Pakistani real estate has grown by leaps and bounds in the past few years. To comprehend the intricate web of Pakistani real estate is not at all child’s play. Where people made billions in short time span but there are also people who lost their lifelong hard earned money. If not lost then saw it dwindle drastically right in front of their eyes. Jumping on the real estate bandwagon at right time holds the key to success. Its analogy to stock market is not hearsay. One bad news can plunge the real estate market also like stock exchange.
In life there are certain principles that if followed will increase ones ability to be successful. Investing is no different; becoming a successful investor depends upon an individual’s ability to master a few key principles.
Buying a property can sometimes become an uphill task, especially when you have never been to the realm of real estate in Pakistan. When you enter the market with money in your pocket, everything looks rosy and appealing. Property dealers will make you believe that you are a step away from earning millions by investing in their projects. This may be true in rare instances, but there are high chances that you end up getting your money stuck in a dead or shady project.
Real Estate is one of the largest sectors in Pakistan with trillions of rupees of investments, but it has never been duly regulated by the Government. Weakness of regulatory systems and unavailability of authentic information gives room to malpractices, therefore one should spend some time doing a thorough research through all available means before entering into any transaction.
There are numerous examples of property scams in Pakistan, even in cities like Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad. Some of the examples of such scams include selling duplicate files, selling encroached land, selling illegal society or project, selling fake registration forms, and selling files without actual land etc.
If you have been following the supreme court cases recently, you might have been surprised to know that many big private companies and even Government authorities were found involved in illegal practices.
In case of Government projects, the only risk involved is Time, so your only loss is the opportunity cost. Whereas, in case of private projects, you may end up losing your money unless you are fortunate enough to take your case to the court and win a favorable decision.
Real Estate is one of the most famous and widely practiced investment ideas in Pakistan. People buy property, especially land, and leave it for some time. Over time, the price of real estate appreciates. Keep a track of the market prices and sell the property when the prices are at their peak.
The best thing about real estate is that it is a safe investment option. You get total ownership of the property and most importantly, the land is an asset whose price always increases. Moreover, the market for real estate is improving at an increasing rate. That means you can expect greater returns and wider scope in real estate.
If you cannot afford real estate on your own, try getting the property on installments, through loans or a partnership with trustworthy people. One drawback of this investment is that the returns might take time and if you are looking for a short-term investment, then this option may not be feasible for you.
But, an important aspect that must be kept in mind at all times is that real estate is a safe option that yields higher returns, making it an excellent option for small investments.
If you are looking for investment opportunities in the twin cities of Pakistan, consider investing in houses, flats, plots or shops. All these assets will provide great yields in the form of resale value and rents.
Real estate investments can be good or bad. A good property can earn you a fortune, while a bad one may get stuck for years without any gain, or you may have to bear some loss to get rid of it. This all depends on your homework, future projections, and sometimes external factors like unfavorable decisions by the Government or the Court, or delays in mega development projects.
As an investor, you cannot always make good decisions , but you can minimize the risk of loss by doing your proper homework before a final decision. If your close friends or relatives are involved in real estate investments, you should seek their advice before you enter the market.
Purpose of writing this article is to educate the new entrants in real estate market of Pakistan as to what are the key points to consider before buying a property. We will discuss what important aspects of a project or housing scheme must be known before you consider it for investment.
Please remember even a seasoned investor gets trapped in wrong property deals. Sometimes with all the due care and sincerity of all involved in purchasing a real estate, fate can play its role and prices can go down unpredictably and investor can get stuck.
Suppose you are looking to invest in a residential plot, and somebody has told you a housing scheme which falls in your budget. First of all, check from your close friends and relatives if they can guide you regarding that option. If they are not involved in real estate, or you want to keep your investment a secret, then just make a check list of points we are listing down below, and do your homework before you finalize.
Make up your mind:
Decide exactly what you want to buy. Talk with your family members and take their opinions. Discuss your available budget taking into consideration transfer fee, Taxes and agent’s commission.
