Frequently Asked Questions
1. I am not from the BVI. What hoops do I have to jump through to purchase property?
If you are considering purchasing property in the Caribbean, the BVI must surely be near, if not at the top of your list. If you bring with you, along with the necessary financial wherewithal, a love of the BVI lifestyle and culture and a willingness to join and contribute to our community, you will be warmly welcomed.
Here’s the process for buying property in the BVI…
1. Let Coldwell Banker Real Estate BVI, part of one of the world’s largest and most experienced professional real estate organisations, help you find your perfect property.
2. Appoint a BVI lawyer to assist you with the purchase. Again, Coldwell Banker can help with recommendations.
3. Submit your Offer along with a 10% earnest deposit, which will be held in escrow pending acceptance and completion.
4. If your offer is accepted, you will enter into an Agreement for Sale and Purchase with the Seller. If not, your deposit is returned to you.
5. If you are not from the BVI the property must be advertised for four weeks in the local press to give any local person the opportunity to purchase the property on the same terms.
6. If applicable, your lawyer will help you apply to the BVI Government for a “Non Belonger’s Land Holding Licence”. Approval of this licence gives you permission to own the particular property.
7. Completion and transfer of title typically happens 30 days after the Governor of the BVI has signed your Licence.
Take note, if your Licence takes a little longer to be approved than you might have expected, don’t panic. Whilst completing and submitting your application is not particularly complicated, it can take a while to work its way through the system and a wait of several months is not unusual. Consider this to be your first test of your ability to live on island time!
2. What are the costs associated with buying property in the BVI?
Legal Fees – typically in the BVI, both the buyer and the Seller will be represented by a BVI lawyer. Typically the law firms will charge a foreign buyer between 1.5% and 2% of the purchase price, depending on the value of the transaction.
Appraisal – an appraisal of the property is required and the typical fee for a home of less than $1m is in the region of $750.00 although it does vary.
Non Belonger Land Holding Licence Fees – a property can be purchased in an individual’s name or jointly or in a company name. The current Licence fees are as follows:
Licence Fee (once the Licence is granted)
Each Shareholder or Directors $600 each
Individuals $600 each
3. If I am investing a lot of money in the BVI, is the political climate stable?
The answer is absolutely “Yes”. The BVI is one of six remaining British Overseas Territories. The economy which is largely based on the twin pillars of the offshore financial services industry and tourism, is one of the strongest in the Caribbean and has experienced rapid growth over the past few years. The BVI has very much benefitted from our affiliation with, and funding from, the UK and EU, and from having a legal system based in English law with a US Dollar based economy. Recently, the UK made it possible for BVI Nationals to receive UK passports which only helped to strengthen the ties.
For those that are interested, politics of the British Virgin Islands takes place in a framework of a parliamentary representative democratic dependency, whereby the Premier is the head of government, and of a multi-party system. The British Virgin Islands is an internally self-governing overseas territory of the United Kingdom. Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the Assembly. The Judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature. Military defence is the responsibility of the United Kingdom.
4. How is the BVI bearing up to the “credit crunch”?
Pretty well, so far. From a real estate perspective we have benefitted from a weak dollar which has attracted a higher proportion of UK and European property investors. This has more than offset any decline in interest from US buyers. The banks are certainly still willing to lend to qualified buyers.
5. Should I buy land and build or purchase an existing home?
This depends on your point of view. If you can find an existing home that satisfies your requirements, it will certainly be a lot less complicated and you can begin enjoying your Caribbean dream home far sooner. However, you will pay 12% stamp duty on the whole purchase price (or appraised value, whichever is higher) as opposed to only paying it on the sale price or value of the land if you bought raw land then built. You are also more likely to get exactly what you want if you build your own home.
Whilst we have some very professional and competent Architects, Contractors and Project Managers in the BVI, building a home anywhere can be stressful and is probably only more so if you are sitting several thousand miles away wondering what is happening to your project in the BVI! “Tomorrow” is quite a well used word on BVI job sites but a well managed contract will be fixed price and a typical 3,000 sqft masonry home would ordinarily be complete within a year from closing on the land.
6. If I buy a home that needs a lot of work done, how difficult is it to get the job done well and can I find good Contractors to help me?
Definitely, and we can help with some recommendations. We cans how you examples of their work and assist in some of the logistics. There are also some very good Construction Managers in the BVI and they are worth their weight in gold.
7. Can I get financing in the BVI?
As a qualified buyers who is not from the BVI, you can get financing from a number of BVI banks, once your Non Belonger’s Land Holding Licence is approved. Most will pre-qualify you so you know the financing is in place prior to applying for the Licence. Loan to value ratios vary from bank to bank but approximately 80% would be typical and both fixed and floating rates are available. These tend to be a little higher than in the US but its worth shopping around. Be warned, you might need to consider this your second test of your ability to live on island time! The process can sometimes take longer than you would expect at home but it’ll be worth it when you get it done.
8. How is the crime rate in the BVI?
Very low. It would be foolish to say that we are immune to petty crime but the strength of our economy and the steady rate of development experienced by the BVI instead of the boom and bust cycles experienced by some our neighbours, has made this an exceptionally pleasant and safe place to live. The BVI is fortunate to have full employment. It’s virtually impossible to be in the BVI for any extended period of time without either the wherewithal to support yourself or an annual work permit for a specific job.
9. Why should I buy in the BVI and not the USVI?
See the answer to question 8! Other than that, cruise ship passengers come in all shapes, sizes, colors and descriptions. If you enjoy the company of many thousands of them at any one time then the USVI may be the place for you (we have some, but no nearly as many!). Real Estate prices in the BVI also tend to be a little more reasonable than St. John, for example.
10. What are property taxes like in the BVI?
If you are not from the BVI, Stamp Duty of 12% of the sale price or appraised value, whichever is higher, is payable upon completion and transfer of title of freehold property (Leasehold is less).
Annual Property Taxes in the BVI tend to be in low hundreds of dollars, not low thousands of dollar.
11. If I buy a vacation rental home, can I make a decent rate of return?
It can be done. There are certainly Villas in the BVI that make a very nice income. There are also those that cost a lot to maintain and are too heavily financed for the numbers to ever add up. If you are not from the BVI, you have to ask for permission to rent the property when you apply for your Non Belonger’s Land Holding Licence and get a trade licence. If you buy a home that was previously rented or is within a villa vacation resort area or a marina property then this is unlikely to be a problem. Coldwell Banker BVI provides full property marketing, villa rental and property management services.
12. Is there someone I can trust to manage my home when I am not there?
Again, Coldwell Banker BVI and its concierge partners can provide a five star property management service, whether or not your property is rented. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
for further information.