Buyers Information Guide – Bay Islands
Investors looking to purchase property in the Bay Islands off Honduras; Roatan, Guanaja, Utila, Cayos Cochinos and more. Many investors over the years considering purchasing property in the Caribbean have chosen the Bay Islands to own their piece of paradise. Due to their purchase value, price points and amazing locations Buyers are given the ability to afford their dream. Prices are fair and bargains can be found. RE/MAX on Roatan provides you with all the necessary tools and information along with the help of their highly educated and experienced Sales staff to facilitate your Caribbean dream.
The more information available, the better informed purchase Roatan Buyers can make.
Roatan Buyers FAQ
Q -Can a Foreigner actually own property in the Bay Islands?
A- Yes foreigners have been able to own property in Honduras since 1991.
Q- Are there limitations of how much property I can buy?
A – A non Honduran citizen can purchase, as an individual, 3000 square meters (.74 acres), or less for residential use. That being said, a Honduran Corporation can easily be set up with foreigner ownership as the ‘Administrator’ in which the Corporation can own as an asset of the corporation, virtually any sized property to develop or for residential use.
Q- How do you form a Honduran Corporation?
A-This is a simple process which can be accomplished by a local attorney at a cost of approx. $1.500.00. If you do not speak Spanish, an English speaking lawyer is essential as all documents have to be written in Spanish. By forming this corporation you are entitled to all the rights of a Honduran citizen regarding ownership of your property. We can provide you with a referral on some real estate attorneys to choose from if you wish. Some attorneys are now offering a “combo” package that would provide the necessary services for both a corporation and a residency.
Info: Attorney Lissa Asfura
Q- Is the Government Stable? What system of Government is it?
An Important question for all Roatan Buyers.
A-Honduran Government historically been stable and the second oldest Democracy in Central or South America. Based on a three Branches, modeled after the United States system, the Constitution here was written in the late ‘70s with the help of the Carter Administration in the U.S. It went into effect under Pres. Ronald Reagan.
Q- Is it Safe to live there?
A-Like almost every country there are areas that have higher crime rates than others. The Bay Islands are normally very safe. Bad things can happen to good people anywhere. Sometimes small countries are painted with a large brush, highlighting only the negative.
Roatan Buyers should know that Islanders are normally peaceful and very friendly. It is a poor country and petty theft can certainly happen, especially if common sense is not used.
Roatan Buyers sleep a little sounder each night knowing that the U.S maintains the largest U.S. Military Base in Central America and South America on the mainland of Honduras. The mainland of Honduras has it’s share of crime in the cities no doubt, as does Chicago and many U.S. locations. That said the Bay Islands traditionally has been very safe and has a murder rate lower than many other tropical locations. Security, Safety and Crime
Q- What is the ‘cost of living’ in the Bay Islands?
A- This is always a tough question to answer in that things are so much different in so many ways to actually judge that. The question really is what sort of lifestyle do you wish to lead? When you move to a foreign country things that you buy everyday “there” are now imported items “here”, therefore more expensive. If you go to a local store here and pick out things that you are familiar with, your first impression will not be a good one. That being said, if you look to the fruits and vegetables, seafood and locally grown, you often find great, locally grown, reasonably priced options. Check out some of the innovative packaging in heavy foil pouches with zip off tops instead of canned goods. Buy the sea bass here at 1/5th the price and you will walk away with an opinion 180º different than where you started.
Property Taxes are extremely low in regard to what most are used to in most other countries. A typical 3br home is +/- $800.00. A vacant home site of average price can be about $100.00 annually. (all property taxes are calculated on the purchase price of the property.
Electricity is higher than most people are used to paying. Much of that price is generated in that it is an island and all fuel is imported.
RECO (Roatan Electric Company) has proved to be one of the top companies in this country, embarking on what has turned out to be the largest project investment in this country in 2016. This project includes new natural gas generation along with windmill generation to modernize the power generation on Roatan. 2020 will also see RECO build out large capacity solar output.
Roatan, powered by natural gas, wind and solar maybe one of the most environmentally friendly areas in the world.
That said, there is no bill for ‘heating’, therefore no billing to you. The south side of the island or hilltops are normally much cooler due to prevailing SE breezes. With water temperatures from 75º to 85º most of the year and the island only a couple miles wide, cooling breezes may have considerable impact on your power needs.
Q- What is the process for purchasing property in the Bay Islands?