Understanding Property Risk
While there isn’t any investment that is devoid of risk, it is important to understand the risk associated with buying and selling property in Pakistan. Some of these risks can be minimized. For instance, if you’re careful in evaluating the product you’re purchasing, verifying its authenticity, matching it to your needs and requirements, and carrying out a reasonable appreciation of the community in which you’re looking to invest, you are more than likely to mitigate most of the risks involved with your investment decision.
Understanding some of these risks takes time, so never rush through the process. Think of investment as a sequence of events in your mind. Your task is to fit in every sequence so you can see the whole picture clearly in your mind. Never finalize your decision until the entire sequence is completed. If the sequence is complete, you will find it very easy to walk through the entire sequence in your mind. For instance, if you are looking to buy a house in I-8 sector of Islamabad, here is how the sequence may look like: you have verified the owner of the property, a reliable agent who has adequate presence in the region is involved, the commissions are agreed to, any hidden costs, such as housing taxation have been taken into account, the transfer charges have been accounted for, the seller has been verified, their CNIC has been checked through NADRA’s SMS verification service to ensure that their government record is intact and updated.
For extra precaution, you can also consider involving a lawyer who understands real estate matters to assist you with your decision. While an advocate is not hired by everyone, many of the other considerations must be made before you finalize your decision.
Ensure Timely Access to Funds
A hot property deal won’t last too many days. As such, you have to ensure a timely access to your funds. Again, this does not mean that you compromise or overlook any aspect of the buying process. However, it still helps to have an easy payment solution before finalizing your deal. This prevents any hiccups at the eleventh hour. There can be many unexpected delays in payments, and if you have made token money, advance payment or bayana, you will be bound by time to arrange the funds and complete the transaction.
Do your research-Check Market Prices
If your dealer has given you a plot option with some price demand, try to check other options in the market. Do not call every agent, it will create buzz in the market and you may end up losing your best options. You should simply try one or two more agents, and use online portals to check plot prices near your plot. Now a days internet has made research work a child’s play. Search on web about similar property prices in housing society or in area you intend to buy. Go through Sunday Newspaper like THE JANG classified ads. You can call any real estate dealer dealing in your required society and ask for rates. Before final decision is made you should have clear idea of prices of property in area.
So you found a property that caught your eye? Great! Now you need to find its market value. You don’t need a PhD to do it. In fact, you can trick the same agents to find the market value of a particular property. As anybody who is familiar with the real estate scenario in Pakistan will tell you, here is what you need to do:
Call Agent A who list the plot and ask about its final price. Call Agent B who is dealing in the same area. Ask him that you have that plot and you’re looking to sell it. Chances are that the price he quotes you is different from the price you got from Agent You now have your estimated market value in that locality.
But keep in mind the plot prices can vary depending on location (Corner/Park face/Boulevard) and whether is level or on slope and deep.
Choose a real estate dealer:
Choosing a dealer is as important as choosing a doctor. If you don’t have a known dealer then inquire from your relatives or friends. Get his phone number and call him. Tell him your exact requirement and budget. Go in detail to make it clear to agent what is required.
Get another dealer through other sources dealing in the area. Tell him your requirement.Get quotes from both dealers and make a table . Compare prices and decide which dealer is more realistic and close to your researched price.
It is the most important step before you enter into any property buying transaction. You cannot trust everybody who is sitting in the market. Try to find out the known and authorized dealers who have been working in the market for many years. Once you start your research, you will find out many agents. Don’t get flattered by cunning agents, or get impressed by big offices. Look for genuine professionals who sound honest and reasonable. Once you have found a reasonable agency, proceed with your property requirement.
Using a Pakistani real estate agent will help you negotiate the details of buying property in Pakistan, which is particularly helpful if you’re purchasing from abroad. A real estate agent is also very familiar with property in the area, so they will be able to show you properties meeting your criteria. Research real estate agents online, read reviews and stories of others’ experiences, and find the best real estate agent in your area.
Agents work on a commission basis, which is usually one percent. At times, they are willing to adjust the commission percentage according to the rate at which a deal is closed, but this is rare. Either way, you should sit down with the agent and finalise the commission percentage, as well as when it will be paid, beforehand.
In most cases, the commission is paid when you receive the full payment. Sometimes, it is decided mutually that a certain percentage of commission will be given to the agent once the buyer pays the initial deposit (bayana). Just make sure all these terms are discussed well in advance to avoid complications.
