When Cuba began to open up one of the first things that hit the U.S. papers was how to cash in by buying real estate. This is not legal for Americans. In fact you can be tried under the Trading with the Enemy Act for doing so.
It is also illegal for Cuban Americans, however, this is where it gets complicated. Many Cuban Americans have families in Cuba. For years and years they have been bringing down money to help their loved ones. In the beginning this money was almost always used to buy food, but as things improved that money went on to buy clothes, toys and large screen television sets.
I meet more and more young Cuban Americans that are simply waiting for Cuba to open up so that they can return and start a new life. These are Cubans that feel the US economy has become too much of a 1% versus the rest of us. They are looking forward to moving back to Cuba and starting a new life with hopes of greater prosperity for themselves and their children.
For this reason, many Cuban Americans are bringing money down to help their families remodel their old family home to a standard that American’s have come to expect.
They are also purchasing, under their families name, a home that they may be able to move into in the future without Mom living in the spare bedroom. There are risks of course. People are purchasing homes in the name of their relative with the hopes that the Castro regime will loosen the restriction on foreign ownership. This may not happen for many, many years. The second risk is obvious, you get into a fight with your family member and your investment is gone. Considering the volatility of the Cuban temper, and the fact that Cubans are on the top of the heap when it comes to Latin Drama, this is where one should be the most careful.
If you are not an American and looking to buy in Cuba, you can buy in Havana. There are a handful of apartment buildings being renovated just for you. There are even real estate agents popping up around town. This is really only happening in Havana, the rest of the country, so far, is not opening up.
Another way, if you are not an American, is to marry a Cuban. Best wishes if you have gotten married, but be aware, the home stays in your spouses name, and under the circumstances, I would reread the paragraph above about Cuban temperament.
Cubans buy homes two ways, either through trading properties or purchasing with cash. There are no lending avenues in Cuba, so Cuban’s stash money under the mattress until they have enough to actually purchase the home. The money is exchanged using a bank as a medium so that taxes can be collected on the sale, and the names can be exchanged on the deed, but in this case the bank is only acting as a go between, not a money lender.
As Cuba opens up many people are looking to buy a second home, especially if it is just a stones throw from the US, and maybe even the all inclusive resorts that sit on Cuba’s finest beaches will go time-share, who knows. In the interim, follow along with me as I explain how my Cuban family is building a home from the ground up and the trials and tribulations that entails.