One look at the spectacular sea – several mesmerising shades of blue, even by Caribbean standards – and you’ll be hooked. As, indeed, are half the world’s yachting fraternity, who pitch up here for the annual regatta.
From the tranquil Caribbean on the west coast to the choppier east coast Atlantic waves, Antigua and its sister island of Barbuda have an excess of views to sigh for. While Barbados is all about its see-and-be-seen restaurants and St Lucia focuses on its lush rainforest, Antigua’s appeal lies firmly in its turquoise sea and white-sand beaches, 365 of them according to local lore.
Then there’s the investment reason: prices have fallen by 30 per cent since their peak, so now is a good time to bargain hunt, especially around Jolly Harbour, and it’s an easy place for British home buyers, with direct flights from the UK, a British history which means everyone speaks English and a
familiar legal system. It’s less developed than Barbados and far cheaper, though no less beautiful.
Antigua has had its challenges in recent years, with the financial failings of Texan billionaire Allen Stanford to add to the impact of the global economic downturn.
Once viewed as the island’s saviour, Stanford invested heavily in Antigua’s infrastructure in return for citizenship and tax concessions under the last government. At one point his Stanford group of companies was the island’s largest employer before his house of cards came crashing downwhen around 600 Antiguans lost their jobs and many others their life savings when the Stanford-owned Bank of Antigua faltered.
The highly regarded East Caribbean Central Bank moved to stabilise the situation, preventing an outright disaster but the reputation of the island took a battering. However, a popular new government appears determined to stamp out corruption and strike a balance between development and preserving the natural beauty of the island. After years of inactivity several off-plan residential projects around the craggy coastline are coming to market.
Antigua and Barbuda property hotspots
Jolly Harbour is a popular residential choice with the eastern Caribbean’s largest manmade marina. It’s a west coast haven for families or romantic couple with three and a half miles of waterfront homes, amazing beaches, a wide range of shops and restaurants and sports facilities including a golf course.
Properties range from two-bedroom waterfront and golf homes from just over £100,000 to multi-million pound beachfront villas with harbour-side moorings. The community is a relaxed, friendly mix of Europeans, Canadians and Americans.
Along with neighbouring Falmouth Harbour, English Harbour is the picturesque centre of Antigua’s sailing industry, dominated by Nelson’s Dockyard, the world’s only surviving Georgian dockyard.
Substantial villas, with correspondingly large price tags, perch on green hillsides. Here, the South Point development, due to open in autumn 2012, will include a hip, boutique hotel, intended to be a meeting place for the yachting crowd unlike Antigua’s more typical resort hotels.
Tamarind Hills is a picture-perfect 14 acres between two of the island’s finest southwest beaches, with excellent views across to Montserrat’s still smouldering volcano. A complex of 62 apartments, townhouses and villas featuring Asian-style design and lashings of tropical hardwood with prices from $575,000 (£360k) for two bedrooms.
The wilder, less developed east coast is up to 40 minutes drive from the capital city of St John’s in the north and is home to Nonsuch Bay Resort, where the large majority of buyers are from the UK. It attracts those that have considered buying in Barbados but found comparable build quality and better value here where prices are 25 to 40 per cent lower.
The resort aims to encourage a sailing crowd to enjoy the trade winds and two square miles of protected waters in the sheltered bay. Completed property includes one- to three-bedroom apartments, townhouses and villa plots priced from $350,000 (£227k) with an on-site restaurant and well equipped sailing centre. One-bedroom apartments rent from $2,660 (£1,727) per week with 65 per cent occupancy in the first full year of operation.
Galley Bay is one of the very best addresses in Antigua – along with the incredibly expensive private island of Jumby Bay – Galley Bay is on the north-west coast and is (one) home for Giorgio Armani. There are elegant villas set on the hillside with sea views and the best sunsets. Either side are exquisite bays, including Deep Bay, home to Antigua’s only shipwreck. It’s handy for the capital, St John’s, and it’s a popular holiday home area for the deep of pocket.
Another option is to buy a plot of land and self-build (with expert guidance) on Antigua. One British developer, Rodney Dodd, is offering one-acre plots on an unspoilt area of the east coast – 20 mins from English Harbour – from $225,000 (£139k).
The process of buying property in Antigua and Barbuda
The process is fairly straightforward and once you have completed on your property, your lawyer must register the transfer at the local land office. Mortgages are available from local banks such as Scotia Bank and First Caribbean.
Property buying costs in Antigua and Barbuda
Here’s the rundown on what you pay as a buyer: an Alien Landholding License (5 per cent of the purchase price), legal fees (1 per cent), stamp duty (2.5 per cent), so budget for about 9 per cent of the purchase price for your buying costs.
When you sell, you’ll need to add about 14.5 per cent of the sales price to cover costs.
Before buying in Antigua, you should do an independent structural and land survey on the property to ensure the structural integrity of the property and ensure the property boundary lines are correct. This will cost around EC$900-1,500 (£210-£350).