While St Lucia has an obvious lifestyle appeal due to its infrastructure, large expat community and laidback island ambience there are plenty of other reasons for its attraction to property investors. Whether for a straight up portfolio investment, or for the opportunity to enjoy a carefree retirement abroad, purchasing a villa, apartment, house, or land in St Lucia is something many British citizens may consider. |
Purchasing property abroad, however, can be fraught with difficulties and every country has its own peculiarities. If you're considering investment, here's a brief guide to investing in St Lucia real estate.
Basic Guide to Investing in St Lucia Real Estate
Whether you're considering purchasing a house, land to build, or a villa in a luxury development, before you can set the wheels in motion you'll need an Alien Landholding Licence. This is a government issued document that certifies you've been approved to purchase property here and, although the process is not difficult, it can take up to three months. • If you're a national of St Lucia, or if you are entitled to citizenship by parentage, birth or marriage, you do not need the licence. • Companies or partnerships in which more than half the members are not St Lucian nationals do require the licence.
Step One: Secure the Property
Visit the site: While it's not always possible for overseas investors, visiting the site you intend to purchase is advisable, so you can foresee any physical issues. If you can't visit personally you can arrange for a local representative to inspect it. Organise a Land Registry search: This confirms that the vendor is the legal owner of the property and is entitled to sell it. It also provides information on any incumbencies on the property (mortgage or monies owing). Obtain an Agreement of Sale: As the process of obtaining the Alien Landholding Licence can take some time, it's important to secure the property so the vendor doesn't sell to someone else in the meantime. An Agreement of Sale is a legal contract: you'll be required to pay a deposit and the seller agrees to take the property off the market for a specified amount of time. (Your lawyer must register the document in order for it to be legally binding.)
Step Two: Obtain the Alien Landholding Licence
Whether you make the application as an individual or corporation will depend on your circumstances and your property lawyer will advise which is appropriate for you. (Since 2010, stamp duty benefits applicable to corporations have changed with amendment to legislation, so it's important to understand the ramifications.)
• Bank references • CV or resume • Passport sized photos x 4 • Police Certificate or report of good character • Certified copies of passport • Map Sheet and Land Register documentation for the property • Certified copy of fingerprints (can be done locally)
The fee for the application is set depending on the land size (acreage) of the property. All prices are in East Caribbean dollars (XCD$). As a rough guide, 1 GBP = 3.8 XCD. There is a non-refundable deposit of $1500 and the balance is due on approval. Under an acre - $5,000 1 to 10 acres - $10,000 10 to 20 acres - $20,000 20 to 50 acres - $30,000 50 to 100 acres - $40,000 Over 100 acres - $50,000
The process of approval:
Making the application is a simple but non-negotiable process. It is first reviewed by the St Lucian Physical Planning Office, then forwarded to the Prime Minister's Office where the final decision is made. It is then returned to the Physical Planning Office who will advise your property lawyer it has been approved or refused. Even if everything runs entirely smoothly with your application, as you're dealing with very busy government officials the process will usually take between 4-6 weeks at the minimum.
Unless you are deemed not to be of good character it's unlikely an application will be refused, however if you believe your individual circumstances may go against you (or you have a criminal record) it's important to advise your lawyer before making application.
Step Three: Register the Licence
Once you've been granted approval for the licence, your lawyer will prepare a draft copy to be sent to the Attorney General's department for signature. It is then sent to the Land Registry to be filed. All up this part of the process should take around two weeks to finalise.
Step Four: Transfer the Property
The final step in the purchase process is for your lawyer to prepare and execute a Deed of Sale (which must be signed by you or your legal representative) so the property can be transferred to your name. You'll also need to transfer all monies to your lawyer for payment to the vendor. Once the vendor has received the money and signed the Deed of Sale it is then registered with the St Lucian Land Registry and the property is officially yours. This guide to investing in St Lucia real estate is designed to demystify the process, but you should seek professional independent advice before making any foreign investment and always enlist the services of an experienced local property lawyer.
Adam Gobat is a renowned expert on the Caribbean, with a passion for its culture, history, people and places. His indepth local knowledge and wealth of experience in luxury St Lucia real estate, are key to the marketing and sales of the luxury villas and penthouses in The Landings, one of the most desirable freehold beachfront developments in the Caribbean.
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