Archives for category: Sellers

Sea Abaco

There has been several articles in one of the local dailies regarding substantially increased property tax rates in Abaco and the wider Bahamas.  In case you missed it, here are the links:

http://www.tribune242.com/news/2018/jan/18/crazy-property-tax-tears-abaco-apart/?news

http://www.tribune242.com/news/2018/jan/22/havoc-125k-tax-bill-for-long-island-lot-he-didnt/

http://www.tribune242.com/news/2018/jan/22/govt-mulling-vat-tribunal-expansion-to-cover-all/

Today the real estate and legal professions in Abaco met with the Property Tax department of the Bahamas Dept. of Inland Revenue. It was a productive meeting and the office heard complaints and queries from realtors and attorneys on behalf of their clients.

The key take away points are:

The Bahamas Government had moved the billing and valuation activity to a centralized system in Nassau.  This has created a hiccup which will be straightened out and it is an unfortunate side effect of trying to modernize and streamline systems.  This part of a longer term activity of switching the governments account to an accrual based system.

Property owners in Exuma, Long Island, Eleuthera and other parts of the Bahamas has been impacted similarly, while the tax office is working on correcting and updating records.

All persons who feel they have been assessed property tax on a value which they feel is inaccurate is asked to lodge an appeal for re-assessment with the tax office in writing.

The deadline for submitting the appeal is March 31st.

The tax office is encouraging persons to make a payment for property tax at the amount of the previously billed 2017 rate while they work through the large number of requests for re-assessment.  In some cases, persons may possibly receive a credit on their account if the taxes paid turn out to be higher than billed.

Lastly, any persons with outstanding arrears will need to bring the account current.  It was not stated but implied that if the property tax account was unpaid for several years, then the tax office will not likely give it a priority, whereas it seemed to be implied that persons who have their taxes current up to 2017 will be given preferential treatment.

If you have more questions or need advice on property tax matters in the Bahamas, I encourage you to contact your real estate agent or your attorney here to discuss your options.

As always, if you have a current appraisal report in hand from a BREA licensed appraiser when you got to visit the office and file an appeal the whole process will be much smoother and quicker.  Contact me for more information on having an appraisal prepared for you.

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What are the building codes for the Bahamas?  If you are researching this, keep in mind that it hasn’t been updated for many years and as such many of the newer construction technologies such as some several types of new SIPS or the inflated concrete dome house has not been approved.  If you plan to use a new material or construction style, you could face a protracted delay in working with the Bahamas Ministry of Works to get it accepted.   Below are some key parts the Bahamas Building Code, or click the link below to download the entire document.

Bahamas Building Code 3rdEd.

Below images are of a beautiful home for sale in Long Beach, Great Abaco Island.  It is a 3 bedroom home ready to be completed.

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If you own property in the Bahamas or are looking to purchase property in the Bahamas then you have probably thought about the taxes associated.

Photo above:  A beautiful beachfront parcel for sale in Turtle Bay, Central Abaco Island.

Additional information is noted below, but here is a quick summary.  Firstly it is best to deal with this in person in the Bahamas at the relevant office.  Trying to attack the issue from afar will be frustrating to say the least.  You can also hire a Bahamian law firm to tackle it for you.  For those of us who prefer to be more hands on (or retired with lots of free time at hand), you will need to collect the following documents:

Full Appraisal Report

Copy of your conveyance (i.e. your title document)

Copy of last tax bill

A letter to tax office requesting a re-valuation

A simple form completed (Property Tax Application Assessment form)

You can contact me at dwayne@HGChristie.com to inquire on appraisal services in Abaco, or elsewhere in the Bahamas by contacting appraisals@HGChristie.com.

It is also important to note that any changes to property value are the responsibility of the property owner to report to the property tax office.  If there any alterations, additions or improvements to your property which alter the property value the owner is required to report to the tax office.  Obviously this seems a bit of an outdated approach, and many individuals choose to delay or omit changes.  While this is acceptable in the short term, in the long term it can create some potential pitfalls.

I have had clients over the years who have built homes on a parcel of land and for various reasons neglected to report the change from undeveloped land to a residential home to the property tax office.  This has inevitably led to problems when the property was eventually sold and a large tax bill was collected from the sale proceeds.  That said, with the current rate structure, many real estate owners may find that their liability is reduced by shifting to owner occupied tax bracket.