Anyhow you should settle this amount of commission before any deal is done.
Know the Developer or Owner of Housing project.
This is the first thing you need to know. A sponsor is the actual person or company behind a project. Unlike institutions such as DHA, or cooperatives like MPCHS, private projects are owned by individuals.
For example any housing project owned by the Government or armed forces is considered safe, whereas projects by cooperative societies or private individuals can be good or bad.
Bahria as private society can come up with good or bad projects. MPCHS is good society but Jeddah town was fraud.
Do a research on the sponsor. Check his reputation in the real estate market or in other business sectors in case his achievements are in another industry. If he has bad reputation, put the project in a black list, if he has good reputation, put the project in a white list, and if the sponsor is anonymous, put this project in your grey list until you go through other points in your check list.
Check the list of legal and illegal housing schemes on website of Rawalpindi Development Authorty (RDA), CDA, KDA, LDA, PDA or GDA.
It is also important that you find out about the developer. If the developer is reputable and it has developed other projects, you should go and check the development standards. If standards are good, put it in your white list, otherwise put it in your grey list.
Know the Project
After you have known the Developer/owner, and found out about his reputation in the market, check the following information from the sponsor:
- Total land area of the society
- LOP from relevant development authority
- NOC from relevant development authority
Whatever information you receive from the sponsor, just go and cross check from relevant development authority. Check the list of legal and illegal housing schemes on website of Rawalpindi Development Authority (RDA), CDA, KDA, LDA, PDA or GDA.If the project is approved, and has its NOC issued by the relevant authority, put the project in your white list, if approvals are under process, put it in your grey list, and if it is illegal, put it in a black list.
Know the Location
Normally, location is the first thing which is considered for making an investment, but it is better to know the background first in order to avoid any trap. Make a visit to the society and check the access roads. If the society lies in the suburbs of a city, direct approach should be very important. Check the contours of the land, and additional features of that location. Consider any upcoming mega project or development in that area by the Government or any private group. If location and surroundings are good, put it in your white list, otherwise put in a black list.
Don’t trust the map, go check the location of plot on ground. If it is non-developed, use Google map to get precise idea of location. Avoid rocks or deep plots. Try your best to choose level plots. If area is on the hill, choose top locations with better view.
Visit the property:
Schedule the visit to property. Never go ALONE. Take your brother, relative or friend with you. Two eyes or minds are better than one. Check the location and go in minute details. Few points to be noted like distance from main road, Street width, availability of facilities like Hospitals, schools, shopping centers. Services like water, gas, electricity and garbage collection are available or not.If you are buying for investment then you should go for a property which is in prime location.
If you cannot visit the locations personally for research, you can simply find out relevant information from official websites of development authorities. You can check location on Google maps, development standards from society pictures, approval status from development authority’s helpline, town planning by approved map of the society, and sponsor information from relevant dealers and internet.Ask your dealer to accompany you on site and show the property.
Now that you have chosen a plot and you agree on price, you should ask for a copy of plot documents for verification before paying bayana/token.Below is the list of documents that you need to verif before going ahead with your property investment.
- Sale Deed/Allotment letter/Registry
- Power of Attorney
- Property Tax Receipts
- Completion Certificate
Before buying property in Pakistan a complete and thorough probe in respect of title of the seller to the real estate must be carried out. A general practice is to investigate title of the current seller and any previous owner. Original title document in favor of the vendor must be obtained along with other relevant documents including mutation in favor of the vendor, a fresh copy of fard, aks shajra and no-objection certificate or non-encumbrance certificate as the case may be. If the vendor is selling the property in the capacity of an attorney of the owner then it must be ensured that the power of attorney is duly registered with the relevant sub-registrar. A holder of a forged and fabricated power of attorney is not at all able to transfer a valid title in an immovable property to a third party.
If buy a flat in a building under construction, the papers you should check approved plan of the building along with the number of floors; ensure that the floor that you are buying is approved. Check if the land on which the builder is building is his or he has undertaken an agreement with a landlord. If so, check the title of the land ownership. Check the building byelaws as applicable in that area and ensure that the building is without any violation of front setback, side setbacks, height, etc.
