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Buying Property

Antigua and Barbuda - Buying Property


Since Antigua and Barbuda won their independence from the British, the standard of expat housing on the islands has gone markedly upscale. It’s not unusual for luxury homes to have all modern conveniences including en-suite bathrooms for each bedroom, and to truly meet the definition of a dream home.

Naturally this is reflected in the price of property, especially for the areas popular with expats. The gated communities of Jolly Harbour, St. James’s Club and Antigua Village, the private island of Jumby Bay, as well as the residential areas of Northern St. John’s, Falmouth, English Harbour, Fryes Beach, Half Moon Bay, Browns Bay, Cedar Valley, Hodges Bay, Galley Bay and St. Mary’s South are top of many expat property hunting lists. As a result of this, properties in these areas command a premium price tag.

The global financial crisis of 2008 substantially affected house prices on Antigua and Barbuda, with a drop of almost 50 percent on many properties. A recovery has emerged, and anyone searching for cheap property to buy in Antigua and Barbuda will be disappointed. However, it is worth stopping to reflect that the value of luxury Caribbean homes aimed at the wealthy rely on migrants feeling financially secure enough to afford them.

Today, citizens from the United States represent roughly 45 percent of the expat buyers in the country, with British nationals close behind at 35 percent. French, Italian, Australian and Canadian purchasers are also found in good numbers.

Antigua and Barbuda is seen as a good place to buy property to live in or to hold as a holiday home. If you are looking at purchasing a home to rent out, the high purchase cost and low rental yields may mean other property markets will be more profitable.

Homes which are rented out as short term holiday lets do command higher rents, although property maintenance companies will normally charge up to 20 percent of the rental income to look after your investment in your absence. You will also be taxed on the rental income you receive.

Not Everyone Can Buy Property In Antigua And Barbuda

Any international buyer wishing to purchase property in Antigua and Barbuda must obtain an alien landholding license, which takes several weeks to be processed.

This licence is expensive, costing five percent of the property value. In addition, a foreign buyers’ tax of 2.5 percent is levied.

There is an alternative option available to those who qualify for the Citizenship by Investment Programme (CIP), which was introduced in 2014. If you purchase CIP-approved property worth at least US$400,000, invest at least US$1.5 million in local businesses or contribute a non-refundable sum of US$250,000 or more to Antigua’s national development fund, you and your family can obtain citizenship of Antigua and Barbuda.

This citizenship would also allow you to travel visa-free to most countries in the world. This is an attractive proposition for wealthy citizens of countries such as Russia or China, who currently have a number of visa restrictions to negotiate before they can travel freely.

However, the procedure takes time and costs $50,000 per adult applicant plus additional fees.

Valuing A Property In Antigua And Barbados

In the United Kingdom, house price sales lodged with HM Land registry are downloaded monthly and made available to the general public through a number of websites. If a property is for sale, it is easy and free of charge to assess the asking price in light of the recent sales of other properties in the area.

Unfortunately, no such system exists in Antigua and Barbuda. As a consequence, it is much harder to judge whether the asking price of a property is reasonable or ambitious. If you fall in love with a potential new home, the last thing you want to do is wait for another buyer to make an offer.

You must therefore have your wits about you. If you have friends or colleagues who have recently bought a local property, ask them about the asking prices of properties you are going to view. Similarly, spend time looking at brochures, for-sale boards and property pages to work out the going rate for particular styles of property in different local areas.

You will probably be buying your new home through a real estate agent, for which you will pay a fee of between five and seven percent of the property purchase price. If your estate agent is professional and honest, they won’t encourage you to pay over the odds for your new home. However, given that they will get more commission the more you pay, you must be alert to the danger of paying too much.

It’s also a good idea to employ a structural engineer to complete a survey on the property you are trying to buy. If you are paying over the odds they will identify it, albeit possibly too late for you to do anything other than proceed. However, they will also highlight any issues you might have missed on your viewings, such as insect damage or damp, which are hard to spot but can cost significant sums to treat.

Mortgages

Expats often have problems accessing mortgages in countries before they have lived there for two years, and Antigua and Barbuda is no exception. Given the additional risk of default, a higher interest rate is often levied.

If you do obtain a mortgage to buy the property, you will have to pay a government tax of three percent of the loan value.

Other Fees

The legal fees for your property purchase are likely to be at least two percent of the price you are paying for your new home. In addition to the lawyer’s or notary’s professional fees, which also cover their extensive business costs, there are a number of disbursements to cover. These include the ECD20 registration fee and the ECD50 land certificate fee.

You will also be charged stamp duty on the transaction. Plus, don’t forget the other fees already discussed - the alien landholders license, the foreign buyers’ tax, the tax on mortgage loans and the real estate agents commission. Added together, these are a significant outlay.

Ongoing Costs To Consider

The majority of properties in Antigua and Barbuda are freehold. If you expect to be away from the property for long periods of time you could consider paying a maintenance or security company to check the property from time to time.

If you buy an apartment or a home in a gated community, you will have fees and charges to pay associated with the maintenance of the estate.

You can also expect to pay about two percent of the property value in annual insurance for building and contents cover.

Bringing Your Possessions To Antigua And Barbuda

It’s rare for someone to head to a new country and leave all their earthly possessions behind them. However, packing up your household and moving everything to the middle of the Caribbean Sea can be a daunting prospect.

Therefore we’ve set out some helpful tips in the ExpatFocus article How To Ship Your Belongings To Antigua And Barbuda.

Many expats also want to bring their pets along - after all, cats and dogs are often loved as a member of the family. Our article An Expat Guide To Bringing Pets Into Antigua And Barbuda will help you negotiate this process.

Hiring Home Services In Antigua And Barbuda

You may need some help to keep your home clean and tidy. Many people employ gardeners. Perhaps you will need security to keep your home safe during your long visits abroad.

Recommendations from friends and work colleagues are a great starting point before you employ strangers to work in your home. The community in Antigua and Barbuda is small, so word gets around quickly if someone is a problem for employers or wider society. Don’t forget to obtain written references from reliable sources.

Ask Expats For Help

Other expats who have already been through the process of buying property on Antigua and Barbuda are usually more than happy to share their experiences, particularly if you have a specific question in mind. Why not reach out and ask for help?

The Expat Focus Forum and Facebook group for Antigua and Barbuda allow you to do just that. In addition to getting your question answered, you may also be meeting future friends in your new home.


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Expat Health Insurance Partners


Bupa Global

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Cigna

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