Buying real estate, house, home, condo or vacant lot in the Bahamas / San Salvador is totally different from buying a house, condo or land in the US. Bahamas real estate law and the process of finding the property, getting it under contract and actually going to closing cannot be compared to the US process. Even I as a Real Estate Broker in Florida had a hard time understanding this whole new set of rules and it took me a long time to figure out the best way to go about it, actually the only way to be sure you get a legal conveyance ( deed)
Let’s split this issue (buying a house, home, condo or land in the Bahamas) in two separate parts
First part, finding a property to buy in the Bahamas.
You have to find your dream property, your lot, your condo, your home in the Bahamas. NOT that easy!
See, in the US we have the MLS system meaning about 99% of all properties for sale get submitted to this system and you can find them on websites like Realtor.com, Trulia, Zillow and many more. So, it is very easy to sit at home and search the net for hours and days till you see something that is interesting and in the process of searching for homes or land or condos you get a very good feeling for the areas and the prices etc.
Not so in the Bahamas. Till a few years ago the Bahamas did not have an MLS system, now finally the Bahamas has a similar system BUT only a few properties that are for sale in the Bahamas actually make it into the system. You wonder WHY? As always, it is money ! In the Bahamas the real estate commission is not negotiable, the seller has to pay 10% for a vacant land sale or 6% for and improved land sale(house,condo)
If a realtor put the property (his listing) in the MLS he has to split that commission with the buyer’s broker. If he doesn’t put it in the MLS he can keep the whole commission. Since Bahamian sellers are so new to the MLS system, most of them do not understand it’s benefits and therefore the sellers do not insist on an MLS listing. All this means that you as a buyer have a very difficult time finding ALL the properties for sale. If you check on realtors website only HIS listings are on there and there is a very HIGH chance that he will not even tell you that the house next to his is also for sale for a much lower price. There is also a high amount of “for sale by owner” . These properties are usually not advertised at all and since no commission is paid, no realtor in the Bahamas will tell you about these homes or condos for sale.
Now what ??? How can you make sure that you know each and every property that meets your needs and wants that is for sale in the Bahamas, on the Island you chose? Well, get on a plane and come down here. Find someone who knows the island and that knows real estate, drive around and ask questions. There is only so much research you can do online and it is very difficult to find good information on the web.
Second Part. How to get clear title to your Bahamas property and all the legal paperwork.
We are not talking about buying a new shirt at Burdines and if you don’t like it you can bring it back within 90 days. Your Bahamas home or land will cost a lot more that a shirt and you can not get a refund if you don’t like it anymore.
You need a lawyer that works for YOU and not the seller !!! This Bahamian lawyer will do a title search and ensure that it is free and clear !!! he will issue something like a title insurance that will protect YOU. Please understand the importance, till just recently the Bahamas was not known for keeping accurate records of property sales (due to the different recording system). If money exchanged for a piece of land or home and the buyer got some “official looking paperwork” but forgot to record it ( because he was not told to do so) than the government didn’t even know that there was a new owner and therefore the old seller could sell this piece of Bahamian property again, to someone else……. and again. So, please get your own lawyer (unless it is a new home or condo development you are buying in) when buying property in the Bahamas.
Please understand, this was the short version of this complex issue. I have met a lot of people who bought properties in the Bahamas and the once that are happy and that use their property have done their research and talked to the closing lawyer. The once that are unhappy and full of drama stories are the people who got caught up in the moment and believed a smiling “NO PROBLEM” salesperson.
The photos on this page a REAL photos that I took today on the Island of San Salvador Bahamas. These real estate for sale signs tell the story better than I ever could. You do not know if they are from realtors or owners but then again, it doesn’t really matter since you can’t read the phone number anyway ……LOL This is just the island way, nobody is in a hurry to sell I guess.
Buying real estate, house, home or vacant land in the Bahamas, San Salvador is a dream come through for many people (and it was for me) This Island is breathtaking beautiful and the moment you step off the plane you get transported into another world. It is all worth it !!! Go after your dream !!!