Challenges for First-Time Property Buyers in Saint Lucia

A myriad of factors, including its natural Caribbean beauty and a global shift towards remote working, have combined to make Saint Lucia an attractive prospect for both first-time property buyers and second homeowners.

Below, Michelle Anthony-Desir describes the island’s unique draws and the regulations that should be considered for foreign buyers.

In brief, could you describe the current state of the property market in Saint Lucia?

The property market on the island is currently more active than it has been for some years for a combination of reasons:

  • A number of persons who have the flexibility to work from home now realise that “home’ in many cases could be the Caribbean. They could work from 7:00 AM to 3:00 PM and then be by the pool or on the beach with their family; and of course, travel back to the UK, wider Europe, Canada and the USA only periodically.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic has of course forced many, especially in the 45 to 60 age range, to realise that there is a need to improve their quality of life. Many are therefore looking for second homes so they can take more family vacations.
  • For UK buyers the pound has strengthened in the last 12 to 18 months, making properties cheaper.
  • Many sellers have dropped their prices to make their properties more competitive and attractive.
  • A number of real estate agents report movement on properties which have been on the open market for a number of years.

What makes property in Saint Lucia attractive to investors and first-time home buyers?

Saint Lucia has been and continues to be an attractive destination for second homeowners and property developers. Not only is it an English-speaking island, but it also enjoys good airlift from major hubs throughout the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. Of course, the island’s rich cultural heritage and the welcoming and friendly personality of its people are a major draw to the island, coupled with its natural beauty and topography.

A number of persons who have the flexibility to work from home now realise that “home’ in many cases could be the Caribbean.

The real estate offerings on the island are varied from unbuilt lots to standalone homes, villas and condominiums. Depending on individual taste, lifestyle and budget, there are suitable options for everyone.

What common legal pitfalls are encountered by first-time buyers in your jurisdiction?

First-time buyers are often caught up in the excitement of owning property. It is not uncommon for deposits to be paid without a written agreement or proper title searches being made, or for agreements which have not been appropriately vetted to be signed. In addition, appropriate inspections of buildings may not be carried out prior to completion of purchases or boundaries clearly demarcated and identified. It also goes without saying that the source of funding for any purchase must be confirmed before the acquisition process advances too far.

How can these mistakes best be avoided?

Whether a buyer has found a property on their own or through a realtor, it is imperative that he or she is armed with an experienced and reliable real estate attorney who will assist them with legal contracts and title searches and will advise on deposits and best practices on the island. It may also be necessary to have a licensed valuer and quantity surveyor on the team.

Are there any other factors that first-time buyers should consider?

  • Foreign buyers should be aware that – save for one or two exceptions – they will be required to obtain an Aliens Landholding Licence to purchase property on the island. The time for applying and processing such a licence as well as the time for processing any loan applications must be factored into the time frame for completing any sale.
  • Foreign buyers are advised as much as possible to raise financing in their home country. While mortgage loans can be obtained locally, it is a time-consuming and lengthy process.

Foreign buyers should be aware that – save for one or two exceptions – they will be required to obtain an Aliens Landholding Licence to purchase property on the island.

About Michelle Anthony-Desir

Can you tell us more about your journey into law?

Growing up I had visions of being an archaeologist and having amazing adventures. I quickly realised that the scope for such a career was limited in the Caribbean. While I had had the experience of being educated outside of the Caribbean in my earlier years, what I did know was that I wanted to live and work in my home country. Ultimately, my journey into law was influenced by my desire for a career that would allow me the freedom to chart my own path as well as to provide various avenues for the practice of law.

What motivated you to found your own firm?

Athena Law was conceived on the idea that there had to be a better way to engage in the practice of law and to create and appreciate a different life experience. For me, Athena Law is part of my own personal journey to finding balance and focusing on aspects of the law that I really enjoy.

Do you have a career goal that you would like to achieve in the coming 12 months?

There are so many things I would like to do, but realistically speaking, time may not work in my favour. I would not describe it as a career goal, but the one thing I would love to do is to develop a podcast. I am working on a few concepts and ideally, I would want to launch it within the next twelve months.

 

Michelle Anthony-Desir, Founder

Athena Law

Address: 6 Brazil Street, Castries, Saint Lucia

Telephone: +1 758 452 5111

Email: mdesir@athenalawslu.com

 

Michelle Anthony-Desir

October marks the 25th anniversary of my call to the Bar in Saint Lucia. I am a fully trained West Indian attorney and I have practiced in Saint Lucia from the date of my call in 1996. My practice focuses on conveyancing, commercial and investment law and legacy planning.

At Athena Law our desire is to simplify complex legal journeys to make them more client-friendly and to create more efficient work flows and processes. The aim is that, through this type of collaboration, clients will feel more empowered to make decisions with clarity throughout the course of a legal matter.

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