Frequently Asked Questions
As a foreigner, can I purchase a property in the Dominican Republic without restrictions?
Foreigners who wish to purchase real estate property in the Dominican Republic have no restrictions whatsoever. All of us have the exact same obligations and rights when buying a property as the citizens of the Dominican Republic. The only thing that a potential foreign buyer needs to have is a valid passport.
What is the buying process for real estate in the Dominican Republic?
1. Make a formal offer
The procedure when purchasing a property in the Dominican Republic is similar to Canada, Europe, and the US. Once a buyer decides which property he or she likes, all that needs to be done is to have a formal offer written together with a deposit of 1% of the total amount. The seller is presented with the offer and if he decides to accept the proposal, the deposit of 1% becomes a part of the final payment. In case that the offer is not accepted by the seller, the earnest deposit will be returned to the actual buyer.
2. Sign the Promise of Sale
The next step is signing a Promise of Sale, which is a legally binding document that needs to be signed in front of a Notary public. Both parties will sign this document as soon as the buyer’s attorney completes the required due diligence.
All the terms of the transaction are established in the Promise of Sale and the document will include full names of both parties, references that establish identities of both the buyer and the seller-such as valid passports, driver’s license, a default clause, legal description of the property, the date on which the property is delivered, payment terms, purchase price, the exact date of the closing, and most importantly the requirement of the seller party to sign the Deed of Sale once the final payment has been made.
The required deposit is usually around 10% and is placed in the Escrow account. This way, the property is reserved for you and it’s taken off the market, so you don’t have to worry that someone else will purchase the property.
3. The Deed of Sale
When the transaction is fully paid, both parties can finalize the Deed of Sale, which is also a legally binding document that needs to be endorsed by a Notary public. The Deed of Sale allows the transfer of the agreed property from the seller to the buyer and makes the whole process quite simple and less expensive simply because the Promise of Sale step is not needed anymore.
Expect to have closings within 30-60 days, but it all really depends on the agreement between the buyer and the seller. All funds from the buyer need to be in Escrow 3 days before the closing. The buyer and the seller will sign all the necessary documents on the closing date.
The sale will be recorded with the Register of Titles by your lawyer. Expect to find the property in your name in a month.
How do I make sure that the property I am purchasing is safe to buy?
The best way to make sure that the property for sale is safe to buy is to seek advice of a good local real-estate agent. This person will take all the necessary steps to ensure that the seller of the property has all the legal documents of the property in order. A professional real-estate agent will also make sure that surveys and titles are up to date and correct.
The next step to making sure that the purchase of the property runs smoothly is to secure services of a reliable attorney. The real-estate agency usually advises the buyer to hire a good attorney who will finalize due diligence.
One of the things that the attorney will do is get all of the documents from the seller or the seller’s attorney, including a copy of the seller’s identification card or a copy of his/her passport, copy of the Certificate of Title, copy of the tax payment receipts which are issued by the Internal Revenue Office, and a copy of the original survey or plot plan from the property. In case the seller originally bought the property as a condominium or the seller is a corporation, additional documents will be needed.
What is a “deslinde" and why a property cannot be bought without it?
When we say “deslinde”, it means a clear title which has been issued right after the property gained the approval. It certifies that it was property surveyed and that all of the boundaries and lines of the property were defined from the original title.
Thanks to the recent updates to the Dominican Republic's Property Registry Law, all real estate sales and purchases need to have a clear Certificate of Title to be recorded at the Property Registry.
Before this law was passed by the Dominican Republic government, it was not guaranteed that the seller owns the property free and clear. Properties could be sold and bought before prior to this law, but the whole responsibility of having a Clear Title Certificate was left to the buyer and he or she buys the property. This new law requires that the property needs to have a Certificate of Title before the sale.
Many people believe that a deslinde are just additional documents, but it’s up to the buyer’s attorney to see if the property you are planning to purchase has a clear Certificate of Title. Remember that no purchases should be finalized without a clear Certificate of Title.
Dominican Republic’s Property Registry Law makes it clear that a property purchase cannot be complete and recorded at the Property Registry without having a deslinde together with a clear Certificate of Title.
What costs and taxes should I expect in a real estate transaction?
The seller has to pay real estate commissions, while the buyer is in charge of handling the legal fee costs.
1. The property transfer tax
Most properties here are held in the Dominican Corporate names, which means you have two big advantages. The first advantage is that you don’t need to pay transfer taxes. The second advantage is that you will avoid various inheritance issues.
In case a property is not held in a Dominican corporation or the buyer a decides to purchase the property under his or her name, the buyer will have to pay a transfer tax. The property transfer tax comes down to 3% of the assessed value which is determined not by the purchase price, but by the Internal Revenue Office. Keep in mind that the assessed value is usually lower than the actual appraisal fair market value of the property.
Buyers who are purchasing a property under a company’s name should know that the transfer tax is 2% of the company’s capital.
It is also important to consult with you attorney to make sure you avoid this tax in the future when you decide to sell the property.