One past client, had their tax value reassessed coincidentally the same year he built a home on the property.  This led him to the assumption that the tax office had a record of his newly built home and had adjusted his tax liability on that basis. It turned out that they were entirely unaware of the improvements and they were billing him on undeveloped land for 15 years.

DO NOT ASSUME THAT TOWN PLANNING, MINISTRY OF WORKS OR BUILDING INSPECTORS COMMUNICATE AND UPDATE THE TAX OFFICE ON CHANGES TO YOUR PROPERTY.  IT IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY TO INFORM THE TAX OFFICE OF BUILDING OR IMPROVEMENTS.  There is no central database and the different departments of government do not as a rule of thumb generally communicate or collaborate.

Real Property Tax Rates

Bahamians and non-Bahamians owning real property in The Bahamas must pay property tax. Returns are due on or before December 31 each year, and are filed with the Chief Valuation Officer. Taxes are paid to the Public Treasury and can be paid at the property tax office or online at www.bahamasgov.bs. Rates are as follows:

Property Tax Rates

  • Owner-occupied residential property as of July 1, 2015.
    • The first $250,000 of market value – Exempt
    • On market value over $250,000 and up to $500,000* – 0.625%
    • Over $500,000 – 1% (subject to a maximum of $50,000) %
  • Vacant/Unimproved Land (non-Bahamians)
    • First $7,000 of market value – $100
    • Portion over $7,000 – 1.5%
  • All other properties/commercial
    • First $500,000 of market value – 0.75%
    • Market value over $500,000 – 2%
  • Residential Property (property not owner-occupied, comprising not more than four units (exclusive of outbuildings), used solely as a dwelling, beneficially owned by Bahamians and from which no commercial enterprise is conducted.
    • Property valued under $75,000 – $300
    • Property valued over $75,000 – 0.625%

So essentially, there are 3 categories – Owner Occupied, Undeveloped Land and ‘Other’.

Lately, a number of property owners in the Bahamas have had unreasonably high tax value assessments in recent years.  What do you do now?

The Bahamas Government website has the following information:

Persons owning real property in the Bahamas are entitled to make application to the Real Property Tax office for reassessment once every 5 years. Property owners can have a law firm act on their behalf or undertake the application themselves. Requirements for reassessment include presenting a copy of the most recent tax bill, a current appraisal from a licensed reputable appraiser, completion of the Property Tax Application Assessment Form (available at the property tax office or online at http://www.bahamas.gov.bs), along with the submission of a signed letter from the owner of record (or their attorney) requesting the reassessment of annual real property tax liability. A 10% discount is applicable on accounts that are current and paid in full by March 31 in any year.

At the time of closing a sale transaction, the attorney for the new owner of the real property registers the sale with the property tax office. A current appraisal is often requested and presented along with the registration.

Your HGChristie Appraisal Team can provide services to address property tax assessment concerns.

Outstanding Property Taxes

  • The Treasurer now has the power to sell unimproved/vacant land where real property taxes are in arrears and unpaid for at least 6 months after the expiration of 30 days from becoming due.
  • New surcharge of 5% on all outstanding real property taxes owing after 31st December 2009.

Real Property Tax Assessment, Payment & Exemptions

The payment of Real Property Tax is required by law in The Bahamas.  The bill is due and payable once produced and must be paid by December 31 to avoid an additional 5% interest.  Please note that if a property is not up to date, it can be sold to recover the taxes owed.

Assessments are used by the Real Property Tax Valuations Unit to determine the value of a property and its related Property taxes. An assessment can be initiated by the property owner or by the Real Property Tax Unit.

All buildings registered on the National Register of Historical Buildings are eligible for exemption from real property tax.  Exemptions are not automatic and must be applied for even when your property is listed on the Historical Buildings List.

Assessment of Real Property

Assessments are used by the Real Property Tax Valuations Unit to determine the value of a property and its related Property taxes. An assessment can be initiated by the property owner or by the Real Property Tax Unit.  A Real Property may fall in the one of the following categories:

  • Owner Occupied
  • Residential
  • Commercial
  • Vacant Land

Process

  1. If a request is made by the owner of the property, the following forms must be completed and submitted to the Real Property Tax Valuation Unit:
    1. Property Tax Application Assessment form
    2. A Declaration of Real Property Tax form
  2. In regards to owner occupied properties, the owner is also required to complete a Affirmation form to facilitate tax exemptions on the section that they live in.
  3. A field visit is then conducted by the Unit where details about the property are gathered
  4. The office will use the information gathered to determine the value of the property and calculate the real property tax liability.
  5. The Unit will then write the owner to inform them of the tax liability, or the tax bill is prepared and issued.
  6. The owner is welcome to object and can visit the office to initiate this process.
  7. The bill is due and payable once produced. Penalties are incurred if bills are unpaid past December 31st of the current year.
  8. Property owners can pay property tax at the Real Property Tax office.
  9. Once payment is made, a receipt is issued by the office.

