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What You Need to Know: Navigating Real Estate Jargon in Cartagena

Before you embark on the journey of buying real estate investment in Cartagena, check out this guide to real estate jargon, with words you should know

So, you are considering purchasing property in Cartagena? Before you embark on this rollercoaster ride, it is essential to familiarize yourself with the terminology commonly used in the local real estate market.

This guide will list the common real estate jargon you should know to make informed decisions when buying real estate in Cartagena. Let’s dive in!

PROPERTY = Inmueble

Inmueble refers to a property or land that can be developed or built upon. If you want to be more specific about the type of property you are looking for, try these words:

  • casa (single-family house)

  • apartamento (apartment)

  • terreno (land or plot)

  • duplex (a two-story apartment)

REAL ESTATE = Finca Raiz

This term encompasses all real estate types, including land, houses, and commercial buildings.

REALTY OFFICE = Inmobiliaria

Inmobiliarias are in charge of managing property rentals and sales in Cartagena. They advertise properties and do their due diligence to conduct good business. They can be tough to deal with and require a lot of paperwork and legal documentation, which are sometimes difficult for foreigners to provide because they are not Colombian.

To learn more about Inmobiliarias, see our article about the Common Pitfalls in Finding Investment Property in Cartagena

MORTGAGE = Hipoteca

A mortgage is a bank loan explicitly used to buy real estate. They tend to have lower interest rates and give the borrower ample time for repayment. In Colombia, hipotecas have relatively high-interest rates and are not readily available for foreigners. Talk to a specialized financing agent to see if this is an option for you.

DEED = Escritura

Deed is the legal document that confirms property ownership. The escritura, or deed, will be registered under your name in a public notary when you purchase a property.

CONTRACT OF SALE = Promesa de Compraventa

This sale contract is signed once you have chosen your desired property. It is a promissory contract in which the buyer and seller agree to do business together; this allows them to begin drawing up paperwork and coordinating legal and financial details. Promesa de Compraventa is essential because it reserves the property for the buyer, and prevents other interested parties from pursuing it. It guarantees that both parties will work together to finalize the sale details.

TITLE = Matrícula Inmobiliaria

Matricula Inmobiliaria is a number assigned to each property or land in the public registry office. This property number will give you access to a file that details property owner, square footage, and any financial/legal liens.

NOTARY = Notaría

Most documents used to purchase a property, including the power of attorney, contracts, bills of sale, etc., must be notarized in a notaria. These types of authentications are quick to complete and inexpensive.

You can drop by any notaría and authenticate your documents on the spot. Additionally, if you plan to authenticate several documents, you can register your signature in the notary, which allows you to send other people to do the paperwork on your behalf.


A person you can hire to do paperwork on your behalf. You can give them power of attorney to do all required processes relating to a specific function (i.e., property/vehicle purchase, pay fines, file legal documents, etc.).

CONDO FEES = Administración

If you are in the market for an apartment in Cartagena, you will likely have to pay administración. These condo fees will depend on what amenities your building has to offer (pool, gym, private security, air-conditioned common areas, etc.). Because the cost of administering a co-property gets divided into the number of residents, the more apartments a building has, the lower the condo fees tend to be.


Due to security concerns in Colombia, most multi-family residences like condos and residential buildings have 24/7 security personnel on-site. The porteros are mostly there to open the door and announce and register any visitors to the building. They also provide some level of security because they have to be alert day and night. Some security personnel also carry weapons in case of an emergency.

BACKUP GENERATOR = Planta Electrica

Cartagena loses power often, sometimes for hours at a time. This matter can be a nuisance for residents because there is no internet or light without power. The biggest concern, however, is that you cannot run the air conditioning or fan when the power is out. Only some buildings in Cartagena have a planta electrica, so check this vital feature before you purchase or rent a property.

STRATA 1 to 6 = Estrato 1-6

Strata (or stratum) refers to a level or class people are assigned to according to their social status, education, or income. Most cities in Colombia work on an estrato system in which different neighborhoods are classified by how much they need to pay for public and private services.

Cartagena ranks their areas into estratos 1 to 6, with 6 being the highest class and 1 being the lowest. Those who live in the highest strata will pay more for services, and the surplus funds are used to subsidize the lower strata, who spend very little.

It is essential to understand this system when choosing which neighborhood to purchase your property in. Your strata will determine what you pay in public services like water, electric, and gas bills, as well as private services such as internet providers or handyman services.

To give you some context, most of Cartagena’s beachfront, historical, and tourist neighborhoods are estrato 5 & 6. Strata 1 & 2 would be shacks and shantytowns, and 3-4 would be working/middle-class neighborhoods.

POOL/GYM/PLAYGROUND = Piscina/Gimnasio/Parque Infantil

In Cartagena, many residential buildings have amenities for common use. Keep these terms in mind as you search for your dream property.

These are a few of the common terms you will encounter during your real estate investing journey. Keep these in mind to be prepared. If it is too much hassle for you to keep track of all the jargon, hire a real estate concierge, like Double-Double. We can take care of every detail on your behalf.

1 Comment

Reg Natarajan
Reg Natarajan
Sep 13, 2023

In my experience, people use "admón" in place of "administración" although the latter is more correct.

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