Which Island to Live on in the British Virgin Islands

When choosing to purchase a home in the British Virgin Islands, take time to explore and find the island that suits you best as each island has its own unique character, vibe, size and landscape. There is a possibility to fall in love with an island you might have never thought of. Below we highlight the uniqueness of the 6 main islands that are a part of Nature’s Little Secrets here in the BVI. Go out, explore and live the life you imagined! It might be just a ferry-ride away…

TORTOLA

Living on Tortola in the British Virgin Islands
Diversity and natural beauty: from majestic views on tropical hill tops to a seemingly untouched North Shore with secluded white sandy beaches to the shops and restaurants of Road Town. Most residents stay close to Road Town and enjoy living in the surrounding hills, but there is so much more. The sailing enthusiasts aim for the view of Sir Francis Drake channel on the South side and proximity to world renowned marinas, while beach and surf lovers enjoy country life on the green hillsides from West End all the way to Josiah’s Bay.

VIRGIN GORDA

Living on Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands
An exquisite way of life amidst the rich & famous, with pristine white sandy beaches and extraordinary sailing, whilst enjoying the privacy and tranquility of a small island community. The areas of Windy Hill, Coppermine and Spring Bay with pleasant, rolling hills, provide tranquil living with close proximity to the Baths. From the west side up towards the exclusive resorts on North Sound, the focus is on refined, exceptional and luxurious living, which makes it one of the most coveted islands in the world. Richard Branson, amongst others, put Virgin Gorda on the map and now attracts wealthy new neighbours from all over the world.

SCRUB ISLAND

Living on Scrub Island in the British Virgin Islands
Luxurious living alongside a world class resort & marina on an island, which has provided sanctuary to world travellers since Christopher Columbus first visited. Scrub Island offers superb amenities along with the flexibility to create your own oasis. Although it is a relatively small island, all the amenities are readily available such as restaurants, bars, gourmet market, beaches, health club and various water sport activities. Its central location offers close proximity to the airport but more importantly to various hidden treasures, all just a short boat ride away.

JOST VAN DYKE

Living on Jost van Dyke in the British Virgin Islands
Timeless Caribbean island life with your toes constantly touching the sand. Enjoy your cocktail at one of the many world famous beach bars on the west side. White Bay Beach, which is one of the BVI’s premier vacation destinations, was made famous by Kenny Chesney in his song “No shirt, No shoes, No problem”. The hillsides provide magnificent views of nearby islands including St. John and St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Choose to live on the eastern side for the spectacular views, and more importantly, proximity to Little Jost Van Dyke, Diamond Cay and the picturesque islands Green Cay, Sandy Spit and Sandy Cay.

GREAT CAMANOE

Living on Great Camanoe in the British Virgin Islands
A daily ride in a small runabout is part of the joy of living on this unique island, helping to fulfil the pleasures of this glorified Robinson Crusoe existence. With almost no amenities and back to basics mentality you will truly unplug from daily life. What sets this island gem apart are the incredible views, often allowing you to see from Anegada to St. Croix. The other captivating differentiators are the “big skies” at night and during the daytime the protected and cosy feeling you get from looking down on the reef of Marina Cay.

ANEGADA

Living on Anegada in the British Virgin Islands
A world apart, with luminous sandy beaches, miles of unspoiled reefs all around the coral island and, unlike the other islands, almost flat. Not many choose to live this secluded life, but those who can and do, remain as close to nature and its glorious beauty as one possibly can. Plus, the chance to indulge daily in eating, reputedly, the Caribbean’s best lobster.

BVI Purchasing Process for Real Estate

BVI Purchasing Process for Real Estate
The purchasing process in the BVI remains a gentle process, just like learning to relax, learning to appreciate people and their heritage, culture and conversation, like learning to say “Good mornin”, “Good afternoon” or “Good night”.

Island rhythms

A Caribbean vacationer’s first impression of the islands is often focused on the unspoiled natural beauty, but as time passes they realize there is more to these enchanted islands. After a few days of gazing at the stars at night through pure fresh air, floating silently on crystal clear waters of various shades of blue, stretching sun-soaked bodies across warm soft sand, cruising to various white sandy beaches, or diving/ snorkeling amongst a kaleidoscope of tropical fish, one gradually begins to finally relax and let go of the “rat race” mentality often found in Western or European cultures.

There is the feeling of family, that can not be found elsewhere easily. It is a “lay back” charm, which is part of an island culture that one grows to appreciate over days, weeks and months. The people of the islands have a genuine desire to connect on a more personal level, and once that connection is made, unique “island family” ties are formed. A quality of life, influenced by relationships with others within the island’s indigenous community, becomes the core of their existence. As these genuine ties are formed, foreigners eventually decide to purchase a home or land to build on, as they wish to join this island community, their “home away from home.”

