Buying Property In the Bahamas: Can a US Citizen Buy Property In the Bahamas?

Whether you’re a second home buyer, a vacation home buyer, or simply looking to retire rich in the Bahamas, you’ve got a heavenly choice.

Talk of lovely aquamarine waters and stunning beaches with remarkably soft white and pink sand! But overseas buyers are charmed by something bigger. The thrill goes beyond this iconic landscape into the highly favorable real estate market.

The archipelago is convenient and stable for property investment, just as it is breathtakingly beautiful. Its real estate market is unrivaled in the entire Caribbean in terms of diversity and being firmly established. Deluxe resort condos, wonderful beach cottages, lavish waterfront estates, exclusive private islands, and everything in between grace it all.

So, you’re scratching your head and wondering: Do I need to be a Bahama citizen to own property? You’ll not believe it, but up to 8 in 10 property buyers in the Bahamas are Americans. So, yes – any US citizen can own property in the Bahamas. Thanks to the nice relations between the two countries.

We’ll take a nice tour into all things Bahamas, exploring critical questions you may have. We’ll take an in-depth look at the costs, risks, appreciation, loans, steps, and many other things associated with buying property in the Bahamas.

Best Websites for Finding Property In the Bahamas

A photo of Nassau, Bahamas. It shows a narrow island with a large hotel that is surrounded by aqua blue water and dozens of boats

The quest for a new home can be a daunting task. But savvy property investors admit that landing the right information first is key. So, to reward your curiosity and for your convenience, we’ve compiled a list of top-ranking companies with links to their official sites.

#1: Bahamas Realty

Looking for the most reputable, independent, Bahamian-owned full-service real estate firm? Breathe. Established in 1949, Bahamas Realty holds an outstanding corporate image, with a drive to offer the finest quality services in real estate.

It blends in authentic expert knowledge from locals with competitive global connections to offer the highest quality real estate services. Bahamas Realty’s elite team of licensed professionals comprises appraisers, commercial property managers, and real estate experts. They all strive to put a smile on the faces of individuals and corporate clients.

#2: Realty Team Bahamas

Realty Team Bahamas is committed to finding the most unbeatable listings for its clients. The firm cares to offer a wide variety of such from the hundreds of islands and cays. It’s highly efficient in helping clients make educated purchases by giving them substantial information.

What’s more, the firm provides high-quality real estate services at more competitive prices. It even goes the extra mile of simplifying the real estate purchase process by providing an experienced mortgage specialist.

#3: Coldwell Banker Lightbourn Realty

Coldwell Banker Lightbourn Realty has a rich performance history of selling homes in most of the Bahamas. It has covered Abaco, Bimini, Nassau, Exuma, Harbor Island, Lyford Cay, Paradise Island, and many others.

The company listens carefully to understand client goals and turns their dreams into the ideal real estate they’re seeking. What’s more, it offers a detailed property report and satisfying neighborhood information.

Can the Bahama Government Seize Foreigners’ Property?

A photograph of Staniel Cay Yacht Club. Exumas, Bahamas. It shows 3 colorful buildings on the shoreline of a beautiful lightly colored ocean

The need to understand the investment climate in the Bahamas is fundamental, especially for foreigners.

The Bahamian government doesn’t explicitly seize a foreign national’s property on rootless grounds. However, several Americans have reported immense difficulties in the process of buying or selling property. Some even lose it, but not to the government as such.

Suppose an investor bought a property, and the seller possesses no vivid proof of ownership; you can imagine the outcome. A third party may also appear bearing claims to the same property with deeds to prove it shortly after a sale. The result is tedious legal battles that could go unresolved for years.

In the Family Islands, other incidents involve high-end real estate project developments. Individuals may not get their money returns even if the project isn’t completed.

Lawsuits in the Bahamas generally consume a lot of time and resources relative to the US. Still, a US citizen should work with a trusted attorney to ensure there’s an unambiguous title to the property. As a consular courtesy, the US Embassy provides a list of attorneys on its website.

As a rule of thumb, any property buyer or seller should contact the Government of Bahamas for the veracity of certain factors. These include, without limitation to discrepancies in property ownership and tax evaluations.

Cost Associated With Buying Property In the Bahamas

The thrill of owning your own private island in the Bahamas sounds like fantasy, especially if you’re not a millionaire. However, you stand a chance to own one for as low as $ 405 an acre.

Moreover, property investors love the Bahamas primarily because it’s a tax haven. Here are the pluses to what you may already know:

Legal Fees

These aren’t cast on stone. Legal fees in this idyllic archipelago may play around the 2.5% average purchase price or higher.

