Q: Can foreigners own property in the Bahamas?

For most first-time purchases of Bahamas property by Americans, Canadians, Europeans, and other non-Bahamians, you just have to get a registration for the property you are acquiring. This will normally be the case if you are buying a house or condo, or a not-too-big piece of land that you plan to build your own house on. Getting this registration usually isn’t that big of a deal if you don’t have bad stuff in your past and the funds to buy the property are properly sourced.

For larger and/or more expensive properties, including development land, you’ll need to get a permit, which is somewhat more involved than getting a registration. Basically, the Bahamas Government is going to want to know who you are, where you got the money, and what you plan to do with the property. In the case of development property, if you’re clean and you’ve got a good project planned, especially if you’re creating work or jobs for Bahamians, that would be very much in your favour in getting a permit.

For you high-net-worth folks: A purchase of Bahamas property for $1.5 million or more may qualify you and your family for expedited consideration for permanent residency in the Bahamas.

Important: American banks generally will not make loans on Bahamas property. Most property sales in the Bahamas to foreigners are paid for with 100% cash without a mortgage. Dream all you like, but if you want to buy, budget accordingly.

PS: Suitcases full of cash? You can forget that foolishness- don’t even ask. 100% legitimately sourced and wired cash funds is the rule. (I don’t care what happens in the movies.)

 

How do I get Permanent Residency in the Bahamas?

Consult a Bahamas-licensed Attorney to get advice on your particular situation. That being said, here are some generalities that may help.

The Bahamas Government wants you.
More specifically, they want your money.
They want your money flowing out of your pocket into the Bahamian economy, employing Bahamians, directly or indirectly.

And a great way of doing that is to get you to live there year-round- or for you to at least have that privilege, so you can spend as much time as possible in-country (spending money).

So, they have made Permanent Residency (let's call it a Bahamas Green Card) quite easy, if you've got some bucks. It's intended to apply to you, your spouse, and your kids. It works, again, in a very general way, like this:

If you invest $500,000 or more in the Bahamas, they will process your application for a Green Card.

If you invest $1.5 million or more, they will EXPEDITE IT.

 

Q: How is title transferred?

In the Bahamas, real estate title is ordinarily freehold (fee simple), and is transferred by way of a written conveyance (deed). Title insurance is available from recognized international title insurance companies. A Bahamas-licensed lawyer or other appropriate licensed professional should be consulted.

 

Q: What about title insurance and homeowner's insurance?

Generally, buyers of Bahamas property rely upon their Bahamas-licensed attorney to "deduce title" and give assurance of clear ownership to them.

Obtaining title insurance as a buyer is usually optional, but may be a smart move, to further insure against possible title defects.

As a seller, obtaining title examination by their Bahamas lawyer and/or a title insurance commitment can provide great peace of mind, knowing that there won't be any title-related roadblocks that could derail the sale.

As for homeowners insurance, it’s always an excellent idea to consider. The Bahamas is prone to weather-related impacts, and it’s a wise decision to protect your investment. Insurance products that cover known hazards, much as United States Homeowner’s, Wind, and Flood policies do, are available. Consult a Bahamas-licensed Insurance Agent for details.

 

Q: What are the building codes like?  How about the local building contractors?

The Bahamas Building Code was established by the Government of the Bahamas and dictates regulations on building construction. These codes are very similar to the strict regulations of the Miami-Dade Code. The local home builders are comfortable with building in this regulatory environment. 

There are several excellent custom home builders in the Bahamas who specialize in building for expats looking for a retirement or second home.

If you want to buy an existing structure, there are building inspectors or their equivalent available for hire. They hopefully will be able to tell you the condition of the structure that you propose to purchase and other related stuff.

Some existing Bahamas structures are built exceedingly well.  Some are not.  Some may survive a hurricane, some may not.  Some are appropriate for you to use an an expat getaway residence, some are not. Your Bahamas-licensed insurance agent should be of assistance here.

 

Q: How do I qualify to buy Bahamas real estate?

So- you want to know if you are financially qualified to buy Bahamas real estate. If you laughed a little bit at that, I congratulate you. If you're not sure, that's ok, please keep reading as well.

Remember- regardless of how much of a boss you are, seek thee a Bahamas-licensed attorney or Bahamas-licensed real estate agent (or both). They are the trained professionals in this area and should be in your court. That being said, here’s a few hints that might prove helpful to you. The below should be considered a non-expert opinion only; seek Bahamas-licensed professional help (I didn’t mean it that way!)

Cash Buyers, and may I call you Cash, feel free to skip ahead to the "CASH BUYERS" section below.

Number one: You have to have the money. Seriously. I don’t know how to say it any more politely than that. Bahamian citizens, and a few others, might have a shot at getting a traditional mortgage from a Bahamas bank- but the requirements are strict. Will you need solid income, and a substantial down payment? That’s a given. Are thinking you’ll get a traditional mortgage from a USA bank? You can forget it- that’s so last decade. Are you with-a me so far? So, you think you can get a mortgage, and are you certain you’ll need that mortgage to buy a house for your family? Then-

GO GET PRE-QUALIFIED NOW.

If you will need a mortgage, and you are not pre-qualified when you start a serious search, you are wasting your time and everybody else’s. But, wouldn’t you like a frustrating slog to buy a house turned into magical home-ownin’ joy? Get yourself prequalified!

CASH BUYERS, PAY PARTICULAR ATTENTION:

Mr. or Ms. Cash, congratulations! I trust that you have enough liquid funds to fully cover making a legitimate, serious offer for Bahamas real property- and then some, to cover closing costs, etc.

The main other requirement to close on Bahamas property (mortgaged or not) is that: 1) you have a clean background, 2) the original source of your money is legit, and 3) the account that the money is coming from is proper- which means wired funds from an aboveboard financial entity. 

But, if any of you are thinking, hey, you know how I roll- yeah, I'm just going to stuff a briefcase with cash, and sing along to Tom Jones busting out the "Thunderball" theme while I private-jet down there to buy me a piece of paradise and escape the world (and my creditors lol), forever?  Then, I say to you: dream on, baby.  If you want to buy Bahamas real estate, you may look, but don’t touch- until you’re ready to strike for real- like Sean Connery, or Domino.

So, that's the basic rundown for buying a second/retirement home or condo, or a lot upon which you will build one. If, instead, you’ve got an investment portfolio or business venture of any sort planned, please consult a Bahamas-licensed attorney pronto- the requirements will be stricter for that stuff.

Are you still reading? Congratulations. You know you can buy Bahamas property- or you know what to do to move to the next step!

Start searching, and good luck!

PS- You're already on a pretty good Bahamas real estate listings site.

 

The above comments are generalities and opinions; do not rely upon them. Consult a Bahamas-licensed Realtor, Bahamas-licensed Attorney, and/or other appropriate Bahamas-licensed professional to discuss your own situation.