Check specifications given in the agreement to sell and that given in the brochure and see if he is providing the same actually on the ground or not. If the builder is a company incorporated with Securities & Exchange Commission of Pakistan, it may be checked that the company is allowed to do the business of sale and purchase of real estate.
Check approved layout plan, approved building plan, ownership documents, ask for all the deeds of title related to the property to be purchased, examine the deeds, ascertain the survey number, check previous encumbrances and loans, if any, on the property, request vendor(seller) to obtain, if applicable, consent permission, sanction, no objection certificate of various authorities, tax receipts and bills, measure the land etc.
A title deed or allotment letter is used in some cases to declare the ownership of a particular property. Many commercial and residential developments, such as housing societies, residential compounds and commercial towers, such as Bahria Town and Defense Housing Authority (DHA) use title documents to reflect ownership of properties in their area of jurisdiction.
Property consultants can guide you about the ownership documents used in particular residential or commercial projects. You can also consider visiting the head offices of the concerned projects and communities to inquire about the authentic and accurate ownership documents.
The sale deed or title document is the only document that confirms the ownership of a property. If you are interested in obtaining a loan against your property, you are required to produce the original title document. When selling your property, the title document is passed on to the seller. However, always ensure that you retain a copy of the title document or sale deed for your record.
There can be instances when you purchase a large area of land, but then decide to sell a portion of it. In such case, you don’t need to give the title deed to the seller. Instead, you only need to hand them certified copies of the ownership documents, alongside a sale agreement that includes details about the portion of land being sold.
However, you don’t need to pay your agent anything until this point. If you have time and you are dealing with an agent for the first time, its better go with him to the Society’s office to cross check the status of the property you’re intending to buy.
Meet and Negotiate with the Owner Face-to-face
Ask your agent to setup a meeting with owner of the property. Never make a deal with agent directly.
Now you need to verify ownership of the property by cross checking the allotment/transfer letter with the NIC of the person you’re meeting with.
Many agents will make excuses that the owner is not in town or is abroad. Just simply don’t buy those excuses and walk away from the deal if that happens.
When you choose a property, negotiate the price. Haggle with the seller to find the right price for both of you, without paying too much.
Don’t Pay It All in One Go.
Give Token Money to Finalize the Deal. So, what is token money? Token is a small amount of money that has to be paid by the buyer as an indication of serious intent to purchase a property. Token money is paid on mutual agreement between the buyer and seller about the selling price. In most cases, the deal is facilitated by an agent, who possesses the verified contact details of the seller.
Once you finalize the price and payment terms between you and the owner of the property, you need to pay owner some token money. This ensures that you both get bound to the deal. Do ask for a receipt from owner/agent about the token money.
There are two types of token: conditional and confirmed.
The token given and received on soft terms and conditions is a conditional token. When a buyer decides to acquire a certain property, they offer a small amount ranging from PKR 25,000 to PKR 100,000. If, for some reason, the deal falls through, there is no penalty and the same amount is returned to the buyer. After paying the conditional token amount, the buyer then can verify the ownership of the property from the respective housing society to make sure the seller is the actual owner.
For this step, the seller grants permission in writing, which allows the respective authority to share the ownership details and legal status with the buyer, whose name and CNIC number is also mentioned on the application. A copy of the plot owner’s CNIC is attached to the application.
Documented token money, in which the terms and conditions are mutually set between the buyer, seller and the agent (if there is an agent mediating), is called the confirmed token. This agreement includes terms such as the time frame in which the bayana needs to be paid, the selling price of the property and the penalty in case one of the parties backs out. If the buyer fails to meet the bayana deadline, he loses his token money; if the seller backs out from the deal, he is legally bound to pay double the amount of the token money to the buyer.
If the buyer is in a position to purchase the property at hand within a week or two, the confirmed token also acts as the bayana. The confirmed token is usually an amount higher than conditional token and less than the bayana. So, once the token amount is paid, bayana is the next step. It’s just like the token money, only that it is officially written and signed.
