Friday, March 28, 2008

Real Estate in Jamaica

Buying and Selling real estate in Jamaica is often regarded as complicated especially when one of the parties is a foreigner. The process is based on the English common law and the Torrens title system. It is often long, expensive and some believe unnecessarily bureaucratic. It is for this reason that it is recommended that anyone buying or selling real estate in Jamaica employ the services of an attorney who specializes in conveyancing.

Conveyancing is the process by which legal title in land is transferred. Many but not all properties in Jamaica are registered at the National Land Agency commonly referred to as the Titles Office. Some owners have common law title to their properties and while one can purchase those properties it is recommended that a buyer request the vendor to apply for a registered title. The registered title carries with it many advantages including but not limited to the fact that it is a fairly simple document which provides proof of ownership of property which is clearly described. Also it is acceptable security at financial institutions for mortgages and other loans. More on the registered title later.

Before I get into the details I must confirm that there are no restrictions to foreigners acquiring real estate in Jamaica.

The usual conveyancing transaction involves:
  • the pre-contract stage - viewing the property, searching the title, negotiating the price and other contractual terms
  • the post contract stage - exchanging signed contracts, stamping sale agreements, obtaining mortgage commitment, signing and registering transfer, mortgage and other relevant documents
  • completion - granting possession to the purchaser, title endorsed in his name and remitting net sale proceeds to the vendor.
The entire conveyancing transaction typically takes about 12 weeks after the contract is signed.