Why the purchasing process takes time

Purchasing will usually take about 3 to 6 months, provided the paperwork is all in order, and most efficiently brought to completion by having a BVI Solicitor help process the paperwork alongside an experienced real estate firm, who can help channel and chase.The application process is not really complicated, it just has various steps required along the way. Part of the process is designed to help protect the island people and their inheritance, wherein the property will be advertised for 4 weeks in a local newspaper at the negotiated price, so a BVIslander (Belonger) will have the opportunity to purchase their country back at a price that the owner was willing to accept. If no Belonger comes forward, then the application is submitted and the process begins.

Non-Belonger Holding License

All foreign investors, including citizens of the United Kingdom are required to obtain a Non-Belonger Holding License (NBLHL) to purchase property in the BVI. Agreements to purchase property are therefore made contingent upon a license being obtained by the purchaser. A License gives entitlement to own a specific property. An overseas investor who wishes to rent their property will need permission to rent granted on their NBLHL, thereafter one can apply for a Trade License to commence renting their property. Neither Purchaser nor Vendor need be present in the BVI at any stage of the transaction.

Taxes

At closing, a Non-Belonger Purchaser is required to pay 12% stamp duty on the Purchase price or the appraisal price (whichever is higher) for both leasehold and freehold property. A Belonger will pay a 4% stamp duty which is less because they are already contributing in other ways to the government employment taxes. This one time stamp duty is used by the BVI Government to provide for various forms of infrastructure within the country, such as police, social services, roads, waste management, schools, etc. This stamp duty is reasonable for all the services a Purchaser(s) will be benefiting from, over the course of time they own their home.

Annual land and house taxes are nominal. Land Tax is assessed annually at the rate of $50 for sites up to 0.5 acre, $150.00 for sites between 0.5 and 1.00 acre and $50 for each additional acre or part thereof. House Tax at the rate 1.5% of the assessed annual rental value, are levied. In practice this means that for an average 2 or 3 bedroom house the annual taxes will be less than $500.00 per acre.

Leasehold and Fee Simple

Leasehold property are taxed at a lower rate with various terms and conditions. The majority of land in the BVI is owned in fee simple. A purchaser will normally acquire absolute title which is registered in the BVI Government land Registry. Registered titles relate to a detailed cadastral survey which defines legal boundaries. No transfer of land can take place unless the boundaries of the property have been determined to the satisfaction of the Registrar of Lands. Property in the BVI may also be held on long lease from the Crown or private individuals. Most often the duration of such leases is 99 years. For practical purposes a purchaser of such a leasehold interest will enjoy all the benefits of an absolute title for the duration of the lease.
Residency Status BVI

Residency status

Purchase of a property in the BVI does not in itself establish resident status. However an identification card is available to a person who holds a Non-Belonger Land Holding License which will allow the holder to be granted leave to land in the BVI for a period of up to six months. A certificate of residence, entitling the holder to land or embark in the Territory for an indefinite period, may be granted to a person who intends to reside permanently in the BVI.

Development

Development in the BVI is governed by Land Development Control Authority who are concerned with planning matters and by the Building Authority who are responsible for ensuring that the building conforms with the building code guidelines. It is preferred that working drawings submitted to these authorities are prepared by architects based in the BVI.

If you are ready to consider a purchase, we are here and ready to help guide you through the process, making your dream a reality, your “home away from home” in the BVI.

Why Use Professional Property Management in the BVI

Professional Property Management BVI
If you are considering renting your property in the BVI (long term or short term), comprehensive property management by a professional service will help protect your investment in the BVI. This type of amenity is designed to provide peace of mind and relieve the commitment of being a full-time on-site landlord.

Increasingly, property owners and tenants are requesting managed properties as it allows a third party perspective, streamlined toward a successful business relationship.

Property Management services

Property management packages include services such as collecting rent, handling simple and complex administration, and the provision of a 24-hour emergency helpline. Corporate and high-calibre private villa tenants expect 24/7 service when they rent a property and as a landlord it can sometimes be challenging to fulfil their demands and expectations.

Each managed property is given individualised attention and property management fees can be extremely reasonable with sufficient research.