Couple of things to take care of here:
Your token money should be in between rupees 50K to 1Lac. You must take a copy of allotment or transfer letter.Token receipt must have complete address or file number of a property.Token receipt must mention that the property doesn’t has any litigation or due payments.This token money is counted in the total price of a property.
Pay the BAYANA.
Ideally, the bayana amount should be one-fourth of the total price. 10 to 20 % of total value of property is normally acceptable. Bayana is a formal agreement written on stamp paper with related conditions set by both the buyer and the seller. It is usually paid one week after the token money. Terms include the time frame for the property transfer and the payment of the remaining amount, which is often between 10 to 30 days but can be more.
The longer the time frame to clear the remaining amount, the higher the bayana. During this time, the seller applies for the No Demand Certificate (NDC). This certificate is given by the respective housing authority in the presence of both parties. The property is transferred right away and the seller receives the bank draft.
If the deal falls through after the bayana due to some problems on the seller’s end, they are legally bound to pay double the bayana amount as penalty. If the buyer backs out, they lose the bayana amount.
It is better to ink an agreement at the time of bayana, and all terms should be written down and signed by both parties. It is important to discuss with your dealer about the commission, transfer and tax expenses, so that you can arrange the amount accordingly.
You have to furnish your photographs, CNIC copy, copy of allotment letter if you are a seller and any other document to your agent to apply for the No-Demand Certificate (aka NDC). The transfer of property is simply not possible without this certificate, which is obtained from the private housing society’s office or from the city’s land development authority, depending on where your house or land is located.
This document certifies that you don’t owe any dues. It also includes information about taxes applicable on both the buyer and the seller, as well as the transfer fee and stamp duty. There is a certain charge associated with applying for an NDC, which is different for different developers. Once you receive your NDC, make sure you give a copy to the buyer.
Transfer form is filled and transfer documents set including affidavits is prepared by real estate agent as per requirements of transferring authority.
Taxes and transfer fee.
The buyer has to pay the following charges before the property can be handed over.
Transfer fee, Stamp duty/ Advance Tax, CVT, TMA Tax.
There are basically four types of taxes, mentioned below:
- Capital Value Tax
- Capital Gains Tax
- Withholding tax
Capital Value Tax (CVT) & Stamp Duty: For Purchaser only
Becoming the owner of any property is not that easy as you have to pay the hefty amount. Capital value tax is basically a provincial tax that is paid by the buyer when buying a property. This tax is payable on the capital value of the acquired asset. According to the Finance Act, 2006, the capital value tax is imposed at the rate of 2% of the recorded value.
According to new budget 2019-2020, the federal government has endorsed the abolition of DC rates. Currently, the total of CVT and Stamp Duty for an urban property is 5% (2% CVT and 3% Stamp Duty). Much would-be thinking of what stamp duty is. It is a tax paid on the legal document while purchasing the property. Basically, Stamp Duty is levied at 3% of the DC rates of the property.
According to Finance Act, 2006, the Capital Value Tax or CVT is levied at the rate of 2% of the recorded value.
Currently, in Punjab for urban property, the CVT stands at 2% but you will have to pay 5% tax in form of 2% CVT and 3% Stamp Duty. The CVT was levied on the buyers in Punjab back in 2011, where they will have to pay the CVT for all sizes of residential and commercial properties located in urban areas.
Withholding Tax (WHT) or Advance Tax:
Section 236-C for seller and Section 236-K for buyer.
Withholding Tax is of great importance. It is the federal tax that has to be paid by buyer and seller when dealing on property. WTH has to be paid at the time of the property deal. Withholding tax is to be collected irrespective of the value of property.
Withholding tax is also known as advance tax which clearly shows it is an advance tax on the other taxes.
For income tax filer, he has to pay 1 % withholding tax.For income tax non-filer it is 2% of property value.It is adjustable in annual tax returns.
Capital Gain tax:
It is the tax that is to be paid by the seller. When the seller gains profit while selling the property, it is the capital gain which is taxable.
In an explanation issued on Tuesday, FBR explained that where the holding period does not exceed one year, the total amount of gain will be taxed. The gain will be calculated by deducting the cost from the consideration received.