Application Form(s)

Property Tax Application Assessment form
Declaration of Real Property Tax
Declaration Form Guide
Affirmation Form

Supporting Documents

  • National Insurance Board Number
  • Property Owner’s name
  • Valid ID, Passport
  • Property Conveyance
  • Current Appraisal (i.e. less than 12 months old)

For more information please contact

Business Licence/Valuation Unit
Frederick House
Frederick St.
P. O. Box N-13
Nassau
New Providence
The Bahamas

E-mail: businesslicenceinquiries@bahamas.gov.bs

Or contact the Abaco office of the Department of Inland Revenue at 1-242-699-0053

Take a look at a recent Nassau Tribune Business article, link below.  If you didn’t take advantage of the down market, you probably missed the boat.

 

http://www.tribune242.com/news/2018/jan/09/realtors-confident-of-beating-2017s-40-90-sales/?news

 

 

This is my first post for 2017.  I was terrible at writing in 2016, I was just too busy to keep up with it.  It was great to have so much real estate activity I couldn’t find time to write a post.

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One of the most interesting things I noticed when compiling the data for this blog post was how many properties take a really long time to close.  For instance, as of the date of writing this, there are 13 properties still in pending status on the Bahamas MLS from 2013.  3 years have passed and the property is still not a completed sale.  I am sure several of these are just agent error in not updating their listing status, but I bet several of the properties are still in limbo waiting some legal document or other challenge to be overcome.  The take away here is make sure you hire a good attorney who can get the job done in a timely fashion.

What’s New in Bahamas Real Estate?

The government of the Bahamas recently announced plans to raise the investment threshold for residency application from US$500,000 to US$1,000,000.  This will obviously affect many potential investors in this country who would like to take up Permanent Residence here.  I believe that the investor mindset changed somewhat after the Great Recession, leading to more risk adverse thinking.  And investing a large sum of money off shore in another country is definitely a risk.  I would counter this argument to say that the Bahamas, while not insulated from the recession, is historically a stable jurisdiction.  While some people got hit pretty hard if they bought at the high and had to sell during the low, those others who made savvy choices and invested in active markets still made out relatively well.  Take away here is stay close to active busy markets, with good amenity levels and strong service sectors.  For example, Hope Town is a very safe bet while Rum Cay or Acklins is not necessarily.  It is possible to see the vast differences in values on the Island of Abaco, where central Marsh Harbour maintains strong growth and values, while the southern part of the island has seen little to no growth or improvement (save Schooner Bay, but that is an entirely different topic).

Going back to the new investment threshold, the legislation has not taken effect as yet, and there has been some push back from the real estate sector.  With a reconsideration or concession being considered.  You can read more on the Tribune website here:

http://www.tribune242.com/news/2017/jan/20/govt-reconsiders-1m-residency-bar-following-push-b/

and here:

http://www.tribune242.com/news/2017/jan/23/bahamas-warned-real-estate-market-not-wrapped/?news

Bahamas Real Estate Market Update

I have prepared some research in the real estate market using data from the Bahamas MLS over the past 8 years.  You will see in the table below results.  The most important parameter to consider in my opinion is the orange line which shows the total number of real estate transactions recorded.  This line has a strong trend of growth for the sector.  2016 saw a total of 500 transactions recorded on the MLS, extrapolating the growth rate out, roughly an extra 50 sales a year, by 2020 we should see 700 transactions or 10% growth per year.

As the sales volume increases we can expect to see the market shift in favour of sellers and corresponding shift away from the strong “buyer’s market” which has existed for the past 10 year period since 2008.

On the chart are average and median sales price.  The MLS now has enough data to pull a meaningful median out.  The 2016 Median was $225,000, the 2016 gross average was $451,702.  You will note the sharp drop in 2014 in the average and median, this was due to the commercial banks beginning to dump distressed properties into the market through the use of licensed brokers.  The low value, high volume significantly skewed the market figures.  The positive side is that the distressed property inventory is now almost normalized and the negative pull on the market averages will soon end.

