Can a U.S. Citizen Buy Property in Bonaire?

Just off the coast of Venezuela lies a hidden paradise that serves as a picturesque home to locals and tourists alike. Anyone fortunate enough to spend even a single afternoon on Bonaire finds themselves wondering if they’re able to invest in property on the island. 

From picturesque beaches to lush green parks, Bonaire is brimming with natural wonders for you to explore, and the island is ripe with opportunity from an investment perspective. 

Whether you’re searching for the ideal location for a summer home, looking to invest in a rental property, or planning on relocating permanently, the Dutch island of Bonaire is an excellent option you’ll want to learn more about as you decide on the best place for you and your family.

Read on, as we cover everything you need to know about this incredible island and answer the question, “can a U.S. citizen buy property in Bonaire.” 

About Bonaire 

An image showing the flags of Venezula and Bonaire. Between the two flags is a white flag

Bonaire is situated about 50 miles off Venezuela’s coast, right on the continental shelf of South America [1]. The island of Bonaire is relatively new, by geological standards, and it’s the result of a huge rock mass being pushed upwards by the continental shelf. 

The northern side of the island is fairly mountainous, while the southern side is relatively flat and home to some of the world’s most picturesque beaches and coral reefs. Further inland, Bonaire is home to gorgeous grottos, lagoons, and lush green forests. 

The island features an arid climate that offers gorgeous weather year-round. While most of the neighboring islands sit firmly in hurricane alley, Bonaire lies just outside the danger zone. While the locals must contend with severe weather on occasion, it’s much less susceptible to hurricane damage than most other tropical retreats.

While people flock to Bonaire for the beautiful beaches, there’s something for everyone. The expansive Washington Slagbaai National Park is home to many indigenous species, over 200 unique avian species, lush trails, lagoons, and beautiful foliage. 

The waters surrounding the island are home to the Bonaire National Marine Park, and they offer some of the best snorkeling and scuba diving worldwide. The surrounding coral reefs have enjoyed ecological protection since the 1970s, and today they’re one of the most gorgeous and healthy coral reef ecosystems in the ocean. 

Eco-tourists have flocked to Bonaire for many years to enjoy everything the land and ocean have to offer. The island is also home to a growing number of full-time residents, who can enjoy an incredible quality of life in a tropical enclave that’s insulated from the severe weather that makes residence in other areas of the Caribbean so precarious. 

Beyond its popularity with scuba divers and hikers, Bonaire also offers world-class windsurfing, and the island offers direct flights to and from major airports including Newark, Houston, and Atlanta. 

Other characteristics of the island make it especially attractive to Americans looking to relocate. The island is a territory of the Dutch, and residents of Bonaire enjoy the same universal healthcare as residents of Holland. The economy is also built on the U.S. dollar, and the country has enjoyed GDP growth year over year since adopting the dollar in 2011 [2].

Compared to the neighboring islands, which don’t offer the same benefits as Bonaire does, it’s a no-brainer for foreigners to look towards Bonaire when searching for a location to invest in real estate. 

How Can a U.S. Citizen Buy Property in Bonaire 

A photograph of the sea creatures near Bonaire, showing a turtlee and several fish swimming in crystal clear ocean water

There’s no shortage of beautiful island retreats that are similar to Bonaire, but many of them are less than accommodating for foreign nationals looking to purchase property or take up residence on the island. Fortunately, Bonaire can be exceptionally accommodating, and purchasing property on the island can be an excellent investment. 

Considering the quality of life, breathtaking coral reefs, national parks, and the charming local economy, it’s no wonder that real estate in Bonaire is becoming so popular with American and Dutch buyers. 

Best of all, Bonaire offers a property for virtually everyone, from modest and affordable condos to cavernous villas overlooking the ocean, there’s something for every budget and lifestyle. Whether you’re searching for a modest vacation home or you’re planning on permanently relocating to Bonaire, you should be able to find an ideal property for you. 

Unlike many of the islands in the Caribbean, Bonaire is incredibly friendly to foreign investment. So long as your money is green, Bonaire is happy to have you. There aren’t any restrictions for foreign buyers, and non-citizens can purchase a freehold property, or lease their land. 

