Buying Real Estate in Jamaica
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A guide to buying Real Estate in Jamaica, by O. Daille Nation-Ashley.

Many people visit Jamaica and are enamoured by the beautiful landscape and fabulous real estate.

For many of them though the complex procedures involved in buying Jamaican real estate in Jamaica is a deterrent. The process by which legal title in land in Jamaica is transferred is called conveyancing and there are many reputable attorneys who practice in this field.

The Jamaican conveyancing law and procedures are based on the old English common law and the Torrens title system.

While the property laws in England have changed over the years, the Jamaican laws have not been updated and so many foreigners who are accustomed to a quicker course of action believe that in Jamaica it is too long and 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.

Most 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 but it is recommended that a buyer purchase from a landowner with registered title or request him to apply for a registered title. It is easier to validate a registered title.

In addition it has several other 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.

Furthermore if a buyer will need to use the title as security for mortgage financing then a registered title is typically better received by the financial institutions.

The typical conveyancing transaction in Jamaica takes about 12 weeks or 90 days after the contract is duly executed to completion. This is standard but it can take longer especially if the Purchaser is buying the property with a loan from a financier.

During the pre-contract stage the Purchaser should:

  • view the property thoroughly. Home inspections as conducted in the United States are not usually a condition of the contract so buyers must be ready to decide whether they are willing to take this upon themselves or bear the risk of buying real estate with expensive obvious defects.

  • negotiate the price either directly with the vendor or through a Realtor or the vendor's attorney.

  • search the title to make sure the Vendor is indeed the owner, the property on the ground corresponds to the address you visited and to determine if there are any caveats on the title.

  • arrange the deposit (this is usually 15%)

  • if getting mortgage loan visit a reputable financial institution to see if you pre-qualify.

During the contract stage, you must discuss the terms of contract with your attorney, determine all your closing costs, obtain any amendments if necessary, sign the contract and pay the deposit.

It is strongly recommended that you employ your own attorney instead of having joint representation with the Vendor's attorney.

During the post contract stage the Purchaser should:

  • obtain his signed duplicate contract and his stamped receipt for the deposit,
  • comply with the requirements of the mortgage institution
  • obtain mortgage commitment
  • sign Instrument of transfer and mortgage deed and,
  • pay closing costs and any cash balance purchase price

On completion the purchaser should get his title, keys, letters of possession, letters the utility companies and proof of payment of water rates, property taxes and other outgoings.

If he had financed the purchase through a mortgage institution the title will be forwarded to said institution but he should ask to obtain a copy for his records.

O. Daille Nation-Ashley is an Attorney who specializes in real estate matters. She authors a blog at http://jamaicanlaw.blogspot.com where you can read more about her views on these and other legal issues.

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