2017-jan-market-chart

I have added my estimates for future years, using the trend lines and my background knowledge of the market to suggest that the coming years of 2017, 2018 and 2019 will very good for the real estate sector.  However I believe the change in investor value threshold will have a significant effect.  It will mean that the local Bahamian market remain unchanged with Bahamian residents trading in the $200,000 to $300,000 range.  The higher range between $500,000 and $1,000,000, which is historically strong with our foreign investor market, is expected to dry up almost completely.  I expect do expect a bump in the market over the $1M mark as a result of the change in legislation, however I do not see the increase to be sufficient to balance the fallout in the lower segment which is effectively being eliminated.

Last years “Brexit” together with the change to Britain’s non-domicile rules has lead to a nice boost to ultra luxury home sales.  Reports are that the luxury communities of Ocean Club, Lyford Cay and Old Fort Bay have seen the strongest sales activity in years as a result of this change in Britain.  The lower end of the foreign investor market from the UK has correspondingly seemed to have seen a heavy fallout with less serious buyers for this segment.

Now, Trump is the new POTUS – What does this mean for Bahamas real estate?  It is still early days, too early to tell, but it would appear that there has been a significant increase in serious buyers from the US.  The new trend appears to have begun just before the US elections and looks like it is continuing.  I suspect it will continue through this year.  The reasons for this are not really known yet.  It could be the confidence the new president is inspiring in High Net Worths, or Ultra High Net worth investors.  It could be that the markets all over the world are doing very well, which means cash is available to invest.  It could be that the policies of the last president are starting to reap benefits?  Whatever the case may be, the indicators are good that 2017 may be a banner year.  There are certainly many changes happening in the world’s economies which so far are benefitting Bahamas real estate.

Value Added Tax was implemented 2 years ago.  It looks like it is here to stay and the economy of the Bahamas has mostly accommodated to it.  It is definitely lowering the purchasing power of the average resident, and definitely increasing revenues for the government.  Whether this is beneficial for the whole Bahamas in the long run, we shall see.

In other interesting news, the WEB.com golf tour has just completed at the Abaco Club on Winding Bay.  Early reports is that it was a great success and everyone is looking forward to next years event.  Similarly, there was another WEB.com tournament at Emerald Bay in Exuma.  It was wonderful to see these 2 spectacular courses in the Bahamas highlighted in the Golf Channel.  The Pure Silk LPGA tournament starts on Saturday at the Ocean Club, Paradise Island.  The Silk tournament on PI has been growing and gaining prestige over the past years.

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Upcoming events in Abaco:

Abaco has many other events coming up, late winter and early spring are a wonderful time on the island with all sorts of things happening.  – the BNT Art for the Parks is Saturday 28th Jan,  Friends of the Environment’s Reef Balls are in February, one in Hope Town, one in Marsh Harbour.  Mangoes Restaurant is set to re-open with wonderful new management, I am hoping it may live up its history when Bo Albury ran it and it was the best place in Abaco.  The fishing tournaments will start up again in about a month.  The Royal Marsh Harbour Yacht Club flotilla is back in town.  Junior Junkanoo is February 24th/25th, always a fun night.  MOW Fea Market, always a fun day trip on February 18th.

So, lets bring on 2017 and see where this year takes us.  Looks like it will be a good one so far.

“Top Real Estate Trends Impacting You & Your Business”

My name is Dwayne Wallas, 12 years working in the real estate business with HG Christie Real Estate.  I moved to Abaco in 2007.

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I’ve been asked to come here today and present some insight in the real estate market in Abaco.  As you all know Abaco is a unique part of the Bahamas and a unique part of the world.  In my view it is the people that make it unique.

But also and perhaps more importantly it is the geography – it is the only island in the Bahamas which has a relatively large land mass of 650 square miles similar to Grand Bahama or Andros while also having the 120 mile long chain of barrier cays.

This combination is not found anywhere else in the Bahamas or the Caribbean for the most part.  The ‘mainland’ of Abaco offers the ability for farming, logging, and more light industry or the option to have an estate or many acres with waterfront.  The tourism potential of Great Abaco Island is also very much untapped.

The barrier cays offer unique boating experiences together with wonderful communities.  Put the two together and the potential is tremendous.

