Island Life Reimagined
The Caribbean has been the getaway of choice for Americans seeking island living and luxury. This season has seen new trends emerge in location and functionality.
By Stacey Staum
The Bahamas has been a popular vacation destination for many years, but recently has been sought-after for primary residences because of its proximity to the United States and technological advancement on the islands. According to W. Larry Roberts, CEO of Bahamas Realty Limited, “We’re seeing a lot of younger people buying. We have good telecommunications systems where they can set up an office and work from home.” Luxury waterfront properties in the Bahamas are listed for $1 million to $2 million on average. As a culture, Roberts explains that the Bahamas is especially welcoming to new residents. With frequent flights from most of the East Coast, the Bahamas is convenient and practical for waterfront living.
British Virgin Islands
The British Virgin Islands offer waterfront living at a very high premium, as a limited supply of direct waterfront homes are available. Prices on the water range from $1 million to $40 million an acre. As ultra-high-end property sales have exploded on the bay, real estate prices in general have soared with the increase. Many buyers have found that they prefer nearby hilltop properties instead of direct waterfront. According to Chris Smith, managing broker of Coldwell Banker Real Estate BVI, “Everybody’s dream is waterfront, but when they actually get here, they find that the higher elevation is preferred. The water views from higher up and the breeze are better, and it’s an all-around better value.”
The Cayman Islands have emerged in recent years as a popular destination for American buyers. Owner of Cayman Islands Sotheby’s International Realty, Sheena Conolly, describes the current market as very active, stating “we had a benchmark year last year and we’ve already exceeded that this year. It’s because of the diversity of product and range of prices here.” Those prices range from $400,000 to $40 million, as many waterfront properties can be found on the bay in addition to the oceanfront. Recent business investments in the Cayman Islands also made it a desirable place to buy. Conolly explains, “We’re attracting a diverse clientele, especially people setting up businesses here because we are a tax-neutral destination. We have the highest per-capita income and the highest standard of living in the area.”
St. Barth offers buyers a strong French-European flavor and ultra-luxurious waterfront properties. A tremendous demand for waterfront with very little inventory has placed the average pricing at $8 million to $10 million, with prices soaring into the $30 million to $40 million range. Tom Smyth, vice president of St. Barth’s Properties Sotheby’s International Realty shares that “the majority of homes are on the hillside with privacy and views. Those seeking specifically beachfront properties tend to be in the very high end and need to be patient.” Smyth explains that this year has seen more activity than in previous years, which can be attributed in part to the recent decline in the euro. According to Smyth, “A lot of U.S. buyers have been more active in the market because of the discount with that currency.”