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Antigua and Barbuda - Renting Property
The entire territory of the nation is small, so there is a limit to the number of properties that can be built there. Antigua is just 280 square km in total, and Barbuda is even smaller at 161 square km, with over 90,000 residents to support.
The thriving tourist market brings in substantial numbers of additional people to the islands. Shortly before Hurricane Irma wreaked havoc in 2017, more than one million visitors arrived, mostly from the United States. This was the highest number of tourists ever received by this tiny nation. Many tourists want to stay in houses and apartments for a few days or weeks, and will pay significantly more to do so than local tenants can afford.
In addition, non-residents must have government permission to buy a home there. The lengthy process and bureaucratic hassle mean expats staying for the short to medium term will automatically turn to the rental market to find somewhere to live.
Mortgages too are difficult to obtain for many migrants, and there are taxes levied on the mortgage loans that are arranged, again driving expats to compete in the rental market.
Some areas are much more attractive to expats than others, which makes the rents more expensive. If you want to live in the popular communities of Jolly Harbour, St. James’s Club, Antigua Village, Jumby Bay, Northern St. John’s, Falmouth, English Harbour, Fryes Beach, Half Moon Bay, Browns Bay, Cedar Valley, Hodges Bay, Galley Bay or St. Mary’s South, expect to increase your rental budget accordingly.
Finally, unexpected events can impact the market overnight. In September 2017, properties across Antigua and Barbuda were devastated and destroyed by Hurricane Irma, closely followed by Hurricane Jose. As a result, almost half the nation’s residents found themselves homeless overnight, and everyone from Barbuda had to be evacuated.
Living Costs Are High
Imports of food and supplies come with a high price tag in Antigua and Barbuda. Such items must be transported great distances and are often subject to a variety of duty and import tax costs. You can buy your groceries more cheaply if you buy local produce, but that gives you a limited diet. In addition, there are no local alternatives if you need a new fridge freezer or laptop.
You might have to buy an extensive set of adaptors or even a whole new set of electrical items. Both the 100 and the 220 volt systems are used on the islands, and rented properties may use one or the other.
As a result of these additional costs, your outgoings will probably be the same or even higher than if you were living in the United States or Europe. If you are saving money on personal income tax and capital gains tax then it’s not a worry, but anyone moving to Antigua and Barbuda on a limited budget needs to plan carefully.
Don’t sign a rental agreement if you think it will be a stretch, as other costs will leave you vulnerable to financial disaster. Instead, find a property you can comfortably afford even if it means compromising from your dream home.
Real Estate Agents
A number of real estate agents can be found on Antigua and Barbuda. They can advise you about the types of areas that meet your budget, and arrange viewings.
Their websites generally give pictures and full descriptions of available properties. A visit in person is always recommended before agreeing to a tenancy. It is hard to get a sense of room proportions, spot structural issues and assess local noise levels unless you physically stand in a property yourself.
The agent will normally be paid to find you a rental property. They should give you details of their charges and additional costs before they do any work for you.
Signing A Rental Contract
A rental contract protects you and the landlord. Both parties understand what their rights and obligations are, and can use them to seek redress in the courts if necessary. They are in common use across Antigua and Barbuda and you should insist on signing one before moving in. Otherwise, the landlord can demand additional rent or costs at any time.
If you are seeking a long term rental, you will normally be offered between six months and a year. Remember that any verbal assurance about extending your tenancy is worthless, even if it is given directly to you by the landlord.
If one isn’t already present, you may wish to request a break clause in the contract. Expats can be called back home overnight by family illness or a change of business plans, or may realise their new country doesn’t fit in with their expectations. Always plan for the worst by allowing a three month notice period. That way you will pay three months’ rent instead of having to cover the full cost of rent until the very end of the tenancy period.
All charges should be clearly stated in writing, both those to be paid to the landlord and any due to other parties. For example, in an apartment complex there will be costs associated with maintaining the structure of the building, keeping the pool clean and tidying the gardens and communal areas.
Getting Utilities Connected
Utility companies want to be sure of getting paid for the services they supply. This means that they will ask for proof of your identification and right to stay in the territory. You’ll be asked to sign a contract, and you might find that the initial deposit is rather large while you build up a credit history in the country. A trip to the local branch is normally the most straightforward way to get this sorted.
Electricity bills can be high because of the air conditioning. If you have arrived from a cooler climate, this could be an unexpected level of cost.
Signing up for a domestic water account will keep your taps flowing with clean drinking water. Landlords will often include water bills as part of the rent so it’s one less cost to worry about. However, many people prefer to drink bottled water or use a water filter at home.
There’s no gas company to sign up with as only bottled gas appliances are used on Antigua and Barbuda.
Ask Advice From Other Expats
If you are looking for a rental property and want to know more about where to live, or a good real estate agent to contact, why not reach out to the expat community in Antigua and Barbuda who can give you the benefit of their experience?
Read more about this country
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