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Buying a home in US Dollars in St Lucia

Buying a home in US Dollars in St Lucia

Old Jan 8th 2009, 8:10 am
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Default Buying a home in US Dollars in St Lucia

Dear all,

My wife and I have been avidly following this forum for between 6 months and a year now as we too are planning a move to the Caribbean. In fact to St Lucia. We are in the process of purchasing land and things are progressing well however I thought I would post something here as a heads up to others thinking of doing the same and also to perhaps prompt some comment from the "veterans" of the region who may offer some better advice.

When we embarked on our project we researched well and took the usual caution of enlisting the help of legal representation however one thing seems to have jumped out of the woodwork during the process which nobody seems to have brought up in any forums (That we have found) or in any "advice books".

When you purchase land advertised in US Dollars (Or any foreign currency for that matter) there doesn't seem to be any way in which you can transfer that currency into the country to pay for your purchase in that currency without it first passing through EC Dollar accounts or incurring a fee. Allow me to explain (And feel free to shout, that's garbage!)

We transferred the US Dollar amount for the deposit through to our solicitor. After paying the deposit, because he had put it through his EC$ account, it was converted to EC$ on the way into his account and back to US Dollars out the other side. Net effect, loss of nearly 2 percent! Which we have subsequently had to reimburse the lawyer for.

So we suggested they (Our Lawyers) get a US Dollar account sorted out so we can transfer our US Dollars straight into it and then this can be passed onto the Vendor when the final amount needs paying. We have been told that the bank will deduct 2 percent from any transfer into such an account. So we cannot transfer US dollars into the country without somebody raking off a percentage.

So basically, it would appear that when you buy property advertised and sold in a foreign currency you ought to be ready to cough up another two percent in "hidden fees" for banking.

Now you might say, "So what!". However when you lump this together with the Lawyers fees, Stamp Duty, Fees for Alien Landholding licence and other sundries, another two percent is just taking the mick! Well that's what i think anyway.

Anybody in here come across similar stuff? Or would you say that somebody somewhere is not imparting the truth the whole ttruth and nothing but the truth?

Anyway. My wife and I can't wait to get the deal done so we can start the process of building. We had hoped to be living in St Lucia by next Christmas. Can't see it myself. Will report back on progress as we make it.

Last edited by A_Zimbo; Jan 8th 2009 at 8:13 am.
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Old Jan 8th 2009, 9:25 am
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Default Re: Buying a home in US Dollars in St Lucia

Originally Posted by A_Zimbo View Post
Dear all,

My wife and I have been avidly following this forum for between 6 months and a year now as we too are planning a move to the Caribbean. In fact to St Lucia. We are in the process of purchasing land and things are progressing well however I thought I would post something here as a heads up to others thinking of doing the same and also to perhaps prompt some comment from the "veterans" of the region who may offer some better advice.

When we embarked on our project we researched well and took the usual caution of enlisting the help of legal representation however one thing seems to have jumped out of the woodwork during the process which nobody seems to have brought up in any forums (That we have found) or in any "advice books".

When you purchase land advertised in US Dollars (Or any foreign currency for that matter) there doesn't seem to be any way in which you can transfer that currency into the country to pay for your purchase in that currency without it first passing through EC Dollar accounts or incurring a fee. Allow me to explain (And feel free to shout, that's garbage!)

We transferred the US Dollar amount for the deposit through to our solicitor. After paying the deposit, because he had put it through his EC$ account, it was converted to EC$ on the way into his account and back to US Dollars out the other side. Net effect, loss of nearly 2 percent! Which we have subsequently had to reimburse the lawyer for.

So we suggested they (Our Lawyers) get a US Dollar account sorted out so we can transfer our US Dollars straight into it and then this can be passed onto the Vendor when the final amount needs paying. We have been told that the bank will deduct 2 percent from any transfer into such an account. So we cannot transfer US dollars into the country without somebody raking off a percentage.

So basically, it would appear that when you buy property advertised and sold in a foreign currency you ought to be ready to cough up another two percent in "hidden fees" for banking.

