Buyers Guide: Frequently Asked Questions
The following information answers many of the main concerns prospective buyers have when looking to invest in property in The Bahamas. We have tried to make this a comprehensive guide to the general rules and regulations, but if you have other questions, please e-mail them to us at email@example.com, and we shall endeavour to answer them for you.
What kind of properties do you sell in the Bahamas and what islands are they on?
Bahamas Realty Limited is a full service real estate company. We sell both residential and commercial properties. These include vacant land, acreage, single-family homes, condominiums, private islands, resort properties, office/retail buildings, shopping centers, and warehouses. On the residential side we are the exclusive associate in The Bahamas for Luxury Portfolio and Leading Real Estate Companies of The World and a member of Who's Who in Luxury Real Estate. On the commercial side we are the exclusive member of NAI Global.
Why should foreign property investors consider buying a home in Bahamas?
The Bahamas has attracted a very wide range of property investors, from those who have purchased large multi-million dollar estate properties to those who have purchased modest condominiums or homes in the $150,000 - $400,000 price range. The exquisite locations of properties in the Bahamas, particularly in certain areas of New Providence and Paradise Island, coupled with a safe investment climate, has created a demand for up-scale investment properties with positive property returns. The Bahamian lifestyle is one that draws people back time and time again. Communities here have expanded to encompass extensive lifestyle, fitness, epicurean and social opportunities that are world class, while maintaining the relaxed atmosphere famous to the Caribbean.
Is it possible for a non-Bahamian to purchase property in The Bahamas?
Yes. The International Persons Landholding Act, 1993, provides for the sale of real property in The Bahamas to non-Bahamians.
Are there any special permits required when purchasing property in The Bahamas?
Permits are required by non-Bahamians, as provided under the International Persons Landholding Act, if:
- The property being purchased is greater than 2 acres.
- The intention is to rent out all or a portion of the property.
- The property being purchased is for commercial development.
Non-Bahamians who buy land for which a permit is not required must register their purchase with the Foreign Investment Board under such Act.
How do I go about getting a permit or registering my purchase with the Foreign Investments Board?
Non-Bahamians should also register their investment with the Exchange Control at the Central Bank of The Bahamas insure that on resale they will be able to remit the net proceeds of sale outside the Bahamas in the currency of the original investment.
In what form is title to property given?
The vast majority of property is sold freehold. There are a few exceptions of leasehold properties. These properties are generally Crown Lands (Government owned) properties that are leased for agricultural or development purposes. The Government of The Bahamas does not generally sell its property.
Do I need to engage the services of a local attorney when purchasing property?
No, but the appointment of a local attorney is highly recommended. Apart from insuring that the documents of title are properly prepared and are in good order the local attorney, when representing the buyer, gives an Opinion on the title to the property. This Opinion is considered to be the same as title insurance as the lawyer is liable should the purchaser find that there is a defect in the title. Local lawyers carry indemnity insurance.
Is title insurance available in The Bahamas?
Yes. There are companies in the Bahamas offering title insurance. The risk premium generally runs between .20% - .27% of value.
What are the costs involved in buying or selling property?
Seller Costs: It is customary in the Bahamas for the sales price to be quoted as a gross price. In a gross sale the seller is responsible for the payment of 50% of the government stamp tax on the conveyance, the agent’s professional fee, and the seller’s legal fees.
Buyer Costs: The buyer is responsible for the payment of 50% of the government stamp tax on the conveyance and the buyer’s legal fees.
Value Added Tax: As of January 1, 2015, the Bahamas Government has imposed a 7.5% Value Added Tax (VAT) on all real estate conveyances, commissions and legal fees.
After I purchase a property will I be able to repatriate the proceeds of sale whenever I sell it?
Yes. You will be able to repatriate the entire proceeds including any profits provided you register the purchase with the Exchange Control Department of the Central Bank at the time of purchase.
Do I need any special approvals in order to build on a property or to make any changes to an existing structure?
