Purchasing Your Dream Home – An American Retiree in Jamaica

I have written an article in the past on purchasing land to build a dream house on and some of the problems that could occur.  These problems are so numerous that my recommendation was to buy a preexisting dwelling.  Chances are the existing house will have endured the test of time so that any faults will probably be visible upon inspection. 

 There are several ways to find your dream home.  The internet offers several sites with a wide variety of homes for sale.  Newspapers have some listings in them but not like a typical Sunday real estate section in a major metropolitan market in the U.S.  A third way is to visit a real estate broker on the island.  Three of the largest are Century 21, Coldwell Banker, and Declan Realty, all of which have substantial websites.  The local yellow pages phone directory has six pages of island wide agencies to choose from.  Please be advised to check references no matter which source you choose as they are not all reputable.  It would be best to get recommendations from someone in the local community or a friend.

When I was looking for my retirement home, friends from a resort put me in touch with two independent brokers.  The surprising thing was that one of the firms required me to provide the means for getting from listing to listing.  As a novice driver in Jamaica at the time, I fell victim to not one pothole but two and punctured two tires.  Lucky for me an employee of the car rental company was passing by and recognized the car as belonging to his agency.  Not only did the real estate agency not have their own transportation but the company cell phone the two sales people had couldn’t make an outside call for help.

 When you buy a house in Jamaica it is just the basic house you purchase.  Anything and everything can be removed by the previous owner.  That includes all electrical fixtures, such as chandeliers, leaving bare wires.  Unlike in the states where an item is permanently attached it belongs to the house, nothing has to be left for you in Jamaica.  Be sure to question and get in writing exactly what is included in your purchase.  Therefore, it would behoove everyone to hire an attorney to look out for their interests, especially if you are not living on the island at the time.  As with the real estate brokers, be sure to get recommendations before soliciting a law firm.

 Recently one of my readers searched out and purchased a house from a website listing which included pictures of the inside and outside.  Missing from the photos were any pictures of the kitchen and two and a half of the three and a half bathrooms, for good reason.  None of these rooms were completed.  The bathrooms, including the master bath, were nothing but bare walls with plumbing pipes sticking through them.  The kitchen had a partial counter but no cabinets or appliances.  None of these things were mentioned in the listing on the website.  These surprises make it all that more important to have an honest and experienced attorney on your side.  It has taken months of negotiations to iron out the differences and it hasn’t been settled yet.

A few years ago another reader was interested in a property listed on the internet.  The pictures depicted a very beautiful and modern house directly on the water.  After investigating the property, the house was situated directly on the North Coast highway with heavy traffic passing by constantly.  It also didn’t show the dilapidated house next to it.  Security was nonexistent.  There weren’t any walls around the property or grills anywhere on the house.  This beautiful house was clearly out of place in this location.

 The first house that I looked at also came from an internet website.  The house had six bedrooms and six bathrooms located in a very picturesque town on the north coast.  Upon inspection, none of the bathrooms had plumbing fixtures and the kitchen didn’t even have plumbing through the wall.  The worst part was the house was located directly across the street from a small quarry and directly in the path of the prevailing winds.

 The properties on the internet that I have listed above clearly show that you are only shown what they want to show you.  It is what they don’t show that should concern you.  Before visiting any of the sites make inquiries of the agency as to how complete the home is and its surrounding neighborhood. 

Buying an existing home is still the best way to go in my estimation.  But please be careful that the real estate agent and the law firm are beyond reproach and that the house you see is the house you get.  Later….