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Expat Exchange - Buying a Home in El Salvador
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El Zonte, El Salvador


Buying a Home in El Salvador

By Betsy Burlingame

Universal Tax Professionals
Universal Tax Professionals

Summary: Seasoned expatriates recommend a cautious approach to newcomers eager to settle down—avoid the rush to purchase property upon arrival. Instead, consider the benefits of renting in El Salvador during your initial months. This strategy allows you the flexibility to explore various neighborhoods and truly decide if the local lifestyle aligns with your long-term expectations. Once you've acclimated and are certain that El Salvador is your future home, here are tips on how to buy a home in El Salvador.

El Salvador, known for its stunning landscapes, vibrant culture, and warm climate, is an attractive destination for expats. Whether you're planning to retire, start a business, or simply want a change of scenery, buying a home in El Salvador can be a rewarding investment. However, navigating the real estate market in a foreign country can be challenging. This guide aims to provide you with essential information on how to buy a home in El Salvador, from finding properties to understanding legal requirements and avoiding common pitfalls.

How do I find houses for sale in El Salvador?

There are several ways to find houses for sale in El Salvador. Online property portals and real estate agencies are the most common methods. Websites like Encuentra24 and InmoSalvador provide listings of properties for sale across the country. Local newspapers also have real estate sections. It's also common to find properties through word-of-mouth, so networking with locals and other expats can be beneficial. Hiring a local real estate agent can also be helpful as they have knowledge of the local market and can guide you through the process.

Are there restrictions on foreigners owning property in El Salvador?

Foreigners have the same rights as Salvadoran citizens when it comes to buying and owning property in El Salvador. There are no restrictions on the amount of land or the type of property a foreigner can own. However, properties within 3 kilometers of the coast or borders are considered national security zones and require special permissions. To get around this, many foreigners form a Salvadoran corporation to purchase the property.

Does El Salvador have an MLS type system?

El Salvador does not have a Multiple Listing Service (MLS) like in the United States. This means that real estate agents do not share information about properties for sale. Each agent or agency has its own listings, so it's a good idea to work with multiple agents or agencies to get a comprehensive view of the market.

Do brokers have licenses and how do I know if they are licensed?

Real estate brokers in El Salvador are not required to have a license. However, many choose to join professional associations such as the Salvadoran Association of Real Estate Agents (ASAI) which requires its members to adhere to a code of ethics. To verify if a broker is a member of ASAI, you can check their website or ask the broker directly.

What documents are required when buying a home?

When buying a home in El Salvador, you will need a passport or residency card, a tax identification number (NIT), and proof of income. The seller must provide the property title, proof of property tax payments, and a certificate from the municipality stating that there are no outstanding debts on the property. A public deed of sale must be drawn up and signed before a notary, then registered at the National Registry Center.

Do I need a lawyer when buying a home in El Salvador?

Yes, it's highly recommended to hire a lawyer when buying a home in El Salvador. A lawyer will review all documents, ensure the property is free of liens, and guide you through the legal process. The cost of a lawyer varies but is typically around 3% of the property value.

Do people typically buy a property with all cash or take out a mortgage?

Both options are common in El Salvador. Many locals and foreigners buy property outright with cash. However, mortgages are available from local banks for both residents and non-residents. Keep in mind that interest rates can be high and the process can be lengthy, especially for foreigners.

Are there inspections that take place, and if so what is that process like?

Property inspections are not mandatory in El Salvador, but it's advisable to have one done. A professional inspector will check the property for structural issues, plumbing and electrical systems, and potential pest problems. The cost of an inspection varies depending on the size and location of the property.

What are some of the pitfalls to avoid when buying property in El Salvador?

One of the main pitfalls to avoid is not thoroughly researching the property. Ensure the property is free of liens and that the seller is the legal owner. Be wary of properties that seem too cheap, as they may have legal issues. Also, be aware of the potential for natural disasters such as earthquakes and floods, and check if the property is in a high-risk area. Finally, always negotiate the price. It's common for properties to be listed at higher prices than their actual value.

About the Author

Betsy Burlingame Betsy Burlingame is the Founder and President of Expat Exchange and is one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. She launched Expat Exchange in 1997 as her Master's thesis project at NYU. Prior to Expat Exchange, Betsy worked at AT&T in International and Mass Market Marketing. She graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University with a BA in International Business and German.

Some of Betsy's articles include 12 Best Places to Live in Portugal, 7 Best Places to Live in Panama and 12 Things to Know Before Moving to the Dominican Republic. Betsy loves to travel and spend time with her family. Connect with Betsy on LinkedIn.


Universal Tax Professionals
Universal Tax Professionals

Universal Tax Professionals
Universal Tax Professionals

El Zonte, El Salvador

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Flexible solutions allow you to tailor your cover to meet your needs and budget. Use Promocode: LIFE10 and get 10% off your international health insurance for life!
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