A- From a clients perspective, ‘outside looking in’, it differs little from any purchase you may have made at home. You choose the property best suited for your needs and enter into a simple ‘Purchase Agreement’ outlining the details of the property purchase, price, timeline, details, etc. thus making an ‘Offer to Purchase’. After acceptance of the Seller you would make a deposit, which here is usually 10% of the purchase price, and close on the transaction within 30 to 45 days. When it is stated ‘From a clients perspective’, ‘outside looking in’ what I mean is this is when your real estate Professional and his Brokerage office really kicks in and their part of the scenario is considerably different than in North America for example. They go to work with an attorney that you choose, (Agents and Brokers may make recommendations if you wish), to obtain Title Copies, do Title searches, obtain recent surveys, and work towards the conclusion or ‘closing’. The duties, responsibilities and knowledge base differs greatly in comparison to Agents in most other locations. You then would be present for the ‘closing’ where Seller and Buyer at that time sign the Notary Protocol (Closing Documentation), and the transaction is completed, (For a more detailed description of this process go to the ‘Buyer Info link on this Site)
Roatan Buyers More FAQ
Q.- Is financing available?
A- Many, if not most Sellers will consider financing the purchase themselves with either a legal, registered mortgage contract or possibly with the stock certificates, (which become ‘bearer bonds’, held in Escrow until the mortgage is paid). Some choose to obtain financing in their home country via a second on their residence or personal loan and pay Cash here. Several alternatives may be available and may differ from property to property.Overall financing is available though through a bank it is offered to citizens and legal Residents only and normally at higher interest rates, higher down payments and shorter term.
Q- Do I need Residency to have a Property in Honduras?
A- You do not need a legal Residency to visit here or be in the country for 90 days or less, (a one time extension can be obtained for additional 30 day period). If you wish to move here or stay for extended periods of time a Residency would be advisable.
Q- What is the residency process?
A-There are several different types of Residency in Honduras. A Retirement Residency (with a retirement monthly income – not from Honduras of U.S. $2,000.00 or more) is available with some benefits. This would need to be in the form of a pension or investment income that is verifiable. The benefits include the ability to bring in a new or used car and and personal items duty free.
If you are of the age that you are still interested in working but on your terms, you can start a small business here, either physical or an ‘e-business’. That could be done by creating a Honduran Corporation. Also available is a Investor’s Residency or a ‘Rentista’ Residency, (a type that would allow you to live off of any type of income generated here or ‘there’ .
The necessary documents for this process usually include: police report, passport, marriage license/ birth certificate (if spouse & children are also applying), and a Honduran health certificate. It usually takes 6-12 months for the procedure, and costs start at $1500.00 (depending on the number of people and type of residency).
NOTE- This information can change annually and you should ask your Broker or Agent for the name and contact of a DEPENDABLE local Attorney to communicate with, previous to the start of the process.
NOTE- This information can change annually and you should ask your Broker or Agent for a the name and contact of a DEPENDABLE local Attorney to communicate with previous to the start of the process. More on Residency click here-
Q- Can I set up a Bank Account there on the island?
A- Each Bank on the island has policies that may differ from the next. If your property purchase is through a Honduran Corporation with you as the ‘Administrator’ of that Corporation you can set up an account. Some banks here will set up a foreigner account here with your passport, others wish you to be a legal resident. Ask your REALTOR Professional or Attorney for assistance or guidance in regard to help with this.
Q – Is Banking ‘safe’ in Honduras and on the Island?
A- Many of the leading international (non-U.S.) banks and insurance companies are far more conservative and less susceptible to failure than their U.S. counterparts. These International Banks do not have the illusion of government-backed insurance to protect their depositors. U.S. Banks are far more leveraged than many foreign banking systems because of the insurance programs,* (paid for by U.S. taxpayers when they fail). *Quote from *Sovereign Society”.
In the many years, (since 1999), I have been in this country, I have seen the failure of ONE bank and within a week their assets were divided among other banks and the depositors had access to accounts.
Honduras is also a member of the International Association of Deposit Insurers (IADI). http://www.iadi.org/aboutiadi.aspx?id=48
Q- What are closing costs for a real estate transaction on the island?
A- This expense is normally the expense of the Buyer, the Seller paying real estate commission/fees, (the fees taxable at a rate up to 15%), and a 4% capital gains tax. If the transfer of property comes in the form of a ‘Change of Administrators’ of a corporation the cost is normally much less, depending upon the attorney and efforts on their part. If there is not a corporation transfer involved, costs are about 5.7 to 6 % of the purchase price.
Q- What is internet like on the island? ; Can I call Internationally at a reasonable price?
