Don't make a bad investment in Morocco

We've created a guide to help you avoid pitfalls, save time, and make the best long-term investment possible.

Buying property in Morocco: scams and pitfalls

Last updated on 

risks pitfalls buying real estate Morocco

Everything you need to know is included in our Morocco Property Pack

Morocco's cultural richness and beautiful landscapes are drawing more foreign buyers into its real estate market.

Navigating the local property market can be a bit of a puzzle though, especially for non-residents. There are several hurdles and surprises that you should be ready for.

Our network of customers who bought properties and our on-site local advisors have highlighted several issues. We've listed them all in our Morocco Property Pack.

This article provides a brief overview of potential pitfalls that may arise during the property buying process in this country.

Is it safe or risky to invest in real estate in Morocco?

Morocco, by and large, can be considered a safe place to buy property. However, like any property market, it is not entirely immune to scams.

For instance, one common scam involves fraudulent property listings, where unsuspecting buyers are lured into investing in non-existent or disputed properties.

A few years ago, there were reports of a scam involving a fictitious resort development project in Marrakech, where investors lost significant sums. This highlights the importance of conducting thorough due diligence and relying on reputable real estate agents and legal advisors to avoid falling victim to such scams.

The Moroccan property market is not without its challenges. One significant pitfall is the bureaucratic red tape and complex administrative processes that can be both time-consuming and frustrating.

For example, obtaining the necessary permits and approvals for a property development project can be a protracted ordeal, leading to delays and increased costs. Foreign buyers, in particular, may find it challenging to navigate the intricacies of the Moroccan bureaucracy, which can hinder the ease of doing business.

While Moroccan property laws offer protection to buyers, the legal system can be slow and at times, less transparent compared to Western countries. An illustrative example is property disputes, which can drag on for years.

A case in point is a dispute in Casablanca, where a foreign investor found himself entangled in a property dispute that took over five years to resolve.

Although the legal system ultimately delivered a fair outcome, the lengthy process underscores the need for buyers to be prepared for potential delays and complexities.

Morocco's government has implemented regulations aimed at stabilizing the real estate market. However, these regulations can sometimes be cumbersome. For instance, property transactions may require approval from multiple government agencies, leading to a bureaucratic labyrinth.

Additionally, the government's role in setting prices for some properties can impact the market's dynamics and affect both buyers and sellers.

Foreigners who have purchased property in Morocco have encountered various challenges, including difficulties in obtaining clear property titles and navigating the intricacies of the local legal system.

A case in point is a French investor who faced a lengthy legal battle to secure a property title for his riad in Marrakech.

Such challenges emphasize the importance of comprehensive due diligence and the involvement of local legal experts who understand the nuances of Moroccan property law.

Buying real estate in Morocco can be risky

An increasing number of foreign investors are showing interest in Morocco. However, 90% of them will make mistakes. Avoid the pitfalls with our comprehensive guide.

buying property foreigner Morocco

Watch out for mistakes when buying property in Morocco

The concept of the "Adoul" system

When buying residential property in Morocco, a common pitfall you might encounter, especially as a foreigner, is overlooking the importance of the "Adoul" system.

The Adoul are notaries who play a crucial role in property transactions in Morocco. They are unique to the Moroccan legal system and are responsible for drafting and authenticating various legal documents, including those for property transactions.

You should be aware that in Morocco, property transactions are not always formalized in the same way as in many Western countries. The Adoul system is rooted in Islamic law and the Moroccan legal tradition, making it distinct from notary systems elsewhere.

These officials are trained in Islamic as well as Moroccan law and are appointed by the Ministry of Justice.

The Adoul are responsible for ensuring the legality of the property transaction, including verifying the ownership and the absence of any legal encumbrances on the property. However, their role and responsibilities might not be as comprehensive as those of notaries in your home country.

For instance, they might not conduct a thorough investigation into the property's history or check for unpaid bills or taxes associated with the property.

