Cayman Real Estate 101 for Buyers

You have probably purchased Real Estate before -- but probably not here. Every jurisdiction is different, so in the space we have here we will concentrate on the differences between purchasing in North America, the UK, or Europe, and The Cayman Islands.

The biggest difference between the UK & Europe and Cayman is the existence of a Multiple Listing System (called MLS). Americans and Canadians have them and it is a central repository for listing information and sales data. Here it is run by the Cayman Islands Real Estate Brokers Association (CIREBA). Every CIREBA company (37) and every agent (260) has access to all the CIREBA listings in Cayman. So, you only have to visit your Coldwell Banker Real Estate agent to see anything and everything in Cayman.

How to make an Offer

Your Coldwell Banker real estate agent can advise at what percentage of the listing prices, sales are being made. They will also walk you through the CIREBA Offer to Purchase form often used in Cayman property transactions. You don't need a deposit to make an offer, but you will need up to 10 per cent of the agreed price within a few days of acceptance to bind the deal. This is held by the vendor's attorney or by the listing brokerage firm until closing. There are no escrow companies here. Closing periods are generally 30-90 days.

Typical contract conditions

The most common condition is financing. Local banks finance both locals and foreigners, but it can take as long as 60 days to get your commitment. You will need to provide tax returns, banking and professional references, a property appraisal, proof of identification, copy of utility bills, etc. Most banks will provide a list of things they require. Make sure that list is up to date & comprehensive to avoid further delays.

When purchasing a condo, obtain copies of the bylaws, last year's financial statements, and the minutes of the Strata's last Annual General Meeting, so you know what to expect from your potential owners association. In the case of a house, you may want a structural survey or a Home Inspection (allow three weeks) and copies of subdivision covenants if there are any. For land, you may want the seller to identify the boundaries. What about title you ask? In Cayman where our title system is basically the Torrens system, government guarantees that the Land Register (a readily available public record) includes all title details. There is no need for Title Insurance here.

Legal Input

Our title system is less complex than most other jurisdictions, and Cayman Law is basically British but with some local influence. Since you will likely not be familiar with the legal differences, it is advisable to instruct a local attorney to do the closing for you. Plus the Land Registry is getting pickier by the day about how they require the documentation.

Closing costs

The only significant closing cost is Stamp Duty which is paid to the government on every transaction when new ownership is registered. In lieu of annual property tax, they charge a one time fee of 7.5% of the value of the real property (not including furnishings). If you borrow money, there is also a 1 -- 1.5 % Stamp Duty on the mortgage amount. You need not be present for closing, as documents can be moved via email and FedEX and closing proceeds can be wired.

Finally ...

Everyone is excited to be buying here. Residents and visiting gamilies grow up during their time spent in their Cayman home, and the property becomes a memorable part of the lives of each of these families. But time passes, circumstances change, and eventually, properties are sold. And when that happens, although it can be bittersweet, there is usually a bonus at the end -- a healthy profit on the sale!

J.C. Calhoun is the Broker at Coldwell Banker Cayman Islands Realty, a 30+ year member of the CIREBA BOARD, and President of the Coldwell Banker Franchise for the Caribbean and Atlantic Islands.