Buying a property in St.Lucia where there is a tax haven with no VAT, no capital gains tax, no inheritance tax and no estate tax makes a great deal of sense. St.Lucia is one of the worlds top destinations for weddings and honeymoons making a holiday rental property potentially lucrative. St.Lucia has really embraced the worldwide taste for health spas with the first St.Lucia Health & Wellness Retreat, supported by the government and private businesses, being established and opening soon on the island. Being one of the most accessible islands in the region with the lowest crime rate St.Lucias affordable properties offer an ideal opportunity for investment. Comparable in many ways to neighbouring Barbados but with house prices ranging from 40-60% lower this beautiful island should not be overlooked as an investment opportunity.
With a total land area of just 620 sq miles St.Lucia, often called "The Helen of the West Indies" because of its natural beauty, sits in the ocean like a shimmering jewel. Pristine white sandy beaches, tropical forest populated by rainbow-plumed birds and acres of orchards filled with sweet smelling tropical fruits such as mango, papaya and banana are crowned by the islands twin peaks the Gros & Petit Pitons.
How to buy St Lucia property
There are certain rules and regulations you must comply with as a non domicile of St Lucia in order to purchase a St Lucia property. For instance, you will need to apply for an Alien Landholding Licence. Generally the cost of purchasing a property on St Lucia will come out at between 6-8% on top of the purchase price. This will cover stamp duty, the Alien Landholding Licence, Treasury receipt, legal costs and registration fees. If you are taking out a mortgage, lenders tend to charge a set-up fee.
Alien Landholding Licence
Foreigners must apply to the Ministry of Planning for an Alien Landholding Licence which costs EC$1,500, is non-refundable and does not need renewing. The process takes up to 16 weeks as the application is vetted by the Physical Planning Office of the Ministry of Physical Development, Environment & Housing, approved by the Prime Ministers Office and finally by the Office of the Attorney General.
Your locally appointed lawyer will make the application for the Alien Landholding Licence on your behalf. Along with your completed application you will need to provide the lawyer with the following information:
Certificate of character for each applicant (from your local police station)
A bank reference
A copy of your passport data page
Full set of fingerprints (from your local police station)
4 passport size pictures of each applicant
Full details of the proposed property or land purchase (including a survey plan and land register of the property (from the Vendor) and a value assessment of the land or property (although the value assessment may not be necessary
Receipt proving payment of application fee
Initial approval from the Development Control Authority (this may not be necessary).
In addition to the application fee for the Alien Landholding Licence, the following fees are applicable depending on the land area of your property.
Land Area (in acres) Price (in EC$)
Under 1 $5000
There is no standard procedure on this, but common practice is to offer 10% of the purchase price as a deposit, which is forfeited if the buyer pulls out. If the vendor pulls out then the buyers 10% is returned as well as 10% from the vendor plus an additional penalty of 10%. In the unlikely event that the Alien's Landholding Licence is not granted, then the deposit is refunded.
Annual Property Tax
5% of the unfurnished rental value of your property, regardless or intent of use.
2% of purchase price
10% for non citizens or 5% if the property is owned by a local citizen of St Lucia.
There is no vendors tax if the property is owned by a company as you would transfer the shares in the company as a way of transferring the property (rather than by deed of sale). It is therefore best that all foreign clients sent up a local company and to apply for the license in the company's name. When you come to sell, you will be selling the company rather than the property itself.
There is no capital gains tax, inheritance tax or gift tax in St Lucia.
Local solicitors / lawyers usually charge 3% to 5% of the purchase price.
There are certain very attractive tax incentives available to a selection of 'returning residents' of St Lucia including the right to ship a container of 'personal goods' without paying duty on them and importing or purchasing a vehicle duty free.
To qualify for 'returning resident' status you must be a citizen of St Lucia, either by birth or parentage who is returning to St Lucia after a minimum of 10 years off the island or be married to the aforementioned citizen.
There are strict guidelines as to what constitutes 'personal goods' and various limitations that should be read thoroughly. For up-to-date information please contact your local Consulate General of St Lucia, or contact one of our agents.
Example of a full listing here - http://www.guidetostlucia.com/returning-residents.html
Local mortgages are available (subject to status) up to 75% of the property value with maximum term of 25 years but both the LTV (loan to value) and the term vary of course according to a number of factors. Interest rates are generally set at LIBOR + a spread of between 3-5%. The minimum you can borrow is usually US$250,000 and the maximum is US$2.5 million. You will always need to prove that you have the funds available to finance a mortgage independently from rental income (if you are planning to rent your St Lucia property). We are happy to provide reliable contacts for financial advice and mortgage providers.
Our agent on St Lucia can help you with the managing and possible renting of your property. Management fees are set at around EC$1000 per month or 10% of the rental income, whichever is greater, whereas fees for assistance in long-term rentals come in at 1 month's rent and 15% of income for short-term rent.
