Expatriates should know that there are no restrictions on foreigners owning property in Jamaica.
Properties range from single family or multi-family homes, to flats or condos; and property values vary with location and property type. It is highly recommended to use a broker when buying real estate in Jamaica. The directory has listing of these agents and there is an association (Realtors Association of Jamaica) you can check with for licensed agents. The Real Estate Board licenses real estate agents.
In purchasing property the first step is to make an offer. Upon acceptance by the vendor, a land survey and title search is conducted to confirm if there are any other claims or conflicting interests registered against the property. Once fully satisfied, the buyer is advised to lodge a caveat on the property to prohibit any other interest from being registered against the property, until transfer has been completed.
There are two kinds of land titles in Jamaica: common law and registered title. A common law title is a certificate of ownership used for unregistered lands. However, this is not a full title to the land. Nonetheless, a common law title can be upgraded to a registered title. This registered title is both legal and official. The Registration of Titles Act stipulates that the original must be retained at the Office of Land and Titles, while a duplicate is provided to the proprietor.
The Agreement for Sale is then prepared, normally by the vendor's lawyer. It is usually signed by both parties either at the agency (if a real estate agent is employed) or in the presence of a lawyer. The transaction becomes official and binding upon signing the agreement. At the same time, the buyer will be required to pay a deposit of about 3% - 10% of the selling price, depending on what has been agreed upon, and to pay his share of the stamp duty on the transaction.
After signing the sale agreement, an application should be submitted to the Office of the Registrar of Titles, and government duties paid. An important reminder: documents on conveyance of land must be stamped within 30 days of signing, to avoid substantial penalties.
The transfer of the deed signals the completion of the sale. If the purchase is in cash, the time it takes to complete will depend largely on the participating entities. On the other hand, if a mortgage is involved, the completion can last up to three months or more from the date of signing.
It is normal for payment to be made in a number of instalments. After the upfront deposit, the balance is usually divided into four payments.
It is important to note that foreign currency remittance for the purpose of purchasing real estate is prohibited without the approval of the Bank of Jamaica. Consent from the Exchange Control Department of the Bank of Jamaica is required prior to engaging in purchase agreements.
The whole process of registering a property can take around 41 days to complete. An idea of the component cost of the transaction is shared courtesy of Global Property Guide.com.
The transaction or closing costs can amount to 15.5% or more of the purchase price for the house. These costs are shared between buyer and seller, and the elements include:
To do mortgage for a house, the buyer is required to pay a deposit of at least 3% of the purchase price. Before changes in 2014 to the Mortgage Insurance law, the minimum was 10%.
Lawyers attend to almost every aspect of a property transaction in Jamaica. Legal fees are generally around 1.50% to 3% of the purchase price, plus 16.5% General Consumption Tax (GCT). This cost is split between buyer and seller
Stamp duty is equally shared between the buyer and the seller. The stamp duty is a tax charged at 4%. This cost is split between buyer and seller
Registration fee is around 0.50% of the property value. It is payable at the National Land Agency. This cost is split between buyer and seller
Transfer tax of 5% of property price is paid by the seller.
Real estate agent's fee is generally 3% to 5%, plus 16.5% GCT. Traditionally, the seller pays the agent's fee; however, it has become quite common recently to pass the cost to the buyer.
It is highly recommended to use a licensed real estate agent when buying real estate in Jamaica. The directory has listing of these agents and there is an association (Realtors Association of Jamaica) you can check with for licensed agents. These channels are suggested for you to use when searching for a house or flat to buy:
The first step to a successful search is determining what you want. Buyers should research the areas in Jamaica they want to live and types of property they are interested in to make the search as efficient as possible. Consider access to local amenities, transport links, schools, green spaces and property tax bands. Buying land and building the home of your dreams is a great option as demonstrated by former world heavyweight boxing champion Lennox Lewis.