Although the country is called Antigua & Barbuda, for historic reasons, it is only possible to buy land and property in Antigua. Barbuda, Antigua’s sister island, is off limits to all but those who are born on the island.
Buying and selling in Antigua is a combination of the U.K.system and the U.S. system with a little local colour thrown in for good measure. There are no restrictions on foreign nationals buying property in Antigua although non-nationals are obliged to obtain a Non-citizens Landholders Licence unless purchasing through the Citizens Investment Programme.
All prices are in U.S. dollars and properties are available on the island from under US$200,000 to over US$20 million in a wide range of locations. As with most property purchasing, location is everything and prices will vary according to whether or not the there is a sea view and a number of other factors.
Selling Property in Antigua
Selling a villa, apartment, land or a business in Antigua is a major enterprise and it is most important that you receive the correct advice. There are no rules and regulations governing estate agents practising in Antigua and vendors should satisfy themselves that they are receiving accurate information.
The world over, vendors are misled into signing long term agreements. There is no necessity in Antigua to sign an agency agreement although it is good practise so that both you and the agent know where you stand. If you do enter into an agreement, you should be able to exit from it with a short period of notice. Richard Watson & Company is the only estate agent in Antigua governed by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors and we will only ask you to sign an agreement which requires 14 days notice for you to terminate.
Every vendor wants the highest price possible for their property but do not be mislead by agents who suggest unrealistically high values. It will not help to sell your property which will probably remain on the market for a very long time, often achieving, in the end, less than it might have done if it had been correctly priced originally.
When thinking of selling, seek good, honest, professional advice and be realistic. Antigua is an island of dreams but not when it comes to property prices.
The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors is the world’s leading regulatory body for estate agents with a strict Code of Conduct and a high standard of professional ethics which is why we proudly say Richard Watson & Company is Antigua’s most professional estate agent.
Buying Property in Antigua
The term ‘Buyer Beware’ is as applicable in Antigua as it is anywhere else in the world when it comes to buying property. It is up to you, the purchaser, to ensure what you are buying has proper legal title and that you comply with all legal requirements and, to that end, you need a competent lawyer. Ask for recommendations. Some lawyers are better than others.
Also, try to ensure you are paying the right price for the property. Make comparisons with other properties for sale and even ask advice from estate agents although some may wish to discourage you from purchasing in order to sell you one of their properties.
Having decided on your purchase you will be required to sign a conditional contract and pay a 10% deposit. Make sure you take advice before signing. The contract will be conditional on one or more factors and will be time limited with extension clauses. The most usual condition for overseas buyers will be the Non-citizens Landholding Licence (see below). This usually takes 3 to 4 months to obtain. There could be other conditions such as mortgage or survey. If you are not resident in Antigua and do not have an income in the country, obtaining a mortgage is almost impossible. You will need to raise funds elsewhere. These days, vendors are required to provide a boundary survey which is less than 10 years old. Access to information on the property is easily available at the Land Registry and Survey & Mapping Department for the payment of a small fee.
When paying the deposit, ensure it will be held in a protected escrow account. If any of the conditions of the contract are not fulfilled or the time limit expires, the deposit is returnable in full. However, if you fail to complete for any other reason, then you will lose your deposit. If the vendor fails to complete, you have a choice, the return of your deposit or suing for specific performance – a long and costly procedure and not recommended.
If you are a non-citizen and you are buying land you need to be aware that construction must be started within 2 years (or the time specified on your Non-citizens Landholding Licence) otherwise you might be charged Undeveloped Land Tax. Also, if you sell without developing and make a profit you could be charged Land Appreciation Tax. Beware, these two taxes can accumulate as they are designed to discourage speculation. Capital Gains Tax is not normally applicable to property sales in Antigua.
So long as you are sensible, buying in Antigua is actually easier than in most other countries but be prepared for a long wait as the Caribbean is well know for its slow pace of life.
Costs and Procedures
The cost of a Non-citizens Landholders Licence is 5% of the value of the property. For vacant land, building must be started in compliance with the non-citizen’s license terms which usually means 2 years. Most property is fee simple or freehold. Leaseholds are rare and usually held by the Crown
Government transfer fees are currently 2.5% for the buyer and 7.5% for the seller. Property taxes/rates are based on rental value and are low. Legal costs for a transfer are 1% to 2% depending on the value of the transaction. There is no title insurance. Properties are registered at the Land Registry which is well organised. Copies of Land Certificates can be obtained for a small fee. Always obtain a Cadastral Survey of the land/property from the Survey Office and have a land surveyor check the dimensions. This is crucial as the boundaries are sometimes not where they appear to be from the fences. When selling a property, the vendor has to supply a survey of the land which is registered with the Survey & Mapping Department and is less than ten years old.