Banking is easy on St Lucia, and we are happy to advise the best local banks for your account. It is better to transfer your funds in US$ Dollars, and there is a fixed rate of exchange to EC$ Dollars (Eastern Caribbean Dollar). You can use most credit or debit cards to get cash from the ATM's. For large sums of money (over £5,000), and with exchange rates and consumer confidence in constant flux it is a good idea to use currency exchange specialists to arrange the transfer of funds to your local bank account or lawyer. In any event, you will always get a better rate of exchange from a specialist company and there will be no banking charges for the money transfers.
When you purchase your property in St Lucia you will need to transfer money abroad. The common currency quoted for Caribbean property is the US Dollar. If you are buying foreign currency, it is certainly worth considering different options for the exchange because your bank will rarely offer the best rates and service when it comes to large currency transactions.
For the past ten years we have recommended a couple of highly reputable currency specialists who are able to offer commercial rates to private purchasers, subject to a minimum of £2000.
Laws and Regulations When Buying Property in St Lucia
Alien's Landholding License - General Information
The property purchasing procedure in St Lucia is similar to that in the UK, with the exception of the Alien’s Landholding License. Foreigners wishing to purchase land in St Lucia must first acquire an Alien's Landholding License. Laws were recently changed in St Lucia to make this process quicker and more flexible. Please note the following:
A local lawyer must register the licence.
It is a permanent licence, which does not require renewal.
The licence is granted for a specific property or plot of land and is not transferable.
There is a non-refundable licence application fee of EC$1,500.00.
The license fee is EC$5,000.00 for properties measuring less than 1 acre and EC$10,020.00 if over 1 acre.
There is a future tax liability of 10% of the cost of the property or plot of land, when eventually sold. Note that the payment of the 10% tax can be avoided by making the purchase through a company, which can be formed at the time of purchase. Company formation takes approximately 6 weeks and cost EC$3,200.00.
License applications take 6 to 8 weeks to process and is normally done during the early part of property purchasing process.
Note that when obtaining an alien's landholding license to buy land only, you are required to build within 2 -3 three years of purchase.
Procedures for Acquiring an Alien's Landholding Licence
The application is vetted by the Physical Planning Office of the Ministry of Physical Development, Environment & Housing, before being sent to the Prime Minister's Office for approval. After the application has been granted the draft license is sent to the Office of the Attorney General for approval.
The list below indicates what will need to be submitted with the licence application form:
Completed application form.
Full details of the property or land to be purchased.
A value assessment of the property or land.
Four passport size photographs.
Certification of character - report from your local police station on information or lack of information on file.
Certified finger prints - from a police station.
Treasury receipt for payment of the application fee (EC$1,500.00).
Approval in principle, from the Development Control Authority (DCA) in relation to the use of the property or land.
Stamp duty on property is 2% of the purchase price.
The normal deposit for purchase is 10% of the purchase price. To prevent gazumping, a forfeiture clause is introduced into all purchasing contracts as follows:
f the buyer pulls out the deposit is forfeited.
If the vendor pulls out then a sum equal to the deposit must be paid to the buyer. The buyer would receive their original deposit plus the 10% forfeited by the vendor.
If the buyer is unable to proceed due to non-granting of the Alien's Landholding License, then the 10% deposit is refunded. Note that this is a rare occurrence.
Local solicitor fees range from 3% to 5% of the purchase price.
The start-up cost for property purchase is approximately 15% of the property price, made up of, 10% deposit + 2% stamp duty + 3% solicitor fees.
When purchasing properties forming part of a new development, the developing company would put in place an escrow account for owners to make their deposits into, so that the money is totally safe. The development stage payments is typically as follows:
20% On completion of foundations
30% On completion of structure
20% On completion of roof and exterior
20% On completion of building
When selling property in St Lucia, vendor's tax needs to be paid at a flat rate of 10% for non-citizens. If the property is owned by a local company and the property sale is effected through a share transfer then 2% is payable instead of the 10% vendor's tax.
St Lucian citizens pay vendors tax by the following breakdown:
Nothing on the first EC$50,000.00
2.5% on the next EC$25,000.00
3.5% on the next EC$75,000.00
5% on the balance
You can avoid the Alien's Landholding License by becoming a citizen of St Lucia. If you are not resident in St Lucia you can qualify for citizenship if you fit into one of the following categories:
You or your parents were born in St Lucia.
You are married to a St Lucian citizen.
If you don't fit into one of the above categories, owing property on the Island is one of the main qualifications when applying for citizenship.
For further details on any of the above, please contact your appointted St Lucian lawyer.
Exemption From Property Tax
The Land and House Tax Act was amendment in parliament on the 12th Oct 2006 to be effective 1st April 2006. Exemption from property tax is granted where an owner occupied residential property, the owner of which has attained the age of sixty years or more and who uses the residential property exclusively for providing accommodation for himself or herself and members of his or her family.