Now you might say, "So what!". However when you lump this together with the Lawyers fees, Stamp Duty, Fees for Alien Landholding licence and other sundries, another two percent is just taking the mick! Well that's what i think anyway.

Anybody in here come across similar stuff? Or would you say that somebody somewhere is not imparting the truth the whole ttruth and nothing but the truth?

Anyway. My wife and I can't wait to get the deal done so we can start the process of building. We had hoped to be living in St Lucia by next Christmas. Can't see it myself. Will report back on progress as we make it.

This is very interesting. The EC dollar is pegged to the US dollar at a fixed rate so transferring to EC dollars should be pretty straight forward, however I know the banks do tend to charge fees for exchanging currencies.
When I purchased a plot of land a few years back, I used Barclays to transfer the money from my account in the UK to an account in St Lucia. They told me the then exchange rate and then charged a fixed fee for doing the transfer. This was relatively small, maybe about 30 pounds sterling max.
So the 2% you are quoting does sound a bit on the steep side, but then again maybe things have changed a bit now.

Anyway good luck with the build, where in St Lucia will you be living ?
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Old Jan 8th 2009, 9:33 am
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Smile Re: Buying a home in US Dollars in St Lucia

Originally Posted by pgtips View Post
This is very interesting. The EC dollar is pegged to the US dollar at a fixed rate so transferring to EC dollars should be pretty straight forward, however I know the banks do tend to charge fees for exchanging currencies.
When I purchased a plot of land a few years back, I used Barclays to transfer the money from my account in the UK to an account in St Lucia. They told me the then exchange rate and then charged a fixed fee for doing the transfer. This was relatively small, maybe about 30 pounds sterling max.
So the 2% you are quoting does sound a bit on the steep side, but then again maybe things have changed a bit now.

Anyway good luck with the build, where in St Lucia will you be living ?
Hi PG,

We'll be in Marigot Bay. We both love the place. Can't wait to get cracking. We are used to island life as we live in a small island up here in Europe.

You are correct about it being pegged to the EC$. But it is pegged at one rate when change from the US$ and another rate when changing back to the US$ if you see what I mean. So this means if you pay somebody through your Solicitor and he passes it through his EC$ account before handing over a bank transfer for US dollars out the other end it loses about 2 percent on the way through his account. I tried to get round this by getting the lawyer to open a US Dollar account but apparently the local banks still take 2 percent off in fees for a transfer even through a foreign currency account held down there though I am going to have to research this latter item some more as I would love to know if this is all banks or just his bank.

I thought it worth posting here anyway as a heads up to other folks that might be thinking about doing the same thing as us. We found the forum very helpful in other things and perhaps some of our experiences might also help somebody else in the future.

Back to the island in Feb. Can't wait.
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Old Jan 8th 2009, 11:32 am
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Default Re: Buying a home in US Dollars in St Lucia

Originally Posted by A_Zimbo View Post
Hi PG,

We'll be in Marigot Bay. We both love the place. Can't wait to get cracking. We are used to island life as we live in a small island up here in Europe.

You are correct about it being pegged to the EC$. But it is pegged at one rate when change from the US$ and another rate when changing back to the US$ if you see what I mean. So this means if you pay somebody through your Solicitor and he passes it through his EC$ account before handing over a bank transfer for US dollars out the other end it loses about 2 percent on the way through his account. I tried to get round this by getting the lawyer to open a US Dollar account but apparently the local banks still take 2 percent off in fees for a transfer even through a foreign currency account held down there though I am going to have to research this latter item some more as I would love to know if this is all banks or just his bank.

I thought it worth posting here anyway as a heads up to other folks that might be thinking about doing the same thing as us. We found the forum very helpful in other things and perhaps some of our experiences might also help somebody else in the future.

Back to the island in Feb. Can't wait.
A_Zimbo, Marigot bay has to be one of the most beautiful places in the world, especially if you have a view over looking the bay. Sometimes I wonder how the water there looks just so blue and clear. Its had a bit of discreet development there, but for relaxation you can't beat it.