The risks related to "Mulk" property

Another specific pitfall you might encounter in Morocco is related to the concept of "Mulk" property, which is unique to the Moroccan real estate system.

Mulk refers to freehold property, which allows for full ownership rights. However, the complexity arises in distinguishing between Mulk property and "Melkia" or "Habous" property.

Melkia is a traditional form of property ownership in Morocco that resembles leasehold more than freehold. It can often be mistaken for Mulk. In Melkia, the land remains perpetually owned by the state or a religious foundation, and what is transferred is not the land itself but the building or the right to use the land.

This form of ownership can have significant restrictions on what you can do with the property, including limitations on renovations, transfers, and sometimes even sales.

Habous property, on the other hand, is a religious endowment and cannot be sold or bought in the traditional sense. It's managed by the Ministry of Islamic Affairs. Mistakenly purchasing Habous property can lead to a null transaction and potential legal issues.

The pitfall for you as a foreigner is assuming that all property for sale is Mulk and has the same rights and freedoms associated with freehold property in other countries.

You should be particularly careful when buying older properties or those in historic areas, as they are more likely to be Melkia or Habous.

Don't lose money on your property in Morocco

100% of people who have lost money in Morocco have spent less than 1 hour researching the market. We have reviewed everything there is to know. Grab our guide now.

buying property foreigner Morocco

The issue of "Sukna"

A less commonly known but significant pitfall in purchasing residential property in Morocco is the issue of "Sukna," which is a unique Moroccan concept relating to residency rights.

Sukna refers to the right of a person or family to live in a property, which can be granted independently of property ownership. This right is often established through traditional agreements or long-term occupation, and it is not necessarily recorded in official property records.

The challenge for you as a foreign buyer is that a property may appear to be unencumbered in the legal sense, but it could have individuals or families living there who have Sukna rights.

These rights are often respected in Moroccan culture and law, even if they are not formally registered.

If you purchase a property with individuals holding Sukna rights, you may face difficulties if you wish to renovate, rent, or even occupy the property yourself.

This pitfall is particularly relevant if you are considering buying older properties or properties in rural areas or traditional neighborhoods. The existence of Sukna rights is not always obvious, and discovering them post-purchase can lead to complicated legal disputes or moral obligations.

To avoid this issue, you should conduct a thorough investigation into the property's occupancy history.

The awareness of the "Shufa" rights

Another unique and often overlooked pitfall when buying residential property in Morocco involves the concept of "Shufa" rights.

Shufa is a traditional right of pre-emption that can significantly impact property transactions. This right is deeply rooted in Moroccan property law and Islamic principles, and it grants neighbors or co-owners the first right to purchase a property before it is sold to an outsider.

Suppose you find a property you wish to purchase, and after negotiating, you agree on a price with the seller.

However, before the sale can be finalized, the neighbors or other co-owners (if the property is part of a shared structure like a Riad) have the legal right to step in and purchase the property at the same terms agreed upon with you.

This right is particularly prevalent in close-knit communities or in the medinas (old towns) of cities like Marrakech, Fez, or Casablanca.

The exercise of Shufa rights is not uncommon, and it can be a source of frustration for foreign buyers who are not familiar with this aspect of Moroccan real estate law.

To navigate this potential pitfall, you should first understand that Shufa rights are taken seriously in Morocco and can be legally enforced.

When you identify a property to purchase, it's crucial to inquire about potential Shufa claims. You are advised to work closely with your real estate agent and a local lawyer who can investigate whether any Shufa rights are likely to be exercised.

They can also assist in communicating with neighbors or co-owners to gauge their interest in the property.

Additionally, it's beneficial to establish good relationships with the local community and neighbors.

This can sometimes lead to an amicable agreement or at least provide you with a clearer understanding of the likelihood of Shufa rights being invoked.

Get the full checklist for your due diligence in Morocco

Don't repeat the same mistakes others have made before you. Make sure everything is in order before signing your sales contract.

buying property foreigner Morocco

The concept of "Tanzil"

An additional unique pitfall in purchasing residential property in Morocco, particularly relevant for foreigners, is related to the inheritance laws known as "Tanzil."

