Buying a village house with a beautiful view is a home seeker's dream that can turn into a nightmare if land ownership is unclear. So, how can people be protected when buying a village house? 'Do your homework before purchasing,' Professional Property Services chairman Nicholas Brooke said. Mr Brooke said land ownership of village houses was complicated, especially for small houses owned by indigenous males in the New Territories. Property agents said buyers should not trust any village representatives but do their own search in the Land Registry. Centaline Surveyors associate director James Cheung King-tat said: 'Buyers need to clarify through the Land Registry if the village house you want to buy is considered a small house? If yes, what kind of small house is it? Does the indigenous male pay the land premium before selling the house?' Not all village houses are small houses. Non-native males can buy public or private land to build houses for resale. 'One type of land ownership issue incurred by small houses is that the indigenous male resells his house without paying the land premium as required by the government,' Mr Cheung said. There are different premium schemes for different types of small house. According to the small-house policy, an indigenous villager who owns private agricultural land in the village can apply for a building licence at zero premium or a land exchange for a building lot on government land. But if an indigenous male wants to sell the house to a non-indigenous party within five years from the issue date of the Certificate of Compliance (an approval that the house is ready to move in), he has to pay a premium. 'In some cases, an indigenous villager who does not want to pay the land premium will not complete the deal until the restriction period has been passed,' he said. 'If you were the buyer of this house, you would be allowed to move in. However, the land would still be owned by the indigenous male until the deal was completed. 'If the indigenous male passes away or cannot be located before the completion date, you will never complete the deal,' Mr Cheung said. If an indigenous villager does not have land and requests the government to grant a public site, he is required to pay the government a land premium at any time the house is resold to a non-indigenous person. Mr Cheung said it was clearly listed in the property particulars from the Land Registry whether the land premium, if needed, had been paid. If there is a heading 'lease modifications' listed in the property particulars, go through it in detail, making sure the premium is paid. If a premium is needed but you cannot find the lease modifications heading, it is likely the premium has not been settled. That will cause land title problems during resale. However, buyers should be sure that the certification of indigenous villager status is genuine. Because of the frequent lack of birth certificates for older residents and close clan ties, it is often difficult for outsiders to verify land right claims, according to the Civic Exchange.