When I transferred money in the Uk to St Lucia I got the full exchange rate because i transfered my money from my Barclays account in the Uk to The First International Caribbean Bank, which was owned by Barclays and used to be Barclays International Bank in St Lucia.

When you are next on the island enquire about opening a bank account and check if there would be any % fees for transferring money internationally to it. You will need a bank account there once you start building.

There seems to be a lot of interest in St lucia recently and hopefully a nice international community developing.
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Old Jan 8th 2009, 5:44 pm
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Default Re: Buying a home in US Dollars in St Lucia

Originally Posted by pgtips View Post
This is very interesting. The EC dollar is pegged to the US dollar at a fixed rate so transferring to EC dollars should be pretty straight forward, however I know the banks do tend to charge fees for exchanging currencies.
When I purchased a plot of land a few years back, I used Barclays to transfer the money from my account in the UK to an account in St Lucia. They told me the then exchange rate and then charged a fixed fee for doing the transfer. This was relatively small, maybe about 30 pounds sterling max.
So the 2% you are quoting does sound a bit on the steep side, but then again maybe things have changed a bit now.

Anyway good luck with the build, where in St Lucia will you be living ?
Just a quick question for you PG. Did you buy the plot of land you refer to in EC$ or some other currency. You see we are purchasing land sold at a US Dollar price. I have to admit I am trying to get it converted at an agreed rate to EC Dollars since there seems no possible way of paying for it in a foreign currency without the bank raking in a fortune.

Will buy you a beer when we get to the island!
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Old Jan 8th 2009, 9:24 pm
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Default Re: Buying a home in US Dollars in St Lucia

Originally Posted by A_Zimbo View Post
Just a quick question for you PG. Did you buy the plot of land you refer to in EC$ or some other currency. You see we are purchasing land sold at a US Dollar price. I have to admit I am trying to get it converted at an agreed rate to EC Dollars since there seems no possible way of paying for it in a foreign currency without the bank raking in a fortune.

Will buy you a beer when we get to the island!
The currency of the island is EC and this is what I agreed a price on.
Ot should be no problem to agree an EC price. Just take the US price and times it by about 2.7 or there abouts. There should be absolutely no problem as the currency is pegged to US so there will be no fluctuation.
As long as they get their money they should be happy.
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Old Jan 25th 2009, 3:50 am
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Default Re: Buying a home in US Dollars in St Lucia

Originally Posted by A_Zimbo View Post
Dear all,

My wife and I have been avidly following this forum for between 6 months and a year now as we too are planning a move to the Caribbean. In fact to St Lucia. We are in the process of purchasing land and things are progressing well however I thought I would post something here as a heads up to others thinking of doing the same and also to perhaps prompt some comment from the "veterans" of the region who may offer some better advice.

When we embarked on our project we researched well and took the usual caution of enlisting the help of legal representation however one thing seems to have jumped out of the woodwork during the process which nobody seems to have brought up in any forums (That we have found) or in any "advice books".

When you purchase land advertised in US Dollars (Or any foreign currency for that matter) there doesn't seem to be any way in which you can transfer that currency into the country to pay for your purchase in that currency without it first passing through EC Dollar accounts or incurring a fee. Allow me to explain (And feel free to shout, that's garbage!)

We transferred the US Dollar amount for the deposit through to our solicitor. After paying the deposit, because he had put it through his EC$ account, it was converted to EC$ on the way into his account and back to US Dollars out the other side. Net effect, loss of nearly 2 percent! Which we have subsequently had to reimburse the lawyer for.

So we suggested they (Our Lawyers) get a US Dollar account sorted out so we can transfer our US Dollars straight into it and then this can be passed onto the Vendor when the final amount needs paying. We have been told that the bank will deduct 2 percent from any transfer into such an account. So we cannot transfer US dollars into the country without somebody raking off a percentage.

So basically, it would appear that when you buy property advertised and sold in a foreign currency you ought to be ready to cough up another two percent in "hidden fees" for banking.