Tanzil refers to the process of transferring property ownership according to Islamic inheritance laws, which are integral to Moroccan legal practices.

This process is governed by a specific set of rules derived from Islamic Sharia law, outlining how a deceased person's property should be distributed among their heirs..

In Morocco, when a property owner passes away, their property is distributed according to a fixed share system outlined in Sharia law. This system allocates portions of the estate to family members in a specific order and proportion. For example, the estate is typically divided among the spouse, children, and sometimes other relatives like parents or siblings.

This division can be complex, and the shares are not necessarily equal.

If you purchase a property from a seller who has a large extended family, there is a risk that unknown or unaccounted-for heirs might emerge later, claiming their share of the property.

This can lead to legal disputes and uncertainties regarding your ownership.

To mitigate this risk, you are advised to conduct a thorough due diligence process before purchasing a property. This should include an investigation into the seller's family tree and potential heirs.

It’s important to ensure that all heirs have agreed to the sale and that their rights are properly relinquished.

Moreover, engaging a local lawyer who is well-versed in Moroccan inheritance law and property transactions is crucial. They can help navigate the intricacies of the legal system and ensure that the property purchase is secure from potential future inheritance disputes.

Al-Intifa'a or "Usufruct"

In Morocco, when dealing with the purchase of residential property, it's crucial to be aware of the concept of "Usufruct" (or "Usus" in Arabic).

This legal concept can significantly impact property rights and is particularly relevant in Moroccan property law.

Usufruct refers to the right to use and enjoy the benefits of a property that is owned by another person.

The person holding the usufruct right (usufructuary) doesn't own the property but has the right to use it, rent it out, and benefit from it for a specified period, which could be a lifetime or a set number of years.

The challenge you may face as a foreign buyer is purchasing a property that is subject to usufruct rights without realizing it. In such cases, you might own the property, but the usufructuary retains the right to use or derive income from it until their rights expire.

This situation can be complex, especially if the usufruct rights are not clearly recorded or are known only locally, often established through traditional agreements.

To mitigate this risk, conducting thorough due diligence is essential. Investigate any existing usufruct rights attached to the property, which may require consulting local residents or authorities to uncover any traditional or informal agreements. Additionally, engaging a local lawyer familiar with Moroccan property law is advisable.

They can assist in navigating the complexities of usufruct rights and ensure that your property purchase doesn't infringe on someone else's established rights.

Don't sign a Moroccan document you don't understand

Buying a property in Morocco? We have reviewed all the documents you need to know. Stay out of trouble - grab our comprehensive guide.

buying property foreigner Morocco

"Aradi Jamai'a" or Collective Land

When purchasing property in Morocco, a specific and critical issue to consider is the challenge associated with the conversion of "Collective Land" (known locally as "Aradi Jamai'a").

Collective Land in Morocco refers to land that is traditionally owned collectively by tribal communities. This type of land is governed by unique rules and regulations, which can be quite complex, especially for foreign buyers.

The key issue with Collective Land is that while it may be available for sale, its conversion for individual ownership and use, particularly for residential development, is a complex legal process.

This process involves navigating tribal agreements, as well as bureaucratic hurdles at various levels of government.

As a foreign buyer, the pitfall lies in purchasing Collective Land without fully understanding the implications of its collective ownership status. Even if a sale is agreed upon with a representative of the tribal community, the conversion of this land into individual property rights is not straightforward and can be fraught with legal complexities.

When addressing the specific issue of purchasing Collective Land in Morocco, it is essential to conduct thorough due diligence, including confirming whether the land is indeed Collective Land and understanding the legal implications of its status.

It’s advisable to consult and communicate with local experts, including lawyers who specialize in Moroccan land law, and potentially liaisons who understand the tribal community systems.

Also, be prepared for a potentially lengthy and uncertain process, as converting Collective Land for individual use can be more challenging than dealing with other types of property in Morocco.

