Guam has a lot to offer its residents. Between steady, sunny weather year-round; picture-perfect beaches; a warm, welcoming culture; and no visa/special paperwork required for U.S. citizens and permanent residents, there are plenty of reasons to move to Guam. Even seniors can find significant advantages to retiring to Guam.
If you’re considering a long-term move to Guam, you might wonder how easy it is to buy a house on Guam—and what you need to be aware of before making the leap. We’ll show you everything you need to know, including what questions to ask, what to watch out for, and which professionals will make the process easier for you.
First, let’s tackle the big questions that will mean either a red light or a green light for buying a house on Guam.
Can a U.S. Citizen Buy Property on Guam?
Yes. Both U.S. citizens and permanent residents can buy property on Guam without restrictions, including houses and condos.
By the way, the same isn’t true of Guam’s neighboring islands, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. The CNMI constitution includes a bloodline requirement for those wishing to own land in the commonwealth. Those who are not of Northern Marianas descent (NMD) can only hold property for a maximum of 55 years.
Guam has no such law on the books, so U.S. citizens and permanent residents can purchase property without restrictions.
Special Note for Active Military & Veterans
If you’re currently serving in the military or you’re a veteran, you can use your VA home loan benefits to purchase a home on Guam. That could mean perks like:
- No down payment
- No need to pay extra for private mortgage insurance
- Interest rates that are typically lower than conventional ones
- Limited closing costs
To learn more or check your eligibility, visit the VA website.
Can Foreign Residents Buy a House or Property on Guam?
Foreign residents can buy property on Guam. However, it’s subject to a few conditions.
Foreign residents who 1) are not U.S. citizens and 2) have not applied to become permanent residents (i.e., filed a Green Card application) are allowed to purchase only one house or condominium in their name. This unit must be owner occupied.
Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s take a deeper look into buying real estate on Guam, including what you need to know before you buy.
7 Things to Know Before Buying Real Estate on Guam
#1: The Process Is Similar to That on the U.S. Mainland
As you may have guessed from what you’ve read so far, buying property on Guam is pretty similar to buying property on the U.S. mainland. You’ll follow the same general process, including:
- Getting pre-qualified from a lender to eliminate any potential credit challenges and confirm your budget early in the process.
- Searching for a house with the help of a licensed real estate professional. (More on that below!)
- Making an offer, which will likely involve some negotiation.
- Entering into escrow.
- Going through the appraisal and home inspection process.
- Closing on your new home, and taking possession of your property.
However, despite these similarities, there is one big difference you’ll want to be aware of when it comes to Guam real estate.
#2: Guam Doesn’t Have a Seller Disclosure Law on the Books
Unlike many U.S. states, Guam law doesn’t currently require sellers to disclose information that could impact the property’s value down the road. For example, let’s say that the roof of a house you’re interested in leaks in certain places. Legally, the seller is under no obligation to tell you about those leaks.
Although legislation has been proposed to require written disclosures, Bill 383-35 has not yet been passed into law. In the meantime, properties you purchase on Guam are often sold “as-is.”
Even so, there are a couple of things you can do to protect yourself as a buyer. We’ll cover those in a moment.
Where Real Estate Disclosures Meet Cultural Taboos
One of the provisions of Bill 383-35 would require sellers to disclose “stigmatized events related to the property.” These include “murders, suicide, serious crime including drug activity, proximity to registered sex offenders, haunting, and other paranormal activity.”
This list provoked some discussion during a public hearing, in which attendees questioned the necessity of legally require sellers to disclose items like paranormal activity, murders, or suicide.
Among certain cultures and ethnic groups on Guam, any one of these three items could be a deal-breaker. As a potential buyer, it’s important to be aware of these stigmas. While they might not be important to you, they could impact your ability to sell your property down the line.
#3: Choose a Licensed, Experienced Professional to Represent You
As the above discussion shows, there are a few nuances to purchasing property on Guam. As such, you’ll want to choose a licensed professional to represent you, one who has a number of years of experience under their belt. Guam has more than 500 licensed real estate professionals, so you’ll have a number of people to choose from.
