or Customary Land.
The chieftaincy system in Ghana allows many leaders of different ethnic groups of being the custodial owners of vast lands. Paramount chiefs and sub chiefs can decide who they want to sell a plot of land to and how much they want to sell it for. Some may even decide to be philanthropic and give a plot(s) of land for free for a good cause or for developmental projects that will benefit their people.
For example, in June 2014 it was reported that, Osagyefo Amoatia Ofori Panin, Okyehene, and Paramount Chief of the Akyem Abuakwa Traditional Area in Ghana, decided to release an extensive land belonging to the Okyeman stool, to the City Waste Management Company Limited, to undertake development projects to help solve the unemployment problem in the area.
Government or State Land
The state or government of Ghana own lands too. These lands are those that have been acquired by the government of Ghana from traditional allodial owners. These lands are sometimes used for developmental projects and other initiatives by the government.
Vested Lands on the other hand are those lands owned by the state and customary authorities in a form of partnership. If you wish to buy a vested or state land you would need to file an application with the Executive Secretary of Lands Commission or the Regional Lands Officer in your region. The 1992 Constitution of Ghana details the ownership and use of public lands.
Article 257 of the constitution states that: “All public lands in Ghana shall be vested in the President on behalf of, and in trust for, the people of Ghana.”
Article 258 provides for the establishment of Lands Commission that shall manage public lands and any lands vested in the President by this Constitution or by any other law or any lands vested in the Commission.
Article 266 also reveals that rights or interest over land shall vest only in the citizens of Ghana.”
As the name suggests, a family land is a land owned by a family. These lands are managed by the head(s) of the family and also assisted by principal members of the family.
Private Lands are lands that are owned by individuals or private entities. Majority of lands found in Ghana are not owned by individuals or private entities. A vast portion of these lands are owned by different chiefs, clans, traditional leaders, stool and families.
There are three main titles under which lands are commonly issued, they are:
When it comes to Freehold titles, there are two types. They are:
Customary freehold favour the traditional community at large. Individuals or groups can hold interest in a land that is allodially owned by a traditional community of which the interest holders belong to or are members of. It is an interest that is inheritable to successors of the individual or subgroups until there are no successors. This carries on as long as the successors recognises the superior title of the traditional stool. The subject(s) have the right to lease, sell or pledge their title. The one who acquires the land is also expected to acknowledge the superior authority of the stool.
Common Law Freehold
Common Law Freehold and Customary Freehold share some similarities. The only difference between the two is that the interest of the land can be acquired by both non-members and members of the traditional community that own the land. Thus, two Ghanaian nationals from different communities can participate in land acquisition of a traditional community.
Allodial title tops the list as the highest legally recognised land title. However, only the state or government, traditional leaders and families can hold this a title.
As the name suggest, leasehold is an interest in land that details a specific start and end date, subject to payment of annual ground rents and others. Duration of agreement, names of the parties involved, the particular property being leased, terms and conditions for renewal or even non-renewal and other interest are some the items that must be stated on a lease. A stool or clan or family who hold the allodial title or an individual customary freeholder can grant a leasehold.
Now that we know about the types of land of ownership, land titles and also some of the challenges prospective land owners go through in Ghana, let’s find out about the process of acquiring land. Currently there are two common ways of acquiring land in Ghana. You can acquire land through a Real Estate Developer who has acquired a large parcel of land, surveyed and parcelled it into several plots of land. You can also acquire land form private individuals and families.
A plot of land in Ghana is varies, ranging from 70ft x 70ft, 70ft x 100ft, 80ft x 100ft and 100ft x 100ft although in present day Ghana you will hardly find 100ft x 100ft plot of land for sale. So make sure to ask what the size of the plot is when you speak to the estate developer or the private seller. Also plots of land are sold as either serviced or not. Serviced plots are plots of land that have the basic utilities around the site making it easy and less expensive to connect to the national grid, the main water supply and telephone lines. They also tend to have fairly good roads and public drains. These are certainly some of the few things you need to find out before asking about the price as it will help you decide whether you think the land is over priced or not.
