Buying Caribbean Real Estate 5 Key Steps
What Sort of Lifestyle is it going to be?
This is the big question revolving around desire and circumstance!
Do you want lie on a beach all day? Play golf? Write that book? Spend your day teaching local children how to swim? Build a rammed earth house and be self sufficient in food? Winter in the Caribbean and summer back north?
All things are possible, but your strategy for buying Caribbean real estate in the islands or Central America will be based on your actual circumstance.
If you decide on a ‘snowbird’ lifestyle, your best option would be to buy property in a resort development, or a residential development with a Rental Management agreement.
Alternatively, make an arrangement to have a housesitter in place during the summer months when you are gone, if you don’t live within a managed community. Leaving real estate empty in the Caribbean without supervision is not recommended.
If you’re moving to the Caribbean on a full time basis, then your decisions need to take into account ; income, healthcare, language, communication, access, budget, cultural and leisure interests and of course schooling if you have a young family. Finding a job in the Caribbean is a big separate subject.
Choosing a Country
Most people only get one shot at getting it right when choosing a new country in which to live. Its expensive if you make a mistake. In the Caribbean, this choice is complicated as there are over 30 countries from which to choose.
Geographically, the size of the country is the overriding influence on the choices you have. There are huge land masses in Central America boundaried by the Caribbean to their west, there are large islands like Cuba and Hispianiola which are the size of some European countries; and finally there are the small islands which seem to huddle together for protection such as the Leewards, the Windwards, Turks and Caicos and the Caymans.
The one common factor that they all share is the Caribbean sea and the beautiful Caribbean beaches which fringe it. Together they offer the biggest array of culture, weather, infrastructure, language and governance in one region in the whole world. It is a melting pot, exciting, bewildering and full of traps for the unwary! Visit each of the countries on your list until you have eliminated all but one or two and then visit again.
If you have already been a visitor many times and are sure of where you want to make your new life, bear in mind that the responsibilities of daily living are very different from being a tourist where its everyone else’s responsibility to make things work. The icing on the cake might look perfect, but make sure the cake is’nt just crumbs! Or just plain crummy!
Narrowing it Down
Once you have chosen your country, the next step is to explore that country and narrow your search down to an area, town or village that feels right. Caribbean beachfront real esate is always at a premium price, the further inland you go, the further off the beaten track the cheaper it becomes.
Hire a taxi to get a local view. If you hire a car you will miss this useful insider view. Your taxi driver will be a mine of useful information but if you tell him you are looking for property he will sell you his grandmother’s house, whether or not she owns it, you have been warned!
Talk to others who have made the transition to island life and do your background reading. Ask the right questions. Talk to us! Security is always a priority for people at this level, and the truth is that you must make your own security. Communities of visibly wealthy homes will attract petty crime. This is the way of the world.
If you are going to need staff, find out if the skillset you need is available in the area. If the area is very transient, find out why people are not staying.
Viewing and Comparing Properties
In the final stages you will probably look at several properties in the area. This time hire a car and go with maps from your real estate agent, unless the real estate agent comes with you. If you are looking at land, wear boots, long pants and a long sleeved tee-shirt to protect your skin from man-eating insects, and vengeful grasses. Take a machete with you to clear a path off the beaten track and to look for boundary markers.
The regulations, taxes and licences ruling the purchase of Caribbean real estate, change with every country and your agent will advise you of all the local ones. In most countries you will need an Alien Landholder’s Licence, which costs 5-10% of the total sale price if you are a non-national. But even there the rules change, if you buy less than an acre for example in Dominica, you do not need to apply for the license, but must still pay the fee.
Walk the boundaries of the property and make sure they are clearly marked and match up with the survey. Ask the real estate agent the relevant questions about access, utilities, neighbours, rights, flood plains, subsidence, history, land taxes, landholders licences and the best lawyers for conveying the property. Ask us and we will advise!
Buying Your New Property
If you need a mortgage then you should check what is available from the local banks, but you will get a better rate getting a second mortgage on a property in Europe or the US. If you are buying off-plan or from a development, check their financing options, as some offer very competitive rates, better than anything you can get anywhere else.
Make an offer for the property through your agent, and get a response via email not just verbally. When your offer has been accepted, then the process begins and you will need to work with both the agent and your lawyer. Finding the right lawyer is a minefield in itself and should only be done on the recommendation of people you trust and again your agent is often the best person to advise here.
Your new property cannot be secured and taken off the market until you have sent the deposit to your real estate agent or to your lawyer. The deposit is normally 10%, but can be negotiated. Once the deposit is held in an escrow account, then the agent should remove the property from the market to allow the sale to proceed through to completion in accordance with the terms agreed by the parties.
After all of the above you will be exhausted, stressed, excited and scared! Let the carnival begin!Share this article on