Antigua is now recovering after an era of scandal and the global downturn but there are still some great deals for property hunters.
Famously boasting a beach for every day of the year, the Caribbean island of Antigua doesn't disappoint when it comes to dreamy crescents of white sand lapped by crystal-clear waters. Because there's simply so much choice around the island, it's hard to find one that gets crowded.
But alongside access to beaches, and its well-established sailing scene, Antigua's accessibility by direct flights from the UK is another reason why the island is one of our favourite Caribbean escapes.
The number of flights is steadily increasing - to the island's swanky new airport that has just been completed this summer - and there are Virgin and British Airways flights daily (with a flight time of 8.5 hours).
But many property hunters may have been deterred from investing in Antigua in the last few years by the negative fall-out from the Allen Stanford affair that unhappily coincided with the global downturn of 2008.
However now there is a new government in Antigua keen to progress into a new era, and a scheme to encourage overseas investors last year has been successful in encouraging the buyers back.
"The Citizen by Investment Progamme introduced [in 2014] offering citizenship with property investment of $400,000 or more is driving a level of property transactions we haven't seen for years," says James Burdess, head of Savills' Caribbean department. "The success of this initiative - combined with the fact that the country has stabilised after an era of political mismanagement and is now attracting much direct foreign investment - has been a big fillip for Antigua."
It's not just agents talking things up. In a meeting this summer, Asot Michael, the new Minister of Tourism promises me that the new government "wants to turn Antigua into the economic power house of the Caribbean" and reels off a list of dozens of new projects that should help the island's tourism rates and economy get back to where they once were.
There's maybe not quite one new resort or hotel scheme for every day of the year, but there are too many to mention here. The biggest involves a 1,600 acre parcel of coastal land acquired by the Chinese investment group, YIDA, who plan to create a "free trade zone" that will include a casino, offshore financial centre, golf course and conference centre as well as several luxury resorts, one of which will be run by the Hard Rock Hotels group.
The new projects span both the high-end villa and hotel sector but also the middle and lower ends, with investment in a big new all-inclusive hotel by TUI Group's Royalton Resorts division at Deep Bay.
Where to Pick up a Bargain
Antigua is still relatively undeveloped when compared with Barbados, and the untouched nature of big parcels is part of the appeal, along with the relative affordability of property there.
Whilst it's perfectly possible to find a villa for £5million there, you can equally find a home if you have £200,000 to spend, although you better not wait around too much as the market has began to pick up significantly in the past six months.
Prices are still down 30 per cent from the market peak in 2008, according to Nadia Dyson of Luxury Locations but transactions have multiplied fast.
"A year ago the market was practically dead but in a year it has turned around and we are selling several properties a month now, from $200,000 to $1million, but also for 'silly money'. We are seeing British, French, Italians [there is a new direct flight between Italy and Antigua this year] as well as a mix of other nationalities showing interest."
You can buy a detached home of the sort that some of the locals might own for less than $200,000, but if you are looking through agents that target the overseas market, you need around $230,000 as a minimum for a property in a good coastal location.
Here are three locations with a lot to offer potential buyers:
In the popular resort of Jolly Harbour in the west, you can get your own waterfront townhouse with a deck and private dock for your boat, for as little as $235,000.
This popular marina resort with one of the island's nicest beaches, Jolly Beach, has a slightly run-down feel because it of mismanagement in the past but it has now been bought by the Dutch development company Orange Ltd who are investing hefty sums in upgrading the infrastructure to make this well-located and attractive resort as good as it could be.
A two-bed, two-bath townhouse there with a 30-foot dock costs $275,000, and typically rents for an average of $1,000 a week - for 20-25 weeks a year - according to Nadia Dyson. Equally, you could also buy a 10-bed villa there for $4.75 million - there is a complete spectrum.
Elsewhere, you might seek to escape the mosquitoes and enjoy the cooling winds of the east coast, where the Nonsuch Bay resort is being expanded, after some delay caused by the global downturn.
"The east coast is not as developed as the west, and the trade winds make it cooler, whilst the reefs provide calm waters for kite surfing,' says the developer Cameron Fraser on why buyers might opt for this side of the island.
Two-bed homes start at $495,000, or new three-bed, three-bath townhouses for $1.195m. Phase Two of the resort is just launching and will include 188 one-bed hotel suites with private plunge pools ($400,000 each); two new restaurants, yacht marina, helipad, sports centre and tennis courts.
Other popular projects for buyers are Tamarind Hills (attractive contemporary properties in a great frontline beach location - three-bed townhouses for $1.3m); and Sugar Ridge (spectacular views from elevated situation but no beach) with three-bed homes for $1.4m.
Targeting the luxury end of the market there is the Pearns Point peninsula project on 141 acres of pristine scrubland surrounded by eight white-sand beaches (with beachclub planned). There are 69 plots offering plots/properties priced up to $77m (£49m).
The land's owners, the developers Orange Ltd (as mentioned above), who have partnered with the Miami Setai Hotel group to provide 50 serviced suites, 70 apartments and 50 two/three-bed cottages. Prices are as yet to be confirmed for these units (sold through Savills).
The bulk of buyers so far have applied for citizenship through the CIP programme, and building will start next year, with completion due the middle of 2017.
Top Tips for Buying in Antigua
- Through the Citizenship by Investment Programme (CIP) you can get residency when buying a home for at least US$400,000 (£262k) on a CIP approved property.
- Non-citizens require a licence to buy a property, costing 5 per cent of its value.
- Government property transfer fees (stamp duty) are 2.5 per cent for the buyer; 7.5 per cent for the seller.
- Legal costs for a property purchase are 1-2 per cent of the sales price.
- There is no CGT or inheritance tax (IT)