If the holding period is more than one year but does not exceed eight years in the case of open plot or four years in the case of constructed property, 75% of the gain will be taxed.
No CGT tax imposed on a house or a flat if sold after four years, however, a five per cent tax will be imposed on the property worth Rs5 million if sold before four years.
Note: 100% Gain on sale of open plot and constructed property exempt after 8 years and 4 years respectively while 25% of either gain exempt if sold after one year.
Through the Finance Act, 2019, the holding period for taxation of capital gain of open plots has been increased to eight years and for constructed properties, it has been increased to four years, according to explanatory notification issued by the Federal Bureau of Revenue (FBR) regarding the new taxation system for selling open plots and constructed properties. It further mentions that where the holding period does not exceed one year, the total amount of gain will be taxed, whereas the gain will be calculated by deducting the cost from the ‘consideration’ received.
If the holding period is more than one year but does not exceed eight years, in the case of open plot or four years in the case of constructed property, 75 percent of the capital gain will be taxed.
It has been further clarified that the form of immoveable property, whether open plot or constructed, will be determined at the time of sale of the property.
The government has exempted capital gain tax up to 75 percent in case an immovable property sold by government employees of army personnel after completion of three years.
According to BDO Audit Consultancy Firm, Clause (9A) of Part III of Second Schedule provides a 50 percent exemption on capital gain derived on first sale of immovable property acquired or allotted to ex-servicemen and serving personnel of Armed forces or ex-employees or serving personnel of Federal and Provincial Governments, being original allottees of immovable property.
The Tax Laws (Second Amendment) Ordinance, 2019 has further exempted capital gains up to 75 percent in case the property is sold after completion of three years from date of acquisition.
People who have bought their property on installments wouldn’t have to pay the tax initially. Only when the property is transferred on their name will they be required to pay tax. The property will usually be transferred after three years.
New amendments announced in April 2020 in Corona situation.
At the moment (11-5-2020) Govt has reduced Stamp duty to 1% and CVT to 1 % due to Corona situation
EXEMPTION FOR CAPITAL GAINS ON SALE OF RESIDENTIAL PROPERTY
A new clause (114AA) has been inserted in Part I of the Second Schedule to the Ordinance, whereby exemption from tax on capital gains has been provided to a resident individual on sale of constructed residential property (a house having land area upto 500 square yards and a flat having an area up to 4000 square feet) used only for personal accommodation by the said individual, his spouse or dependents and for which any of the utility bills are issued in the name of such individual. The exemption shall not apply if it has been previously availed by such persons.
No amendment has been, however, made in section 236C of the Ordinance, which implies that sale of the above properties will remain subject to collection of advance tax at 1 % of sale consideration, unless the seller obtains an exemption certificate from the Commissioner.
As per current provisions, capital gains on disposal of constructed property whose holding period exceeds four years is zero rated. Furthermore, in case such property is sold within one year of holding period, the amount of advance tax collected under section 236C at 1% of sale consideration is treated as minimum tax. It, therefore, appears that the purpose of this amendment is to provide an exemption from tax on capital gains on disposal of such constructed properties, which are held for less than four years.
REDUCED RATE OF TAX COLLECTION ON IMMOVABLE PROPERTY SOLD BY AUCTION
The rate of tax collection under section 236A of the Ordinance has been reduced from the standard rate of 10% to 5% in case of immovable property which is sold by auction. However, the tax collection is to be made at the gross sale price of such property sold by auction.
The property transfer procedure in Pakistan is considered very important, therefore the presence of both the buyers and sellers is very crucial. The two parties visit the respective office on a particular day and the buyer hands over the payment in the form of a pay order, after which the officer transfers the property to his or her name and issues a letter detailing this transaction.
Both parties then see the local registrar of the property, where the seller acknowledges amidst witnesses, and the buyer, that he has sold the property on mutually agreed terms. The registrar then asks the land development authority to make necessary changes and transfers the title of the property to the seller.
Pay via Bank Pay Orders
Avoid paying in cash. It is always better and secure to pay using pay orders.
Fair is fair. It is part of an agent’s commission since they have given you a secure deal.As for what you need to pay your agent, his commission is 1% of a total price.