Property Update, Vanuatu.

Island Property’s principal Douglas Patterson gives us the ‘how to’ on owning your own piece of paradise in Vanuatu.

September 18, 2019
Rebecca Murphy

Rebecca Murphy

September 18, 2019

At some point in life most people will make a decision about renting or buying a property. In Vanuatu, it is no different. And while many of the reasons for renting or purchasing a property will be the same here as you may be accustomed to “back home”, the process, particularly for a purchase, is a bit different.

For example, when a land title is created, it is registered as a leasehold title.  The vast majority of titles are zoned either Residential, Commercial or Agriculture. The urban or municipal areas of Port Vila, and Luganville on Santo Island, were declared “public” or state land in 1980, at Vanuatu’s Independence.  In these urban areas the “Lessor” of the lease title is the Minister of Lands on behalf of the Government, and  when you buy a land or property through what is called a “lease transfer” you become the “Lessee.”  This is how it is for a Prime  Minister or a first time visitor to the country. In the rural areas, your lessor is quite likely to be a local family or land trust.

That is why the first thing you should do is make sure you are talking to suitably qualified and experienced professionals who can guide you through the local laws and requirements, as well as introduce you to the spectacular range of real estate available in this country.

Vanuatu has made it easy for foreigners to buy property.  You don’t need to be a resident to invest. There are no restrictions on what type of property you may purchase.  There is no limit to the number of properties you may buy.  You can rent out your property long term without any business licences or permits, and there are no impediments to repatriating funds from selling or renting a Vanuatu property. For non-residents looking to buy an investment property, local property managers will be able to look after things in your absence.

Vanuatu commercial banks accept registered titles as loan security, and insurance companies will cover your property, including against cylcone. And, when it comes to prices, you will be pleasantly surprised when you compare what you pay in Vanuatu, compared with Australia and New Zealand, especially for waterfront and coastal properties.

Of course that shouldn’t mean that you proceed with any less care than you would in the familiar circumstances of home.  Entering any new market always carries an element of the unknown.  Unfamiliar locations, unfamiliar valuation trends, unfamiliar laws and practises. However, the key things to consider are the same: What should I buy? Where should I buy? How much should I spend? Will I be occupying it myself, or renting it? What will be the likelihood of any capital gain? Will I be able to rent or resell the property when the time comes?

In Vanuatu you will find housing ranging in price from a few hundred thousand dollars for 3 and 4 bedroom family villas to a few million dollars for the increasing number of imaginatively designed, contemporary waterfront residences that have been built here over the last decade. You will find oceanfront house plots between one and two acres for A$ 100 – 200,000 and modern apartments in Port Vila, with stunning views over the harbour for under A$ 400,000.

The Vanuatu real estate market has experienced the price and activity cycles that occur elsewhere. There are times when our market is buoyant, and times when it is flat. But one thing is sure; you will find many more people who regret they did not invest here previously when they had the opportunity than you will encounter those who regret that they have.

Douglas Patterson is the principal of Island Property, a Port Vila based real estate and property development company that has operated in Vanuatu since 1990. Douglas has lived in Vanuatu since the mid 1980s and is a naturalised citizen.

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