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Dutch Lowlands Ownership
Property ownership in St. Maarten is a relatively simple process and a resident of any country can own property here.
The conveyance of real property in St. Maarten is accomplished using the services of a Civil Law Notary under the European system of title registry. The notary is charged with ensuring the conveyance protects the buyer by delivering free and clear ownership and that the buyer is aware of all relevant conditions affecting the property, such as restrictive covenants and easements.
There are three basic types of deed transfers for real estate on St. Maarten:
- Fee simple
- Government long lease
- Private long lease
All deed types give registered ownership. Virtually all properties in the Dutch Lowlands are fee simple (same as in U.S.). The responsibility of clear title is with the Notary, thus title insurance is not needed. Closings take place on St. Maarten in English within the time frame set by the Sales and Purchase Agreement. Closing costs are typically paid by the Purchaser. The closing costs and taxes associated with properties in the Dutch Lowlands are:
- Approximately 6% transfer fees; includes notary stamp and all fees.
- No land taxes what so ever.
- No capital gains tax.
- Offshore companies and investors welcome.
- Building permits and zoning are routine.
When the Purchase and Sale Agreement is properly executed and all conditions waived, the Notary will proceed to examine title to determine rightful ownership, the chain of ownership and any liens, mortgages or other encumbrances affecting the property. Once satisfied, he will prepare the Deed of Conveyance and set a date for closing. For the benefit of non-residents, the Notary can also prepare Powers of Attorney if the party to the transaction is unable to attend the closing.
St. Maarten’s generous tax structure provides significant incentives for would-be property owners. Personal or business accounts can be opened at local banks as off shore and dollars can be moved freely from one country to another. The absence of property and capital gains taxes, together with the ability for offshore holding companies to invest directly on the island, combines to create an opportunistic investment climate.
In the Terres Basses, on French St. Martin, real estate transactions are always handled by the Notaire (Notary). The Notaire is responsible for preparing the final deed and obtaining all relevant searches about the property. The Notaire must check that each party has full capacity or the right either to sell or purchase property. Like on the Dutch side of St. Maarten, the Notaire is responsible, by law, to both parties and is obligated to do a proper title search to insure a clear title transfer. Neither title insurance or a personal attorney are necessary.
The following are some of the costs and taxes associated with properties in the Terres Basses:
- Virtually all properties in the Terres Basses are fee simple deeds, similar to the USA.
- There are annual property taxes
- Upon the sale of property there is a 33½% capital gains tax
- Offshore companies are welcome but with restrictions.
- As part of the covenants and deed restrictions of properties in the Terres Basses there are restrictions on building and renovating homes in the area.
These are part of the covenants and deed restrictions known as the Cahier des Charges.