Is there a central land registry in Guatemala?

Ten years or so ago my son bought a sliver of land half a mile or so to the west of the village of San Marcos la Laguna on the northern side of Atitlan. He paid some locals to build a basic Swiss-Family-Robinson type of house in a big tree on the property, in which he and his girlfriend and her baby daughter lived for some months. Later, he and they moved on to other places. The purchase deed looked wonderfully formal, but he told me at the time that Guatemala issued no certificates of title. Was that the case? If so, is it still the case? That would surely be a drawback to buying land there. I have Atitlan on my list of possible bolt-holes in what is commonly called a SHTF eventuality, and would be grateful for information on the legal position of foreigners buying land in the country. Thanks.

There is a registry but be forewarned, has the taxes be paid? Has someone doing upkeep? If not it's very possible your land might be considered "Abandoned" then the local Municipality would the seize the land and if they don't then the squatters could Legally take the land. It's a crazy law and it's worst in Costa Rica. My advise pass the deed to a lawyer and have him investigate the status.

Hi Gordon,

San Marcos La Laguna is a particular area because according the village the all land of the village is own by the village, therefore yes you can't get a deed or titulo de propriedad. A deed in guatemala is the maximum owner ship garantee you can get. Your son must have a legal document called escritura publica where his rights of ownership are written. His ownership being excercising the possetion of the land. And the fact he build a house is a good point for him.
Now if he is on the lake front he is on government land and he should get a lease contract with the government as it is what the law require him to do...
Does he still possesse the land?
I invite you to see a video testimony of someone to appreciate how is the process...

Thanks very much for both responses. I'm very grateful to you. No, Armand, he's not on the waterfront, but half-way up the hill; I think his strip ends at the road - if you're familiar with the area. At one point he was negotiating to lay a pipe to carry water up from the lake. But his circumstances changed, and he moved on. Frankly, it's possible the treehouse is no longer there. He got a formal deed, all right, so maybe he does possess the land still. I'll tell him!

Hi Gordon,

If he is not lake front but still in the 200 mts from the water level he will have to register with OCRET the government office in charge of lake front state land... Land have becoming very valuable lately around the lake and he is has a nice spot , nice view, not to steep there is some value in it..Let me know if I can be of any help. best

Thanks for the information, Armand. I will pass it on to my son, who now lives in Norway with a family. He's something of a hippy - as much as one can be with three children and no wife... I've no idea when he will be back in Atitlan, or even if, but I'm glad you and I have made contact here.

I remember Panajachel well. A nice little town! We used to take the boat-ferry to and from San Marcos. I also checked out your website. The rental places are quite good value, I would say; last time I was in Pana, my son and I stayed at some dive in the middle of town for about $5 each, sharing a room. Those were the days! You can see from my blog that I have moved around quite a bit in my long life, and Atitlan is one of my preferred bolt-holes. I have only good things to say about it.

Hi Gordon.

Norway how interesting I have 4 clients from Norway who have houses in the Lake that I managed for them... there is a big little comunity of norvegian in Santa Cruz La Laguna ... that we call little norway...