Real Estate Commission

If you’re looking to buy, this doesn’t fall on you. But the seller is charged 10% on all vacant land and businesses. As for improved property, the commission stands at 6%.

Value Added Tax (VAT)

Standard VAT is dealt with at a rate of 12% on the supply of commodities and services. On the other hand, VAT on real estate is a graduated tax.

As long as the consideration is valued below $100,000, the VAT rate is held at 2.5%. Anything valued at $100,000 and over attracts a VAT of 10%.

The Bahamas also offers good news in that buyers and sellers share tax equally unless otherwise agreed upon. Now, that is a common Bahamian practice you don’t easily find elsewhere.

First-time Bahamian buyers may enjoy the luxury of VAT exemption on a dwelling house or vacant land purchased for the same. The value considered is incredibly huge and can go for up to $500,000.

Gift and Inheritance Taxes

The charm of the Bahamas real estate market isn’t over yet. There are no known taxes charged on gifted or inherited properties. Even in the US alone, only a handful of states like Delaware recognizes such a lovely incentive.

Do Property Values Appreciate In the Bahamas?

An image of Atlantis resort and hotel in the Bahamas. It shows a huge pool with green water and several high rise buildings in the background

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a significant toll on the demand for residential properties in the Bahamas. This resultant fallout has had adverse effects on property values. Similarly, Hurricane Dorian saw a 20% decline in the number of residential properties sold in 2019.

But even before the hurricane or the pandemic, property prices hadn’t been perfectly stable. Following the Great Recession of 2008, Bahamian property prices corrected by an average of 20% from the peak. Some local agents even claim house prices fell by an extra 10 percent from 30% between 2007 and 2010.

However, the housing market has been stabilizing gradually, albeit with mixed price movements witnessed even recently. In New Providence, condo prices rose by 7.2% in 2019, while single-family homes saw a 9.5% y-o-y. Lyford Cay also saw a price fall of between 6-15 % during the same period.

Opulent communities of Ocean Club Estates and Old Fort Bay witnessed an upsurge in property prices by a 16% y-o-y average in 2019.

Generally speaking, overall prices haven’t been perfectly solid, but they still are firm in a way. In 2019, the average price of a single-family home rested at about $3.5 million.

Areas With High Appreciation

The lucrative real estate market is postulated to register more demand, particularly for lavish gated communities. This is especially attributed to an amazing lifestyle, limited inventory, easy access via international flights, and a currency pegged to the US Dollar.

The most affluent segment in the Bahamas features average house prices of $2.5 million. The highest price can even reach ten times as much for a villa with a dozen bedrooms and 246 ft. of the beach. The lowest price can be anything around $1 million for a condominium.

Contemporary buyers tend to select modern properties with access to five-star rated resort-style amenities. The Caribbean-style villas and traditional colonial estates are still eye-catching, though. Up next, we take a sneak peek into the most appreciating areas.

Andros

Hailed as the largest island in the Bahamas, Andros provides an ideal escape for high-net-worth individuals who don’t enjoy the city hassle.

Fresh Creek offers a generous listing of $850,000 for a four-bedroom home. For $2.1 million, you could land a 2-bedroom beachfront villa in Standard Creek.

Elbow Cay

This is an eight-mile-long cay nested in the heart of the Abaco Islands. Houses cost about $300,000 at the lower end of the market. Beachfront properties cost anything between $1 million and $8 million.

Eleuthera

Eleuthera boasts a stunning reef system and 100 miles of stunning beaches. Governor’s Harbor will stun you with a four-bedroom single-family home going for $8 million.

Exumas

Exumas comprises more than 360 islands, several of which are still pristine and less explored.

You can find a 10-bedroom home in Jimmy Hill for $5 million. February Point also offers its own stunning collections, with a 4-bedroom single-family home going for as much as $3.6 million.

Lyford Cay

At the western tip of New Providence, we find one of the world’s wealthiest and ultra-private gated communities. Lyford Cay also has a world-class golf course that is legendary and a mile-wide beach reserved for an exclusive few.

The Lyford Cay community also features an exclusive club with its own security service, world-class restaurants, guestrooms, and meeting facilities. It also has an elite international school. Cuckoo’s Nest is a six-bedroom colonial-style home with an upmarket price tag of $6.5 million.

Ocean Club Estates

This is a collection of waterfront properties found on the extreme eastern tip of Paradise Island. Unique single-family homes will set you back by up to $14 million here.

How Do I Get a Loan for a Property In the Bahamas?

Just like Bahamian citizens, permanent residents are eligible to qualify for property loans in the Bahamas. The Minister for Housing is keen on incentives for homeownership for persons with low to moderate incomes. The government itself offers loans for that purpose through its various subdivisions.

