Land: Keep It On The Down-low

If you do not presently own or one day might acquire property in Jamaica, or if you do not have interest in ‘family land’ or stand to inherit or know someone who might inherit land in Jamaica, then you will have absolutely no interest in reading this article.

However, if this information might be relevant to you, here is some advice you’ll be glad you received. In saying so we should be mindful not to start a degree of mass awareness which will overburden the Title’s Office, but we thought our overseas readers should be given the benefit of some inside information.

The subject concerns Jamaica’s most precious and limited resource: Land. The issue is about the imminent effect of its supply and demand. It is a basic rule of economy that – scarcity of supply – occasioned by increase in demand – equates to rise in price. Thus it is in this light that we find that solving one problem is set to give rise to another (albeit a more preferable type of problem). In this instance we are speaking on the one hand of the dissipating problem of Jamaica’s crime rate, and on the other hand of the different kind of problem concerning Jamaica’s soaring property prices.


As we need no reminding, Jamaica is a world famous paradise Island in the sun. Its total area size is only 4,412sq.m (11,424km2). There is therefore clearly a limited supply to the valuable resource of Jamaican land.

Urban expansion of land space is a global phenomenon. In the case of Jamaica, the demand for more housing is a natural consequence of an ever growing population. In particular there are the socio-economic factors such as young people setting up their first independent homes, returnee residents establishing their retirement space, the important tourist industry building more hotels, and of course the accommodation requirements for the manpower incidental to servicing these and other industries across Jamaica.

Recent changes to increase the amounts available for mortgage loans through the National Housing Trust scheme has added to the demand side. To top it all, the jump in the price of cement following the recent debacle by the oversized, unwieldy and mismanaged ‘Ministry of Industry, Technology, Energy and Commerce’ will ultimately affect overall construction costs, and so divert further demand from building to purchasing properties.

Moreover, it is a fact that there is currently an unprecedented amount of Jamaicans at home and aboard who are for the first time financially and legally able to acquire their own property in Jamaica. In making this point we bear in mind that our country emerges from a history where the majority of its people were themselves regarded as chattels, and legally unable to hold land. Consequently there should rightly be a particular sense of achievement and self-pride for Jamaicans to own their home.

Times have changed and Jamaica’s current state of affairs contrast significantly with its historical position. It is generally estimated that there is a Jamaican abroad for every one on the Island. In fact one might theorize that it would be physically impossible to accommodate a mass repatriation of Jamaican’s from aboard. There simply would be no space to accommodate them all.

In the context of the matters discussed herein, we observe that there are a number of factors aligning themselves to herald a boom in the price of Jamaican realty. The realtors are often themselves blamed for being greedy by artificially inflating prices for profit. But, whilst some of this may happen, by and large, property prices in Jamaica are for the most part being driven by the rules of economy.

Many Jamaicans who have established themselves overseas, and await favourable conditions to return home, are about to be presented with the prospect of an even more attractive Jamaica. In this regard the positive characteristics of the current political climate has a significant bearing, and the downward trend of the crime rate will begin to reap rewards for the country.

In the circumstances the expectation is that intensifying demand for Jamaican realty will cause prices to continue to climb. Indeed, property prices in the corporate areas have for some time been showing a steep upward trend.

Speculators understand that a property in a good area will always be resalable, but not always affordable. Accordingly, professionals and entrepreneurs are staking their personal claims to a piece of Jamaican freehold. The growing tourist industry, and commercial expansion through regional trade, also promise to tap the demand for more land.

We consider it good advice at this time for those in charge of ‘family land’ to prioritize undertaking the legal formalities to regularize their land holding. This advice to take steps to promptly regularize land holdings is also appropriate for Personal Representatives responsible for taking the necessary action to Probate death estates.

It is an old common inadequacy for persons to fail to update the Title record after the death of a co-owner. It is a straightforward procedure to update the Title record and this should be duly effected, unless the sale of the property is imminent.

From the point of view of overseas Jamaica, the word on the nod is that you should secure your piece of Jamaica as soon as the opportunity presents itself.

Hamilton Daley is a practising Attorney-at-Law in Jamaica, Solicitor Advocate in England and Managing Director of T.R.A.D.E. Ltd. Entrepreneurial Diasporians Jamaica calls you to duty. TRADE exists to facilitate trading bridges between Jamaica and the rest of the world.