I believe Elbow Cay is a perfect example of a thriving development model for the Bahamas.  It offers several small scale hotels together with restaurants and most importantly ATMOSPHERE.

The data I will be showing is derived from the Bahamas MLS.  Therefore it only takes into account sales transactions that have had a broker involved.

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What is selling in Abaco?

Hope Town is booming.  The rest of the Abacos have had a banner year but it all trails way behind Hope Town.  The community has managed to strike a balance between authenticity and capacity.  This year you could not rent a golf cart on the cay unless you booked it well in advance.  The real estate market on the cay is similarly very strong.

Treasure Cay is the close second for driving the economy of the Abacos.  The area sees a strong tourism market as well as posting a strong year for the real estate market.  The condominium market in Treasure Cay was in terrible shape, but the past 2 years have finally seen the inventory reduced and the market is beginning to normalize.

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The Marsh Harbour market is a tough nut to crack.  The market for Bahamians is starting to normalize as the banks are starting to ease lending requirements, but the property values are still depressed.  On the other hand the luxury or foreign investor market in Marsh Harbour (MH) is still very much stagnant.  I see lots of growth potential for the centre of Abaco, but it is suffering as a tourism destination.

Marsh Harbour is generally just a transit point and a shipping/business centre.  There is an opportunity to grow the tourism market here and by extension improve the foreign second home owner market.  From what I see MH seems to lack the charm and “islandy feel” visitors expect when they arrive at the airport.

Baker’s Bay is in full steam construction mode and providing tons of employment but not affecting the real estate market of Abaco at all.  It is its own microcosm and has little direct effect on the Abaco economy apart from the jobs.

Similarly the Abaco Club at Winding Bay is in slow growth mode and provides good employment but has little to no effect on the real estate market anywhere else in the Abacos.  The new developer, Southworth, is slowly rebuilding the prestige and demand.

My last point on this topic, as you can see from the chart, the strongest areas of Abaco are Elbow Cay and Treasure Cay.  The remote parts of Abaco have limited demand.

There are some good opportunities in the remote areas, but be aware that you will be in for a long haul.

Similarly the vacation rental market is only really functioning in Treasure Cay or Hope Town.

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So What about Abaco Compared to the Rest of The Bahamas?  

It is often said that Abaco is a more vibrant economy than Grand Bahama and this chart certainly shows that, although it is given that Grand Bahama is more than just real estate sales.  There is industry in Freeport which we lack here in Abaco.  Maybe for the better, maybe not?

Point is, Abaco is a strong real estate investment market, high sales volume and a high average price point.  Prices in Abaco are not too far off Nassau and second in the country.

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It is, I believe, an economic model to be learned from and encouraged to blossom.  The current test case of locally operated property tax collection on Elbow Cay is interesting and I’m keen to see how it works out.

Chart of Sales Growth Abaco

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Over the past 7 years the data shows growth of sales volume of 18% per year.  Despite the growth in the market and strong activity levels, I’m seeing property values are still dropping somewhere around 5% per year.

I anticipate this trend to turn around in the next 12 months.  As inventory is absorbed, we should see prices start to stabilize and begin to push up a little.

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Government Stimulus to Real Estate

Current incentives of 1st time buyers and Family Island Encouragement Act are having positive impacts.  I believe they should continue.

I believe the taxes on the purchase and sale of real estate is too high.

Stimulating the real estate market and providing incentives to buy here will further stimulate the wider economy.  It is said that a new home owner will further spend an additional 10-20% of the purchase price on furniture or remodeling etc.  That adds up to a significant amount of money being circulated around the economy.

I would urge the government of the Bahamas to further incentivize the real estate market and encourage home buyers, both local and foreign.

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The Acreage and Development Market is completely dead…

There has not been a single transaction of a tract of acreage in Abaco in 10 years.  There are many factors at play but the 2 key reasons I believe to be

  1. Restrictions on foreigners purchasing tracts of land via Foreign Investment Board
    • I believe this market should be liberalized.
    • Keeping it restricted does not benefit the Bahamas.
    • The tax revenue on the sale of large tracts of land is a good reason to encourage the market not restrict it.
    • The vast tracts of raw land are not benefiting anyone by sitting dormant.
    • It is all too common to have a large tract of land owned by 10 or 20 people who inherited it and they will never reach a decision on what to do with it.
  1. The cost of developing land in the Bahamas for sales of lots has risen beyond the ability to realize a profit. The cost of utilities, road paving and legal expenses, plus marketing costs are significantly higher than the price one could sell a residential building lot for right now.
    • A Non-waterfront residential lot on the main island of Abaco sells for an average of $30,000
    • Cost to develop a subdivision of lots for sale in Abaco is around $30,000
    • Therefore No incentive to develop.

