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Jamaica - Buying Property
Living in your new property as a migrant is, however, a different issue. You can only arrive and stay in Jamaica under the terms and conditions permitted by your visa. Buying a property in Jamaica does not give you an automatic right to residency.
Find out more about this subject by reading the Visas section of this country guide.
Jamaica has the largest territory of the Commonwealth Caribbean nations. Since it is one large island surrounded by the Caribbean Sea, and is dotted with islands, reefs and cays to the south, Jamaica boasts 635 miles (1,022 kilometres) of coastline. It’s easy to see why the first known settlers from South America named their home Xaymaca, which means the land of wood and water.
However, sea views and easy access to a beach command premium prices in the property market.
If you have several million dollars to spend, you can buy a fancy house with enough bedrooms and bathrooms to satisfy any aspirational dreams. In this market, infinity pools facing the sea are a must, along with a gym, cinema rooms and a huge double curved staircase in an impressive atrium.
Buying a two-bedroom apartment in a desirable coastline resort could set you back more than a million dollars. However, you can reduce this price by moving along the coast to less prestigious gated communities or by looking for simpler homes.
For many people, moving away from the coast to obtain more living space is a good compromise, especially since swimming pools are found in abundance in Jamaica.
Location, Location, Location
In reality, expats can be found in a number of locations, but many buyers seek their new home along the northern coast. Why is this area so popular? Well, in addition to the beautiful sandy beaches and resorts, there are a number of select golf courses, and you will have plenty of choice when it comes to upmarket shopping and dining experiences.
Negril, St. James and St. Ann are well established areas. Expats often start their property searches here. If you’re happy to look at other coastal areas, Westmoreland, Runaway Bay, Discovery Bay and Port Antonio could present some interesting opportunities.
Of course, not everyone comes to Jamaica to live near a beach. You will also find many beautiful homes with breath-taking views across the hillsides in the countryside. The area around Falmouth is a good place to start a countryside property search. The rural setting belies the relatively short car journey required to access the nearest coastline for a change of scene.
Areas To Avoid
You will notice a few homes for sale on ordinary streets whose barred doors, windows and verandas are less than inviting. Whether these indicate past break ins or the fear of a future one, they do suggest the area is not as safe as you may be used to.
There are a number of areas in Jamaica associated with gang violence and shootings. The UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office urges visitors to avoid West Kingston, Grant’s Pen, August Town, Harbour View, Spanish Town and certain parts of Montego Bay, including Flankers, Barrett Town, Norwood, Glendevon, Rose Heights and Mount Salem.
As part of security enhancement measures, the Government of Jamaica is taking in areas of concern and has issued States of Emergency in the following areas:
● The Parish of St James, including Montego Bay
● St Catherine North State (including Spanish Town, Linstead and Bog Walk)
● Specified boundaries in parts of Kingston Central, Kingston Western and St Andrew South Police Divisions
The Jamaican government has also extended Zones of Special Operations (ZOSOs) in certain neighbourhoods in Kingston (Denham town and other areas in West Kingston).
If you come across a property in these areas and consider the price too good to be true, that’s because it is. Make sure you always visit a property before agreeing to buy it, and that you take a close look at the area.
The crimes you are most likely to experience in Jamaica are robbery and theft. If you want to reduce your chances of being mugged outside your front door, or arriving home to find your home ransacked by burglars, you may find the security of a gated community to be a price well worth paying.
Properties At Risk Of Natural Disaster
As discussed in the Climate and Weather section of this country guide, a range of natural disasters occur in Jamaica. These include:
● Earthquakes and tremors
● Cyclones and hurricanes
● Heavy rains which lead to floods and landslides
Any one of these has the power to damage or destroy properties in the affected area.
If you have found a property you would like to purchase, get a surveyor to evaluate the risk of natural disasters for that structure. With the exception of tsunamis, which only affect the coastline, all the other natural disasters could occur anywhere across the island. However, the structure and fabric of the building, along with the plot on which it is built, will affect how significant the damage is likely to be.
It can be tempting to seek a piece of land or property direct from an owner, in the hope of snapping up a bargain.
However, a good estate agent will get you viewings for a range of properties, allowing you to assess the true value of the market. Fraudsters don’t list properties for sale with an estate agent as the truth would be identified before any money was handed over. The agent also takes over the price negotiations, saving you the stress of sorting this out in person.
Estate agents’ websites in Jamaica vary enormously. You’ll usually find expensive houses which meet expat expectations listed on sites which include beautiful photographs and full descriptions. Cheap houses in undesirable areas will be listed with different agents. This means that having a look at a few different websites will give you a good idea as to which real estate agent will be appropriate for your budget.
Find An Independent Lawyer
Purchasing a property in Jamaica is an important investment decision. Your funds must be secure and paid to the correct party, the deeds for the land and building must be correctly registered and clear of any current or potential issues, and you must be aware of all risks that exist in relation to the purchase. You must therefore use the services of a qualified, registered and insured lawyer.
If you are purchasing a new-build property, the developer may try to persuade you to use their suggested lawyer. Similarly, a real estate agent may produce the details of a recommended lawyer. In these cases, you have no idea what existing family, friendship or business links exist between the parties. Therefore, you should always find your own independent lawyer.
The UK government maintains an online list of lawyers in Jamaica. Each firm’s contact details and areas of expertise are included in the listing.
The Costs And Procedure Of Buying Property In Jamaica
The ExpatFocus article ‘Don't Buy Property In Jamaica Until You've Read This’ gives a clear explanation of the offer and purchasing procedure for Jamaican property transactions. It also explains the additional costs you will need to cover.
Ask Other Expats
Home owning expats living in Jamaica know from experience which estate agents are helpful, and which lawyers make the purchasing process run smoothly. They can be a great source of help.
However, a word of warning, which must be remembered for all financial investments, including property purchases; many scammers and criminals look for their prey online. If you get into discussions with someone about the funds you have and the investment you want to make, they can take advantage by trying to sell you properties, goods and services which they don’t own. Be clear about the questions you are trying to get answered, and don’t get drawn into unsolicited sales patter.
We have a Jamaican Forum on the ExpatFocus site. If you are a Facebook fan, check out either the ExpatFocus Jamaica Page or the closed discussion group Expats In Jamaica. Just ask to join and you can start a private discussion with expats in Jamaica straight away.
Read more about this country
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