A- There are several internet providers on the island. The newest version is fiber optic. The same company provides television. Speeds run about 5 GB but higher speeds are available at mor cost. VOIP phones with U.S. numbers are widely used on the island with providers like 8 x 8, MagicJack and Ooma, where calls are not individually charged but are a monthly fee running from a low of $60 to $120.00 U.S. annually. Overall calling to the U.S. or Canada bills are less than what most people pay utilizing their regular carriers in North America.
Q- Can I get Health Insurance there?
A- Yes there are providers here. Although there are several options. ‘BMI’ covers Ex-Pats who live off-shore six months + one day out of the U.S. The coverage works in either country. Those who visit and are eligible for U.S. Medicare may wish to research the “Passport” program that may provide coverage for you while in Honduras. You can read about it here.
Roatan-Buyers Overview- For those who have never owned property in a foreign country it is both a different and exciting process. That said ‘here is not there’. Laws are different, customs are different, and although most islanders speak English it is a different culture than you may be used to. Listen and learn is a good overall policy. Islanders for the most part are a cordial, friendly & polite people. Patience can be a virtue here in that, again, ‘here is not there’.
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More information for you………..
Roatan Buyers Geography, History, Legal Process,Odds & Ends
Unlike many Caribbean Islands, Roatan is not flat but has considerable elevations and very lush green vegetation to go along with aqua blue waters and white sand beaches. Located on the second largest barrier reef in the world it continually ‘WOWs’ it’s vacationers whether they come by air, boat or cruise ship.
Property ownership is guaranteed by the Honduran Government. This guarantee includes ownership by foreigners. Honduras is the 2nd longest established Democracy in either Central or South America and has roots in British history.
Those of you that are ‘history buffs’ know that historically England guaranteed property rights to citizens in the ‘New World’ decades before either Spain or France with some island titles dating back to Queen Elizabeth.
Utila & Roatan-Buyers purchasing property, whether it be a second or retirement home or condo, a home site for future use or just a solid investment is not unlike most other countries. Buyers receive a ‘Title’ registered with the National Government within about 120 days after closing, with copies of the closing documents generated immediately. Closing documents in this country are generated by a Honduran Attorney, witnessed by a ‘Notary’.
Although a ‘Notary’ is a somewhat commonplace duty in many countries, here a ‘Notary’ is a place of honor in the Legal Profession that requires considerable extra education and experience. Although this is a shortened version of the procedure in general what happens when you decide to purchase your very own ‘piece of paradise’.
All Utila & Roatan-Buyers need to find an experienced REALTOR professional. Find the person that you feel comfortable with that has been attentive, responsive and answered every question or concern you may have. After you have done your research and made your choice he/she will ask you to generate a ‘Offer to Purchase’. There is no substitute for experience and RE/MAX here in the Bay Islands has one of the most professional & experienced teams that you will find anywhere in the world.
Roatan Buyers Purchase Process
The ‘RRA’ (Roatan REALTORs Association has generated a standard “Offer to Purchase” form for Utila & Roatan-Buyers and your REALTOR can provide a copy for you to review which specifies the property and outlines the conditions of the sale. If you are on a visit to the island when this is generated you normally will be asked to place a 1% earnest money deposit and will be required to deposit additional 9% funds upon Seller acceptance of the negotiated terms of the agreement.
Your REALTOR Professional will provide to you possible choices for an attorney to represent you for the transaction. It will be your choice to of Attorney. This Attorney will be provided various documents in order to do a title search to secure your interests in the transaction. These documents will include a copy of the title, an Engineer’s property survey, and a Cadastral Survey, (this document is a ‘satellite’ survey showing the subject property and it’s relation to neighboring properties). This also is where your REALTOR Brokerage also ‘kicks in’ making sure that the property taxes are paid and communicating with the ZOLITUR Office and the SAR, (the Honduran version of the IRS). This step is necessary in that the attorney must confirm, (usually through the REALTOR Office), that the ‘Gains’ or what most would consider the ‘Capital Gains’ taxes are paid by the Seller. This entire process normally takes about 30 days. The Purchaser will be asked to have the funds needed for closing deposited to an Escrow account approximately 3-5 days previous to the closing date.
Overall the purchase of a property here is relatively easy, safe and secure.
Is there anyone that would not like to own their own piece of paradise on a tropical island?
Do you still have questions? We have your source of information! If you go to this ‘Roatan Newsletter’ link and use the ‘search bar’ to put in almost any subject matter (medical, dental, legal, restaurants,……) and previous articles will be listed for your additional research.