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The Tribune has recently published 2 articles on land registration reform, one from the president of the Bahamas Bar Assocation, the other form the president of the Bahamas Real Estate Association.  To quote Mr. Elsworth Johnson

“A registered land system would divulge the number of frauds that cause people to be dispossessed of their land. It would also reduce the amount attorneys are able to charge [for real estate transactions]”

Thank you all very much for the opportunity to share some of my thoughts today.

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Have a wonderful day.

Many times I am asked how the process of buying real estate in the Bahamas works.  Often our foreign home buyers (who love the idea of having a tropical home in the islands) are concerned about the process and the security of the investment.  I will discuss the Bahamas Investment Safety and Security at another time.  Below I have outlined the rough steps and a very rough estimate of the time it takes for each one.  I have to qualify all of this by saying the estimates of the length of time it takes vary widely.  How quickly a sale will close in the Bahamas is dependent on many many factors, some of which are beyond the parties control.  For instance I have seen a financing application take 6 months for approval.  I have seen title and requisition process take as long at 6 months due to continuing questions arising from the history of the chain of title.

Beach View 6

Above: Palm Ridge at Bookies Bay, The Most Charming Cottage In The Most Beautiful Place on Earth, currently priced at $750,000.

On the other hand, I have seen instances where the whole process moved like clockwork and the new homeowner had the keys and were enjoying a cocktail on the back porch in less than 7 weeks from the time of first offer.  For things to move this quickly under the bright Bahama sun (which seems to slow everyone and everything down to the speed of warm molasses) is not a common occurrence and it is imperative to have patience when dealing with a real estate transaction in the Bahamas.

There is a major factor which can influence the speed of a real estate transaction here, and that is whether a bank is involved providing financing for the purchase and/or if a bank is releasing and existing mortgage on the property being sold.  This is partly a result of the Bahamas banking environment being dominated by 3 major Canadian institutions.  The final approvals of any major decisions the lending institution has to make is not made here in the Bahamas, it is made offshore somewhere.

That said, the lender won’t commit to financing a purchase until they have a copy of a formal purchase agreement in hand.  We commonly insert a 21 day financing clause in purchase agreements which allows the buyer 3 weeks to formalize their loan and get a commitment letter.  3 weeks may seem like a good length of time, but I would suggest working on getting as much of the paperwork as possible into the loan rep, before making an offer.  They will take 2-3 weeks just make a decision, so if they are waiting on something from you like a reference or utility bill that will hold the hole process up.  I would ask 3 times for the complete list of all the documents they will need from you just to be sure that all the bases are covered.  In my experience they always come back a week later and say they need one more thing, and often that happens more than once.

With the 21 day financing clause inserted into a formal “purchase and sales agreement”, if you don’t get the loan secured you can get your deposit back and everyone can walk their separate ways.  The vendor is often weary of entering into an agreement which is dependent on a bank partly due to the time off the market with no guarantee of a sale and partly due to a bit of expense in hiring a lawyer to prepare a purchase agreement and work with the purchaser’s attorney on the deposit etc.  Title investigations typically don’t start until after the financing commitment letter is in hand.  Once the title is approved, they we move to conveyance drafting and approval and then the mortgage would be drawn down.

 Time to close a cash sale (no mortgage involved) is 60-90 days.  Time to close with a bank mortgage will be 90-150 days.  So keep in mind you won’t be able to take possession of the home for some months while waiting on the lender to do their thing.  Some people will purchase a home in cash and then leverage the cash back out with a mortgage after the purchase as it allows them to take possession of the home sooner.

