Country houses for sale

How to buy a house in Guernsey

Guernsey is a beautiful place to live and work in and has been attracting people to its shores either on a permanent basis or on holiday for decades. Those relocating to the island do so for a number of reasons—whether it be to take advantage of certain favourable tax structures, its relatively safe environment or simply its natural beauty. More recently the island’s thriving offshore finance industry, which has developed significantly over the past 40 years, has led to a higher influx of new residents ready to take full advantage of the enviable life/work balance it offers.

Situated approximately 70 miles south of Weymouth and only 20 miles west of the French coast, the Island is small, with an area of just 25 square miles and a population of about 60,000. Newcomers from Britain may well struggle with the pronunciation of some of our names and street names, but essentially there’s a British feel, despite the fact the island isn’t part of the UK. Sterling is our currency, but we produce our own notes and coins, and although there are still a few residents who can speak the local ‘patois’—a form of Norman French—we’re English-speaking.

The island has full fiscal and legal autonomy, with our independence dating back to 1204. The island is fiercely protective of its autonomy, and although part of the British Isles, it’s neither part of the UK nor England, therefore enjoying a unique constitution.

Given its size, it’s no surprise, therefore, that Guernsey land and housing are at a premium. Although there are no restrictions on owning property in Guernsey, there are restrictions on occupation. Residential properties in the island are split into two categories: Local Market and Open Market. Local Market properties in general can be occupied by people who were born in Guernsey, or for those who, although not born in Guernsey, have lived here for a number of years. The rules concerning who’s a Qualified Resident are very complicated, and in any case where there’s doubt, Guernsey’s Housing Department should be consulted for advice.

Open Market properties can be occupied by local or non-local residents. There are approximately 1,600 Open Market properties on the island. Generally, they’re occupied by ‘non-locals’, as they tend to be more expensive than Local Market houses. The average Open Market house can be several times more expensive than a similar one on the Local Market. Anybody resident in an Open Market property can work on the island without the necessity of a local licence to do so. A person who’s not entitled to live in the EU, however (because of immigration restrictions), can’t live in either Open or Local Market property.

The process for buying property on the island is, however, one thing that can feel distinctly ‘foreign’—in fact, title deeds are sometimes in French! The whole procedure, from instructing your advocate to completion, takes about a month on average, although contracts can be passed more quickly in urgent cases.

Completion itself takes place in a conveyancing court before a Jurat of the Royal Court, and both purchaser and vendor must attend in person or by power of attorney. No contracts are signed—consent is verbal. The conveyancing court is quite an experience in itself.

Whether you’re a first-time buyer or otherwise, the whole process of buying property can be stressful, particularly in a strange jurisdiction. We’ll ensure that you’re kept fully informed all the way along, and providing expert advice and guidance at each stage.

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