Yes. You will need to obtain approval from the Town Planning Board and a building permit issued by the Ministry of Works. A local architect or engineer would be able to assist you with this
Are there good qualified architects, contractors and engineers available in the islands?
Yes. Most if not all architects in the Bahamas were schooled either in the United States, Canada or the United Kingdom and have international accreditations. There is a local licensing Board for architects. The construction industry is also regulated, but the qualifications for licensing are not nearly as rigorous. The leading contractors are all civil engineers with international accreditations or have certified engineers on staff. Many of the smaller contractors are products of a good apprentice system and are very adept and skilled at efficiently carrying out residential construction. Civil, mechanical and electrical engineers in the Bahamas, like the architects were schooled in other countries and hold international accreditations from those respective countries and must also have a license issued by their respective local Boards
May I use the services of a non-resident architect?
Yes, but that architect cannot work in the Bahamas without a permit to do so. All building plans submitted to the Town Planning Board and the Ministry of Works must be signed off by a local licensed architect and local engineers. As in any jurisdiction there are local customs and procedures required in getting the job done and it is recommended that you utilize the services of the local professionals.
Are Brokers and sales agents in The Bahamas licensed?
Yes. Brokers and sales agents are licensed by The Bahamas Real Estate Association (BREA). Qualifications for licensing include sitting a written exam. BREA is an international member of The National Association of Realtors (NAR) and many BREA members are International Members of NAR and hold various accreditations offered by NAR including GRI, CRS, CRB, CIPS and CCIM. A few members are also members of the International Federation (FIABCI). The public is urged to ask and only use the services of a BREA member.
Is there local financing available to non-Bahamians and/or permanent residents?
Yes, but the loan facility may only be given in US$ at international rates and the down payment required is generally on the order of 40% of value.
What taxes do you have in The Bahamas?
First and foremost we have no income tax, capital gains taxes or inheritance taxes. There is no sales tax with the exception of the Stamp Duty + VAT paid on the conveyance of real property.
As of January 1, 2015, the Bahamian Government has implemented a Value Added Tax (VAT) at a rate of 7.5%. Put simply, VAT is a consumption tax. VAT is payable on all real estate conveyances, commissions and legal fees.
The Bahamas Government’s main source of revenue is from customs duties on all goods imported into The Bahamas. This tax may be as low as 0% as in the case of computers and computer software, and as high as 65% in the case of all non-hybrid cars, and 220% on cigars. The typical rate of duty is around 35%. The 7.5% VAT is applied on top of duty in most instances.
The Government Stamp Tax on Property Conveyances
The Government Stamp Duty (tax on the conveyance of real property). This is a graduated tax. The total amount of the tax is calculated as follows:
- When the value of the consideration is less than to $100,000, the rate is 2.5%
- When the value of the consideration is $100,000 and over, the rate is 10%
- VAT registrants will be able to claim as a credit or net off the 7.5% VAT on commercial property sales valued at over $100,000.
The usual practice in the Bahamas is for the tax to be shared equally between buyer and seller unless otherwise agreed upon.
First time Bahamian buyers may be exempted from stamp tax on a dwelling house or vacant land purchased for a dwelling house, up to the value of $500,000.
Real Property Tax
The taxable value of your property is based on the latest selling price. As regards undeveloped land, you are responsible for reporting the value of the improvements as you make them. If you possess an annual home-owners permit, you may deem your primary residence to be owner-occupied.
A ten percent reduction on the tax will be granted if taxes are paid in full on or before March 31st in any year.
Real property taxes are assessable on all real estate in the Bahamas, unless the owner is exempt. All property must be declared at the Department of Inland Revenue (a division of the Ministry of Finance) in order to be assessed.
Bahamians are not required to pay real property taxes on undeveloped land, or on real estate in the Family Islands. Non-residents are required to pay taxes on all real estate interests in The Bahamas.