  •  First step is to get the ball rolling with the bank and get a nod. (about a 1week)
  • Second we put in the offer to purchase, negotiate and hopefully reach agreement in principle (1-2 weeks)
  • Third you retain an attorney top represent you in the transaction, put up a deposit with the seller’s attorney’s ‘Escrow Account’ and the purchase agreement is executed by both parties. (1-3 weeks, this begins the real process of purchase, get appraisal, all paperwork to bank, references, etc.)
  •  Forth, you put in the formal application for financing, provide the bank with a copy of the executed purchase agreement and go through the motions with them. (3-5 weeks) (If Necessary, no bank financing involved, it would skip straight to the title search)
  • If the buyer is getting a permit from the Foreign Investments Board, the application gets put in right away and approval of the permit can take 2 weeks up to 3 months.
  • Then, once the mortgage is approved and you have a commitment letter in hand. Your attorney begins title search. (3-5 weeks)
  • Once title is approved the vendors attorney drafts a conveyance, it gets approved and the vendor executes (2-3 weeks)
  • Then the bank gets a copy of the conveyance and begins to draw down funds. (2-6 weeks)
  • Once the funds are disbursed, the sale closes and you can take possession. (you get the keys).

So, the long and short of it – it could take as little at 6 weeks to close a purchase or it could take as long as 6 months and it all depends on the seller, the buyer, the attorney’s involved, the government for the permits and often most importantly the lender.  So make sure to have the right people involved who are attentive, motivated and on the ball to see the sale happen.

I recently had a sale occur where the buyer’s attorney lost the purchase agreement after the purchaser had signed it and neglected to send it to the seller’s attorney for 3 months.  So while we all thought the sale was proceeding, it hadn’t even started.  Stay in touch with your lawyer and keep them moving things forward.

Lastly, having an experienced and motivated real estate broker or agent on your team can have a very positive effect on ensuring the least amount of frustration and delay.  HG Christie is one company with a strong team of professional sales staff who know the ins and outs of Buying and Selling homes, land and development property around the Bahamas.  Feel free to comment and tell us your story in buying or selling real estate below.  I hope you enjoy this post and find it somewhat useful.

Last week, the Prime Minister who is also the Minister for Finance in the Bahamas gave a budget communication which had very significant changes to the real estate landscape in the Bahamas.

The changes that have been made are a follow on from the introduction of Value Added Tax in the Bahamas. For the first 6 months of this year, 2015, VAT was not applicable to the sale of real estate itself. Any attorney fees or a broker commission or any other service related to a real estate transaction was “Watable” however the actual sale of the real estate was exempt from the tax.

Beginning July 1st though, real estate transactions will now be subject to Value Added Tax in the amount of 7.5% of the price in addition to a 2.5% flat rate Stamp Tax. Gone is the graduated scale which elicited lower tax rate at the lower price transactions.

Palmetto Villa

Above: Beautiful New Listing Palmetto Beach Villa, Click and check it out.

What are the actual implications?

Real Estate sales under $100,000 are exempt from paying VAT, therefore the sale of a piece of land for $60,000 will not only attract a tax rate of 2.5%, whereas previously that same transaction would have attracted a stamp duty rate of 8%. This is an extremely positive move for the lower price range of real estate. Closing costs for land and homes under $100,000 has been dramatically reduced which will have very positive effects on the market place.

A purchase of a home for $250,000 will attract the same amount of tax now as before. Before the applicable tax was 10% Stamp Duty, NOW it is 2.5% Stamp Duty + 7.5% VAT. In essence the closing costs on a $250,000 purchase will remain the same. And this is effective at all price ranges above $100k up to the multi millions.

Of particular note, is that by converting the tax payable from Stamp Duty to VAT, the government has dramatically lowered the transaction costs for a Bahamas VAT registered business in purchasing or selling real estate. The VAT registered business can now credit their real estate purchase tax liability back. In essence for VAT registrants, the closing costs on real estate have changed to 2.5% stamp duty instead of the 10% is was previously. (+Attorney fee +Broker Fee).

There was also mention of a pending change to the Bahamas Real Property Tax Act whereby a new ‘category’ will be created for ‘Residential’. At the moment there are 2 categories for property tax in the Bahamas, ‘Owner-Occupied’ and ‘Non Owner-Occupied’. Essentially if you live in your home you see a drastically lower tax rate, and everything else including commercial, retail, industrial, residential rental properties, even a home you own but don’t rent and don’t live in could attract the higher rate of 1.5% of the value.

With the creation of a Residential tax category, all Residential properties whether lived in or rented would be within this category. This is a substantial concession for owners of duplex and triplex residences who would have had to pay a relatively hefty property tax on the rental apartments. The ‘Residential’ category will likely incur the same rate as the current ‘owner-occupied’ rate of 0.75% however the legislation has not yet been tabled or approved, but the communication indicated the change would occur prior to the October bills going out this year.