The good news is that the Bahamian Government can also guarantee loans from approved lenders. Furthermore, accredited lenders such as the Bank of the Bahamas simplify the process.

Before you apply for a mortgage, for example, check the following prerequisites, among others:

  • Terms and conditions
  • Costs of financing and closing costs
  • Interest rates
  • Projected appreciation rates

Once you’re all set, there is a detailed process outlining how you can obtain government-guaranteed property financing.

What Are the Risks of Buying Property In the Bahamas?

The Bahamas is a great destination, but that doesn’t make it an emblem of utopia. It’s got its fair share of risks, as highlighted below:

Hurricane Hazard

The ocean location means the archipelago can suffer devastating natural disasters. Tropical cyclones like Hurricane Dorian had catastrophic effects as recently as 2019.

Shrinking Mortgage Market

In as much as mortgage prices are on the uprise, the mortgage market has been contracting. The Central Bank of the Bahamas pointed out a 0.61% mortgage interest rise in 2020 for residential mortgages.

The net outstanding residential mortgages fell by $2.84 billion (1.13%) in 2019. In the first quarter of 2020, it plummeted by a further 1.47% y-o-y.

Tedious Laws

There are enormous processes involved in purchasing or making sales of property in the Bahamas. Several US citizens have reported these, including time-share investments.

Steps for Buying Property In the Bahamas as an American

As a US citizen, be sure to do the following:

  1. Commence your rigorous property search. You could visit the websites outlined earlier.
  2. Find the property that suits you and make your offer.
  3. Seek advice from a local attorney for matters like the veracity of title documents.
  4. Wait for a sales contract to be drawn up.
  5. Agree on how you’ll pay the 10% deposit once you’ve reached a consensus and signed the contract.
  6. Transfer the balance of the property price and settle all tax obligations.
  7. Have your investment lodged in the registry of the Exchange Control at the Central Bank of the BahamasUpon resale; you’ll have the net proceeds remitted outside the country in your original investment currency.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here’s a compilation of common questions that potential investors want to know about the Bahamas:

How Are Rental Yields In the Bahamas?

Based on substantial research, rental yields from Bahamian properties range from moderate to good. Places like Abaco and Grand Bahama have moderate waterfront yields between 3.45 – 4.45 %.

The capital, Nassau, has the topmost average gross rental yields. Teeny waterfront condos have higher yields of around 8% per annum. Smaller waterfront condos typically yield lesser, say 5.7% per annum.

How Do You Become a Permanent Resident of the Bahamas?

As long as you’re from Canada, Europe, the UK, the US, and many Caribbean nations, you don’t even need a visa to visit the Bahamas. All you need is a valid passport and a return ticket which you present upon arrival. Other than that, Americans can stay in the Bahamas for up to 8 months with no visa.

How Long Can Non-Residents Stay In the Bahamas?

If you’re looking to own a business or retire in the Bahamas, you need to qualify for a Permanent Residence Permit. One primary consideration is that you must be a financially independent individual or an investor who owns legitimate property in the Bahamas.

There are other important conditions for application such as:

  • A minimum age requirement of 18 years
  • Unstained conduct
  • A formal declaration of the desire for permanent residence.

Foreign investors who put up no less than $1.5 million in Bahamian real estate qualify for Accelerated Consideration for Permanent Residency. Otherwise, any foreigner who invests a minimum of $750,000 can apply for Permanent Residency consideration.

What Are the Benefits of Permanent Residency in the Bahamas?

  • On the upside, permanent residents in the Bahamas enjoy the following pluses:
  • Right to work or conduct business without permit renewals
  • Proximity to the USA
  • Privilege to share in whatever Bahamian citizens enjoy except voting rights
  • Tax benefits including no charges on income, inheritance, and property gains
  • A lavish lifestyle while surrounded by an unmatched landscape
  • A chance to apply for Bahamian citizenship after satisfying some conditions 

Other Interesting Facts

The Government of Bahamas introduced certain changes to the real property tax system. It was done in a bid to enhance real demand and check on speculative buying. Furthermore, the investment threshold was recently adjusted to $750,000 for permanent residents.

It’s no longer a requirement that the owner must occupy their property for a minimum of six months. 

Final Thoughts

The Bahamas is an iconic tourist destination with a lucrative real estate market. Having close ties with the US economy, American citizens can find favorable property ownership deals there with limited risks. Anyone granted a permanent residence permit can, in fact, enjoy most of the country’s unmatched benefits, as would any Bahamian citizen.

While this guide may not have answered all your disturbing questions regarding buying property in the Bahamas, let’s hope it has enabled you to make a more informed purchase decision.

Related: Best Places to Live in the Bahamas