RE: “Investing in real estate in Rwanda as an expat” (The New Times, September 28).
On paper, it’s a good idea but in practice, it’s very tricky to negotiate on a personal level. This is because of the matrimonial sharing regimes, and Rwanda’s tight social fabric that ensures the wider family has a say on property.
Due to matrimonial regimes, one has to do research beforehand that the property is owned under this, because this will require consent of both husband and wife. Unfortunately, as an expatriate, this information may be tricky and I would advise one to buy properties through personal contacts that may be privy to such information.
The second factor is that Rwanda’s social fabric ensures that the whole family has a say in properties and therefore it’s not a surprise for extended family members to pop up unexpectedly (and usually through legal means) to object to the sale agreement (usually when its already done, leaving you with a nasty court case).
In Rwanda, the courts naturally give weight to such matters which can mean added expenses to negotiate the tricky judicial system. For this latter scenario, it can be alleviated by ensuring one works closely and follows up diligently (helps to work with a trusted middleman/broker—itself can be tricky—and hopefully not with a corrupt land notary with the local land office, not the Kigali one but where the land is situated.
Before undertaking such a transaction, also agree to pay a small fee and hire local legal assistance as well as thoroughly understand the family law, land law and commercial laws.