Now you might say, "So what!". However when you lump this together with the Lawyers fees, Stamp Duty, Fees for Alien Landholding licence and other sundries, another two percent is just taking the mick! Well that's what i think anyway.

Anybody in here come across similar stuff? Or would you say that somebody somewhere is not imparting the truth the whole ttruth and nothing but the truth?

Anyway. My wife and I can't wait to get the deal done so we can start the process of building. We had hoped to be living in St Lucia by next Christmas. Can't see it myself. Will report back on progress as we make it.
Not so sure if this is the answer but could one of the currency transfer companies help, such as:

http://www.hifx.co.uk/

or:

http://www.customhouse.com/
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Old Jan 25th 2009, 3:58 am
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Default Re: Buying a home in US Dollars in St Lucia

Originally Posted by johnh009 View Post
Not so sure if this is the answer but could one of the currency transfer companies help, such as:

http://www.hifx.co.uk/

or:

http://www.customhouse.com/
Thanks John. Will take a look.
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Old Feb 27th 2009, 8:09 am
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Default Re: Buying a home in US Dollars in St Lucia

Originally Posted by A_Zimbo View Post
Thanks John. Will take a look.
Just a quick update for all who might read this in the future.

Top tip. Don't agree to your contract of sale being in US Dollars, or any other currency for that matter than local $EC. Notice a few Real Estate Agents in St Lucia marking property in US Dollars which is fine in itself, but make sure that the actual contract for sale is in EC$.

We have had a nightmare with this. Trying to pay in the currency the vendor wants will involve your money going through a solicitor in St Lucia who will process it through an EC$ account. By the time your funds go through that conversion to EC$ and back to whatever currency you agreed to pay in you will have lost a further 2 percent. It's a hidden cost which nobody pointed out to us. Very disappointed but one lives and learns.

Now hopefully we will get the Alien Landholding Licence soon and we can start building. Licence pending at the PM's office for signature. My wife and I can't wait!

Hope this thread serves as a warning to others.

Kind Regards
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Old Mar 3rd 2009, 10:24 am
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Default Re: Buying a home in US Dollars in St Lucia

Originally Posted by A_Zimbo View Post
Hi PG,

We'll be in Marigot Bay. We both love the place. Can't wait to get cracking. We are used to island life as we live in a small island up here in Europe.

You are correct about it being pegged to the EC$. But it is pegged at one rate when change from the US$ and another rate when changing back to the US$ if you see what I mean. So this means if you pay somebody through your Solicitor and he passes it through his EC$ account before handing over a bank transfer for US dollars out the other end it loses about 2 percent on the way through his account. I tried to get round this by getting the lawyer to open a US Dollar account but apparently the local banks still take 2 percent off in fees for a transfer even through a foreign currency account held down there though I am going to have to research this latter item some more as I would love to know if this is all banks or just his bank.

I thought it worth posting here anyway as a heads up to other folks that might be thinking about doing the same thing as us. We found the forum very helpful in other things and perhaps some of our experiences might also help somebody else in the future.

Back to the island in Feb. Can't wait.
Why not just take cash to St. Lucia and avoid paying 2% taking all 100 dollar bills? Fly there yourself, and the airline ticket will be cheaper than 2%.
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Old Mar 3rd 2009, 8:07 pm
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Default Re: Buying a home in US Dollars in St Lucia

Originally Posted by Umpatan View Post
Why not just take cash to St. Lucia and avoid paying 2% taking all 100 dollar bills? Fly there yourself, and the airline ticket will be cheaper than 2%.
When we paid for our house, we transferred the US$ direct from our bank to the vendors bank & paid £23 to our bank for doing so (pretty cheap we thought). I don't know if they got charged their side. However, we still had to pay the lawyer but instead of transferring the money, we took it in cash (GBP sterling). We opened an account with the First Caribbean Bank (which, for those of you who followed that particular thread know, was an absolute nightmare) & then paid the lawyer in $EC. Not sure how much cash you can legally take though...
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