Friday, November 03, 2006

Anybody want to buy a bridge?

Four years ago, someone contacted Alex asking for a survey of some property he had purchased. We told him what we would need in order to proceed, including a local contact who was familiar with the property. Alex went ahead and made him a sketch of how the property could be subdivided for resale, assuming the existing survey was accurate.

The more we found out, the more it sounded like he had made a bad investment: the surveyor who had drawn up the plan used for the sale had done so on paper and never actually gone into the field (which is illegal)*. The previous owner had been absent for 30 years and the property was almost certainly now owned by squatters. The topo maps of Costa Rica, based on aerial photography from some 10 or 15 years ago, even showed features such as fields and buildings that would not exist on abandoned land.

We explained to the guy that things weren't looking too good, and he kept pushing to go ahead and get something done as soon as possible, offering the same price we had quoted for the field work if we could just do the work on paper like the previous surveyor had. When we kept replying that we needed a local contact who was familiar with the property, he eventually stopped writing.

Two years later, we were contacted by someone needing a survey and, after a couple of E-mails with him, we discovered he had bought a lot from the first guy. In fact, when we visited the web site where the new guy had found his property, we found Alex's sketch of how the land could have been divided up if it in fact existed in its theoretical form. This guy had bought lot #7. We told him what we knew and wished him luck.

And now the same thing has happened again. Yesterday we discovered that someone who contacted us a couple of weeks ago to survey some property she bought, also bought it from this guy. I found his website again and he's still using Alex's theoretical diagram to sell $20,000 lots of thin air.

Promise me you'll never buy land in a foreign country without actually traveling to the country and looking at what you're getting. Pretty please?

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* Illegal though it may be, that guy went on to become the elected president of the College of Engineers and Architects. Warms the heart, doesn't it?

2 comments:

meredith November 03, 2006 8:15 AM  

I hear about stuff like this in france, too. People looking for vacation homes abroad need to be careful.

Anonymous November 03, 2006 9:39 AM  

wow! well, we aren't in a position to be buying land in a foreign country (or even in the US) anytime soon, but I will definitely keep this in mind.

I'm such a tattletale, I keep thinking that there must be someone in charge you could tell about this little enterprise the guy has going. Like, the teacher?! Somehow I'm under the impression I'm still in high school or something.

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