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Buying a house in Jamaica from overseas
Monday 18, August 2014 -
QUESTION: I am a Canadian and my parents are Jamaica-born and I would like to buy a house in Jamaica...[Read More]
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Buying a house in Jamaica from overseas

- Monday 18, August 2014 -

QUESTION: I am a Canadian and my parents are Jamaica-born and I would like to buy a house in Jamaica. Can you help me out and tell me the process?

- Teresa

FINANCIAL ADVISER: You should have a Taxpayer Registration Number (TRN) to be able to make the purchase. If you do not, you can download the application form from www.jamaicatax.gov, complete and sign it, copy the first two pages of your passport and have a notary public sign them. You will also need to send a letter authorising the person of your choice to act for you in making the application and collecting your TRN.

You should decide exactly what you want before setting out to make this major investment. Decide the type of house you want, including its size and features and where you would like it to be. These will have a strong bearing on the price so you should determine how much you have to spend when deciding on the house you want.

I suggest that you engage the services of a reputable real-estate agent or company. The website of the Realtors Association of Jamaica - http://realtorsjamaica.org/ - is a good place to go for this information.

You will also need a reputable attorney-at-law or legal firm to handle the legal issues.

It is the responsibility of the realtor to match the property to your unique needs. It is reasonable to expect the realtor to show you what the property looks like. Technology can facilitate this easily. Once you have satisfied yourself that you want to purchase a particular property, you should make an offer to the vendor either directly or through his representative through your representative.

If it is accepted, a land survey and title search should be done to identify what you are buying and to ensure that there are no other claims or conflicting interests registered against it. Your legal representative is best able to do this for you.

The next step is to sign the sale agreement, which is usually prepared by the vendor's attorney, and make the deposit. The vendor also signs that document, thus making the agreement binding on both parties. It should be submitted to the Office of the Registrar of Titles and government duties paid. Documents relating to the transfer of property should be stamped within 30 days of being signed to avoid substantial penalties.

As purchaser, you will pay the following based on the value of the transaction: stamp duty (2 per cent), registration fee (0.25 per cent), both of which go into the Government's coffers; attorney's fee, which tends to range from 1.5 per cent to 5 per cent; preparation of sales agreement, which tends to be 0.2 per cent. There may also be miscellaneous charges to cover such items as preparing the letter of possession. All charges, excluding the stamp duty and registration fee, are negotiable and attract general consumption tax at the rate of 16.5 per cent.

The house will be yours when you have made the final payment and the title has been transferred to you. The process I just described relates to a cash transaction. I suggest that you come down to see the property before closing.

If you decide to secure a mortgage, it is possible to borrow funds from local building societies, but there will be some additional expenses. The internet can assist you to identify them and learn about them and what their requirements are for granting mortgages. I wish you well.

Oran A. Hall, a member of the Caribbean Financial Planning Association and principal author of 'The Handbook of Personal Financial Planning', offers free personal financial planning advice and counsel. finviser.jm@gmail.com.

For medium-term goals such as homeownership, financial planners recommend an investment in government paper for conservative in