2017 wasn’t a great year for the Caribbean, with a series of devastating hurricanes. The islanders could do with some support in 2018, and the aftermath of a natural disaster is also a good time to buy. Read our in-depth guide to your best island property options for the next 12 months.
When most of us imagine that perfect beach location it is the crystal clear waters of a Caribbean island that we fantasize about. The Caribbean has more than 7,000 individual islands, 13 sovereign nations and 12 dependant territories.
European buyers account for 60% of property sales at the luxury end of the market (including Sir Richard Branson who owns a couple of islands)
With so many, how do you choose? Property Guides have been checking out property prices, capital growth, flights and golden visa options. We believe that these are the ones to watch in 2018.
This former British colony is made up of 29 islands and 661 cays – a cay/key being a bank of sand or coral reef. Many cays are still big enough to put a property on. Famous Bahamian cay owners include Johnny Depp, David Copperfield and the Aga Khan. The islands are not only beautiful, but they have virtually no taxes either. On the minus side, the cost of living is a little higher than other Caribbean countries, with gas, electricity and water prices especially high. If you can afford it though, it’s a wonderful island.
You can add convenience to its list of attractions. Being just a 55 minute flight from Miami and under three hours from New York, tourism is the primary industry. Property buyers today can benefit (in financial terms) from an oversupply of accommodation during the boom years before 2010 that has kept prices lower ever since. Baha Mar for example, the $4.2 billion development only opened this year, 10 years after work began! Apparently the wait has been worth it, Forbes described it as “the ultimate playground for adults.”
One recent change has been causing consternation among real estate agents – the government is raising the price of its golden visa programme from $500,000 to $1,000,000 for permanent residency. This is especially bad news for the property developers who have built sub-$million properties and are now struggling to find buyers.
As well as the capital Nassau, on New Providence Island, the “out islands” are popular for property buyers, including Eleuthera and the Exumas.
Barbados has the perfect mix of fascinating local culture alongside a very easy way of life for international residents. The unique and intriguing Bajan culture is present in the food, architecture, arts and daily life. Barbados is a relatively densely populated island, just 34 kilometres long and with a population of over a quarter of a million, but you’ll be able to find your piece of beach and a stunning view, at still affordable prices. The property market collapsed after the global financial crisis but prices are beginning to approach pre-2008 levels once again.
Wherever you wish to live in the Caribbean, knowing how to negotiate for your property should get you a little more house for your money. Read our guide: How to Negotiate Abroad, written by a licensed realtor.
Barbados attracts many visitors, with a thriving tourism industry as the world comes to enjoy the country’s reef-fringed coastline. The capital Bridgetown has a thriving expat community. Although well-known for its cricket ground, the Kensington Oval in Bridgetown, it is footballers Wayne Rooney and Gary Lineker who are the most well-known homeowners, along with the motor-racing model Jodie Kidd. Don’t forget the home-grown talent either – the singer Rihanna is from Barbados.
Expats with an overseas income often experience a good standard of living and retirees can enjoy claiming their UK pension at the same rate they would back at home. Direct Virgin Airways flights to Heathrow are another big advantage, and as you drive out of the airport you drive on the left (always a pleasure when there are Americans in the tour bus, to remind them who used to be in charge!).
Antigua and Barbuda
Princess Diana was a big fan of Barbuda, and the island could do with Royal support now as every single home was reported to have been wrecked by Hurricane Irma in September. The bigger island of the two, Antigua, was relatively unscathed however, and its white sand beaches (of which there are said to be 365) are easy to reach via direct flights from the UK in around nine hours. You’ll be arriving at a brand new airport now, as well.
International home hunters have been encouraged by new resorts being opened by the likes of Robert de Niro and the renaissance of older resorts such as Jolly Harbour
Estate agents have been reporting a dramatic rise in enquiries in recent years, encouraged by the arrival of new resorts being opened by the likes of Robert de Niro and the renaissance of older resorts such as Jolly Harbour. Antigua’s “golden visa” scheme has brought in significant investment, and with an investment of only $400,000 in property required for full citizenship, you don’t have to be as well-heeled as Antigua homeowners Oprah Winfrey, Giorgio Armani or Eric Clapton to live here. Property is on a par with popular Mediterranean islands such as Mallorca, at around $350,000 for good quality apartments and just under double that for villas.
British Virgin Islands (BVI)
The 50-plus islands of the BVI were hit to varying degrees by Hurricane Irma this year, especially Tortola, which had the added excitement of a visit by Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson. But they have been a popular spot both for British retirees and those in the sailing community for many years and will no doubt be back to the usual laid-back lifestyle in 2018. Tourism is the biggest business, with “bareboating” – where you hire your own yacht for a vacation – a popular option. It’s a safe and friendly place, made prosperous from financial services. The BVI uses the US dollar for currency and the US also comes in handy for flight arrivals, with the US Virgin Islands having better airline connections. There are no direct flights to BVI from Europe or the US, but many options via other islands.
According to the Global Property Guide: “Tourist visitor arrivals are strongly up, and the British Virgin Islands (BVI) has seen an uptick in residential home buying, especially at the high end. In the first half of 2016, the median sales price of villas in the BVI was around US$ 1.9 million.” European buyers account for 60% of property sales at the luxury end of the market (including Sir Richard Branson who owns a couple of islands) and there is a good choice of high-end resorts, such as Oil Nut Bay on Virgin Gorda.