These two adjustments which may seem minor on the surface will have significant impacts on the ownership of real estate in the Bahamas. In essence improving the attractiveness and lowering the soft cost of acquiring, holding and selling real estate here.

Also of note was the elimination of import duty on bicycles, so everyone go out and buy a bike, get out and see the Bahamas on 2 wheels.

And a reduction of duty on ‘Stuffed Pasta’??? Someone has a food fetish there hey?

Lastly, another important point was the extension of the “Family Island Encouragement Act” whereby home construction and repair is permitted to bring in building materials duty free. The spirit of the legislation is to spur economic growth and create short and long term employment through the development and construction of homes. The Act is supposed to be extended to Eleuthera and Abaco which previously were excluded. I welcome feedback from someone who access the Act benefits in Abaco.

Total Bahamas MLS listings active right now:  2,145

Total Listings Sold On the Bahamas MLS in the past 6 months: 86

However, it is worth noting that I personally have been involved in 3 transactions in the last 6 months, that are not being recorded on the MLS for various reasons, either it was a ‘pocket listing’ or just recently expired etc. If one assumes that one quarter of the licensed agents in the Bahamas have been involved in one transaction that was not recorded on the MLS it bumps up the number of sales transactions up to 221.  This sales volume figure is modest but indicates strong gains over the previous year.  In the past month, every active broker or agent I’ve spoken to has seen a marked increase in inquiries, visits, showings and offers.  This is all leading to a significantly improved real estate market for the year of 2015.

The long wait since 2007 is definitely officially over in my opinion.

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Above: Beautiful Luxury Estate on Man O War Cay. Multiple dwellings, 3 beaches, large private marina. More information here:

http://www.hgchristie.com/details/abaco/man-o-war-cay/house-as12394/

Every company in the Bahamas is seeing major improvement across the board. In the local Bahamian real estate market, it seems the commercial banks are starting to make loans a bit easier to reach although the lending standards are still quite high. Typically Scotiabank is looking for the borrower to have 30% equity, however they are currently offering extremely low interest rates. RBC has in my opinion been the easiest bank to work with in terms of securing a mortgage with 10% deposit/equity and they will allow the borrower to finance closing costs which is a major help to a first time real estate buyer looking to start out. The government stamp tax of 10% (usually split between buyer and seller) is still a major financial hurdle for most buyers of real estate in the country, so being able to get financial assistance with that is a blessing. CIBC Fist Caribbean is offering 15% equity/deposit with interest rates on par with the other institutions.

In the non-resident or second home owner market there has been a large increase in interest from potential buyers and the sales activity is indicating a strong improvement. The problem I am seeing now though is that sellers who had been on the side lines waiting for the past couple of years have now seen the market improvement and chosen to put their property on the market. This has had the effect of increasing the inventory of available properties on the market which causes the market to skew in favour of the buyers. That said, I believe we are out of the woods and it is still a great time to buy.

When you have multiple people looking at making offers on one piece of real estate that definitely shows a vastly improved market for the past years. I have seen multiple offers at the same time on 5 different occasions in the past 6 months.

Happening right now a reality TV show called ‘Below Decks’ filming in Abaco right now. It is a Bravo network show similar to Big Brother set on a luxury yacht. The film crew is based out of Abaco Beach Resort and has been using the beautiful scenes of Abaco as the backdrop. Good exposure for the island, however I think it only appeals to the teenage audience so economic spill over is likely to be very limited.

I have heard mention of the possibility of the Marsh Harbour airport runway being extended so we might finally see direct flights from New York and Atlanta. Something that will make getting to the Abacos from Europe and the Northeast US much, much easier.

The Friends of the Environment Annual Reef Ball was recently held at the Abaco Inn with great success, and the Marsh Harbour edition is coming up in about a week. Great Cause, Great Food and Great Fun to be had at the Marsh Harbour Marina.

Upcoming events in Abaco – Great Abaco Family Fitness Weekend (Triathlon), Fishing Tournament season, Hope Town Music/Songwriters Festival (Happening Now).

Get out of the snow and come down for a visit.

HG Christie has finally launched a new website portal that allows you to view listings by area and see their exact location and pricing.  It is kind of interesting and somewhat eye opening, if for instance one zooms into Marsh Harbour or Treasure Cay and views how many properties are currently for sale in a specific area.  There are few little kinks to work out but overall a great tool.  Check it out here:

http://hgchristiebahamasrealestate.bs

 

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