2. The annual property tax
In case the property is registered or owned by a company, the company needs to pay an annual 1% tax on its assets. You should also know that the amount of tax assets which are paid by the company can apply as a credit.
All properties owned by an individual below $150,000 are exempt from annual property taxes. On the other hand, properties owned by a company needs to pay an annual 1% tax with no exceptions.
Properties such as farms, rural properties, and houses whose owners are 65 years old or older don’t need to pay this annual tax. Properties which are owned by companies and pay a separate tax are also exempt from paying the real estate tax.
3. Other fees
There are additional costs when purchasing a property and the attorney’s fee is one of them. In most cases, the attorney’s fee is 1% of the purchase price. This is usually the closing cost when buying a property in the Dominican Republic and includes tax documentation process, due diligence, and drafting of contracts.
All of the fees and commissions payable to the agent, broker, or to the real estate company are paid in full by the seller.
How to choose the right real estate agency?
The truth is that everyone from a cab driver to a guy who works in beachfront bar will try to present himself/herself as a right person for the job who can help you purchase a property in the Dominican Republic. Therefore, it is very important to choose a professional real-estate agency when buying a property here.
This professional real-estate agency needs to have experience with carrying out real-estate businesses. They also need to have a proper office and several employees with professional skills that include getting a better price and clear transactions with no headaches involved.
A good real-estate agency needs to have multilingual employees who can speak both Spanish and English. This is very important, as the cooperation between the parties needs to be fluent and knowing both languages means having access to a wider range of properties on the markets.
Franchise agencies with a good reputation may not the best option when purchasing a property abroad. Most of these agencies just care about the profit and have agents who don’t have local connections. It’s always a better option to choose a local professional agency with local ties to ensure that the purchase runs smoothly.
Tell me a bit about building density
Places like Las Terrenas have their building zones. Each of these zones has its specific limits and requirements. The most important of these requirements and limits is the building density, which is always counted in the bedrooms per hectare.
Here is an example. There is a 2,000 m2 lot. The building density comes to 30 bedrooms per hectare. 1 hectare is 10,000 Sqm (2.47 acres) so if the land is 2,000 m2, which is a 1/5 of an hectare. So it goes like this (30 bedrooms / 5 = 6), you will see that you can make 6 bedrooms. Please note that this is required when the floorplans are submitted, after that during the construction, a formerly submitted room as living room or music room can be transformed into a bedroom, thus increasing the maximum number of bedrooms.
Do I need a realtor when purchasing pre-construction projects?
It is wise to use a realtor who will represent you when purchasing pre-construction projects. The loyalty of a sales representative lies in the fact that he or she works for the builder.
In case you hire a realtor, expect from this person to look out for your interest.
To make things even better, a local realtor usually has access to the best prices per square meter and best floor plans even before the project is released to the public. This person also knows what questions are important to ask regarding occupancy, financing, and assignments. Remember that your personal realtor can negotiate the agreement in your best interest.
The realtor also provides updated on the progress of the pre-construction projects. If you have some questions about the occupancy and construction, this person can give you answers to these questions. It is important to remember that by using a realtor, you will increase the chances of making the right decision.
Are buyers covered by inheritance laws?
There are no restrictions whatsoever on foreigners being able to inherit title to a property the Dominican Republic.
Foreigners who are residing in the Dominican Republic and the citizens of the Dominican Republic will be happy to hear that the recent tax-law ruling lowered the inheritance tax to just 3% of the government’s assessed value of the property.
For those beneficiaries who are not currently living in the Dominican Republic, the inheritance tax is 4.5%. A portion of the inheritance needs to be transferred to heirs, regardless of the existence of a will in a different country.
What is the actual process for obtaining Dominican Residency?
In case an individual wants to obtain Dominican residency, this person needs to apply for a Residence Visa at a Dominican consulate in his/hers country of origin. The applicant also needs to present a birth certificate, bank references, marriage certificate, and a police report. All of the mentioned documents must be apostilled.
Apostilles are there to authenticate the signatures and seals of officials on documents including notaries, birth certificates, court orders, and other documents that are issued by a public authority. By doing this, they will be recognized in all countries that are a part of the Hague Convention.
It is recommended that the applicant contacts the Dominican consulate in his/her country to schedule an appointment and ask if some additional documents are required.
After all the documents are approved, the consulate will put a stamp of the Residence Visa in the passport of the applicant. The Residence Visa is valid for one year. Keep in mind that the time to process the visa can take from a couple of days to a month. It really all depends on the consulate.
As soon as the applicant obtains the Residence Visa in the passport, the consulate will immediately return all of the mentioned documents. The next step for the applicant is to take all these documents and papers to an attorney in the Dominican Republic.
The applicant will have to head out to Santo Domingo for a brief medical exam and go once again so he or she could pick up the residency card. Since the residency card is valid for a year, the applicant needs to renew the residency every year for the next 5 years.
All applicants should be aware of the fact that the cost of a professional attorney who will handle the first residency process will be around $1,200. Luckily, renewals cost less.