Moving to Cape Verde Guide

Ever since it was first featured in the TV programme “A Place In The Sun” in 2007, Cape Verde has captured the heart and imagination of a growing number of Britons. We estimate that about 150,000 of us will visit in 2012, most on package holidays to the beaches of the low-lying islands of Sal and Boavista. Many British citizens – and Irish nationals too – have also been tempted to buy property in the islands. Sal and Boavista are again the most popular, but there are developments on other islands too, including the island of Santiago where you’ll find Cape Verde’s capital, Praia.

While the vast majority of holiday-makers and many investors have nothing but good memories and experiences of Cape Verde, a small minority of investors have not found the experience of buying property in Cape Verde easy or straightforward – or cheap. I do not want to put anyone off buying property in Cape Verde. I do however want potential purchasers to devote sufficient time, preparation and resources to reduce the risks involved.

There are risks in everything we do. The key is understanding them and mitigating them to a level where we feel comfortable. This is especially important when large sums of money are involved. Buying a property is a huge undertaking wherever you are in the world. Cape Verde is no exception. It is vital that you exercise care and attention, taking the same precautions as if you were in the UK.

Many British nationals choose to buy off-plan in Cape Verde. And the majority of these are happy with their purchase. However some buyers have experienced problems with long delays, incomplete builds and developers not having enough money to complete projects. Other buyers are also experiencing disputes over ownership of land, partial or non-delivery of property management contracts and inflated guaranteed rental returns.

So my four top tips before you buy:

  1. Do your research: Make sure you visit the islands before you buy (especially if you are planning to use the property yourself, rather than seek to rent it out permanently). Consider whether it’s worth renting for3-6 months first, possibly during the winter (i.e. the ‘tougher’ season). Research your agent and developer on the internet. And read our “Notes on Cape Verde for British Nationals” on the FCO website, especially the section dealing with the practicalities of buying and selling property.
  2. Healthcare: If you have health issues (or even if you don’t!), check out the local medical facilities. Medical facilities in Cape Verde are limited, and some medicines are in short supply or unavailable. The country’s largest hospitals are in Praia and Mindelo, with smaller medical facilities and clinics located throughout the country. Medical facilities are very limited on Boavista, one of the main destinations for UK tourists. The islands of Brava and Santo Antão no longer have functioning airports, so air evacuation in the event of a medical emergency is nearly impossible from these two islands. If you need emergency medical assistance, dial 130 (Santiago Island) and ask for an ambulance. You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment.
  3. Seek Legal Advice: Before you buy, we strongly recommend you seek professional legal advice from a lawyer who specialises in Cape Verde property conveyance laws and who is independent from any other person involved in the transaction, for example, from the estate agent or developer. A number of buyers have experienced problems with their property because they used lawyers and translators recommended by the estate agent and, as a consequence, were not sufficiently independent.
  4. Be prepared for the long-haul: If things go wrong, the wheels of justice can move slowly in Cape Verde. Seeking resolution through the courts can be costly and time-consuming. We are aware of cases where it has taken two years to lodge a formal claim in the courts. Again, we advise British nationals who are experiencing property problems in Cape Verde to seek professional, independent legal advice.

John Marshall
HM Ambassador to Senegal, Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde based in Dakar

Note: The British Embassy in Dakar has lists of English-speaking lawyers and qualified translators available on its website. These lists are provided for information only and do not indicate a recommendation, either express or implied, as to the competence of the listed individuals. Those using the lists are strongly encouraged to do their own research into the suitability of those listed for the purposes for which they are required. In the event of a property dispute arising, the British Government is not able to become involved in individual cases, or become involved in steps to recover any capital outlay in respect of individual property deals that may have gone wrong. Many thousands of British Nationals are involved in criminal and civil cases around the world every year and we simply do not have the resources nor the legal expertise or powers to judge the merits or intervene in individual cases.

Of course, if you’re planning on travelling to Cape Verde you should ensure you have adequate expat travel insurance.