Information when looking for Waterfront Properties in the Bahamas

Properties in the Bahamas

Are real estate agents and brokers licensed in The Bahamas?

Yes; brokers and agents are licensed by taking a written test administered by The Bahamas Real Estate Association (BREA), which is an international member of The National Association of Realtors.  Many BREA members hold various accreditations, but the public is urged to ask for and only use the services of brokers and agents who are BREA members.

How do you establish residency in The Bahamas?

There are two categories of permanent residency in The Bahamas.  The categories are permanent residency with the right to work and permanent residency without the right to work.  The government of The Bahamas has set specific guidelines that allow for non-Bahamians to establish permanent residency in The Bahamas.

How long can you stay in The Bahamas without establishing permanent residency?

Visitors are permitted to reside in The Bahamas for as long as 8 months at a time provided they can show proof about their financial support for the time they’re in The Bahamas and have a return ticket to their home country or some other country that would be willing to accept them.  Visitors may reside in The Bahamas but are not allowed to engage in any kind of activity that would be considered gainful employment without first obtaining a work permit.

What costs are involved when buying and selling real estate in The Bahamas?

Typical sales of property are considered “gross” sales, in which it is assumed that the seller will be responsible for payment of the following costs:

  • If an agent is involved, commissions are paid as follows:  6% of gross sales prices on developed residential property and 10% of gross sales price on undeveloped property.
  • Government Stamp Duty is a tax on the conveyance of real property, payment for which is split between the seller and buyer.  The Stamp Duty tax is graduated and calculated as follows:  4% when the value of the consideration is less than $20,000; 6% when the value of the consideration is more than $20,000 but less than $50,000; 8% when the value of the consideration is more than $50,001 but less than $100,000; 10% when the value of the consideration is more than $100,001.
  • Seller’s legal fees for a sale or purchase are based on the property value and are generally 2 ½% of the first $500,000, 2% of the next $500,000, 1% of the next $4,000,000 and ½ % of amounts larger than that.

The purchaser of real property is responsible for payment of the following costs:

  • One-half (1/2) of the Government Stamp Tax as outlined above;
  • Purchaser’s legal fees, as outlined above, which include the attorney’s opinion on the title to the property and is considered the same as a title search
  • Court recording fees of $3.50 per page for property conveyances and other closing documents that have to be recorded;
  • Payment for the permit issued under the International Persons Landholding Act (if applicable).

If the property sale is considered a “net” sale, the purchaser will be responsible for payment of all of the fees outlined above.

Are there qualified architects, engineers and contractors available to construct residential or commercial property or make changes to existing structures?

Yes, there are many qualified individuals who were educated in the United Kingdom, Canada or the United States and have international accreditations.  A local Board of Architects licenses architects and the leading contractors employ only civil engineers with international accreditations or have certified engineers on staff.  Electrical, civil and mechanical engineers were also educated in other countries and are licensed by their respective local Boards.  These qualified professionals have international accreditations from the countries in which they attended school.  The construction industry is regulated also, but applies less rigorous standards regarding qualifications.

Can I use the services of a non-resident architect or engineer? 

Yes, but that person must obtain a permit to work in The Bahamas.  All building plans must be submitted to the Town Planning Board and the Ministry of Works document must be signed-off by a local, licensed architect or engineer.  Local procedures and customs vary, so it is highly recommended that you utilize the services of the local professionals.

Do I need approval to build on property or make changes to existing properties?

Yes, you need approval of the Town Planning Board and a building permit that is issued by the Ministry of Works.  A local architect or engineer can assist you with permits.

What are the costs of construction?

Most homes that are built in The Bahamas are made of poured concrete construction or concrete block and must meet very strict building codes.  Building costs vary widely depending on the building site and materials used.  The cost to build a modest house of concrete block with timber roofing and asphalt shingles is between $100 and $150 per square foot.  Average houses with top of the line features like marble floor tile or Corian countertops cost between $200 to $400 per square foot and you can expect to pay upwards of $500 per square foot for luxury homes with the finest finishes and details.  Costs for this type of home will be approximately 40% more in The Bahamas than a similar house in southern Florida, mostly because of freight, delivery and duty costs to the site, which represent about 65% of the F.O.B. material costs.  Building standards in The Bahamas are, however, higher than they are in southern Florida.

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