Property in the Caribbean
The islands of the Caribbean are like everything you imagined. Golden sandy beaches fringed by palm trees and lapped by crystal clear water. Banana daiquiris served by smiling staff on a wooden veranda as the sun goes down. The scent of jasmine carried on a warm tropical breeze. It’s hard to get past the clichés, so let’s not bother. It really is that wonderful.
Yes, but property in the Caribbean is so expensive and so far away isn’t it? Well, not necessarily. Flying time is less than nine hours direct from London to islands like Barbados and there are properties from £60,000. You can get there all year either directly or by competitively priced and frequent flights via Florida. Jet lag? There’s only four hours difference, so hardly any jetlag.
The Caribbean really is a place in the sun. it averages between seven and eight hours of sunshine every day, with temperatures barely changing during the year between 20 and 30ºC – that includes the nights.
Thirty countries and territories make up the Caribbean, and there are wide variations between them both in accessibility and environment. The British tend to go for Barbados in particular, with 85 per cent of its buyers coming from the UK. St Lucia is also popular and property is more affordable here, it also has direct UK flights.
These islands have a British-based buying procedure too, with low buying costs for homes, while others have a continental model using a notary. Islands can vary in language, currency and culture: there are Dutch, French, Venezuelan and American islands. Some are rich, others are poor; others, like Cuba, feel like they’re about to change dramatically.
Some islands will restrict residency rights, while others offer residency in return for investing in a property, known as a “golden visa”. With Americans loving Caribbean property, real estate agents tend to be professional and well trained.
The American influence is also visible in the high levels of service on many islands, and with currencies often pegged to the US dollar, you’ll have no problem knowing what buying a property will cost you. You may also find huge boatloads of cruise passengers arriving every day – ports like Nassau and St Thomas get as many as four big ships every day – great for any business owners, less good if you want to avoid crowds.
The Caribbean ethos is not to worry, but that might not be easy when you see your first hurricane. The islanders are well used to them however and if you make sure your property meets all building standards you will be well protected.
Where to Buy Property in the Caribbean
Each island ultimately has its own charms, but culture, family connections or topography aside, access will probably be the main driver in your decision. Do you want regular direct flights from the UK? Then you are looking at Barbados, Antigua and St Kitts rather than the British Virgin Islands or Nevis, just to take several popular examples.
Often the first country that springs to mind when thinking of the Caribbean is Barbados. With the bulk of its buyers British (over 85 per cent), there certainly won’t be any language issues when settling in! Its market is currently favourable according to high-end agents, who state that since 2008, prices there “have relaxed by 10 to 15 per cent”.
A younger crowd will be found on the South side of the island whilst the West coast of Barbados boasts the most famous locations in the country. With its luxurious beaches and multi-million dollar mansions, areas like Sandy Lane or Royal Westmoreland may be out of most people’s price range. Bargains are available, however. Traditional resale properties in St. James can be found for less than £100k
One of the most exciting destinations right now, full of new projects and overseas investment, is Antigua. This island has emerged strongly from an era of corruption and downturn and with 365 beaches, it’s still got plenty of scope for growth. The west coast of Antigua is experiencing an investor boom, with properties to suit all needs.
The run-down then revamped popular Jolly Harbour resort is worth researching as it offers a spectrum of different homes (resale townhouses from $200,000), whilst nearby Pearns Point is a new peninsula of projects, and Carlisle Bay is popular. Jumby Bay in the north is an exclusive hub of high-end homes whilst the rougher seas of the east coast are more popular with some –the popular resort of Non Such Bay is undergoing expansion, resale properties from $400,000.
Others are often attracted to the more understated nature of St. Lucia. With its luscious rainforests and breath-taking national parks (not to mention idyllic beaches as standard), the country is also well connected for transport (it has two airports). Popular areas include Rodney Bay, Marigot Bay and the area around the Pitons, the pair of peaks on the southwest coast.
A self-contained apartment here with sea views will usually cost under $400,000. In the north, the Cap Estate, with properties starting from $275,000-$350,000, but spacious villas with great views will be nearer $1m.
One of the cheaper options in which to buy property is the Dominican Republic. There are few restrictions on foreigners buying property here, while golfing fans will enjoy its world-famous golf resorts designed by golf legends including Jack Nicklaus. A four-bed family villa overlooking Sosua comes to just over $400,000. There are also some very high-end projects too, around Punta Cana, but also the new Aman golf resort, Amanera, with multi-million dollar beachfront villas, in Playa Grande.
Popular with diving aficionados, St. Kitts (home to Ian Botham) also offers good value properties amongst the multi million pound complexes. A small ocean-front unit can be purchased for under $500,000 in the developers’ favoured southern tip of the island. In the last few years, the south area of Frigate Bay has seen a strip of hotels and bars, while the north still offers relative freedom from the crowds.
Buyers Need to Know
There can be hefty taxes for foreigners in the Caribbean, which differ depending on the island.
For instance, in Antigua, the Non-Citizen’s License can be five per cent of the purchase price, plus 2.5 per cent stamp duty (and legal fees!). A £200,000 property in this instance can cost a whopping extra £10,000.