Every tourist destination needs its iconic image and St Lucia is lucky enough to have the Pitons, two dramatically beautiful volcanic mountains on the western side of the island. They aren’t the highest point though, that is Mount Gimie, and between the mountains are lush rain forests, waterfalls and banana plantations. Cocoa and avocados are also major exports of St Lucia, although tourism dwarfs all these in importance these days. As well as being more mountainous and arguably more beautiful than other Caribbean islands, St Lucia is easier to reach too, with direct flights via British Airways from Heathrow.
As well as being more mountainous and arguably more beautiful than other Caribbean islands, St Lucia is easier to reach too, with direct flights via British Airways
The property market is thriving, with several resorts flourishing, including The Landings, a particular favourite among British buyers where prices start at around US$700,000 – and that’s one of the cheaper ones. In general, in a luxury resort you can expect to pay well over US$2million. Don’t worry if you can’t quite stretch that far. Property Guide’s partner Rightmove has more than 200 properties for sale in St Lucia, with stunning properties at prices from US$200,000.
If you can push the budget up to US$300,000, St Lucia has a citizenship by investment scheme (“golden visa”) for a minimum real estate investment of that amount and above, but it does have to be in “high end” property.
Turks and Caicos
One of the smaller and less well-populated island groups, with only 30,000 people, the Turks and Caicos Islands are a British Overseas Territory relatively close to Miami. That’s one option for flights, but with direct flights via British Airways from Heathrow available from little over £200 each way, getting there is very easy.
There are eight main islands in the group and 300 smaller ones. Many are all little more than sandbars sticking out of the waters with white sand beaches and a couple of palm trees – the archetypal desert island – but livened up with a quiet beach bar. What could be nicer! This desert has been brought to bloom with attractive low-rise property developments such as the Sands Resort, where there are properties on Rightmove for under US$400,000. There are no restrictions on property buying there, and it looks like a promising investment option for 2018, although recent results have been mixed (with rapidly rising condominium prices but little change in villa prices.)
For advice on getting the best currency deal read the Property Buyer’s Guide to Currency.
One of the most westerly Caribbean islands, the Cayman Islands are famous for the quality of the diving and snorkelling, the deep sea fishing and the red-footed booby (no sniggering at the back please, it’s a kind of seabird). This British Overseas Territory is reckoned to have one of the highest standards of living in the world and some of the most gorgeous beaches too, including Seven Mile Beach. It is made up of Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman. Grand Cayman is the most built up, somewhat overrun with US tourists, but on the plus side the healthcare, infrastructure and tourism facilities are excellent. All this, with no income or capital gains tax.
This British Overseas Territory is reckoned to have one of the highest standards of living in the world and some of the most gorgeous beaches too
On the minus side it is an expensive place to live, with rapidly rising property prices. In the spring of 2017 freehold property prices were rising by 42% compared to the spring of 2016, according to official data with an average freehold price of around US$500,000. There also quite high property taxes and buying costs, including stamp duty for buyers of 7.5% and estate agent fees of 5 to 10% for sellers.
It has one of the most exotic and evocative names in the world, and a culture that blends Dutch and African heritage. Curaçao is way down in south of the Caribbean, close to the coast of Venezuela and far away from the hurricane areas.
It was part of the Netherlands Antilles until 2010 and still comes within the Dutch Kingdom, as you might guess with a capital city by the name of Willemstad. It has that Dutch sense of style too, especially in the bohemia area of Pietermaai.
It has that Dutch sense of style too, especially in the bohemia area of Pietermaai
As anywhere in the Caribbean, weather and water sports are the biggest attractions. Other benefits include incentives to retirees, with low income and capital gains taxes, good infrastructure and hospitals (St. Elizabeth Hospital is one of the Caribbean’s best) and property that isn’t too expensive, in what has been reported to be a buyer’s market. Small villas start at little over €100,000 (prices are usually in euros) with oceanfront villas from around €250,000.
There are no direct flights from the UK, but there are plenty via the USA or direct from Amsterdam.
Many expats are drawn to the tropical paradise of Jamaica as it offers one of the most incredible coastlines in the world and an exciting culture too. The cost of living in Jamaica outside of the main tourist areas is much cheaper than in the UK, but due to high unemployment rates and few well-paying jobs, an overseas income or pension is needed to live well in the country.
Jamaica offers one of the most incredible coastlines in the world and an exciting culture too.
Most international residents live outside of capital cities where crime rates can be high, while areas such as Ochos Rios, Mandeville and Hanover offer plenty to do for expats and are within easy reach of larger cities and tourist hubs. Jamaica is a Commonwealth country and has a good choice of direct flights either into Montego Bay or Kingston.
The retired, “digital nomads” and “snowbirds” (expats escaping the North American winters) have all found a welcome in the Dominican Republic, especially those from the USA, Canada, Germany, Italy and the UK. The capital is Santa Domingo, which is where working expats tend to reside, but there are also lively communities in the northern areas like Puerto Plata, Sosua and Cabarete.
The cost of living, though cheap compared to North American and European standards, differs depending on where you are in the country. For example, the cost to buy a three-bedroom home in a touristy area is around US$250,000 while in a non-tourist area the same property would be under US$100,000.
The quality of hospitals and healthcare has improved in recent years, and expats will enjoy international standard supermarkets with the cost of food much lower than back at home. The laid-back lifestyle and year-round sunshine makes the Dominican Republic particularly appealing to UK expats and retirees.
The Caribbean offers a multitude of expat and retirement scenarios for those seeking an idyllic beach style life. Whether escaping the winters or Western life altogether, a Caribbean island could be just the sunny escape that you need.