Buying from a Real Estate / Property Developer
The easiest way to acquire any land in Ghana is from a real estate or property developer. Many foreigners or non-Ghanaians usually have a hard time trying to buy land in the country, so this will most likely be the least stressful and safest option. These entities provide assistance and answers to any questions or concerns their clients may have. Find a real estate or property developer who has vast experience, a decent reputation and make sure that they are registered with the Ghana Real Estate Developer’s Association (GREDA).
Buying from a Private Seller
If you want to go through the process without the help of a property developer, you first need to do your research. When you identify the piece of land you wish to acquire, you need to carry out quite a bit of research such as speaking to neighbours (if any) to identify who the rightful owner is. There have been many scenarios where individuals have been defrauded, and ended up paying for lands from posers instead of from the rightful owners.
Another way to investigate on who the legal owner of the land you wish to acquire is, is also to make a visit to the Ghana Lands Commission. When you are there, do follow the procedure on how to check from their records to find out if the said land owner really owns the land you wish to buy. Valuation can also be carried out. The Ghana Lands Commission demands two copies of the site plan to conduct the search. Unfortunately, potential land buyers must regularly follow up on their request at the Lands Commission since this search can take a longer period.
As stated earlier, state or government lands can be used for developmental projects, hence it is prudent to inquire from government land officials or from the Metropolitan / Municipal / District Assembly (MMDA) under whose jurisdiction the land falls under to find out the zoning status in order to be confident that, the particular land you want to purchase has not been marked out for a government project or some other state development project in the near future.
There have also been instances where prospective buyers put out inquiries in newspapers to find out if anyone would lay claim on the land that they desire to buy or if the land has been registered in someone else’ name other than the supposed owner.
Demand a Site Plan
Before you make any financial transaction, make sure you demand a site plan of the land you want to buy from the owner. The site plan gives you a detailed report of the land, showing the location and dimensions of the land. Ghana Lands Commission or Licensed surveyors usually prepare site plans in Ghana. Site plans help prevent ownership disputes with land guards as the Lands Commission keeps copies in their office
Hire Your Own Surveyor
It is also recommended to seek the services of a licensed surveyor or a registered member of the Ghana Institution of Surveyors. The surveyor will help you verify if the site plan you have correlates with the location, dimensions and boundaries on the ground.
The next step on your journey to acquiring land is to negotiate with the owner of the land. Discuss sale terms, depending on how much you are willing to spend at a time, some land owners may be open to the idea of paying in instalments while others may prefer that you pay outright. The benefit of paying in instalments is that, if there are any discrepancies with the terms or disputes with the acquired land you can rectify them within the flexible time frame.
Draft an Indenture
Upon reaching an agreement with the land owner, the plausible next step is to find a credible lawyer or legal professional to assist in drafting a contract also known as an Indenture. This includes the purchase and transfer agreement. An indenture should include details of the price paid, lease details highlighting the specific parties involved in the transaction, witnesses, ground rent etc.
Payment can be made after an indenture has been prepared and signed by both parties. Do ensure that you make multiple copies of the indenture. It should be endorsed by your lawyer or legal professional. Each copy should have a land surveyor certified site plan attached.
Register the land with Ghana Lands Commission
Now that you are a land owner, make sure you notify the Ghana Lands Commission about the transaction and apply for a transfer and registration of the land. The Lands Commission will provide you with a scheduled date where you can obtain a land title certificate and site plan.
Ensure that you obtain a tax clearance certificate at the Ghana Internal Revenue Service. You are less likely to have litigation issues when you register your land. In situations where a court case or dispute arises, you are more likely to have the upper hand, since it renders your documents admissible in court.
Are you a land owner? If yes, did you go through any stress in acquiring your land? Do share with us your experience in the comments section as well as other tips that can help others. Thank you