Property taxes are typically billed in mid-October and are due by 31st December, for the following year. The Department of Inland Revenue has the right to appraise and re-assess the value of any property that it deems to have increased in value. The maximum property tax assessable per year is $50,000. The rates are as follows:
On owner-occupied properties:
- First $250,000 - Exempt
- Between $250,000 to $500,000 - 0.625% (Reduced from .75% effective 1st January 2016)
- More than $500,000 - 1% on the part of the market value in excess of $500,000
On residential properties:
Defined as: "Any property, that is not owner-occupied, comprising not more than four units, exclusive of outbuildings, beneficially owned by a citizen of The Bahamas, used solely as a dwelling place and from which no commercial enterprise is conducted.”
- First $75,000 - $300
- Above $75,000 - .625% of the assessed value
On vacant land (owned by non-Bahamians):
- First $7,000 of market value -$100
- More than $7,000 - 1.5%
The rates of tax on all other properties (commercial) is:
- First $500,000 of market value - .75% (Reduced from 1% effective 1st January 2016)
- Over $500,000 - 2% on the part of the market value in excess of $500,000
Is it possible to establish residency in the Bahamas and if so how does one go about it?
Yes. The Government of the Bahamas has set specific guidelines that allow non-Bahamians to establish permanent residency in The Bahamas. There are two categories of permanent residency: Permanent residency with the right to work and permanent residency with out the right to work. One of the criteria for permanent residency is the investment of a minimum of $500,000 in The Bahamas. This investment may take the form of the purchase of real property with a minimum value of $500,000. Non-Bahamians who own property in The Bahamas may apply to the Director of Immigration for an annual homeowner’s residence card. This card is renewable annually and entitles the owner, spouse and any minor child/children endorsed on the card to enter and remain in The Bahamas for the validity of the card. It is intended to facilitate entry into The Bahamas with minimal formalities.
What are the advantages to establishing permanent residency in The Bahamas?
Apart from the opportunity to live and work in a warm and pleasant environment there are also significant tax advantages for citizens of countries with high personal and corporate income taxes as well as inheritance taxes. The advantages vary depending on the citizenship of the applicant and the tax laws of the applicant’s home country.
Is it possible to obtain Bahamian citizenship?
Yes it is possible, but it is a long and involved process. Typically favour is given to long-term permanent residents and spouses of Bahamians.
Is it possible to live and work in The Bahamas?
Yes. But you must appreciate that The Bahamas has a small young population. The total population of the Bahamas is approximately 320,000 with a total land area of 10,000 square miles spread over 700 islands. The policy of the Bahamas Government is to protect the well being and provide maximum employment opportunities for Bahamians. In a nutshell in order to obtain a work permit to work in The Bahamas an employer must demonstrate that there is not a Bahamian ready willing and able to fill the position. Quite obviously the Bahamas would be overrun overnight if these safe guards were not in place.
Is finance easily available for buying Bahamian properties?
Yes. For Bahamians and permanent residents most of the major banks and life insurance companies offer mortgages with some offering terms up to 25 years and as little as 10% down.
Can foreign nationals qualify for local mortgages and what are the restrictions?
Landing institutions may grant mortgages to foreign nationals; interest rates, restrictions and down payment requirements may vary from institution to institution.
What is the traditional architecture like?
The traditional architecture is Colonial with an island/Bahamian flair. For residential properties this would typically include high pitched wood shingle roofs with dormer windows, wooden covered verandahs on the first and second levels, French doors, double hung windows with louvered shutters. For commercial properties colonial style columns at a grand entrance, high-pitched wood shingle roofs with dormer windows, covered verandahs on the first and second levels, French doors, double hung windows with louvered shutters. Modern variations of this style have eliminated the covered verandahs and double hung windows. Buildings are now designed for air-conditioning and a more efficient utilization of space. Unfortunately, some charm has been sacrificed in order to achieve this.
Where are the up and coming areas in the Bahamas?
The most popular areas in the Bahamas at the moment are the gated residential communities on New Providence and Paradise Island. Developments/communities of note are: Lyford Cay, Old Fort, Sandyport, Ocean Club Estates, Port New Providence. Popular residential communities in the family islands include: Harbour Island, Eleuthera; Hope Town, Abaco; and George Town, Exuma and The Exuma chain of islands.