Real Estate Agents
If you wish to buy or sell land in the BVI, you may want to start with any of the sixteen or so real estate agents doing business in the territory. A competent real estate agent or consultant will be able to assist you with the process of buying and/or selling land and can help you avoid some of the pitfalls but you may also choose to learn as much as you can about the process and handle it on your own.
Some land may be exclusively listed with a particular agent, so you will have to do your homework to find the right property for you. You should also check advertisements in the local media as some property owners may prefer to handle a sale themselves to avoid commission fees. You may also find some parcels for sale by simply driving around the island and looking for “land for sale” signs. Before purchasing or selling any property there are a few steps you need to take:
Verify the title of the land
You should first go to the Land Registry Department located in the Central Administration Complex in Road Town to verify the title of the land by doing a title search. This will let you know who rightfully and legally owns the land. If you are the purchaser, this is important so you can ensure that the person or agency you are buying the land from is actually entitled to sell you the land. If you are the seller, this is also important as some land may be owned in conjunction with other family members whose permission you will have to obtain before concluding any purchase arrangements.
Check for encumbrances on the land
You need to check if there are any charges, claims or encumbrances attached to the parcel of land. If there are, they may affect the title of the land as it may not have a clear title. Charges may also diminish the value of the land, but may not necessarily prevent the sale or the transfer of title. An encumbrance can take several forms, such as a mortgage, collateral for a loan, a claim by other parties, court judgments, pending legal action, unpaid taxes and restrictive deeds.
Check for appurtenances on the land
You need to check what appurtenances or benefits are on the land. This is anything that is attached to the piece of land so that it becomes a part of that property, and is passed on to a new owner when the land is sold. It may be a benefit or a profit, something such as an easement or a right of way - this is especially important in determining what access there is to the land.
Get the land surveyed
You will need to get the land surveyed by a qualified surveyor. The survey will confirm the site of the land in accordance to its legal description. It will provide a map of the piece of land, showing its location, boundaries, contours, size, elevations and relationship to the surrounding land. The survey should also show if there are steep inclines, ghuts, access roads and public roads on the property. The survey will determine if the land is mountainside with scenic ocean views, in a valley surrounded by other houses, or on the beachfront. The survey should also give information about access to utilities, such as water, electricity and telephone. A survey is important to determine that what you are getting is what is actually being offered.
Get the land appraised
You should also get an appraisal or valuation of the land. This is done by an appraiser who gives an estimate of how much the land is worth. The value of the land is affected by its accessibility, its access to utilities and other factors such as its proximity to a desirable area.
Assess property taxes
You should find out from the Inland Revenue Department if the land tax payments on the property are up to date. Land tax is paid annually and the tax depends on the area of the land. Land under 1/2 an acre is taxed at $50 per year; land above 1/2 an acre and up to one acre is $150; land above one acre is $150 plus $50 for each additional acre. If taxes are not paid up, any deed or document to transfer the property that is required to be stamped with stamp duty will not be stamped
Determine what will be the stamp duty
A stamp duty or tax is assessed by Inland Revenue Department on every land title transfer. Stamp duty is a percentage of the appraised value of the land. If you are a belonger, you will pay 4 percent tax on the land’s value; if you are a non-belonger, you will pay 12 percent tax on the land’s value.
Get your alien landholding license
If you are a non-belonger, you will need to obtain an alien landholding license before you can purchase or sell land in the BVI. The application for an alien landholding license must be submitted to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Labour. The Ministry will inform you about the fees and relevant documents that must be submitted with your application.. The alien landholding license is issued to a specific person or company and is not transferable.
After you’ve completed the above checklist, assess all the costs associated with buying or selling the land. If you are buying land, you must determine whether you can actually afford to buy it and whether you will need a loan to make the purchase. To complete the purchase, you will do a contract or agreement of sale detailing the terms and conditions of the purchase. The agreement of sale must be signed by both the buyer and the seller and must be notarized to be legal.
For the land to be officially and legally yours (if you are the buyer), you must also do a conveyance. A conveyance is a transfer of ownership or land title from the seller to the buyer. This is also called a deed because the land cannot be legally transferred by a mere agreement of sale.