Estate agent commissions are 4% to 6% on sale of both residential and commercial property and free if you are purchasing unless you employ an agent to search for you. Insurance coverage is approx. 2% of insured risk with a deductible of 2%. Insurance includes earthquakes and named storms although limited cover is also available.
Citizen Investment Programme
The citizenship-by-investment program requires a person to make a significant economic contribution to the country. In exchange, and subject to a stringent application procedure, including thorough background checks, the applicants and their families are granted citizenship.
To qualify for citizenship, the person must be over 18 years of age, meet the application requirements and select one of the following three options available:
- an investment of at least US$400,000 plus fees into one of the approved real estate projects; such investments cannot be disposed of within a five year period or before the proposed development in which the investment has been made has been substantially completed
- a contribution to the National Development Fund (NDF) of a minimum non-refundable amount of US$100,000 (for a single applicant) plus fees.
- an investment of a minimum of US$1,500,000 directly into an eligible business as a sole investor or a joint investment involving at least 2 persons in an eligible business totalling at least US$5,000,000, and each of those persons individually invests at least US$400,000
Bank financing is available to citizens and those with an income in Antigua but interest rates are high by US or European standards and 30% or more cash deposit will be required. If you are looking to buy a holiday home in Antigua, consider raising a mortgage on your main residence in the country where you live. It is convenient to have a bank account in Antigua but the banking laws are very restrictive and highly regulated to avoid money laundering. Many banks are Canadian owned and are controlled by Canada’s strict banking laws as well as those of Antigua & Barbuda. As agents, we can introduce you to reputable banks. In addition to cheque clearing and savings banks, Antigua has a well regulated offshore banking system.
Most houses are serviced by a septic tank, a legal requirement, water cisterns are also required by law. Government electricity and water are usually connected or available nearby as are cable and landline telephone and broadband. Although the electricity supply is generally reasonably good, a standby generator is useful particularly at the time of severe storms which can damage the electricity supply infrastructure. Cellular telephone coverage is island wide. More remote properties may be accessed by little more than a dirt track but most houses have access to adequate roads. Although all property is supposed to have access to the main highway, check that the road outside a property is part of the public road network and not someone’s private drive
Rents range from under US$100 per night for a basic apartment to a lush fully staffed villa at several thousand US$ per night and there are many fine villas which can be a great alternative to staying in hotels. Most of these rental villas have swimming pools and close proximity to one of Antigua’s great beaches. Villa rental also provides an opportunity for owners to get an income out of their second homes while they are not using them. The property management fee is US$250 per month for a vacant property or a property managed on a long term letting (more than six months). Rental commissions are 20% for short term rental (one week to six months) to include property management (the US$250 per month is waived for short term lettings) and to include all legal agreements and Inventory. Withholding taxes are 25% of net rental income for non-residents.
There are also many long term rental properties available and, dependent upon size and condition, can be had for less than US$500 per month. A long term rental can be a serious alternative to purchasing property as the landlord is responsible for the upkeep and there are no risk of changing property values. Rental commissions are 10% for long term rentals to include Tenancy Agreement and Inventory. If property management is required, the fee in addition to the commission, is US$250 per month. As with short term rentals, withholding taxes are 25% of net rental income for non-residents.
Introductions of Tenants to Landlords including the preparation of an Inventory and Tenancy Agreement is 10% of the total rent or the annual rent whichever is the lesser subject to a minimum fee of US$1,000.
For commercial properties where there is no premium, the commission is 10% of the annual rental increasing to 20% if property management is required.
Time-share is not particularly common in Antigua but there are several older developments which were constructed when time-share was very popular and they still have properties which occasionally come available. If this is which appeals, it is worth checking the time-share websites. A few estate agents may have some time-share offerings.
Richard Watson are the only firm of Chartered Surveyors in Antigua, with more than 30 years experience of all aspects of residential and commercial real estate development and sales.
When engaging Richarda Watson our clients are assured they will receive advice from qualified professionals regulated by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, the mark of property professionalism worldwide.
We are able to offer our clients the broadest spectrum of advice, from development appraisals and valuations; through construction management and quantity surveying; to asset disposals, residential and commercial sales, and business transfers.
Thinking of moving to Antigua to start a business here ? Many of our clients wish to sell their businesses quietly so they must remain confidential. Just let us know what you wish to do and lets see if we can help. We have already helped many clients through business start-ups in the Caribbean.
Looking for second citizenship ? We can also help through our associated registered agents.