PROPERTY BUYING CONSIDERATIONS IN THE CARIBBEAN
By Jody Sallons-Day
Do you imagine owning your own home in the Caribbean? Are you just about to search the real estate pages to see what suits your budget?
Before you embark on a holiday romance with property, here are some tips and hints to keep in mind when considering buying in Antigua and the surrounding islands of the Caribbean:
- All islands vary in their beauty and each very different in their appeal, but Antigua is exceptional with its superior quality of white sandy beaches and spectacular views. Others have fewer beaches and may not offer so much white sand!
- Antigua offers regular and direct flights to UK, USA, Germany as well as other international airports. From here you can also travel on local Caribbean flights to other islands for onward trips or just breaks away. Think about this when choosing other islands as your final destination; reliance on additional flights may prove less easy than anticipated, flight schedules change and can increase your itinerary and your costs unless carefully planned.
- Keep in mind the seasons and variety of activities on offer by regularly checking on www.antiguanice.com for what’s on and how to make the best of your visit.
- Become acquainted with the island…not just the spot you’ve fallen in love with!
- Think about your lifestyle while you are here and how you wish to enjoy your second home. There are many advantages and disadvantages of buying a property in an isolated area or in a community. You may be a enticed by that lovely house nestled in the hills but a long and complicated drive for the nearest bottle of milk or other last minute essentials could be a hindrance.
- Properties need to be loved and used. They can get damp and musty when left alone for a long time. Having someone to look after your home in your absence, regular airing and security is invaluable.
CONSIDER YOUR REASONS FOR BUYING AND STICK TO YOUR PRIORITIES!
- Do you want something which can attract rental income? How important is this? Location is important for renters too.
- Are you considering a long term purchase or is short term capital appreciation more important? Is it something just to add to your portfolio or something for your pension?
- Do you ultimately see yourself living here, in which case schooling and transport may be important to you too.
THE TRICKY STUFF…
- Research the latest requirements. To buy here and in most of the Caribbean islands an Alien Landholder’s Licence is needed for each and every property you buy. Currently the stamp duty for this still stands at 5% but ensure you check the latest legislation.
- Find a reputable lawyer or speak with your real estate agent for recommendations on the latest legislation you need, not only for purchasing but for immigration matters too.
- Although Antigua is based on the UK law system you still need to check on matters which affect your tax affairs in your country of domicile. This includes basics like inheritance tax, a tax on your capital gain (not always referred to as CGT), and other local issues such as undeveloped land tax, etc., for when you sell. Governments and legislation change so keep abreast of any changes in the law which might affect you!
- Do you want to buy with cash or mortgage? Mortgages in the Caribbean are expensive with current interest rates as high as 12% as they are mostly self-financed independent banks, and not tied to the global banking system. Explore the options, sometimes it is cheaper to remortgage at home (and could be as much as 10% cheaper) and still buy with cash.
- Find someone efficient and trustworthy who can be called upon at any time to help you look after both your purchase (and your property) whilst you are off island. Remember not everyone uses email in quite the same way and there are still authorities who don’t use it at all! Phone calls can be expensive and remember UK and Europe, for example, can have as much as six or seven hours time difference (effectively a whole working day).
- Give serious consideration to retaining a property finding company who can both source and oversee your purchasing headache for you. Property finders search for you using all agents and all professionals as their point of reference, taking the finding process to the ultimate stage on your behalf.
- Remember that vendors appoint agents for a reason. Real estate agents help you… it will cause no end of complication if you try to take matters in your own hands!
Finally, this is the Caribbean… a subtropical island with its own way of doing things. Going with the flow helps!
Jody Sallons-Day is Managing Director of HawkswoodWi, a Caribbean Property and land search specialist, whose main purpose is to act on behalf of the buyer, from finding the right property to overseeing the whole purchase for you. She works across the Caribbean.
Images - from the top - Barbuda by Kevin Johnson, Villa Ordnance & Reef Gardens.