this is just a general guide for buyers of a Caribbean home. Any information provided is not legal advice and should not be treated as such. The information in this guide/webpage is provided without any representations or warranties, express or implied. You should seek help from a professional for any legal matter
Banks in the Caribbean are very cautious and risk adverse. Ideally, you should approach a broker or lender with a deposit / down-payment of 15% of the property value, plus an extra 5% for lawyer fees, land stamp duty and furnishing. The most average approved mortgages in the Caribbean is 80% loan size for residential purchase, and 60% for land purchase. Either way, the bigger deposit means you can apply for mortgage deals with lower interest rate and complete faster.
Speak to a broker or bank and find out the maximum loan you can borrow. The loan size depends largely on the size of your income. The bigger your income, the more you can borrow. Note also, If you’re buying a property with other people, the lender will also take their finances into account as well.
If you’re exploring islands or neighbourhoods you haven’t lived in before, it can be worth spending a night or two in a local B&B to check out the commute, shops, restaurants, and general atmosphere. Always, talk to locals and expats about safety and security. Even if you’ve lived in the area all your life, it’s important to do some digging on the area you want to buy in before signing on the dotted line.
Things to look into include:
• Distance to and from airport.
• Distance to local shops & amenities
• Beach life, day and night etc
• Schools, if you got kids.
Once you got a mortgage loan agreed in principle and a reputable solicitor, next you should start looking for properties and arrange a viewing. There can be so many hidden defects within a property, especially those built on hills or close to the beach. At times, it can be more complicated than buying a used car. Thus, it may be advisable to take a professional surveyor with you to do a quick inspection. Either way, always visit the property in person, get a feel for the area and living inside the property.
Usually, the bank will send their own surveyor to inspect the property at your cost, but in some cases, you should also hirer an independent surveyor. Property surveys help to assess the condition of the building and detect structural problems. Although a survey is optional, it’s better to be aware of any issues before buying so you can make an informed decision on how much to offer and budget for any repair work required.
In the Caribbean, there are many reports about land being sold without title deed, fake title deed or sold buy people who do not have rights to the land or property. It is very important to hirer a reputable attorney who will do all the proper searches and prepare the paper work to ensure you get a clean deed od title.
The exchange of contracts happens when the buyer and seller’s legal representatives swap signed contracts, and the buyer pays the deposit. Before the exchange of contracts, you’ll need to have several things prepared in advance, such as a written mortgage offer, an agreed completion date and buildings insurance in place from the day of exchange (or from completion if you're buying a new-build.)
After you’ve exchanged contracts you can breathe a sigh of relief, as the agreement for you to buy the property is now legally binding. The chances of anything falling through from this moment are extremely low. Your lawyer will lodge an interest in the property, enabling you to pay the seller, and apply to the Land Registry to transfer the deeds to your name.
Completion often takes place around two weeks after exchange, but this is flexible and you can agree a convenient date with the seller. On completion day, the money will be transferred to the seller and you can then collect the keys from the estate agent and move into your new home.
Next comes the much more enjoyable task of starting to furnish and decorate the property to your taste - and maybe even taking a moment to simply relax. You’ll have earned it!