The risk of the "Tasfia" process

When purchasing property in Morocco, a specific challenge you might encounter is the "Tasfia" process, which is crucial in cases involving properties with unclear titles or multiple inheritors.

Tasfia is a legal procedure unique to Moroccan real estate law, aimed at clarifying and regularizing property titles.

This is especially common in older properties or those that have been passed down through generations, where ownership history can be complex with numerous family members involved or documentation that is not clear.

The pitfall for you as a foreign buyer lies in purchasing a property requiring Tasfia without fully understanding the extent of this process. Tasfia can be lengthy and may involve negotiations among all inheritors and potential legal disputes.

Until this process is completed, the legal status of the property remains uncertain, which can complicate asserting your full ownership rights.

To effectively navigate this issue, it's crucial to verify the property's ownership history and identify if Tasfia is required. This involves reviewing the property’s documentation and consulting with local legal experts.

Working with a lawyer who specializes in Moroccan property law is advisable, as they can guide you through the Tasfia process and help resolve any disputes or legal complexities.

Understanding that resolving title issues through Tasfia can be time-consuming is important, and patience is necessary to navigate this process successfully.

Thinking of buying real estate in Morocco?

Acquiring property in a different country is a complex task. Don't fall into common traps – grab our guide and make better decisions.

buying property foreigner Morocco

The potential risk of "Seguia" water rights

A more specific challenge you might encounter when buying property in Morocco, particularly in rural or agricultural areas, is navigating the complexities of "Seguia" water rights.

Seguia, a traditional system in Moroccan agriculture, refers to the allocation and distribution of irrigation water from rivers or streams. These rights are deeply rooted in local custom and can be critical for properties that rely on such water sources for agriculture or even daily use.

The intricacy arises because Seguia water rights are often separate from the land ownership itself.

This means that owning a piece of land does not automatically grant you rights to the water from a local Seguia. These rights may be owned and managed by different members of the community or local agricultural collectives, based on longstanding traditions and agreements.

For you as a foreign buyer, the challenge is in ensuring that the property you intend to purchase has the necessary water rights for your intended use, especially if you're looking at agricultural or rural properties.

If these rights are not clearly defined or are separate from the land, you could face challenges in accessing water, which can significantly impact the value and utility of the property.

To address this issue you should conduct a detailed inquiry into the water rights associated with the property. This should involve discussions with local community members, the current property owner, and possibly local agricultural collectives.

Furthermore, you should seek legal advice from a lawyer who has expertise in rural Moroccan property law and understands the local nuances of water rights.

It’s a need to understand the local water management practices and ensure that any transfer of water rights is legally documented and recognized.

"Servitude de Passage" or "Right of Way" issues

Another specific challenge in buying property in Morocco, particularly relevant to foreign buyers, is navigating the complexities of "Right of Way" issues, known locally as "Servitude de Passage."

This refers to the legal right to access or pass through someone else's property, which is a common occurrence in Moroccan real estate, especially in rural areas or densely packed urban environments like the medinas.

In Morocco, properties might have longstanding, informal agreements that allow neighbors or nearby residents to pass through certain areas of the property. These agreements are often not formally documented but are deeply respected in the local community.

For a foreign buyer, unknowingly purchasing a property with such an arrangement can lead to unexpected complications, as these rights of way are often considered binding.

The challenge is that these right of way agreements may not be immediately apparent or formally recorded, making it difficult for you to fully understand the extent of access others have to your property.

This can impact your privacy, plans for renovation, or even future property development.

To navigate this challenge, it's crucial to thoroughly investigate any right of way issues before purchasing a property. This involves more than just reviewing property documents, you should engage with local residents, the current property owner, and community leaders to understand any existing agreements.

Additionally, consulting with a local lawyer who is familiar with Moroccan property law can provide insight into how these rights of way might affect your property and how to legally address any concerns.

Make a profitable investment in Morocco

Better information leads to better decisions. Save time and money. Download our guide.

buying property foreigner Morocco