Most interested buyers end up leasing land from the Bonaire government. The land is offered on a long-term lease and a small annual fee is paid to the government. Prospective buyers don’t need any permits or licenses to purchase land on the island. 

How to Buy a Property in Bonaire 

Buying a property in Bonaire is fairly simple and easy to navigate. Many buyers who are new to purchasing property on the island are surprised by how painless the process is. While every purchase is unique, most sales follow a similar framework. Once you’ve found an ideal property that you’d like to place an offer on, here’s how to get the deal done. 

  • Submit an offer on the property either verbally or in writing. Your offer must include the proposed price, date of transfer, and information about the down payment’s size. 
  • The buyer and seller negotiate until agreeing to terms. Once the buyer has accepted a seller’s offer, their agreement becomes binding. 
  • The buyer’s attorney drafts a contract. 
  • Once the contract is signed by both parties, the buyer furnishes a 10% deposit which the notary holds in escrow. 
  • The ownership transfer process typically takes 6-8 weeks. Once ownership is transferred, the deed is signed over to the buyer, and the remaining funds from the sale are transferred. 
  • The buyer and seller pay any associated fees and taxes associated with the sale. The buyer is responsible for a 6% transfer tax and a yearly 1% property tax. 

Obtaining a Mortgage in Bonaire 

If you’ve ever considered real estate in the Caribbean before, you may have been frustrated by how difficult it can be to obtain financing to purchase or build a home. While there are certainly fewer lenders offering to finance in the Caribbean than there are stateside, it is possible to obtain a mortgage for a property in Bonaire. 

Mortgage terms are negotiated on an individual basis, and your application will be subject to similar requirements to what you would expect when obtaining a mortgage in the U.S. Qualified buyers are regularly able to secure financing of up to two million dollars.

Mortgage rates are typically low, and while they vary with the market, buyers can expect to pay somewhere in the realm of 2% for their mortgage rate and fees. Most mortgages are amortized over fifteen years. 

While most buyers are obtaining a mortgage to finance the purchase of a new residence, it’s also possible to obtain financing for property renovations. 

Living in Bonaire 

An image showing some old slave huts on  Bonaire. The huts are bright orange and sit on adjacent to the ocean. The sky is bright blue

Bonaire is an attractive destination for foreign nationals because the country has generally laid-back policies concerning residence and citizenship. It’s easy for foreigners to live in Bonaire temporarily, and it’s almost as easy if you plan on putting down roots and becoming a full-time resident of the island. 

Foreign citizens from most countries can stay in Bonaire for up to 90 days before a visa is required. Dutch and American citizens can stay for 180 days without a visa. A residence permit is required for stays longer than 90 and 180 days, respectively. 

Visitors can apply for a temporary residence permit from the government, which is good for one year and can be renewed each year. After five years of continuous residence on the island, expats staying in Bonaire can apply for a permanent residence permit, which allows them to stay on the island indefinitely. 

Long-term residents of the island can apply for Dutch citizenship by naturalization after they’ve lived in Bonaire for five years. 

Final Word 

An idyllic paradise nestled just miles off the coast of South America, Bonaire is one of the most attractive locations in the Caribbean for investors looking to invest in property. Whether you’re interested in establishing a rental property, purchasing a vacation home, or relocating to Bonaire permanently, it’s easy for Americans to purchase property on the island. 

With world-renowned snorkeling and scuba diving, thousands of acres of beautiful parks, and a strong local economy that’s bolstered by the Dutch government, [3] it’s easy to see why Bonaire would be an ideal Caribbean escape for most buyers. But, can a U.S. citizen buy property in Bonaire? Yes! 

Not only does the island look like the scene from a postcard, but it’s also extremely attractive for foreign investors. The government of Bonaire makes it easy to establish permanent or temporary residence, and the real estate market offers many lucrative investment opportunities. 

References

[1]https://traveltips.usatoday.com/bonaire-island-16349.html

[2]https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/11/realestate/bonaire-cairbbean-sea.html

[3]https://www.caribbeanislands.com/bonaire/