You might consider looking for a REALTOR®. The professionals who achieve this designation are members of the National Association of REALTORS. In addition to going through specialized training, REALTORS also agree to abide by a specific code of ethics. Additionally, real estate professionals with official sanctions are not eligible to become REALTORS, so you can feel more confident that you’ll be working with someone you can trust.
Not sure where to start when looking for a real estate agent? If you know someone on Guam who’s bought recently, ask for a referral. You’ll benefit from their vetting process, and you’ll also get an honest opinion you can count on.
#4: Don’t Ignore Potential Title Issues
Title issues are not outside the realm of possibility when buying property on Guam. For example, consider what it would feel like for you to get all settled in to your new home, only for someone to knock on your door, arguing that they have a claim to your property.
Make sure the property you’re buying comes with a clear title. A good real estate agent will guide you through the process of working with a title company to verify the title any property you purchase. You’ll also want to consider title insurance to protect yourself against the possibility of errors or other irregularities that could put your ownership of the property in jeopardy.
In other words, if you’re tempted to skimp in this area, don’t. It could cost you much more in the long term.
#5: Hire a Certified Home Inspector
Remember the care you put into selecting an experienced, licensed real estate agent to represent you? You’ll want to apply that same level of scrutiny to the home inspector you choose.
While some U.S. states have laws regulating home inspectors, Guam doesn’t have any laws in this regard. In other words, you’re on your own when it comes to vetting your home inspector—almost.
- First and foremost, your real estate agent may have a recommendation for someone they’ve used successfully in the past. (They can also assist with incorporating a home inspection into your offer!)
- Or, consider looking for an inspector certified by the International National Association of Certified Home Inspectors. InterNACHI is the world’s largest trade organization of residential and commercial property inspectors. Members adhere to the organization’s International Standards of Practice, follow a Code of Ethics, and take continuing education courses to maintain their membership. In other words, you can feel confident that InterNACHI-certified home inspectors take their profession seriously. Check out the list of InterNACHI-certified home inspectors on Guam.
By selecting your real estate agent and home inspector carefully, you’ll have a team you can rely on who can help you avoid any post-sale surprises.
#6: Know the Difference Between Leasehold and Fee Simple Properties
As you’re browsing the Guam real estate listings, you may run across a few labeled as “leasehold” (as opposed to “fee simple”). In many cases, leasehold properties can be significantly cheaper than fee simple ones, with good reason:
- A fee simple property is one you purchase and own indefinitely. In other words, this is a true sale in the traditional sense that you’re probably used to. You’re free to sell your property, rent it out, build on it, or pass it to someone else in the case of your death.
- A leasehold property is more like a long-term lease—with a much longer term, such as 20-50 years. During that time, the leaseholder is responsible for upkeep and property taxes, but they’ll also enjoy the security of knowing they’ll be able to enjoy that property for many years to come.
One note: Leasehold properties can get a little tricky when it comes to financing. Loan companies often have specific requirements in order to qualify you for a leasehold loan. Be sure to check with your lender.
Leaseholds are common for condos in Guam, especially in Tumon. Before you fall in love with a place, check whether it’s a fee simple or leasehold listing so you know exactly what you’re getting into.
#7: Ask Questions and Rely on the Professionals
Finally, as you’re touring potential homes, make sure to ask questions if something seems a little “off” to you—and don’t hesitate to involve the pros.
Start with your real estate agent, who can give you their professional opinion on your questions, observations, or hesitations.
From there, you might want to get an even more specialized contractor involved. For example, if you see lights flicker during your tour, you may hire an electrician come in. It could be a small problem that’s easily fixed—or a house-wide problem that will cost thousands.
For many people, buying a home is the biggest purchase of their lives. It’s important to get it right. Don’t hesitate to speak up, and rely on the team you’ve assembled to help you make a smart decision.
Buying Your Home on Guam
If Guam is your idea of paradise, maybe it’s time to take the plunge and buy a home on Guam. With these tips, you’ll have a strong foundation for your home search, including what to look out for as you explore the possibilities. We hope you find the home of your dreams!
Need some help moving your belongings? Our Tamuning-based team would be happy to help you make a safe, easy, and affordable move to Guam. Just reach out to one of our experts to get started.
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