Property management can help to ensure that both your tenants and property receive the essential professional care required. Utilising a property management service brings the following:

  1. Extensive expertise and knowledge of local BVI laws
  2. Comprehensive marketing to a targeted audience
  3. Finding and securing the right tenants
  4. A professional on-going relationship with the tenants
  5. Obtaining references
  6. Efficient collection of rent
  7. Managing the tenant check-out process
  8. Arranging tenant notices and evictions when and if necessary
  9. Arranging payment of outgoings: mortgage, property taxes, insurance or other payment as instructed
  10. Detailed records, accounting reports and quarterly statements provided
  11. Easy transfer of utilities
  12. Key-holding services
  13. Arrangement and payment of repairs, maintenance, cleaning and gardening services
  14. 24-hour emergency call-out service
  15. An annual property inspection with full reports to ensure proper maintenance

Property Management company

Essentially, a property management company alleviates the headaches and minor details of the process and protects your investment – a very useful tool for off-site property owners. It can be a key component in supervision and maintenance of your assets; adopting this time efficient and effective measure might even be the security necessary in your decision to buy a property in the BVI.

BVI Sotheby’s has a sister company Caribbean Realty that provides professional property management services in the BVI.

property manager in the BVI

How to Decide on the Right Property to Buy in the BVI

Buy the Right Property in the BVI

The choice of options on the British Virgin Islands is extensive. Asking the following specific questions can usually direct you to the right property to buy in the BVI:

  • Is the solitude of a private island the right choice or do you like being around lots of activity?
  • Is a condominium or managed property the way to go for your lifestyle?
  • Will you be a permanent resident of the BVI or will you come and go?
  • Do you no longer want the responsibility of a home or do you value your privacy and autonomy?
  • What is the difference between a leasehold and freehold property?

Lifestyle

If you are looking for a somewhat private island, there are various options, but if you’d like the solitude of a private island and are willing to share with others, Great Camanoe, Oil Nut Bay, Scrub Island, and Blunder Bay are excellent choices.

Both land and residences are available for sale on Great Camanoe, which has both a freehold side and a leasehold side to choose from. Outer island living requires one to be comfortable using a boat for transportation and access to amenities.

The decision to buy a private home, or a managed property, whether it is a condo or free standing home, has much to do with lifestyle. Condos or managed properties are a great option for snowbirds—those who fly home for the summer months—and cater to a more carefree style of living.

Rental income

A managed property has a company look after the residence and rent it if that is so desired. Having your property generate income can be a motivating reason to buy in the BVI as it is a desirable vacation destination and the rental market is very active. A private home may be the perfect choice for families and permanent residents of the British Virgin Islands.

Rental income of property in the BVI

Lease- or Freehold

Property in the British Virgin Islands is either freehold—also known as fee simple—or leasehold. Freehold is simple enough; the owner owns the property outright. With a leasehold property, the land is often owned by the government and leased for a fee for a certain length of time, initially 99 years. It is important to consider the length of time left in the lease as the yearly lease cost is likely to increase upon renewal, which will affect the present owner and the resale value.

Addressing some of the issues and questions in the above paragraphs should be of great assistance in making a decision on the type of property to purchase in the British Virgin Islands.

10 Steps to Buying Your Caribbean Dream Home in the BVI

Buy a Caribbean home in the BVI

The 10 steps listed below will walk you through the process, hopefully toward a great investment and buying the Caribbean home of your dreams to live in paradise in the BVI.

1. Make an offer and give it your best shot

Your real estate agent will write a ‘Letter of Intent’ to purchase the property.

2. Leave an earnest money deposit

Your real estate agency can act as an escrow agent and hold a 10% deposit, usually in the form of a check.

3. Draw up a sales and purchase agreement

This is often best left to the attorneys.

4. Property Advertisement

It is mandatory for the property seller to advertise the property locally, with a contracted price, for four consecutive weeks. If no buyers step up to the plate, you are a step closer to acquiring your dream home.

5. Non-Belongers land holding license (NBLHL)

Non BVIslanders need to apply for a license to own property. Among other documentation, the applicant must present a police certificate, financial statements and personal references. Belongers have the advantage of skipping this step.

Note: A Belonger ‘belongs’ to the British Virgin Islands by birth, marriage, or special designation. A Non-Belonger does not hold these privileges.

Caribbean Dream Home

6. Be patient

It can take 4-9 months for approval of the NBLHL – longer if a sea bed lease is involved in the purchase of the property.

7. Submit the draft license for vetting

After approval, a license executed by the BVI Governor can take several weeks to be issued.

8. Again, be patient!

An important step throughout the process until it’s time to close.

9. Stamp Duty

After closing, duty of 12% of the greater of the appraised value or the contracted price must be paid by Non-Belongers. This amount is less for Belongers

10. Register

Present receipt of stamp duty along with transfer documents to have the property registered in your name.