The Caribbean Heats Up
By Sarah Binder
New development projects in popular areas of the Cayman Islands and Curacao are boosting luxury home sales and prices nearby, while buyers are increasingly seeking residences in quieter, more serene regions of the Bahamas.
From great weather, ease of access, and commercial infrastructure to a small-town feel with just 55,000 inhabitants on Grand Cayman, the Cayman Islands beckon foreign buyers to a nation that scores high in just about every desired category.
The island has just come out of a recession and is experiencing an increase in development, with an airport expansion and new hotels, such as a Kimpton Hotel under construction on Seven Mile Beach, which will feature 56 residences and six beachfront bungalows. Condominiums are the most popular residential waterfront option on Grand Cayman, and new condo projects are being planned for Seven Mile Beach, South Church Street, and Beach Bay, explains JC Calhoun, broker/owner, Coldwell Banker Cayman Islands Realty.
“Seven Mile Beach condos with two to three bedrooms range in price from $450,000 to $5 million, with the most activity occurring between $600,000 and $1.5 million,” says Calhoun. “There is higher demand in this range, but the supply is extremely limited; as a result, prices are rising.”
For single-family homes on the water, the price range is $750,000 to $35 million, with the most activity occurring between $1 million to $2 million. “These prices are relatively stable as inventory is good, with a wide variety of choices,” Calhoun says. One beachfront option is the Villa at Old Prospect, a turnkey, beachfront property just 10 minutes from town. The gated smart home features a creative, 8,000-square-foot floor plan for $4.995 million.
“In general, prices are rising. We are not yet back to all-time highs, but we are on the way. The sooner you buy, the better,” he says.
With no income, capital gain or inheritance taxes, the Bahamas have always been an attractive option for foreign buyers to obtain residency for themselves and their families and preserve wealth, explains George Damianos, president of Damianos Sotheby’s International Realty. Recently, the island of Eleuthera, particularly the area of Governor’s Harbour, is attracting increased interest from buyers.
“I think it’s well priced and represents the charm of the Bahamas and island living,” says Damianos. “Investors are seeing the life in the market and seeing good values for their money.” This increased activity should continue as Delta is set to launch direct flights to Eleuthera and Marsh Harbor from Atlanta in December, increasing access to these areas beyond the prevalent existing flights from southern Florida.
Buyers that want to live in the Bahamas full time and want more activity, or have children in school, gravitate toward Nassau, says Damianos. Those looking for a second home gravitate toward the Abaco Islands and Eleuthera, which is more sparsely populated. “People are drawn there for the peacefulness, the serenity, and the large open spaces,” he says. For example, Unicorn Cay, an 11-acre estate in Governor’s Harbour, boasts 400 feet of beachfront for $4.26 million.
“We have a fair market today in the Bahamas for single-family homes; both buyers and sellers are realistic,” notes Damianos.
Curacao, a constituent country of the Netherlands, enjoys a virtually hurricane-free location, and a well-developed economy that is less reliant on tourism than other Caribbean islands. Welcoming people (with more than 50 nationalities), near-constant sunshine, and capital Willemstad’s UNESCO World Heritage Site draw buyers seeking easy-going island living. New flights from New York with JetBlue and from Toronto with Air Canada provide easier access for North American homebuyers, while a $40 million harbor development over the next two years will increase cruise traffic greatly.
Construction of Mega Pier Plaza, a mixed-use development, is set to begin shortly, with an expected soft opening in 2017. Located in the Rif area of Willemstad’s Otrobanda historic district, the project will feature a hotel by Marriott, condominiums, retail space, an entertainment area, three restaurants, and a casino.