DREAMING ABOUT A LIFE IN PARADISE?
You wake up to sub arctic temperatures, eight inches of snow in the driveway and a commute from hell. “That’s it!” you say, “enough of this nonsense”. You open the laptop and start searching topics such as - best places in the Caribbean to live. A few clicks later and you come across the Dominican Republic. Life on the beach, low cost of living, inexpensive real estate, beautiful people and that hot latin culture. The vibe starts flowing and now your obsessed with the idea. This scenario has occurred with a lot of us. Welcome to the expat club.
It’s when you get serious about relocating here, starting a business, or buying real estate that things get complicated. Without a doubt your head will start spinning with the amount of horror stories, miss-information and conflicting opinions about life in the D.R. out there. In this article we are going to try to help that dream come true.
Let’s talk about the real estate market and more importantly the real estate industry in this country as a whole. First off, there is no such thing as a “licensed” real estate agent in this country. You can literally step foot off the airplane and start “selling” real estate, and trust us, they do. Second point, the process of purchasing real estate is much different here than that of North America. The system of place an offer, receive a counter, agree on a price, do a home inspection and then head off to closing with capable professionals just doesn’t exist. It’s not that simple. The most important part of this process is the attorney you hire to represent you during the transaction - more on that later. Third point, the price is almost never the price. You will often see the same property marketed in different places by different agents and often at different prices. Crazy right? Fourth and last point, conventional mortgage loans are pretty much non-existent here for non-residents. Don’t get discouraged, we’re just arming you with some important information. The dream is still very much alive.
One of the best recommendations we can make is to rent property here before you purchase. There is no better way to familiarize yourself with a new area/country than to live there. Why jump in without putting your toe in first? There are literally thousands of properties to rent, everything from ocean front estates to studio apartments. Facebook is your friend here - Everything Sosua, Everything Cabarete and Everything Puerto Plata are excellent Facebook groups to start browsing. You do not need residency to lease property here. You can even bring your fuzzy friend along if they are up to date on vaccinations. More on that here…
Lets move on to banking. The good news is that you do not need residency to open a bank account in the Dominican Republic. You will need a letter of recommendation from your current banker, your passport and a small amount of cash for an initial deposit. $500 USD or equivalent is usually more than sufficient. Bam - you now have a bank account in paradise. See, we are getting closer to that dream now.
Residency. This is a big one and there literally isn’t enough space on the web to cover all of the misconceptions about what it takes to become a resident here. Note - you do not need residency to own property here. You actually don’t even need residency to live here. Currently you can enter the country and stay for 30 days without penalty. If you stay longer than the 30 day tourist visa ( the tourist visa is automatic upon entering the country, you do not need to apply for it) you will pay a overstay fine at the customs desk when you leave. The customs agents will gladly accept payment for your fine with a smile and then promptly welcome you to come back for another visit soon. More on that in this article.
Gaining legal residency in the Dominican Republic can be done without an attorney, if you have the time and the patience. We absolutely recommend consulting with a local attorney about the process before you venture off to the government offices in Santo Domingo.
So how do I get my stuff there? Not that hard, there are companies that specialize in moving furniture and personal effects directly from your home in the frozen tundra directly to your new place in the Dominican Republic. Smaller packages and online purchases can be transferred in via freight forwarding services such as BM Cargo.
“Ok but what about buying a car” There are new and used car dealerships all over the Dominican Republic. The before mentioned Facebook Groups will also have by owner listings. You can buy anything from a used Kia to a Corvette here but in our opinion the roads here are more conducive to the Kia..
“Good information but how do I find an attorney I can trust, locate a professional real estate agent, get a drivers license, buy health care, know which area I should look at and which areas to avoid, agggghh there is so much!” Do you own research, understand the obstacles and do some due diligence by consulting professionals. The Dominican Republic and the North Coast especially is a fantastic place to live. The weather is perfect, the beaches are beautiful, the people are lovely and you can absolutely make a wonderful life here.