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How to Move to the Bahamas

By: Caribbean Journal Staff - March 30, 2016

It’s close to the US, it’s got a great tax infrastructure and, well, then there’s that water. It’s no surprise that the Bahamas is a popular vacation home market — but what about actually moving there? We continue our How to Move series with the Bahamas, talking to perhaps the country’s top real estate expert, John Christie, CEO of HG Christie Ltd/Christie’s International Real Estate in the Bahamas, to near more. Here’s what he told us.

Why should I move to the Bahamas?

The great thing about the Bahamas is that we have so many islands to choose from — apart from Nassau and our second city of Freeport.  While we are a small country,  we are a nation of islands…and each one has developed its own unique personality,  feel and — believe it or not — varying geography.  For Instance, some islands, like Eleutehra and Cat Island, have beautiful rolling elevations throughout the length of the island, while islands like Andros, Grand Bahama and Great Abaco are mostly flat and covered with pine forests. The people are also different on each island with a unique accent that might not be distinguishable to someone from abroad, but to a local they are distinct.  The reason for this would come from the origin of where the original settlers came from.  For instance, the Abaco Cays were settled by British Loyalists that fled the United States after the Revolution and are largely populated by their descendants today.   Whereas in Exuma, Loyalists like Lord Rolle came to the island with slaves, hoping to re-create the plantations of South Carolina…but the Bahamian soil had other plans and within 20 years, Lord Rolle had freed his slaves and left the Bahamas. Each island has its own unique story, just like these two examples above.

So how would one choose the island that is right for him or her?

What I recommend, if you have time, would be to take at least a week, spending two or three days on roughly three islands that are of interest. This way, you can get a feel as to which island you ‘bond’ the best with.  Everyone tends to have their favorite for different reasons, and it comes down to where you simply feel the most at home.  Before you travel, do some reading up to see which islands you think will suit your needs…then make a plan.   If you are looking to be on a cosmopolitan island where you will run shoulders with celebrities in a barefoot kind of way, then Harbour Island could be your place.  If you want a more remote yet beautiful, down-to-earth setting, then Cat Island could tickle your fancy. If you have strong religious beliefs about not partaking in alcohol, then Man-O-War Cay might be for you as it is the Bahamas’ only dry island.   If you want to be very close the U.S., then Bimini or West End in Grand Bahama, could be the spot for you.  I could go on and on, but what I recommend is to conduct some preliminary research… chose three islands…then come down and experience each for yourself.

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Can I live there? (i.e., What are the residency laws, etc.?

Yes.  Our residency laws are open to anyone who can support themselves without working.  We offer annual residency and permanent residency. For permanent residency, you will need to purchase and maintain a residence in The Bahamas at a value of $500,000 or higher.  Many international homeowners are not permanent residents and they come and go as a visitor would, but do not stay more than three months at a time.   The most populated areas are Nassau/New Providence, our capitol, and Freeport, Grand Bahama.

How much does the average home cost?

Last year the average home cost in the Bahamas was about $475,000.

What are the advantages of living permanently versus part-time?

“Living permanently” in the Bahamas is really for those individuals who have decided to make the island country their home – i.e., those who are retired or have business dealings that can be executed from this unique home base.  When you live here, you have the benefit of a relaxed lifestyle that is warm year-round…and the ability to truly become part of the community where you reside.  If you have a holiday home here, you’ll be able to traverse in and out of the area…and with the added ability to rent your home to cover the costs of upkeep, or to bring in additional income.

How much does a beachfront condo cost?

Beachfront condos start at about $400,000.

Above: Grand Bahama

Above: Grand Bahama

How much does it cost to build a home?

Building costs vary greatly, but the minimum price for a basic home would be about $150 per square-foot; however, prices for luxury homes can reach as high as $1,000 per square-foot.

What are the real estate taxes like?

There is a tax of 10% when you purchase most properties, which is split equally between buyer and seller.  There is an annual property tax of 1% for developed properties valued up to $5,000,000 and .25% for the value above $5,000,000.  If you have undeveloped land, the property tax is 1.5%.

how to move bahamas

What are income taxes like?

There is no Income tax.

What’s health care like?

Healthcare here is good, especially in Nassau and Grand  Bahama.  When you travel to the outer islands, you’ll find that many of these more remote areas do not have active hospitals because of the size of the population.  There are good doctors on all of the islands, but residents and visitors need to fly to Nassau for more serious issues.

What’s it like for kids?

Kids love the islands.   The experiences they’ll have here offer a window to “childhoods of the past” for these younger generations – a place where kids are free and safe “to be kids” and openly explore the outdoors. In more remote areas of the Bahamas, parents typically choose to home-school, while other larger areas have established schools.   Families with children will often make their living choices based on what type of schooling they want to provide their kids.  The best private schools will be found in Nassau and Grand Bahama.  And numerous people who choose to move to the islands from other countries either have no children…or their children are grown.

Can I bring my car? What’s the duty?

Definitely.  You can also buy a car here as we have most of the major dealerships.  The duty on cars starts at 25% for hybrid cars and ranges upwards of 65% of the value, depending on the type of car.

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