Thursday, October 31, 2013

Appraisal of land near Cancun, Mexico


Mangrove

This is the second time this has happened to me in Mexico.  The borrowers wanted to take me to a distant spot and then point to their property without having to take me to the actual property being appraised.  I hope this is not how land is usually appraised in Mexico.

I was told that the property was adjacent to a prestigious beach resort with $500 per night rates, which I verified through Hotels.com.  The land was actually across a lagoon to the west and took about 20 minutes to reach by car, but the biggest surprise was that the land was composed almost entirely of dense mangrove swamp (known in Spanish as "mangle" or "manglar").  From the air it appears as green fields, but when inspected more closely one finds that it is all swamp and no solid ground.  Furthermore, mangroves are legally protected in Mexico, as are the crocodiles that inhabit them, and I witnessed at least one crocodile warning sign.  (For more info on why most governments protect mangroves from destruction, read http://www.internationalappraiser.com/2012/02/effect-of-mangroves-on-valuation-of.html .
 
Adjacent properties were also undeveloped mangrove swamps, and the only human activity appeared to be the presence of squatters.
 
In a previous appraisal assignment in Acapulco, a parcel was represented as being along the road to the airport.  The owner took me to another parcel along this road and then pointed to his property in the distance.  I asked him if his property was landlocked, but he assured me that there were roads leading to his property. I said “Let’s go there,” and found the property to be an ecological preserve covered with mangrove swamp, situated next to a garbage dump. Moreover, we were politely accosted by residents, either squatters or ejidatarios, who claimed the land as their own. Furthermore, the water had been polluted by a former Pepsi manufacturing plant.  The property also had crocodiles.
Landfill next to appraised property in Acapulco


In a recent post I was critical of an appraiser who performed her property inspection in the Dominican Republic by helicopter.  This is not the way to appraise land. From the air, dense mangroves can appear to be lushly vegetated solid ground. Here is what the property near Cancun looks like from above:
 
Here is what the property looked like from below:
 
 
Nothing substitutes for “boots on the ground” when conducting land appraisals, and one should wear boots for land inspections. They keep your feet drier and also protect you from snake bites.

This was not the only trick these loan applicants tried to play.  The deed showed that they were not the owners, nor did they possess a purchase contract.  Rather, they claimed they had the owner's permission to mortgage this property to finance an unrelated venture, but the contract supporting this claim seemed to be hastily and amateurishly prepared, and stated the property owner's attorney as the owner of the property.

When questioned about this, they stated that the attorney was a Mexican government official who really owned the site, using the registered owner as a proxy in order to hide his assets.  I googled the attorney's name but did not find any information on his government position. I never met or communicated with him or the registered owner. 

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